Leading the way: Athena will be presented Jan. 31 to deserving Blount woman
By Linda Braden Albert | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Twelve remarkable women will be honored for their community contributions Jan. 31 at the Clayton Center for the Arts, but only one will walk away as the recipient of the first Athena Leadership Award presented in Blount County. The program is sponsored by The Daily Times in partnership with Bristol & Bragg Jewelers.
The award is presented to an individual who, in keeping with the Athena Leadership Model, has achieved the highest level of professional excellence; contributes time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community; and actively assists others, particularly women, in realizing their full leadership potential.
The nominees were chosen by an impartial committee from all entries submitted from the community as a whole. These 12 nominees were featured in special stories in The Daily Times in November and December with overviews of their personal and professional accomplishments.
The final winner has been chosen but will not be announced until the night of the banquet.
Evelyn Sandlin, advertising director for The Daily Times, said, “I would not have wanted to be one of the committee members because it would have been the hardest thing in the world to choose the winner. They are all so fabulous. Every single one of the women deserves to win.”
Amy Lutheran, The Daily Times classified manager, agreed.
“I never thought of myself as a slacker, but after reading these bios, I do,” she said. “These women inspire me. It’s hard not to be inspired when you see what they have accomplished.”
Sandlin and Lutheran worked closely with Starr Bragg of Bristol & Bragg Jewelers to secure nominations and plan the Jan. 31 program.
“Everybody I’ve talked to has been very excited about this,” she said.
Each nominee will receive a framed copy of their story that appeared in The Daily Times, a $100 gift certificate to Bristol & Bragg Jewelers and a bouquet courtesy of The Daily Times. The winner will also receive the Athena, which Sandlin described as a “beautiful, coveted sculpture.”
The banquet will include dinner provided by Sullivan’s in downtown Maryville at 6:30 p.m. A cash bar will begin at 5:30 p.m. Opening remarks will be given by Carl Esposito, publisher of The Daily Times, and Starr Bragg. Lisa Skinner, of Ackerman PR, and State Sen. Doug Overbey will serve as emcees. Nominees will be recognized beginning at 7:15 p.m., after which Blount County’s first Athena will be named.
Sandlin said tickets are still available and may be purchased at The Daily Times, 307 E. Harper Ave., Maryville. The cost is $40 per person. Tables of eight are available for $320, allowing groups to sit together.
The nominees include Jane Andrews, executive director, Blount Memorial Foundation; Joy Bishop, volunteer and advocate for Blount betterment; Judith Craw, vice president of lodging, Marriott International Accounting Services; Cookie Crowson, assistant director for Maryville/Alcoa/Blount County Parks and Recreation; Jeanne Ezell, director of pharmacy at Blount Memorial Hospital; Michelle Hankes, president and CEO, United Way of Blount County; Sharon Hannum, retired maintenance planner for Central Services at ALCOA Inc.; Virginia Hardwick, area market development manager at Staffing Solutions; Pat Marshall, Kiwanian and retired photographer/videographer; Cathy Potter, founder of the Heaven Sent Homes; Brenda Sellers, president of CHROMA; and Debra Whaley, licensed affiliate broker for Realty Executive Associates.
From the Athena International website at http://www.athenainternational.org , the nonprofit organization was founded in 1982 by Martha Mayhood Mertz. Athena International seeks to support, develop and honor women leaders. The program inspires women to reach their full potential and strives to create balance in leadership worldwide.
Mertz developed her vision for Athena International while serving on the board of directors of the Lansing, Mich., Regional Chamber of Commerce. As the only woman on the board, she quickly recognized that the chamber’s boardroom did not reflect the reality of the business community. Mertz believed that if women’s strengths and contributions as leaders were publicly acknowledged, they could no longer be dismissed. She then spearheaded a new leadership award program, the Athena Award, named for the Greek goddess Athena, known for her strength, courage, wisdom and enlightenment. The award would go to individuals who excelled in their professions, gave back to their communities and helped raise up other leaders, especially women.
Since the program’s inception, more than 6,000 awards have been presented in more than 500 communities in the United States, Canada, China, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. The award is presented on local, national and international levels and is established through local host organizations in partnership with Athena International’s national underwriters, local businesses and individual sponsors.
Pat Summitt, women’s basketball coach emeritus at the University of Tennessee, was the 2012 Global Athena Leadership Award recipient. The Global Award has been presented to only 28 women.