(NORFOLK, VA) CIVIC Leadership Institute is proud to announce its recipients for the 2022 Darden Awards for Regional Leadership. GILBERT T. BLAND will receive the Individual Darden Award and SENTARA HEALTHCARE will be honored with the Corporate Darden Award.

“We are excited to recognize and celebrate the incredible visionary leadership of Gilbert T. Bland and Sentara Healthcare,” said CIVIC Leadership Institute’s President and CEO, Sarah Jane Kirkland.  “They have demonstrated exemplary service and dedication to our region, creating meaningful change in our community that will be felt for generations.”

 The Darden Awards recognize individual and corporate leaders who help shape and improve Hampton Roads.  Past Individual Darden Award honorees include David and Susan Goode, Harvey L. Lindsay, Jr., George Birdsong, John Lawson, II, Joan and Macon Brock, Jane Batten, John O. “Dubby” Wynne, Dr. Deborah DiCroce, Jack Ezzell, Vince and Suzanne Mastracco, Paul Hirschbiel, and G. Robert Aston, Jr.  Past Corporate Darden Awards recipients include Kaufman and Canoles, Ferguson, Dollar Tree, Landmark Media Enterprises, LLC, Newport News Shipbuilding, Norfolk Southern Corporation, and TowneBank.

 “I am humbled to be selected to receive the Darden Award for Regional Leadership,” said Gilbert T. Bland.  “The opportunity to be included in the ranks of the highly respected individual and corporate past awardees as well as this year’s corporate winner, Sentara Healthcare, is a high honor. Each of these awardees have significantly and widely contributed to the development of Hampton Roads as an exceptional community to visit, live and work.”

 “Over the last three decades, I have joined with many to build upon the efforts of countless, often unsung, past leaders to help improve the lives and build opportunities in our region, especially in underserved communities.  To be personally recognized for these efforts is not just a salute to my endeavors, but rather a recognition of the importance of the need for a strong inclusive community and workforce.”

Regional executives and community leaders will celebrate this year’s Darden Award honorees at an event on Wednesday, November 16, 2022 at the Decker Half Moone Center in Norfolk.  Many thanks to the 2022 Title Sponsors, TowneBank and Kaufman & Canoles, for their incredible support.


Gilbert T. Bland is the President and CEO of the Urban League of Hampton Roads. He currently serves on the Boards of Sentara Healthcare; executive committee of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce; National Community Advisory Board- Truist Bank; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Virginia Learns; National Community Reinvestment Coalition; RVA-757 Connects; Reinvent 757; Elevate Early Education (E3) and Center for Excellence in Education (CEE). He serves as board chairman and president of Healthy Neighborhood Enterprises, a community development corporation.

Past Board service includes Hampton Roads Community Foundation; Chairman – State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV); inaugural Chair and facilitator for the Virginia African American Advisory Board; Old Dominion University Board of Visitors; James Madison University Foundation; and the South Hampton Roads YMCA.

Bland began his career as a commercial lending officer for the Continental Bank of Chicago and served as a vice president of commercial lending for the Independence Bank of Chicago. He has been an owner/operator of quick-service restaurants for more than 30 years, primarily as a franchisee of Burger King and Pizza Hut. In this capacity, he has owned, constructed and operated more than 70 restaurants in Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., employing more than 2,000 team members annually.

He served 10 years on the national board of directors of the Burger King National Franchise Association and was elected to five terms as the national president of the Burger King Minority Franchise Association. He is a charter board member of Burger King’s Inclusion Advisory Committee. The Burger King Corp. has honored Bland with the James McLamore Founder’s Award for outstanding contributions as a franchisee and has endowed a scholarship in his name at James Madison University.

Mr. Bland has received an honorary degree from Longwood University. In 2021, Mr. Bland was inducted into the Hampton Roads Business Hall of Fame and was recognized by Volunteer Hampton Roads to receive the region’s lifetime achievement award for volunteerism. For the past nine years, he has been chosen by Virginia Business Magazine as one of the 50 Most Influential Virginians.


SENTARA HEALTHCARE is the first non-profit organization to receive a Darden Award. For more than 130 years, Sentara has proudly lived its mission to improve health every day by providing both expert medical care and managed health insurance coverage, and addressing important community needs. Building on that tradition, Sentara embodies this mission through its Community Engagement and Impact program, Sentara Cares, to better the communities we serve. Research has shown that social determinants of health – the conditions in which people live, work and learn – have a significant and lasting impact on health outcomes that cannot be addressed by access to healthcare alone. Sentara Cares continues Sentara’s legacy of community work with a focus on social determinants of health that are closely aligned with Sentara’s integrated care model. Importantly, this program seeks to foster equitable health in our community and address health disparities magnified by the impact of COVID-19 on underserved populations.

Sentara Cares is an extension of our history of going above and beyond the delivery of medical care and comprehensive services. Sentara works behind the scenes to support underserved populations and numerous community organizations through sponsorships and grants. Sentara’s dedicated team of more than 29,000 employees has donated thousands of volunteer hours to various organizations and initiatives that propel our communities forward. Each year, Sentara also provides hundreds of millions of dollars in uncompensated care in our service regions across the state and donates millions of dollars to local and statewide organizations. Sentara also recently announced the impending launch of a new, innovative model of care focusing on uninsured and Medicaid populations in under-resourced communities across Virginia and northeastern North Carolina.

“Sentara maintains a critical emphasis on social determinants of health, which is why we made addressing them the focal point of the Sentara Cares program. That foresight has allowed us to rise to the real-time challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, forge new partnerships, strengthen long-standing relationships, and marshal resources to build stronger, healthier, more equitable communities,” said Sentara Healthcare President and Chief Executive Officer, Howard P. Kern. “A deep commitment to the communities we serve has long been a part of Sentara’s DNA, and the recent pandemic has made this commitment more vital than ever.”

Sentara and Optima Health, in partnership with Truist, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the Federation of Virginia Food Banks, recently implemented a statewide initiative to bolster Virginia’s emergency food support system during the pandemic and beyond. The “We Care” COVID-19 Virginia Emergency Food Support Plan has provided over 200,000 free food boxes containing meals and nourishment to families in need. Since the onset of the pandemic, Sentara has supported more than 550 community COVID-19 vaccination clinics, registering 30,000+ volunteer hours. The team administered nearly 200,000 vaccinations, with 43 percent of those vaccines going to minority populations.

 Through the Sentara Cares program, Sentara also continues to provide support for important community activities and causes that enhance the health and well-being of all individuals and the quality of life enjoyed by everyone in our community. This includes cultural programs, educational enrichments, recreational features and community assets that are a part of the fabric of a healthy life and vibrant community.

Additionally, Sentara’s Diversity and Inclusion program and Health Equity department work together to form essential partnerships with key community organizations. This currently includes collaborating with local community and faith-based leaders to offer services and educational opportunities to people in underserved communities.

About the Darden Awards

 Established in 2005, the Darden Award for Regional Leadership is named for CIVIC Leadership Institute’s Founder Emeritus, the late Joshua P. Darden Jr. Each year, CIVIC presents the award to an individual and a corporation whose contributions and service have made significant impacts in the Hampton Roads community.

About CIVIC Leadership Institute

 A premier leadership organization, CIVIC Leadership Institute is a nonprofit organization based in Hampton Roads, Virginia. For over 25 years, it has connected executive leaders through service to improve life in Hampton Roads. For inquiries about the event, please visit www.civichr.org.  For all other media inquiries, please contact CIVIC Leadership Institute at 757-683-6890. 

Find CIVIC Leadership Institute Online

Website: https://civichr.org/

Event Details: https://civichr.org/events/dardenawards/