New award to recognize area’s women leaders

Herald Staff Writer

A new award debuting in Dubois County will recognize female leaders for their contributions to the community, to their organizations and to others, especially women, who follow them in leadership roles.

The Athena International Leadership Award will be bestowed upon one of 12 finalists on Aug. 23. The Rotary Club of Jasper is sponsoring the award.

“We want to not only recognize women leaders,” club President Tonya Heim said, “we want to encourage women to develop leadership skills and get into leadership positions.”

Heim, incidentally, is the club’s first female president.

The Athena International Leadership Award was created by Athena International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting, developing and honoring women leaders worldwide. The organization and award are named after Athena, the goddess in Greek mythology known for strength, courage, wisdom and enlightenment. More than 6,000 leadership awards have been given in more than 500 communities since the program’s inception in 1982.

The local Rotary club heard about the award nine months ago through a member who used to live in a community that had the award. Local club members liked the idea of honoring female leaders in the county.

“Women leaders tend to be underrecognized,” Heim said. “When you look at the recipients of community awards over the years, there may be some women, but by and large they’re men. We have a large amount of women who have contributed to our community. I can easily name many.”

The club obtained mailing lists from the chambers of commerce in the county and sent each company on the list information requesting that the company nominate a woman for the award. Notices requesting nominations also ran in local media.
While Heim wouldn’t say how many entries the Rotary club received, she did say it was more than she expected.

Twelve finalists were selected by the club’s award committee. The finalists are Germaine Blessinger, retired vice president of deposit operations for German American Bancorp; Maureen Braun, owner of Finishing Touches and FT Business Promotions; Tonya Brothers-Bridge, president of Transformation Team; Jane Chappell, retired executive director of Tri-Cap; Nancy Eckerle, executive director of the Jasper Chamber of Commerce; Nancy Habig, president of the Greater Jasper School Board; Angie Pfaff, owner of Health Insurance Answers Aflac Agency; JoAnne Rodes, assistant to development for the International Center for Women’s Ministries; Angie Sander, director of HUMmingbird Day Care Ministry; Diane Schwenk, senior vice president and Jasper region sales manager for Old National Bank; Vickie Tollett, family nurse practitioner for Tri-Cap; and Shannon Wood, director of Kids of the Kingdom.

“They are 12 incredible women,” Heim said. “The things they’ve done for the community, their organization and other women are amazing. This is a great group.”

The committee will select one of the women as the award recipient. That person will be announced at the award ceremony scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Huntingburg Event Center. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson will be the keynote speaker and each finalist will be recognized. Tickets and sponsorships for the ceremony can be purchased online until Monday by visiting the Rotary Club of Jasper’s website at

The club plans to give the award annually.

“There are so many women leaders here who deserve to be recognized,” Heim said.

Contact Candy Neal at

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