Heim inspires with community, work involvement


HUNTINGBURG — Holland native Tonya Heim joined five other female community leaders as a recipient of the The Rotary Club of Jasper’s annual Athena International Leadership Award Thursday.


“I feel very blessed,” Heim said after winning the award.

Heim has had a successful medical career, currently serving as vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper. She also serves and has served on myriad boards, advisory councils and charity organizations including the University of Southern Indiana Nursing Program Advisory Council, the Southern Hills Counseling Center Board of Directors, Hildegard Board of Directors and Vincennes University Nursing Program Advisory Council. She is active with SOAR, a leadership and mentor program for professional women. Heim is also a member of the Rotary Club and has served as the club’s president on the ATHENA Award selection committee. She currently resides in Holland with her husband, Jim, and has two adult children, Brian and Andrea.

After learning she’d been nominated for the ATHENA Award, Heim thought of a Facebook post she’d seen that said, “Strong women: Know one, be one, raise one.” Her mother, Marjorie “Margie” Rothert came to mind. Heim grew up in Holland where her mother served as postmaster. Heim remembers her mother being passed over for the job twice because a man had also applied. At that time, Heim recalled, it was legal to tell people why they’re not getting a job, and Heim’s mother was told that she missed out on the job because a man also wanted it. Her mother’s experience trying to get the postmaster job was one of Heim’s first experiences with the reality that it’s a “man’s world,” an idea that solidified for Heim when her father told her he could understand why a man was hired over his wife. The man, he said, had a family to support.

“I thought, ‘If that’s how my father feels, no wonder I’ve experienced some of the things I’ve experienced in my life,’” Heim said in her acceptance speech. “It really explained a lot to me that it really was a man’s world. It still is very much a man’s world.”

Just last week, Heim said, a young lady in a professional group Heim is in told a story about coming up against “the good old boys club” at her job.

“I just thought how disappointing that in 2017 young women are still talking about it,” Heim said.

Stories like the young woman’s are part of why Heim believes awards like the ATHENA Award are so important­ — they show the next generation that women can have successful careers, raise a family and make a difference in their communities. And it gives young women role models.

Martha Mayhood Mertz founded the ATHENA program in 1982 as part of ATHENA International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the support, development and honor of female leaders. The Rotary Club of Jasper brought the award to Dubois County in 2012. This marks the sixth ATHENA Award given by the Jasper Rotary Club. Past 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 and former Huntingburg mayor and pioneering female politician Connie Nass in 2016.

This year, Heim was one of six finalists. The other five are Sandra Hemmerlein, Barb Hopf, Diane Hoppenjans, Janie Kempf, and Leah Jessee.

The Rotary Club of Jasper will donate half of the proceeds from the ATHENA Award banquet to Heim’s charity of choice, Girls On the Run. Girls On the Run is a 10-week program that follows an approved curriculum focused on preteen issues including gossip, bullying, positive self-image, community service and healthy eating habits. Each hour-long session also includes time for physical activity.

“I think we’re probably saving some of those girls’ lives in giving them a leg up,” Heim said of the program.

Heim said she always wanted to make a difference in her community, citing her parents as the source of that desire since they were active in their church, the schools and the community. Heim said she never expected to be honored for any of the work she did.

“I never once did any of those things wanting to get any recognition,” Heim said in her acceptance speech. “And I would say of all the nominees this year and all of the nominees and winners in the past, if you ask any one of them they would say the same thing. They never did those things for recognition.”

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