and Awards

Women’s Network Scholarships

Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge Scholarship

Each year Women’s Network awards two of our members with Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge scholarships. Challenge participants are from throughout Missouri- like Women’s Network members, they are passionate about life, are committed to their careers, families, and communities. They are energetic and engaged, friendly, successful, willing to step out of their comfort zones, and approachable.

The Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge meets four times a year in different cities, for three days at a time, with interesting behind-the-scenes learning experiences in each location.

Ron Marley Scholarship

Each year Women’s Network awards a scholarship to the Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Columbia program in the name of Ron Marley.

Ron was a Shelter Insurance agent here in Columbia who was very active in the community and the Chamber of Commerce. He truly understood the power of networking and once he discovered what Women’s Network had to offer – he had the courage to become our first male member. Unfortunately, Ron, along with his wife Sharon and three of his four children, were tragically taken from us in a car accident in 1997. In his honor, Women’s Network established a scholarship to fund the tuition to send one Women’s Network member to the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Columbia program.

Carrie D. Francke Scholarship

Each year, Women’s Network provides a $1,000 scholarship in memory of Carrie D. Francke. Carrie was ambitious, completing a political science degree at MU in three years, followed by earning journalism and law degrees. She served as Senator John Danforth’s press secretary, as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Missouri, and on the University of Missouri Board of Curators. She died in a tragic car accident in 1989 at the age of 34. Carrie served on the Women’s Network Steering Committee.

Criteria for Eligibility

Boone County Resident


Female student of at least sophomore status


GPA of 3.0 or higher


Primary consideration to be given for financial need


Enrolled part or full time at Stephens College, University of Missouri, Columbia College, William Woods University, Central Methodist University, Bryan University or Moberly Area Community College.


Application Instructions

Applications are open each Spring. Please check back for the application.  

Leadership Visit Scholarship

Women’s Network provides a yearly scholarship to one Women’s Network Member to attend the annual Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Visit. The scholarship covers the entire registration fee which covers travel, lodging, transportation and group meals.

Criteria for Eligibility

Women’s Network member


Company must be in good standing with the Chamber of Commerce


Application Instructions

Applications are open annually beginning in May of each year with the recipient announced in June. Visit the Chamber webpage for more information.

Women’s Network Awards

Debin Benish Outstanding Businesswoman Award

To honor Debin Benish’s memory of volunteering and supporting small businesses, the Women’s Network, in conjunction with Delta Systems Group, selects a businesswoman who has achieved great success in her business to receive the annual Debin Benish Outstanding Businesswoman Award.

Debin’s Legacy

Debin Benish started Delta Systems Group at a time when women were not encouraged to venture out on their own, not to mention in a technology field. During her 18 years in business, Debin and her staff trained thousands of people in Mid- Missouri on many different software programs and provided computer network support to hundreds of companies.In addition to achieving great success in her company, Debin was actively involved in the Chamber and Women’s Network. She served on the Chamber Board of Directors, Accreditation Task Force, Business Conference and Showcase Committee, Government Affairs, Education, Leadership Columbia, Women’s Network Business Owners Committee, and Ambassadors.

Debin had a philanthropic heart. She and the Delta Systems staff quietly assisted many charities and non-profits with their technology needs, such as the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, as she served on countless technology committees and boards. Among the most noteworthy accomplishments are the revolutionizing of the registration process for the biannual MU blood drives by creating the system that is still used to this day to assist in minimizing donor wait times. For all these reasons and her corporate mantra of providing excellent customer service and caring for projects, the Chamber honored Debin and Delta Systems as the 1992 Small Business of the Year and again in 2005 as a Small Business of the Year Finalist.

Nomination Criteria

A Columbia business woman who:

exhibits leadership in supporting small business


has a record of volunteering in the community


is a mentor to other business women


owns (or is employed by) a Chamber-member business, preferably a Women’s Network member


ATHENA International

ATHENA International’s mission is to support, develop and honor women leaders, inspire women to achieve their full potential and create balance in leadership.

The ATHENA Leadership® Model focuses on personal traits of strong, successful leaders. The model captures the spirit and collaborative leadership style often exemplified in women leaders, while also recognizing the importance of traits such as courageous acts and fierce advocacy in the pursuit of excellence.

Women’s Network awarded the first ATHENA Leadership® Award in Columbia, MO in 1995 to Linda Arnold. Since then, the ATHENA International Award committee has annually honored a business leader from the community at the ATHENA International Award luncheon.

ATHENA Leadership® Award

ATHENA Leadership® Award recipients are chosen for displaying excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession, providing valuable service to improve the quality of life in their community and helping women reach their full leadership potential.

ATHENA Young Professional® Award

The ATHENA Young Professional® Award is presented to an exceptional individual who is an emerging leader in her/his business or profession, who gives back to the community in meaningful ways and who clearly serves as a role model for young women both personally and professionally.

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