Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was a shining example of the commitment to leadership, excellence and compassion for which both Funds stand. Accordingly, the Sphinx Educational Fund is proud to present this event in conjunction with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

For the past 15 years, this has been a signature fund raising event within the Greater Phoenix community with an audience that includes members of the business community, clergy, political and community leaders, as well as, students and scholars.

15th Annual Sphinx Education Fund and Thurgood Marshall College Fund Brunch

  • Date: September 29, 2018
  • Time: 9:30 a.m.
  • Location: Sheraton Mesa Hotel at Wrigleyville West
    860 N Riverview
    Mesa, AZ 85201

Buy Tickets/Sponsorships Here

Keynote Speaker: Orlando Ashford

Our keynote speaker is Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. Ashford leads the award-winning cruise line's brand and business, including its fleet of 14 premium vessels carrying more than 850,000 guests annually to all seven continents. Ashford oversees Holland America Line's sales and marketing, revenue management, deployment and itinerary planning, public relations, hotel operations and strategy.

Prior to joining Holland America Line, Ashford was president of the Talent Business Segment for Mercer, the global consulting leader in talent, health, retirement and investments. Previous to Mercer he served as senior vice president, chief human resources and communications officer of Mercer's parent company, Marsh & McLennan Companies. Ashford also has held several other leadership roles during the course of his career, including group director of human resources for 90 countries in Eurasia and Africa for the Coca-Cola Company and vice president Corporate Center human resources and cultural transformation. Previously he was vice president of global human resources strategy and organizational development for Motorola Inc., where he helped modernize the human resources function for the global tech leader.

Ashford's book, "Talentism," addresses the global disconnect between available jobs - more than one-third of employers worldwide cannot fill all available jobs - and the tens of millions of eligible workers who are unemployed. Ashford examines how technology and human networks can help bridge the skills gap, improve business performance, and lead to the betterment of society at large.

Ashford is on the Board of Directors for global manufacturing company ITT Corp., as well as the Executive Leadership Council, the preeminent membership organization for the development of global black leaders, where he serves as Chairman of the Board. He is also a founding board member for the Positive Coaching Alliance, Seattle chapter, and is a member of the Washington Roundtable.

In 2017, Black Enterprise Magazine named Ashford to its 2017 list of the "Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America." He was awarded a Travvy Award for "Most Innovative Executive, Mid-sized Cruise" in 2016, and was named to Savoy Magazine's list of "Top 100 Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America." He also was named to the "Directorship 100" of the National Association of Corporate Directors in 2013 and 2014, and is a Purdue University School of Technology Distinguished Alumnus.

Ashford holds a Bachelor of Science degree and Master of Science degree in Organizational Leadership and Industrial Technology from Purdue University.

Thurgood Marshall Award of Merit: Michael E. Johnson

In addition to the keynote address, we will continue our tradition of presenting the Thurgood Marshall Award of Merit to Arizonans whose actions have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to making the Phoenix community, the State of Arizona, and the world better.

This year we will honor Michael E. Johnson.

This luminary has dedicated his life to the principles of justice, equality and excellence that remain fundamental tenets of Justice Marshall's legacy.

Johnson is a local community leader who believes that the elements of collaborative leadership and hard work are an unbeatable combination. Johnson was a founding partner at Johnson-Neely Public Strategies. He is also a former member of the Phoenix City Council, Phoenix Police Department and business owner. He's currently serving on The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency where he was appointed in 2017 by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.

Previous Awardees:


Memie C. Burton, Jr., M.D.


Asa Herring


Lovelle A. McMichael, Sr.


Leah Landrum-Taylor


Bishop Alexis A. Thomas


Dr. Rufus Glasper
Gerald P. Richard II


Judge Cecil B. Patterson, Jr.


Calvin Coolidge Goode


Justice Ruth McGregor


Ms. Betty Fairfax


Honorable Judge Lynda Howell - Phoenix Municipal Court
Jim Pederson - Entrepreneur, Arizona Businessman


Commander Jeri Williams - City of Phoenix Police Dept
Dr. Warren Stewart, Sr. - Pastor, 1st Institutional Church


Hon. Judge Carol Scott Berry - Phoenix Municipal Court
Don Logan - Office of Diversity, City of Scottsdale


Dr. Eugene Grigsby - Educator
Honorable Judge Jean Williams - Retired Adjudicator