The Mary S. Peake Community Commerce Innovation Award honors local chambers, business associations, and their equivalents nationally which serve as the hubs for leading next generation Applied Learning and Teaching among their member businesses.

American teacher and community leader Mary Peake was born in 1823. She illegally taught enslaved African Americans to read under a tree in Hampton, Virginia. In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was read for the first time in the South under that tree which became known as the Emancipation Oak. Through Mary Peake’s pioneering efforts in education, Hampton University grew up from under that tree. The image of the Emancipation Oak on Venly awards signifies how much has been achieved with grassroots resources.

The John McArthur Community Commerce Innovation Award honors pacesetting local businesses who are role models for the country on Community Commerce best practices.

Harvard Business School Dean John McArthur, Venly’s Co-Founder, was legendary for many reasons. One of them was that the Harvard Business School has been there for more than 110 years, and John was there for 62 of them. A quality that made John special was his passion for grassroots innovation. For John, the pivotal learning experience in his life was working in a sawmill at the start of his career, and he always looked for new skills from actual business experience with his sleeves rolled up.