Excellence, creativity, initiative, service, a role model. These words made up the criteria for the 2016 ATHENA Leadership & ATHENA Young Professional Award. For the 2016 ATHENA Leadership award finalists, there’s a lot more to it than that. The six finalists – an inspiration to women in our community – embody leadership in everything they do.

The ATHENA Leadership awards are presented to women or men who are honored for professional excellence, community service and for actively assisting women in their attainment of professional excellence and leadership skills.

This year marked the 22nd year of the ATHENA Leadership Award and the 8th year for the ATHENA Young Professional Award. Take a moment to get to know your 2016 ATHENA Award finalists and what inspired their leadership.

2016 ATHENA Leadership Award Finalists

Jan Grossman, Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation

Grossman, Jan

Q: What quote best represents you?
A: My all-time favorite quote, and one I strive to achieve, is: “Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.”

Q: What was your first career job?
A: My first career job was teaching high school math and English in Elsberry, Mo. I took the position without realizing that the school didn’t have any textbooks for the literature class and wound up having to personally purchase enough for the students to read.

Q: What advice would you give your freshman self?
A: It’s taken me a while to learn this important lesson, so I would tell my freshman self that miraculous things will happen in your life when you allow yourself the indulgence of letting go and living in the moment.

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: My goal was to become a high school guidance counselor.

Nancy Fay, Mary Kay Cosmetics

Fay, Nancy

Q: What quote best represents you?
A: Go forward each day with strength and determination.

Q: What was your first career job?
A: My first career job was working as a newly graduated medical technologist in the Pathology Department, Chemistry Laboratory at University of Missouri Hospital and Clinics.

Q: What advice would you give your freshman self?
A: Be motivated to meet and get acquainted with many people, ask a lot of questions, and be very aware of what is happening in the world.

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: As a child, the only professions I knew about were teacher or nurse.


Dianne Lynch, Stephens College

Lynch, Dianne

Q: What quote best represents you?
A: You must do the things you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Q: What was your first career job?
A: I was a police reporter at a newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin.

Q: What advice would you give your freshman self?
A: Say ‘yes’ first, and work your way back to ‘no’ one step at a time.

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: A writer.

2016 ATHENA Young Professional Award


Erica Pefferman, The Business Times Company

Erica Pefferman

Q: What quote best represents you?
A: “You’re the same today as you’ll be in five years except for the people you meet and the books you read.”― Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

Q: What was your first career job?
A: Administrative Assistant in an advertising agency in Joplin, MO. I didn’t know it at the time, but my love for serving clients and the communications process started then.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: “No one is indispensable.” My grandmother told me this. She was always quick to make sure that we never got too big for our britches. She and my grandfather owned their own company. They made sure that we knew that just because we were family didn’t mean that we would be treated special. We had to earn our own way. And, that regardless of where you are in a company…someone better than you could always come along. Stay humble and keep working hard.

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: A lawyer in the Navy. I wanted to be the female version of Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men.

Dr. Tonia Compton, Columbia College

ToniaCompton

Q: What quote best represents you?
A: “Well behaved women seldom make history.” – Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. This is not only because I am a historian, but also because I firmly believe that it is okay to break the rules if it makes the world a better place.

Q: What was your first career job?
A: My first real job out of college was as a financial aid reviewer for the Missouri Department of Higher Education. I audited financial aid offices to ensure they were in compliance with state and federal laws. Though I work far from the financial aid office these days, I have never really left the college environment in my professional work.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received
A: I’ve received two pieces of advice that have helped me. The first was from my history professor (now colleague) Dr. Brad Lookingbill who told me to pursue a career in history if I was truly passionate about it. He told me I needed to “find the fire in my belly” and if it appeared for history, then I was on the right path. History and college teaching has indeed been the right path for me. The other advice I’ve received, and which I give regularly, is never be afraid to ask for what you want. The worst thing someone can say is no, and no doesn’t hurt. It might even help you find a better way.

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: As a kid I wanted to be a gymnast, a missionary, a pediatrician, and a Supreme Court justice. I still think it would be very cool to be on the Supreme Court.

Michele Spry, Midway Electric, Inc. and Midway CSI

MicheleSpry

Q: What quote best represents you?
A: If you dream it, you can do it! –Walt Disney

Q: What was your first career job?
A: As a senior in high school, I took one class that I would attend an hour in and work for the other two credits needed to graduate. Therefore, my very first “real” job was working at Foot Locker in the Columbia Mall. I worked for Foot Locker for 3 years and learned so much about customer service, merchandising and putting away stock every week. The bad part of the job was getting a paycheck; however, I had every new pair of Nike shoes and clothing I could ever want! Thank goodness for a discount and still living at home!

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: Always look a person in the eye and give a firm handshake. Your word and your name are all you have in life. – Jim Crews (my dad)

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: You know I never really had a dream to be anything specific. I knew I wanted to own my own business; but honestly, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! If I didn’t have to worry about money, I would volunteer my time to a lot of great organizations in and around our community.

Congratulations to each of these incredible women up for these two prestigious awards. Michele Spry was the recipient of the ATHENA Young Professional Award and Dianne Lynch received the ATHENA Leadership Award during the 2016 ATHENA Awards ceremony on April 7.