Girls Inc. calls for ATHENA Award nominations

Nominations for the 22nd annual ATHENA Award opened this week and will continue through Dec. 20.

The ATHENA Award, a joint effort of Girls Inc. and the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, goes each year to someone who has reached a high degree of professionalism, devoted time and talent to the community and has helped women reach their full potential.

The ATHENA Award started in Lansing, Michigan, in 1982. Today, awards are presented in communities across the U.S. and Canada.

Men and women may be nominated.

During the past two decades, up to four local men have been nominated, said Sue Napper, the program’s chairwoman. But none have earned the award so far.

“What we want to focus on is anyone who has assisted women,” Napper said.

The nomination process is simple. Forms are available by contacting the chamber at 270-926-1860 or Girls Inc. at 270-684-7833.

However, no form is necessary. Anyone who wants to make a nomination may call Girls Inc. and provide a nominee’s name and contact information.

Nominees are asked to complete and submit a packet describing their impact on women and the community at large. That information is sent to an out-of-state panel that selects the winner. The deadline for nomination packets is Jan. 30.

The awards luncheon is set for 11:30 a.m. Feb. 27, 2020, at the Owensboro Convention Center.

Napper talked about some of the women who have won in the past and the example they set for others to come.

The late Helen Sears earned the award in 2003.

Sears taught at Daviess County Public Schools for decades. When it came to educating, mentoring and tutoring, Sears proved unstoppable.

After a 2005 auto accident that broke her back and neck, she formed a relationship with nursing assistants and nurses at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital. From her hospital bed, she taught them math skills so they could continue their education.

She tutored young women until a few days before her death at age 91.

Margaret Britton, a retired Kentucky Wesleyan College sociology professor, won the ATHENA Award in 2014 and serves as another fine example, Napper said.

While teaching in the 1960s, Britton worked to break down the traditional barriers and discrimination that female students faced in college housing rules and social requirements. She helped establish on-campus daycare services, and she was the force behind an informal women’s center at the college, a place serving mainly non-traditional women students.

Britton also mentored and counseled a large number of college women and faculty members and worked to keep KWC’s professional equality issues at the forefront.

And the list goes on, Napper said. For more than 20 years, the ATHENA Award has honored individuals for their tireless service and commitment to Owensboro and Daviess County.

“(They) are remarkable examples of people who have championed rights for women and opened doors for women to succeed,” she said.

Renee Beasley Jones, Messenger-Inquirer