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Anne Finucane receives Edward M. Kennedy Institute Award for Inspired Leadership

Anne M. Finucane speaks after receiving the Edward M. Kennedy Institute Award for Inspired Leadership Thursday. Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe

Anne M. Finucane, vice chairwoman of Bank of America, received the Edward M. Kennedy Institute Award for Inspired Leadership Thursday evening during the institute’s annual dinner that raised $1.5 million for educational programs.

Over 400 people gathered at the institute in Dorchester that pays tribute to the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts to honor Finucane, who also serves as chairwoman of the board of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Europe.

Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the late senator’s wife, called Finucane “a trailblazer, a visionary, a leader, and a friend,” before presenting her with an original Andy Warhol painting.

“There’s a reason Forbes, Fortune, and Banker list her as one of the most powerful women in the country - quite simply she makes things happen and big things at that,” said Kennedy, the institute’s co-founder and president.


Kennedy, who has known Finucane for over 30 years, said she has set the standard for corporate social responsibility.

“I must say Ted Kennedy loved Anne Finucane and so do I, so this award is especially special to me,” Kennedy said.

Finucane said she was humbled and proud to be receiving the award.

“I am privileged to work at a bank where 40 percent of executive management and board members are women,” Finucane said.

The Kennedy institute is a catalogue of human achievement, she said.

“Earlier this week I was in Washington, where as you know everyone is more important than you are...” she said, drawing laughter.

Edward Kennedy never thought that way, Finucane said. She recalled his soft voice, kind demeanor, and desire to help everyone around him.

“It is an honor to gather here where Ted’s voice still resides,” she said.

Kennedy family members in attendance included the late senator’s sons, Ted Kennedy Jr., a Connecticut State Senator, and Patrick Kennedy, a former Rhode Island congressman, and Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III of Newton. Finucane’s husband, Mike Barnicle, an MSNBC political commentator, was also there.


Others attendees included Tony winner Audra McDonald, Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner, former Senator William “Mo” Cowan, now an executive at General Electric Co., President of AT&T New England Patricia Jacobs, and former Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd.

Before dinner, guests were invited to explore the institute, which features a replica of Kennedy’s office in Washington, and a new exhibit, “A Seat at the Table.” People dined on poached halibut with lobster tail and enjoyed assorted petit desserts and an ice cream sundae bar.

Audra McDonald, the six-time Tony Award winner, performed songs from South Pacific and Into the Woods, accompanied by pianist Andy Einhorn.

McDonald said she chose songs that complemented the evening - with a focus on dreams and fostering child development. “When I heard there was an opportunity to honor Anne Finucane, I was there,” McDonald said.

Sofia Saric can be reached at sofia.saric@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sofia_saric.