Clauss receives ATHENA award


Kelly Clauss

HUNTINGBURG — When Kelly Clauss accepted the Rotary Club of Jasper's 2021 ATHENA International Leadership Award Thursday evening, she thought about basketball. More importantly, she thought about her dad.

When she was younger, she and her dad would spend nearly every day outside shooting hundreds of free throws. He’d often give her a goal to reach before she could be done.

“He’d say, ‘We’re not leaving here until you make 70, 80, 110' was the most, in a row,” she said. “While I was a kid, I may have pouted as though he was punishing me. It didn’t take me long to understand he was teaching me about personal discipline, mental toughness and believing is seeing.”

Clauss was later inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015 for her career at Vincennes Rivet High School and Vincennes University. On Thursday, she was honored for her role in health care leadership for the past two decades, including 16 years at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper.

ATHENA International is a nonprofit that seeks to support, develop and honor women leaders. The ATHENA award is given annually to a woman who shows professional excellence and community service and builds up the women around her. This year's event took place at the Huntingburg Event Center.

Because of her father and mother, Clauss has always believed that believing is seeing, which is typically the opposite of what society teaches, she said.

“My dad would instruct me to literally believe the basketball was going through the hoop ever before it left my hand, to have faith in my God-given talents,” she said. “It’s easy to believe in something once we see it, once we have proof … And yet, in this time of history, we are especially called to be faith-filled people of formation, not people of information … to become faithful people and believe. Believing in the good of humankind, believing in one another’s good intent, believing that by coming together, we’re better.”

Clauss was recognized for accomplishments throughout her career, including leading the development of physician governance at Memorial and expanding access to health care in medically underserved areas of the region.

She is also a volunteer-certified trainer with HeartMath, a program designed to teach people to self-regulate their emotions, reduce stress and increase resilience. Additionally, she is a mentor with SOAR, a women and minority peer-to-peer leadership development program, a volunteer with The Partnership for Excellence, the vice president of the Vincennes University Jasper Foundation and a trustee of Vincennes University.

Kristie Juster, CEO at Kimball International, was the evening’s keynote speaker. This year’s other five finalists were Becky Hickman, director of the Dubois County Chamber of Commerce; Norma Kress, former executive vice president of Kimball International; Sarah Leonard, founder of the Girls on the Run Southwest Indiana; Somula (Sam) Schwoeppe, Feeding America’s senior account manager; and Marsha Shepherd, Memorial Hospital's director of Corporate Compliance.

When last year’s ATHENA event was canceled due to COVID-19, the award was dedicated to “The Essential Worker.” Other past ATHENA winners are: retired executive director of Tri-Cap Jane Chappell in 2012; Matrix Integration President and CEO Brenda Stallings in 2013; Ferdinand News Co-owner Kathy Tretter in 2014; Executive Director of the Jasper Chamber of Commerce Nancy Eckerle in 2015; former Huntingburg mayor and Indiana auditor of state Connie Nass in 2016; Tonya Heim, then Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center’s vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer, in 2017; Kim Messmer, an independent future executive senior sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics, in 2018; and Tracy Lorey, superintendent of Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools, in 2019.

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