Industry Leaders Honored with NRF PROTECT Ring of Excellence Awards

Leaders in the loss prevention industry were honored with NRF PROTECT Ring of Excellence Awards at day two of the annual event in Long Beach yesterday, June 5.

The NRF PROTECT Ring of Excellence Awards stand as the pinnacle of recognition for those who champion loss prevention and asset protection. It’s not just an honor; it’s a celebration of exceptional dedication and unparalleled contributions to the industry.

First, Target Senior Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer Rich Agostino was presented with the second annual Retail Cybersecurity Leadership Award, which recognizes individuals’ cumulative contributions, over the course of their career, to advancing the state of cybersecurity within the retail industry. This award spotlights both leadership on cybersecurity within retail companies and efforts to support industry-wide collaboration, information sharing, workforce development and partner engagement on cybersecurity issues.

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Agostino has long been a champion for career development programs both at Target and in the broader security community. He serves as chair of the Board of Directors for the Retail & Hospitality ISAC (RH-ISAC) and is a member of the PCI Security Standards Council Board of Advisors and Google’s CISO Advisory Board.

“Rich Agostino has been a leader in the retail cybersecurity community, working to strengthen information sharing and collaboration on cybersecurity and fraud threats,” said Christian Beckner, NRF vice president of retail technology and cybersecurity and executive director for the Center for Digital Risk & Innovation. “He has been instrumental in raising consumer awareness about cybersecurity risks and inspiring the next generation of cyber professionals. We are honored to recognize his contributions across the sector.”

Next, David Johnston and Scott McBride presented the prestigious Ring of Excellence Award to this year’s four honorees. The NRF Loss Prevention Council’s Ring of Excellence Award is the premier recognition program for loss prevention professionals. The award recognizes outstanding leaders who have undoubtedly shaped the industry. The defining quality among these leaders is that the industry would not be what it is today without their contributions.

“Scott and I are honored to stand here today and acknowledge those great pioneers and practitioners who now join this prestigious list of honorees,” Johnston said as he presented the awards.

The recipients were:

  • Gary Johnson, a leader in loss prevention for more than 40 years. Johnson retired as director of asset protection and safety for Guitar Center, overseeing 600 stores nationwide, and has held leadership positions with The Vitamin Shoppe, A&P Supermarkets, Barnes & Noble, and Osco Drug Stores. He served two terms as chair of the NRF Loss Prevention Advisory Council and was a founding member of the Loss Prevention Research Council.
  • Mike Lamb, LPC, an industry expert with more than four decades of experience in asset protection, loss prevention, and safety. Lamb retired from his role as vice president of asset protection and safety with the Kroger Company in February 2024 and previously served in leadership roles with Walmart US and The Home Depot. Lamb remains active in the LP industry, serving as a member of the executive committee for the LP Foundation, senior advisor for Innovate LPRC, and board member of Good2Go, as well as other key affiliations.
  • Walter Palmer, an industry expert in loss prevention and a leader throughout his career as a practitioner, consultant, and industry partner. Palmer continues to provide strategic guidance and insights to many of the world’s leading retail brands. He is one of the co-founders of LP Magazine, has served the industry across many boards and associations, and has been involved with the NRF’s loss prevention conference for more than 30 years.
  • John Velke, a practitioner who began his retail loss prevention career in 1977 at Lord & Taylor. Velke’s career includes roles with Fred Meyer, Parisian, Proffitt’s, and McRae’s stores, before retiring in 2022 from Total Wine & More. For more than 40 years he has advocated for the LP industry, serving on the Illinois Attorney General’s task force on computer crime, as a governor-appointed board member to Oregon’s Police Academy, and a member of the NRF Loss Prevention Council.

The presentation of the awards ended a full day of keynotes, educational sessions covering key industry topics, and an open expo hall. After the awards, attendees were invited to toast the honorees with champagne before heading off to their own dinners and celebrations, including Wicklander-Zulawski’s infamous late-night party.

Check the LPM site again tomorrow for more NRF PROTECT coverage!

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