Five Members of the Croatian-American Community Nationally Recognized for their Impactful Contributions

Published: May 31, 2017

Inaugural ACAP Awards advance awareness of professional achievements

CHICAGO, May 31, 2017 – The Association of Croatian American Professionals (ACAP) presented a signature ACAP award to five outstanding members of the Croatian-American community at the 2017 ACAP Conference and Gala Award dinner in Chicago on May 12, 2017. Winners were chosen from a competitive pool of nominees across the United States.

“We are committed to the advancement of Croatian-Americans in their professional careers,” said Marko Zoretic, president of ACAP, “this type of recognition not only honors individuals, but helps foster growth in our vibrant and diverse Croatian-American professional community.”

The inaugural awards were created to recognize individuals who have excelled in their professions, demonstrated leadership and service, and who have positively impacted and inspired the Croatian-American community.  Nominations were accepted for the following categories:

ACAP Professional Excellence Award: Recognizes an ACAP member who has excelled in their profession and made an outstanding contribution to the Croatian-American community

ACAP Honorary Award: Recognizes a person of Croatian descent who has made significant and sustained contributions to the Croatian-American community during their lifetime

ACAP Friend of Croatia Award: Recognizes a non-Croatian who has made significant contributions to the Croatian-American community

 ACAP Rising Star Award: Recognizes an ACAP member under 40 who has excelled in their profession and made an outstanding contribution to the Croatian-American community

 ACAP Member Achievement Award: Recognizes an ACAP member who has made a significant contribution to the Association of Croatian-American Professionals

Sinisa Grgic, consul general of The Republic of Croatia in Los Angeles announced the “ACAP Friend of Croatia Award” award. Mr. Grgic highlighted the work of Blackard’s “Adriatica” Texas community as not only influencing an increase in appetite for tourism in Croatia, but also as positive branding for Croatian cultural, historic and architectural awareness. Blackard along with three other recipients accepted their award in person. Luka Misetic was unable to attend. His cousin, Mike Misetic accepted the award on his behalf.

The 2017 ACAP Award recipients are:  

 ACAP Professional Excellence Award: Luka Misetic (New York, NY)

Luka Misetic is an international lawyer with extensive experience before international tribunals. With more than 20 years of trial experience, Luka has a national and international practice that focuses on representation of individuals, corporations and governments in complex commercial, civil, international criminal and international arbitration cases.

Misetic’s work in The Hague as lead counsel defending Croatian General Ante Gotovina before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia garnered worldwide attention. He was the youngest lawyer ever to defend a case before an international criminal tribunal, and was profiled in various publications, including The New York Times and Chicago Lawyer, Globus Magazine (Zagreb, Croatia) has named him “one of the 100 Most Influential Croatians in the World.” In 2013, Misetic received the Croatian-American Bar Association’s Vinodol Code Award in recognition of his distinguished legal career and outstanding contribution to the Croatian-American community.

ACAP Honorary Award: Nevenka Jurkovic (Chicago, IL)

After immigrating to Chicago in 1973, Nevenka Jurkovic has held various positions in the Croatian American community of Chicago. She served as secretary of Croatian School Kardinal A. Stepinac and is a member of the Croatian Cultural Center and the Lumen Cordium Society. Jurkovic served on the board of the Croatian American Association and participated in endless lobbying efforts fighting for an independent Croatia.

She is a parishioner of St. Jerome Croatian Church, where she also serves as a member of the Parish council. In 1988, Jurkovic became involved with Croatian Woman Branch #1. In 1992, she was elected president and held that position for 25 years. During her tenure, the organization raised millions of dollars to provide humanitarian aid to orphanages, hospitals, churches, and helping families in need both here and abroad.  Currently, Jurkovic is the owner of a real estate company that she runs with her two oldest sons.

ACAP-Friend of Croatia Award: Jeff Blackard (Dallas, TX)

Jeffory D. Blackard is an American businessman, real estate developer, world traveler, and visionary. He serves as president and CEO of Blackard Global, Inc., and chairman of Global Council on NeoRetroism.

Blackard began his real estate career in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas in 1981, and has developed more than 30 master-planned communities with over 15,000 single-family home sites. Blackard has covered the gamut of the real estate arena by acquiring and/or developing various real estate projects and public/private infrastructure projects.

Through his years of extensive world travel, he has become an expert on the evolution process of a village. As a result, Blackard recreated a true European village, Adriatica, a $200 million vertically integrated, mixed-use development located in the heart of McKinney, Texas.

Adriatica takes its inspiration from the Croatian fishing village of Supetar on the island of Brac, where Blackard owned interests in a resort hotel and village. Through years of work and exquisite planning, Adriatica became the prototype of the most revolutionary concept in real estate development, NeoRetroism, which advocates the recreation of old world culture in a modern-day development environment.

ACAP Rising Star Award: Marko Buljan (San Jose, CA)

Marko Buljan is a commercial real estate broker specializing in the acquisition and deposition of multifamily and commercial assets in Silicon Valley, California. Buljan is forming his own commercial real estate investment fund with the goal of providing risk-adjusted and amplified returns to investors.

He was an integral in the formation of ACAP – Silicon Valley chapter and serves as their president. Buljan is executive board secretary for the Croatian Scholarship Fund (CSF), a nonprofit organization based in Northern California that provides college scholarships to deserving students in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He also helps organize an annual golf tournament and a gala dinner in Sacramento to raise funds for CSF.

In 2016, Buljan was selected as a National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation’s “40 Under 40” winner.

ACAP Member Achievement Award: Maria Sentic (Chicago, IL)

Maria Sentic is ACAP treasurer, president of ACAP – Chicago and ACAP 2017 conference chair. She is a certified public accountant and the CEO and founder of AccountingLeap LLC, providing outsourced accounting, business process automation, and strategic consulting to businesses.

Sentic is an officer of the Croatian Woman Branch #1 in Chicago and has been featured in Women in Adria online magazine.  In 2016, Sentic was selected as a National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation’s “40 Under 40” winner.

Maria holds a B.A. degree in Economics and International Studies from Northwestern University, as well as an A.A.S. degree in Management from RIT Croatia. She is a member of the Illinois CPA Society.


The Association of Croatian American Professionals brings together professionals, business leaders, academics, students and community organizers. Our mission is to foster leadership, collaboration and to promote the advancement of issues relevant to the Croatian-American community. ACAP is a non-profit 501c (6). For more information about becoming a member, visit