(February 17, 2017) Prevent Blindness Florida honored Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano with the Person of Vision Award at its annual dinner on Feb. 13.
In his remarks, Lopano thanked Prevent Blindness for the distinction and the airport team for their accomplishments and hard work on the master plan expansion, noting that it’s creating thousands of jobs and supporting local businesses.
He shared his personal journey in realizing the American dream and becoming CEO of Tampa International Airport, telling the crowd of more than 300 community leaders of his humble beginnings in such jobs as shoe shine boy, delivery boy, stock clerk, bartender, mail room clerk, firefighter and cab driver.
“I learned about hard work. I learned about determination and always trying to be the best at whatever you are doing,” he said. “But only in this country can a cab driver become the CEO Of a major U.S. airport.”
Lopano expressed gratitude for Prevent Blindness honor and for the Tampa Bay community’s willingness to embrace the vision of a greater Tampa airport.
“I ask that we be grateful and thankful as Americans, and we be thankful for the blessings we enjoy every day,” he said.
First awarded in 1979, the Person of Vision Award recognizes leaders who have had a profound impact on the region and state. The event is the signature fundraiser for Prevent Blindness, which promotes eye health and safety through public awareness campaigns, vision screenings and assistance with medical eye care. Past winners included Tampa International Airport’s first executive director, George Bean, as well as Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, USF President Judy Genshaft and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.
Presenters in the program recognizing Lopano included Maryann Ferenc, a member of the Visit Florida board and owner of iconic Tampa restaurants, who lauded Lopano for assembling a strong Airport team and empowering them to do great things for the community.
She recalled the vision Lopano had for the Tampa Bay region when she first met him shortly after he moved to Tampa from Dallas. Lopano, she said, saw the community through a lens of regional collaboration and a can-do spirit.
“He took a blurred vision and gave us clarity,” she said.
U.S. Travel Association CEO and President Roger Dow drew huge laughs with a presentation that included doctored images of Lopano gracing fake magazine covers that portrayed him as a construction worker, cab driver, Uber driver, beach bum and in other settings. Mayor Buckhorn and Hillsborough Community College President Ken Atwater made remarks via video.