SAG-AFTRA National Convention Second Day Opens with NED Presentation Recipients of George Heller Memorial Award Announced

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SAG-AFTRA National Convention Second Day Opens with NED Presentation Recipients of George Heller Memorial Award Announced

Los Angeles (Oct. 4, 2015) – The second day of SAG-AFTRA’s National Convention on Saturday began with a presentation by National Executive Director David White, which provided an update to convention delegates on the state of the union. White’s presentation covered leadership and activism, union operations, upcoming initiatives and future strategic goals, as well as recent industry trends, including the impact of technology on the media industry.

“We can become the thought and action leaders of this emerging economy,” White said. “By helping to shape the future of our industry, we can build a better future for our union and all SAG-AFTRA members.”

In addition to White’s report, delegates worked through several resolutions and attended afternoon panels and workshops. In the evening, delegates were invited to attend a special screening of the film Steve Jobs.

On Friday night, at the union’s Gala Under the Stars, President Ken Howard, National Executive Director David White, Miami Local member Dave Corey, and Assistant National Executive Director Mathis Dunn were all recipients of George Heller Memorial Award gold cards – in recognition for their outstanding contributions to SAG-AFTRA and its members.

The George Heller Memorial Award is presented every two years at convention and bestowed based on contributions and years of service to SAG-AFTRA or its predecessor unions. Recipients are selected by a subcommittee comprised of past recipients and National Honors and Tributes Committee members from around the country. The recipients are:

  • Ken Howard, President. First elected president of SAG-AFTRA in 2013 and re-elected in 2015, Howard previously won the Screen Actors Guild presidency in 2009 on a pro-merger platform. He helped revive support for the idea of merger, which was accomplished in 2012. Howard also has an accomplished career as a stage and screen actor, educator and author, and has received a Tony and two Emmy awards.
  • David White, National Executive Director. White has served in several top leadership positions, including General Counsel and National Executive Director at the Screen Actors Guild and currently as SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director. He was praised for his exceptional skills as a negotiator and for leading the effort to combine the operations of two complex organizations into one union after the merger.
  • Dave Corey, a member of SAG since 1980 and AFTRA since 1981. Corey was elected to the Miami Local Board in 1983 and has served as a delegate to every AFTRA national convention since 1993. With an eye on member education and career development, Corey founded the conservatory in his local.
  • Mathis Dunn, Associate National Executive Director. Dunn has served union members for more than 30 years as a staff member with AFTRA and now SAG-AFTRA. He has worked at the local and national levels and participated in negotiations in every major area the union covers.

The 2015 SAG-AFTRA American Scene Awards were also presented at the gala in three categories:

ACTOR / PERFORMER AWARD – Amazon Studios for Transparent 

The Actor / Performer Award was accepted by Victor Hsu, a core member of the producing team behind Transparent, the groundbreaking Amazon series that explores gender identity through the lens of a father blossoming into femininity. Hsu is also known for Men of a Certain Age, Arrested Development, and Family Matters.


The Belva Davis broadcaster award was presented to NPR’s Code Switch, which discusses frontiers of race, culture and ethnicity and invites audiences to navigate different cultures and investigate their own identity. L.A.-based NPR correspondent and Code Switch team member Karen Grisby Bates accepted the award.

RECORDING ARTIST AWARD – Capitol Records Nashville for Darius Rucker’s Southern Style

The Recording Artist Award went to Capitol Records Nashville for Darius Rucker’s Southern Style. Capitol Records Nashville defies the norm with their support of category-defying artists and their dedication to authentically giving voice to the American Scene. Rucker, who was only the third African American inducted into the Grand Ole Opry and has achieved groundbreaking success with country music and mainstream audiences, accepted the honor via pre-recorded video. In attendance and accepting on behalf of Capitol Records Nashville was Cynthia Sexton, Executive Vice President of Branding and Marketing for UMG.

The American Scene Awards are overseen by the Diversity Advisory and Honors and Tributes committees of SAG-AFTRA.

The Warner Bros. Studio lot served as a backdrop for the gala, which was hosted by Kevin Frazier (Entertainment Tonight) and included a special musical performance by the Dorian Holley Band featuring Antonio Sol and Sy Smith.

The SAG-AFTRA National Convention concludes Sunday with officer reports and the Committee of Locals meeting at the Sheraton Universal in Universal City. For more information about the SAG-AFTRA inaugural convention, please visit