(Norfolk, VA) — The CIVIC Leadership Institute is proud to announce its 2023 Darden Award honorees. Robert W. Cross, founder of the Virginia Arts Festival, will be presented with the Individual Darden Award and LifeNet Health will receive the Corporate Darden Award. 

“We are excited to recognize and celebrate the incredible visionary leadership of Robert W. Cross and the global innovation of LifeNet Health,” said CIVIC Leadership Institute’s President and CEO, Dr. Mary Kate Andris.  “They have demonstrated a strong commitment to the successful economic growth of our region while also creating meaningful change in our community that will be felt for generations.”

About Robert W. Cross – Individual Darden Honoree: 

Rob Cross founded the Virginia Arts Festival in 1997. Under his leadership, the festival has tripled in size and attendance, making Hampton Roads a cultural destination for travelers from around the world. The festival has brought world-class performances to Virginia, including the Royal Shakespeare Company and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre along with renown musicians such as Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Lang Lang, Midori, Herbie Hancock, and Renée Fleming. The Festival has also become a major provider of arts education to more than 30,000 area youth and adds approximately $25 million to the regional economy.

“I am stunned and profoundly honored to receive this award named for someone I greatly admired: Josh Darden. Josh was an early believer and supporter of the Virginia Arts Festival, so to receive this recognition in our 26th year is truly inspiring. It’s also a testament to the dedication of our extraordinary team and so many who have contributed to the Festival’s success. This award means so much to me and I’m deeply humbled to join such an impressive roster of honorees whose leadership has had such a positive impact on the region.”   

About LifeNet Health – Corporate Darden Honoree: 

LifeNet Health is a non-profit global leader in life sciences and regenerative medicine headquartered in Virginia Beach. LifeNet Health’s Organ Procurement Organization saves more than 500 lives each year through transplantation. Its Health Biologics provides more than 900,000 tissue implants globally for use in a wide array of surgical procedures. LifeNet Health LifeSciences offers human-cell and tissue-based solutions to develop the next generation of therapies. Its LifeNet Health Foundation helps millions waiting for organ or tissue transplants as well as providing ongoing support to donor families. The foundation also offers education programs on organ and tissue donation and its One Hero program addresses the critical need for Black organ donors by providing outreach and education to establish trust and dispel myths.

“It is an honor for LifeNet Health to be recognized with the Corporate Darden Award for Regional Leadership. Our organization was founded right here in Hampton Roads, and we’ve grown to be a global leader in biotechnology and regenerative medicine. We are proud of our amazing team that works tirelessly to increase access to innovative health solutions, to provide healing to diverse patient populations here at home and around the world. Receiving the Darden Award is a true milestone during our 41 years of work and inspires us to continue our commitment to doing everything possible to honor each donor gift as we push the boundaries of medical technology, and to supporting every donor family with empathy.”  

About the Darden Awards

Established in 2005, the Darden Awards for Regional Leadership are named for CIVIC’s Founder Emeritus, the late Joshua P. Darden, Jr. Each year, an individual and a corporation in Hampton Roads are selected to receive the awards for extraordinary service to the region. 

Rob Cross joins prior individual honorees include G. Robert Aston, Jr., David and Susan Goode, Gilbert Bland, John Lawson, II, Jane Batten, Jack Ezzell, John O. “Dubby” Wynne, Dr. Deborah DiCroce, Vince and Suzanne Mastracco, Paul Hirschbiel, Joan and Macon Brock, and the late Harvey L. Lindsay, Jr. 

LifeNet Health joins previous corporate honorees Sentara, Kaufman and Canoles, Ferguson, Dollar Tree, Landmark Media Enterprises, LLC, Newport News Shipbuilding, Norfolk Southern Corporation, and TowneBank.

Regional community leaders and guests will celebrate this year’s Darden Award honorees the evening of November 15, 2023 at the Decker Half Moone Center in Norfolk. The event is sponsored by TowneBank.

About CIVIC Leadership Institute

The CIVIC Leadership Institute leverages professional leadership across Hampton Roads in service to the region. For more than 25 years, and with representation from throughout southeastern Virginia, CIVIC brings together leaders in business, education, the military, and the non-profit sector to build relationships and leverage resources in support of regional goals.