ATHENA exhibit installed at museum

Photos by Candy Neal/The Herald


JASPER — Recipients of the ATHENA Leadership Award in Dubois County will be remembered and revered through a new permanent exhibit at the Dubois County Museum.

The ATHENA Award exhibit opened at the museum Thursday evening. Dozens of people came to be among the first groups to walk through the Greek-themed exhibit. And people literally walked through, as the exhibit was built as its own room, with an opening at each end.

“Let’s bring the women to the forefront,” said Laura Grammer, president of the Rotary Club of Jasper, “so that people can see that historically, women have contributed a lot to this community.”

The Rotary Club hosts the local ATHENA Leadership Award in Dubois County. A recipient is named each year during an award ceremony that is normally held in August. Because of the coronavirus, the ceremony has been postponed to 2021.

The permanent exhibit honors the local recipients. So far, there have been eight: Jane Chappell in 2012, Brenda Stallings in 2013, Kathy Tretter in 2014, Nancy Eckerle in 2015, Connie Nass in 2016, Tonya Heim in 2017, Kim Messmer in 2018, and Tracy Lorey in 2019.

Rotary Club member Dan Collignon brought the idea of the ATHENA Award to the club in 2011, and suggested last year than an exhibit be placed at the museum. He has two daughters, who are now 16 and 12, and wanted them to see the female role models in their community.

“This is a way to provide young ladies local role models that they can look up, interact with and learn from,” Collignon said.

He felt that having an exhibit was a good way “to memorialize the past recipients,” he said. “We have an awards ceremony, but that’s once a year. This [exhibit] is a permanent reminder of the recipients’ achievements.”

Recent Jasper High School graduate Grace Truesdale and Grammer designed the exhibit, and volunteers built it in about five months. “More than 400 hours of work was put in by volunteers,” Grammer said.

Truesdale talked with fellow students in the Interact Club, which is the Rotary Club at the high school. Members said the exhibit needed to have a strong Greek influence. So while the exterior of the exhibit matches the look of the museum, the interior has Greek columns on a Rotary blue background. On one wall is a mural of the Greek goddess Athena, created by Truesdale and her grandmother, Judy Bennett.

Gold plaques honoring the award recipients are on the walls behind a sheet of reflective glass. On each plaque is the recipient’s name, the year she received the award, details of her achievements and a quote that recipient lives by.

There is space for 36 recipients, Grammer said. For now, the other spaces are covered by reflective glass and have printed on them one of the eight tenets of the Athena award, as outlined by Martha Mertz when she founded the award in 1982. Those tenets are: live authentically, learn constantly, advocate fiercely, act courageously, foster collaboration, build relationships, give back and celebrate.

The reflective glass was purposely chosen. “We wanted people, especially women, to see themselves as they look at the achievements and the tenet,” Grammer said.

She said the goal of the exhibit is to honor those past recipients and to recognized the achievements of women in the local community.

“This is a way to bring women to the forefront,” she said. “Historically, women weren’t allowed to own property. Women weren’t allowed to do anything. That’s the way is used to be. But women still contributed a lot.”

The exhibit is open when the Dubois County Museum is open. The museum’s hours are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. The museum is closed on Mondays.

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