Professional excellence, volunteer service, community leadership and mentorship of women and men alike are the driving factors in choosing an Athena Leadership Award winner.

Nominations will be accepted for the eighth annual Blount County Athena Leadership Award program beginning Sept. 15. The nominees should be women — or men — who have achieved the highest level of professional excellence; who contribute time, energy and talent to improving the quality of life for others in the community; and who actively and consistently assist others, particularly women, in realizing their full leadership potential. The local program is sanctioned by Athena International.

Nominators should include their name and contact information; the full name and contact information of the person being nominated; a complete list of the nominee’s personal and professional accomplishments; and the reasons why they feel their nominee exemplifies the qualifications listed above.

Past nominees have been employed in education, nonprofit organizations, businesses, etc., and have volunteered their time and resources in community services ranging from disaster relief to children’s services, historic preservation, mentorship programs, veterans’ organizations and more.

Ten finalists will be chosen by an impartial committee from all entries submitted from the community as a whole. Each finalist will be profiled in The Daily Times beginning in October. The winner, also chosen by an impartial committee using a point system developed by Athena International, will be announced at the Athena Leadership Awards banquet Jan. 23, 2020, at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus.

The Blount County Athena Leadership Award Program was initiated by The Daily Times and sponsored by the newspaper in partnership with Bristol & Bragg Jewelers. Blount County’s first Athena Award winner was Joy Bishop, who was recognized at the awards banquet in January 2013 at the Clayton Center for the Arts.

“I think the Athena is an amazing program that recognizes female leaders in our community that not only contribute to their business but to the development of everything ranging from our children to new and existing nonprofit organizations,” said the newspaper’s advertising director, Joi Whaley, who is the Blount County Athena program coordinator.

Whaley said after the retirement of Bristol & Bragg owner Starr Bragg, Lamon Jewelers, now located in the former Bristol & Bragg store in Maryville, will sponsor the local Athena program.

Regina Jennings, financial adviser and senior vice president at Pinnacle Financial Partners, was named the 2019 winner of the Blount County Athena Leadership Award in January in recognition of her professional career, community service and the impact she’s had on the lives of women. Jennings was the seventh local Athena Leadership Award winner. In addition to Bishop and Jennings, winners include Sharon Hannum, Brenda Sellers, Gaynell Lawson, Kathi Parkins and Kathy Johnson.

Jennings said all the women nominated for the Athena Award are intent on making a difference in Blount County. “There are so many different skill sets under that one umbrella,” she said. “There’s a power right there to do a lot of good.”

Learn more about the program from the Athena International website at

Contact Linda Braden Albert with story ideas at

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