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Ultimate role models: 2021 N.J. Business Hall of Fame class members are key figures in key issues of the day

The names are well-known by anyone who travels in New Jersey business circles.

John Harmon (the head of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey), Valerie Montecalvo (the CEO of Bayshore Recycling) and Steve Rusckowski (chairman and CEO of Quest Diagnostics) stand among the leaders in the state.

It’s the reason why they are being honored as the 2021 Class of Laureates by the New Jersey Business Hall of Fame.

Their greatest impact, however, may not come from looking back — but from looking forward.

So said Catherine Milone, the president of Junior Achievement of New Jersey, which sponsors the event.

“This signature event paves the way for students across New Jersey as our future business and community leaders,” she said.

“These are three individuals that not only represent the highest ethical standards, business excellence, innovative leadership and community involvement, but are role models that we want to present to our next generation of leaders — role models that we want our young people to emulate.”

Proceeds from the New Jersey Business Hall of Fame underwrite unsponsored JA High School Heroes Initiatives, where high school students receive training from JA that prepares them to teach JA’s financial empowerment and work readiness curricula to elementary school children. As they hone critical career readiness, employability, leadership and management skills, they are simultaneously becoming role models within their communities.

Milone said these High School Heroes will serve as JA student ambassadors at the New Jersey Business Hall of Fame, presenting the laureates with their awards alongside several younger leaders.

Milone said the event has never had more relevance. It’s no coincidence that the three honorees represent the three biggest issues of the day:

  • Social justice and equity;
  • Sustainability and the environment;
  • Health care on a global scale.

“These are the issues that matter, and these are the people that are driving the conversations,” Milone said.

The 18th version of the event will take place virtually Dec. 9.

“We will come together as a unified front to inspire our youth to continue to dream big, to work hard, to support each other and to be kind to each other,” Milone said. “Just as these laureates have done throughout their careers.”

It’s a perfect cap to a most unusual year, Milone said.

“This past year has been challenging and transformative, both on a global scale and here in New Jersey,” she said. “We’re celebrating the culmination of the adversity that all of us have had to overcome by honoring these extraordinary leaders.”

Here’s a greater look at each of the honorees:

  • John Harmon: He has served as the founder and CEO of AACCNJ for 14 years. Prior to leading the AACCNJ, Harmon was CEO of the Metropolitan Trenton African American Chamber of Commerce. Harmon’s desire to help his community prosper is rooted in the support, commitment and passion he gives to all he is a part of. As an African American advocate of New Jersey residents and thousands of Black-owned businesses statewide, he makes a conscious effort to ensure that policies at all government levels are delivered based on equity and inclusion.
  • Valerie Montecalvo: She has been CEO of Bayshore Recycling for 26 years. Known in the green industry as a successful business owner and champion of women, Montecalvo uses her progressive leadership qualities as a guiding force in how she steers not only her business, but passion to support sustainable communities in New Jersey. As a Junior Achievement alum, Montecalvo is a full-circle example of what the JA experience represents and ascribes her participation with influencing her career trajectory, particularly the development of the recycling and highway construction industry in New Jersey. She is committed to her passion of carrying out Bayshore’s core vision of operating 100% green businesses powered 100% by renewable energy.
  • Steve Rusckowski: He is chairman and CEO of of Quest Diagnostics. Throughout his career, he always has exemplified exceptional leadership through his commitment to the betterment of his community, as well as his innovative approach to expanding Quest Diagnostics capabilities, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Remarkably, under Rusckowski’s leadership, Quest has performed more than 48 million COVID-19 molecular and serology tests to date and was one of the leading labs nationally to create and secure Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for a PCR test to detect COVID-19.

To become a sponsor of the event, please contact Krysti Peitz at


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