Spirit of Life® Honorees

Larry Klaben

Larry Klaben is the CEO and President of Morris Furniture Company, one of the country’s largest family-owned home furnishings retailers. The company was founded over 71 years ago in 1947, by Bert Lieberman, Klaben’s father-in-law. In 1986 Klaben began working for Morris Furniture Company as the company’s vice president of operations. Quickly excelling at the job, and just three years later, he was named Ohio Furniture Retailer of the Year by the Ohio Furniture Representatives Association.
In 1998, Klaben purchased the company, becoming its CEO and president. One of his major goals was to grow the company’s market share in the Dayton region and to become a regional home furnishings chain. To do so, Klaben and his executive team developed a strategic expansion plan. Growing from a single store in Dayton, Ohio, Morris now has 18 locations throughout Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky markets. Which includes twelve Ashley HomeStores and six Morris Home stores. Within those locations Morris operates its specialty sleep concept, The Better Sleep Shop, and its outlet concept, Morris Backroom.
Morris Furniture Company was named the National Home Furnishings Association’s Retailer of the Year in 2008 and has been included in Furniture Today’s Top 100 list each year since 2005. Klaben was honored by City of Hope in 2012 as the Midwest Honoree for the Convergence of Culture, Science and Hope. In 2003 he was named Alumni of the Year by Wright State University.
Morris and Larry founded “Kid Dream Too” and has donated over 10,000 mattresses to kids in need. Larry and his wife Marilyn founded TEDxDayton in 2013 which has become a Dayton Ohio institution. In 2015, Morris was honored as the state of Ohio Governor’s Award for the Arts. Larry and his wife, Marilyn, were honored in 2014 as the Miami Valley Philanthropists of the Year. Morris supports several charitable causes including Dayton Children’s Medical Center, where Klaben serves as the chairperson of the Board of Trustees. He served as a trustee and the chairperson of his alma matter, Wright State University. Additional causes include, Anti-Defamation League, Dayton Jewish Federation, along with several arts organizations in Dayton, Ohio.
Larry and his wife, Marilyn Lieberman Klaben have three children, Max and his wife, Jenny Gerner, Sara and her husband, Amit Avrahami, and Jeremy and his wife, Miriam Goldberg. Larry is the proud grandfather of Mia Gerner Klaben.

Surya Tiwari and Satya Tiwari

Surya Tiwari Surya Tiwari
Surya Tiwari began his career as a teacher in a small village in the rug-weaving hub of North India. He founded Surya Rugs in 1976 after a chance encounter in Mumbai with a buyer from Federated Group (now known as Macy's). Surya Tiwari’s goal at the time was simply to provide his local community with more opportunities to make a living. The company started out as a small supplier of hand-knotted rugs. Soon realizing that it was critical to have more direct contact with customers, Surya Tiwari established a division in the U.S. in 1986 and appointed his son, Satya, as president in 2006.
As president, Satya has grown Surya to be a leading wholesaler of high quality, fashion-forward home accessories, including rugs, lighting, pillows, throws, wall decor, accent furniture, decorative accents, and bedding. Under Satya’s leadership, Surya has become a multi-million dollar global operation with over 60,000 SKUs and 10,000+ customers, including interior designers, retail stores and e-commerce sites. Surya’s one-million-square-foot headquarters and distribution center is located in White, GA. Surya employs 500+ employees in the U.S. and leverages a network of more than 50,000+ artisans in India.
Satya Tiwari Satya Tiwari
Surya has earned seven consecutive placements on the Inc. 5000 List of America's Fastest Growing Companies and, in 2017, Satya received the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Southeast region.
Satya holds a dual degree in Computer Engineering and Economics from Northwestern University. Prior to joining the family business in 2004, Satya worked in investment banking at Compass Partners, Credit Suisse First Boston and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. He serves on the advisory board of Akshaya Patra, the world's largest NGO school meal program.
Satya resides in Atlanta with his wife, Parvati, and three sons, Akshay, Arjun and Yuvaan, while Surya Tiwari resides in Varanasi, India with his wife Susheela.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Irv Blumkin and the Blumkin Family

For 81 years, the Blumkin family has been the driving force behind Nebraska Furniture Mart, one of America’s largest home furnishings stores, selling furniture, flooring, electronics and appliances all under one roof.
It all began in 1937 when the business-savvy Rose Blumkin, better known as Mrs. B, started Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha, NE. Mrs. B’s son Louie later joined the family business. Together they grew the business and made contributions that have changed the furniture industry. Both have been inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame.
As the business grew, so did Louie’s family, and he and his wife Frances raised three sons, Ron, Irv and Steve. From a young age, the boys helped with the business, and Louie and Frances taught them everything they knew about family, business, hard work, integrity and philanthropy, lessons that continue to guide them today.
Following high school, Irv and Steve both earned degrees from the University of Arizona and Ron from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln; Ron then joined the Air Force. All three boys later returned to Omaha and took on leadership roles at Nebraska Furniture Mart, and Steve later opened a business in California. Currently Irv serves as Nebraska Furniture Mart’s Chief Executive Officer, and Ron is the Chairman.
The Blumkins believe family is the foundation for success, and Ron and his wife Chris, Irv and his wife Susie, Steve and his wife Cindy, and now their children, have all play critical roles in making Nebraska Furniture Mart what it is today, an industry leader with locations in four states. Over the years, countless members of the Blumkin family have worked at Nebraska Furniture Mart, contributing to its success. Nebraska Furniture Mart’s four stores comprise of over 1 million combined square feet of retail shopping space and employ 5,000 staff.
Philanthropy and giving back has always been a part of the Blumkin legacy. They’re involved in numerous local and national philanthropies like United Way, Christian Urban Education Services, Project Harmony, the Rose Blumkin Jewish Nursing Home, the Anti-Defamation League, plus many other organizations committed to health and human services.
Irv and the Blumkin family are especially proud to support City of Hope and the work the organization does around cancer research and treatment. In 2009, Irv received the City of Hope’s Spirit of Life Award.