Nominations open for ATHENA Award

Girls Inc. and the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce are accepting nominations for the 25th ATHENA Award, which is presented annually to an individual who contributes to the community and actively pushes for girls and women to realize their full potential.

Nominations for the award will be taken through Jan. 10. Nomination forms may be obtained by contacting Girls Inc. at 270-684-7833 or online at

Nominees can be male or female, but “must live, work, or influence the Owensboro-Daviess County community,” according to a press release from Girls Inc.

Nominees must be a community leader who has actively assisted women in realizing their full leadership potential, the press release said.

ATHENA Chairperson Sue Napper told the Messenger-Inquirer that anyone in the local community can choose a nominee. Those nominees will then be contacted and will be required to complete a questionnaire that details their achievements.

A Girls Inc. committee outside the Owensboro area will select the recipient, who will be honored at the ATHENA Award program March 28 at the Owensboro Convention Center. The Legacy Award winner, which honors an individual posthumously for their work in advancing women in the community, will also be announced at the event.

Earlier this year, Girls Inc. received a record number of nominations, 14, for the 2022 ATHENA Award.

Karla Ward received the 2022 award for her work as executive director of New Beginnings Sexual Assault Services. Under her leadership, the nonprofit’s all-female staff and budget has nearly tripled.

Jessie Howard, who taught for 53 years in the Owensboro Public Schools system, was honored with the Legacy Award.

The ATHENA Award was started in Lansing, Michigan, in 1982 by Martha Maywood Metz while she was serving on the board of directors for the Lansing Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Since then, it has caught on nationally, with Girls Inc. Owensboro and the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce holding the first ATHENA Award locally in 1999.

Napper said it’s “especially exciting” to celebrate the award program’s 25th anniversary.

“We are elated to be able to again honor and highlight individuals who through their professional endeavors, passion and dedication have made a positive impact on women and our entire community,” she said. “The input of the community, through the nomination process, is critical in identifying individuals, male or female, who embody the spirit of the award.”

By Ken Silva, Messenger-Inquirer