Finalists announced for 8th ATHENA award

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Rotary Club of Jasper's ATHENA International Leadership Award finalists

From Local Sources

JASPER — The Rotary Club of Jasper, hosting its eighth annual ATHENA International Leadership Award presentation in Dubois County, has announced this year’s six finalists. They are Jane Balsmeyer, Jenny Fowler, Judy Jochem-Nino, Tracy Lorey, Nancy Otte and Jill Wigand.

The event will be held Aug. 22 at the Huntingburg Event Center, beginning at 6 p.m., with Dr. Sue Ellspermann as the keynote speaker. The dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Ellspermann has more than 30 years of experience in higher education, economic and workforce development, and public service.

Founded in 1982 by Martha Mayhood Mertz, ATHENA International is a non-profit organization that seeks to support, develop and honor women leaders. Supporting, honoring and developing women leaders are the foundations of the ATHENA Leadership Model, which identifies attributes that are reflective of women’s contributions to leadership.

German American Bank, Kimball Electronics, MasterBrand Cabinets and Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center are platinum sponsors of this event. Circle A Foodmarts and Springs Valley Bank & Trust Company are gold sponsors. Sponsorships are still available by calling Dan Collignon at 812-631-2869. The Rotary Club of Jasper is coordinating the entire event.

Finalists for the 2019 ATHENA award are:

Jane Balsmeyer


Jane Balsmeyer has served in the marketing department at German American Bank for more than 30 years, and currently serves as GAB vice president of marketing. Jane’s team of six reports that she leads with compassion, the ability to think outside the box, and a knack for embracing challenges and mistakes to develop the best in others. She is an advocate for the greater team, taking every opportunity to recognize and celebrate the work of others. Clay Ewing, president of German American Bancorp, explains that “Jane believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to advance and improve themselves. She actively works with the women at German American to attain their goals and improve their own leadership skills.” In addition to her professional career, Jane is active in the community, and has served as president of the Precious Blood School PTO and president of the Jasper Chamber of Commerce, and is a member on many boards, including Jasper Endows Today and Tomorrow, Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center’s Mission Committee, Women Empowering Women, the German Club and Anderson Woods. She also teaches a spinning fitness class, and she serves as a Jasper girls softball league coach. Megan Berg, a member of the German American marketing team, summarizes Jane’s impact explaining that “there is importance of ‘being good’ and working hard to help an organization to excel and propel them forward to success. However, there is more to be said about the simple and powerful act of ‘doing good.’ Jane encompasses both, and her leadership has left an impact, an endless ripple of good.”

Jenny Fowler


Jenny Fowler has served as a high school counselor for the past 19 years at Southridge High School. In addition to guiding students, she is also celebrated for mentoring her colleagues and families in the community. Brian Uebelhor, colleague and school counselor at Jasper High School, explains that “I put Jenny right up there with the very most influential people in my life in regards to what she was able to teach me and how she helped me grow.” Some of her most notable recent accomplishments include establishing a mentoring program at Southridge, pairing freshman students with upperclassmen to develop leadership skills, and positively impacting student morale. Chad Sickbert, principal of Southridge High School, shared that “the culture of Southridge High School has been shaped into a welcoming environment for our new students as a result of this mentorship.” Jenny partnered with Huntingburg Mayor Denny Spinner to create the Mayor’s Youth Council, and she remains an active member today. She is a strong advocate for the Latino community in the region, and created the first Latino Advocacy Student Group at Southridge. In addition, Jenny is active on the Latino Collaboration Table, a member of St. Joseph Parish, and a member of the Huntingburg Optimist Club, in addition to serving on many boards and committees related to her profession. Jenny’s colleagues and former students describe her notable characteristics as caring, passionate about service, inspiring, having integrity, and a loving heart. Evelyn Rivas, president of A.L.A.S.I., summarized Jenny’s impacts, saying she “is a woman who cares deeply about the success of other women.”

Judy Jochem-Nino


Judy Jochem-Nino has worked for Farbest Foods for more than 29 years, and currently serves as the human resources manager. Judy was instrumental in recruiting the Latino community to Dubois County in the early 1990s. Recognizing the need to grow the workforce, Judy met with other community leaders and formed the Dubois County Human Resources Group. She, along with Ted Seger, began visiting local high schools promoting local career opportunities. Judy was influential in helping the Latino community adjust to life in Dubois County, collaborating to create the Huntingburg Organization of Latino Americans, and she advocated for community services to be sensitive to Latino cultural norms and needs. Judy has served as president of the PTO, president of the 4-H leader program and has served on several community boards and committees, including Destination Imagination, band boosters, Kappa Delta Phi and the Step Ahead Council. Judy has volunteered as a recreational city league softball coach, and is active in her church with cantoring, chairing one of the food booths, and singing in the choir. Long-time colleague and community volunteer Vickie Lewis explains that “Judy exemplifies the spirit of community mindedness, being a mentor/leader, building relationships/networking, and helping others. I consider her as one of the great assets to the community and a primary reason for the success of so many programs and accomplishments in the area. She is a true leader and exemplifies the spirit of the Athena award.”

Dr. Tracy Lorey


“Visionary, gifted communicator, industrious, caring, heart of gold, leader among leaders, high level of competency, and simply the best” are just a few of the words and phrases used to describe Dr. Tracy Lorey by her nominators. During her 26-year career in education, Tracy has served as a teacher, principal, curriculum director and currently as superintendent of Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools (GJCS). She has served on numerous boards, and committees both within her profession, the greater community and within her church. Most recently, Tracy served as the state executive vice president for the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents from 2018-19, and will continue as president-elect for 2019-20. Tracy’s accomplishments as superintendent of GJCS are numerous, and include the creation of a school resource officer, expanded technology integration to create a 1:1 student/device ratio, the creation of a Middle School/High School career counselor, expanded advanced placement and CTE course offerings, created eLearning coach positions, and, most recently, collaborated with the three other Dubois County school corporations to secure a four-year, $1 million Ready Schools Grant for the region, just to name a few accomplishments. Perhaps Tracy’s broad impact is best summarized by former president of the GJCS Board of Trustees, Nancy Habig, “In my 32 years on the school board, I have never seen a better superintendent. Tracy took on what was always a very tough job at a most difficult time for education. She’s guided our corporation and community through many tough decisions. Despite state budget cuts, time-consuming regulations and ever-changing accountability measures, she has kept our schools financially and academically sound.” Kim Strobel, president of Strobel Education and former employee of Tracy’s, describes her impact on an individual level: “I appreciated that she let me fly with my own wings, so to speak, while also discreetly modeling to me the effective qualities of a strong leader. She provided autonomy when relevant and direction when essential. She exemplifies all that we wish for in female leadership, and has inspired me to always want to be better.”   

Dr. Nancy Otte


Dr. Nancy Otte has served as an optometrist for more than 41 years, and is currently a partner with Dr. Tom Buechler at Clay Street Eye Care. She is an active member of the Redeemer Lutheran Church, where she served two years on the Church Council. Members of the community have described Nancy as a servant leader, full of life, humble, giving, friendly, loyal and funny. Beyond her professional memberships, Nancy has served the community as president of the Strassenfest Committee, president of the Junior Achievement Board and president of the Jasper Chamber of Commerce, and served as founding member and president of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters (now known as Mentors for Youth) Board. Nancy has served in countless leadership roles for the Southwest Indiana IU Alumni Chapter, and on the IU Executive Council. Ken Beckley, former president and CEO of the Indiana University Alumni Association, explains that “her record of service to Indiana University is admirable, and so is her personality. Never one to seek attention for herself, Nancy has volunteered and led for the sole purpose of helping others through programs and services.” Nancy is passionate about youth sports, where she advocated for the creation of the Pat Zehr Memorial Endowment and the creation of the Jasper Girls’ Booster Club. During the past 29 years, Nancy has mentored countless female athletes as a JHS girls’ volleyball team volunteer. Nancy is active with local schools through the HOSA program, and worked to implement and maintain vision screening clinics for kindergarten and first graders in the region. Long-time friend Andrea Gramelspacher added that “in Nancy’s professional capacity, she has been a trusted and valued member of our medical community. The care and concern she exhibits to her patients is unmatched to any other health care professional I interact with in my personal life.”

Jill Wigand


Jill Wigand was nominated for the Athena Leadership award by her daughter, Jordan, and son Tyler. Jill teaches health and physical literacy at Jasper Middle School, and owns and operates her own gym, Fit Together Fitness. Her passion for wellness, cheer and dance has allowed her to inspire countless youth in our community. Through her Fit Together Fitness gym, Jill leads an adaptive fitness program for children and young adults with special needs, and started a summer program for kindergarten through fifth graders called High Ponies, building self-esteem, community and a sense of belonging among participants. Jill’s daughter, Jordan, explains that “not only does she provide these opportunities, but she has help from girls she has mentored, coached or simply just impacted there to help her keep creating these opportunities. That’s what I think is the most inspiring. She is teaching what she loves, but also instilling such great values in those around her. This has helped create a stronger community of young women in our community.” Jill also serves as the Jasper Middle and High School dance coach, and previously served as the Jasper Middle School cheerleading coach. For the past four years, she has led the dance portion of  the Whisker Walk at Fifth Street and Ireland elementary schools. Jill is described by her children as a great mentor, and filled with love, passion and energy. Jasper Mayor Dean Vonderheide added that, “Jill has been a great role model and organizer for our youth and adults in our community.”

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