CHICAGO — More than 200 aging services professionals, business partners and supporters celebrated a who’s-who of industry veterans in grand style during the inaugural McKnight’s Pinnacle Awards ceremony in February.

Awards went to 30 providers and long-time leaders in the skilled nursing, senior living and home care sectors. The new awards program was launched to honor those who have had a remarkable influence over industry standards, played key roles as change-makers and inspired others with their leadership approach.

“You’ve blazed the way, you’ve raised the bar, you have made us all so very proud to work with you as you bring a bright, warm light to this profession,” said McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Executive Editor and emcee Jim Berklan in leading the night’s first toast.

Kramer embraced by crowd

Robert G. Kramer reflects on his career in a short acceptance speech. Credit: Tori Soper

Leading the list of the 2023 winners was Career Achievement Award honoree Robert G. Kramer, co-founder, past president and CEO of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care and founder of Nexus Insights. Kramer was lauded for his entrepreneurial thought leadership and the way he helped revolutionize the use of data in the aging services space.

He was one of 20 winners in attendance for the in-person award gala. He was accompanied by many past and present NIC top executives, co-founders and current President and CEO Ray Braun, all of whom joined the packed room in a standing ovation for Kramer.

He was introduced in-person by Randy Richardson, the recently retired president and CEO of Vi Senior Living, and in written comments shared by Arnold Whitman, executive chairman of Formation Capital.

“I’ve known Bob for over 30 years, from the origin of NIC in Crystal City, to continuous philosophical, strategic, mind-altering discussions about the future of senior living. He was always looking forward,” Whitman said. “You are the inspiration that created this industry.”

In his remarks, Kramer credited his dad, his Quaker education and a passion for a long-ago cause for transforming him from a student shy about public speaking into a well-spoken elected official who went on to reshape long-term care through his visionary industry leadership.

“Every single one of us is here because we stand on somebody else’s shoulders. We stood on people’s shoulders who invested in us,” Kramer told the crowd. “Every single one of us in this room, if this industry and this field is going to grow — and it needs to — every single one of us needs to be sure we have at least 10 people who stand on our shoulders. That means mentoring. That means time spent, because that’s where we have the greatest impact.”

The event was held at the iconic Ivy Room just off Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. The 1900s venue was once known as the Medinah Temple, the stage for grand productions such as lively circuses and notable Chicago Symphony Orchestra recordings. Guests were treated to a spirited cocktail reception, dinner and dessert inside the upscale venue.

Beforehand, a small group of honorees gathered for a roundtable discussion on some of today’s hottest topics during an event moderated by Berklan. Topics ranged from flexible staffing initiatives to immigration reform and needed tech solutions.

Providers addressed issues in their own communities and discussed innovations they have employed to emerge stronger after COVID-19, whether focusing on managed care contracts or attracting new life plan residents by offering day-use of community facilities and programs to entice leads.

Clockwise from top left: More than a dozen winners show off their Pinnacle Awards following the festive live presentation at Chicago’s historic Ivy Room. 2.) Unsung Hero Award winner Barry Carr, chairman and co-founder of Ignite Medical Resorts, left, celebrates with Ignite CEO and co-founder Tim Fields. 3) McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Executive Editor Jim Berklan, right, presents a Pinnacle Award to Agent of Change winner Ben Unkle. 4) From left to right, winners Evangeline Powell, vice president of clinical services and co-owner of Rockwell Healthcare; Katie Campbell, director of social services for Majestic Care; and Dana Ullom-Vucelich, chief human resources officer for Ohio Living are all smiles at the Pinnacle after-party. 5) Robert G. Kramer (center), co-founder and past president of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, poses with his Career Achievement Award, flanked by NIC colleagues and other supporters. Credit: Tori Soper.

Pinnacle details

The McKnight’s Pinnacle Awards recognize industry veterans with at least 20 years of experience in their chosen field. Winners were selected from a highly competitive pool of nominees by a national judging panel.

In addition to the Career Achievement Award, honorees were recognized in six other categories signaling their contributions to the sector. The categories were:

• Agent of Change Awards

• Industry Ally Awards

• Inspiration Awards

• Setting the Standard 

• Thought Leader Awards

• Unsung Hero Awards

The program is a joint effort of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and sister media brands McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Home Care.

Nominations for the 2024 class will open this fall. Keep up-to-date on the program and learn more about the process on the McKnight’s Pinnacle Awards page found under the Events tab at

The platinum sponsor for the 2023 Pinnacle Awards was MatrixCare; Omnicare was a silver sponsor; and the partner sponsors were Pinnacle Quality Insight, HealthDirect and Sentrics.