Higher education, high heels and historic family ties took center stage at the March 21 closing luncheon of Hampton University’s 36th annual Conference on the Black Family. The “Head Over Heels” event paid tribute to five women for successfully balancing their communications careers and family values – all in style.

The 2014 “Head over Heels” honorees are: Debbie Pollock-Berry, senior vice president, Human Resources, XO Communications; Bonita Billingsley Harris, manager of media and community relations, Dominion Virginia Power; Barbara Ciara, anchor, News Channel 3; Lynne Harris-Taylor, vice president, Specials & Music Production, BET Networks and Tina Lewis, president, The HRL Group.

“For the past 36 years, the Conference on the Black Family has paid tribute to African-American families and addressed the issues that confront our community,” said HU President Dr. William R. Harvey.

“Having been around women in my own family who have succeeded professionally while understanding the importance that a strong family unit plays in our society today, I was particularly pleased that Hampton University recognized these outstanding women who embody those same ideals.”

The event not only celebrated the women’s achievements, it brought together three families for the first time in many years. It was a special reunion for Kelly Harvey Gill, attorney; April Wilson Woodard, HU journalism professor; Bonita Billingsley Harris, honoree, and their parents.

The three women grew up together as daughters of prominent college presidents and amazing first ladies, all in attendance – Dr. William and Norma Harvey at Hampton University, Dr. Harrison and Lucy Wilson at Norfolk State University and Dr. Andrew and Amy Billingsley at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Ironically, as adults, the three daughters became reacquainted as TV reporters in Hampton Roads and dear friends before pursuing other careers in communications.

“As a child, I took it for granted that African American men and women were high achievers who valued education and gave back to the community,” said Harris.

“Now I’m increasingly humbled and grateful for friends, family and co-workers of all backgrounds who’ve enriched my life.”

Hampton University has been holding the conference on the Black family since 1978, when HU President Dr. William R. Harvey recognized a need for consistent and formal dialogue concerning the African-American community. It has provided an annual forum for people to come together to discuss important issues concerning the Black Family. This year, national leaders from media, entertainment, politics and education convened on Hampton University’s campus for the annual conference from March 19 to March 21.