Of all the thousands of annual events that bring politicians, business and community leaders together in charmless ballrooms across the state of Maryland, the annual induction ceremony of the Montgomery County Business Hall of Fame seems to stand out. Most years, it packs an emotional wallop.
At this year’s induction ceremony Tuesday, everybody spoke about drive and hard work – beginning with Eun Yang, the NBC News 4 morning anchor, who served as the emcee. She informed the crowd that she wakes up at 2:15 a.m. every day to get to her job.
Each of this year’s inductees – Jane Fairweather, owner of The Jane Fairweather Team, a real estate firm; Bryant Foulger, chairman of the board of directors of the Foulger-Pratt development company; Linda Gooden, former executive vice president at Lockheed Martin, who is now chairwoman of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents; and Sophia Parker, CEO of DSFederal, Inc., a federal contractor – had their own stories to tell about the sweat involved in building their business careers. In each case, success has bred a desire to give back to the community.
“For me to stand here today is magical,” said Parker, who came to this country from Taiwan.
Proceeds from the Hall of Fame’s annual luncheon benefit scholarship programs for business students at The Universities at Shady Grove, where the event was held. The Hall of Fame raised just shy of $200,000 this year and has raised $1.2 million in its eight years of existence. Close to 900 students have benefited from the money raised by the Hall of Fame so far. Thirty-four people in the business world, from corporate chieftains to local restaurateurs, have been inducted.
Inspiring as the business leaders’ stories may have been, they were no match for the presentation of Jeffanie Rantung-Kramar, a 2017 graduate of the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business at Shady Grove who now works for Freddie Mac.
Born in Indonesia, Rantung-Kramar did not qualify for federal financial aid for college because she wasn’t a U.S. citizen. So she often worked three or more jobs while she attended college – blackjack dealer, waitress, overnight hotel concierge – stealing cat naps in her car as she shuttled between work and the school library. In order to sustain their relationship, she said, her husband-to-be would often visit her at odd hours at her various jobs.
“I know what you’re thinking…she’s crazy, maybe,” Rantung-Kramer said.
Rantung-Kramar then recounted the story of getting married and honeymooning in Hawaii – but her husband died three days later in a hiking accident. She began to question the existence of God.
But Rantung-Kramar said she could not have made it through her grinding academic career without the financial assistance provided by the Montgomery County Business Hall of Fame.
“I think a Hall of Fame scholarship is a clear reminder that God sends help to people when you need it,” she said.
The Hall of Fame organizers couldn’t have asked for a more poignant testimonial.