Rotary highlights ATHENA Award finalists

By Herald Staff

JASPER — The Rotary Club of Jasper will host its ninth annual ATHENA International Leadership Award presentation on Thursday, Aug. 19, at the Huntingburg Event Center in Huntingburg. Kristie Juster, CEO at Kimball International, is the keynote speaker for the event. Doors will open at 6 p.m. for networking and cash bar. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m.

“Our Club is excited to share the information about the 2021 ATHENA Leadership Award finalists,” said Rotary President Manda Combs. “The bios highlight the inspiring careers of the women leaders selected through the nomination process. Join us Aug. 19, 2021, to honor these women. In addition to our finalists, we are excited to have Kristie Juster, as our Keynote Speaker this year.”

The finalists are:

Kelly Clauss

Kelly Clauss has served in health care leadership for more than 22 years, including the past 16 years with Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center.

Her career highlights include leading the innovative development of physician governance at Memorial, which was recognized as a best practice by the Halley Consulting Group, resulting in presenting at a national conference. Kelly was also instrumental in expanding numerous medical practices, including securing Rural Health Care designations in medically underserved areas of our region, expanding access to health care. Kelly has been active in supporting her colleagues and community as a volunteer-certified HeartMath Trainer — a program designed to empower people to self-regulate their emotions, reduce stress, and increase resilience.

Kelly gives back to her community and develops women leaders through serving as a mentor with SOAR — a women and minority peer-to-peer leadership development program, a TPE (The Partnership for Excellence) volunteer, as vice president of the Vincennes University Jasper Foundation, and as a trustee of Vincennes University, appointed by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Kelly’s colleagues had this to say about her: “She is such a pure, genuine woman. Kelly is a strong, confident leader whom exemplifies living our mission as being for others not only at work but also in her personal life. Kelly would likely claim gratitude as her favorite trait. She should. It is spot on. She talks gratitude, maintains a gratitude journal, and leads a spiritual life with abundance of expressed gratitude. Her approach serves her well in her leadership style and she is certainly deserving of the ATHENA Award.”


Becky Hickman

Mark Schroeder, chairman and CEO of German American Bank, describes Becky Hickman as having “a gift of connecting with people on a deeper level to inspire, encourage and motivate them to greater potential. Status quo has never been an option for Becky and for those she coached. She has helped women, within our organization and throughout the community, break through their barriers to be able to achieve even more than they believe they can accomplish.”

Becky led the training and development division for German American Bank for more than 19 years. She began as a one-person office and implemented the organization’s first intranet along with designing, developing and delivering employee training. Today, Becky owns and operates Becky Hickman & Associates LLC — a training development, and facilitations business. In addition, Becky serves as executive director of the Dubois County Chamber of Commerce and as director of education and entrepreneurship in Dubois County.

Becky is active in the community serving as a mentor for SOAR — a women and minority peer-to-peer leadership development program — and as a judge for regional, state and national speech competitions, and Business Professionals of America. Most recently, Becky has helped lead efforts to designate Dubois County, along with five other counties, as a 21st Century Talent Region, connecting and aligning our regional resources with workforce needs bringing prosperity to the region. Becky served on the Indiana Bankers Association Banking on Women committee, was mayor-appointed to the Jasper Community Arts Board for eight years and was a founding member of the Women Empowering Women.


Norma Kress

Norma Kress retired as the first female executive at Kimball International, Executive Vice President of Information Technology in 1998 after 41 years of dedicated service. She was originally hired as a bookkeeper and later as Mr. Arnold Habig’s administrative assistant.

With a solid understanding of the business and the tools and techniques available, Norma later assumed leadership responsibilities to create an Information Technology department. At the time, Norma was one of a few female leaders in the technology field globally. She ushered in the adoption of many new technologies, and worked to develop women in technology and women in leadership at Kimball International.

Norma’s nominator described her work ethic as bringing a “strong point of view and confidence into every situation. She was a role model for other leaders, especially women… (and) Norma exhibited courage, strength, and a willingness to blaze new trails.”

Norma was active in the community and made it a priority to support members of her team in giving back. She realized that through that community she could make a bigger impact on Jasper and Dubois County, and provided the use of the company’s technology and technical skills to help non-profits.

One of Norma’s colleagues described her rise to the top as “not by breaking through the glass ceiling sending shards of glass to hurt others. She succeeded with kindness, intelligence and a cooperative spirit. Norma showed that you can succeed in your profession at a very high level, be involved in your community, be a great mother and still have enough energy to help others succeed in life.”


Sarah Leonard

Sarah Leonard was central to the creation of the Girls on the Run of Southwest Indiana program — a program designed to connect with girls during their formative years to mentor and teach them tools to navigate the various life experiences they will face in their middle and high school years.

Over many years of studying, applying for grants, and activating her networks, Sarah was able to start a local Girls on the Run Council in 2014, which then led to the first season of GOTR in 2015. The first season started with a six-person board of directors and 64 young lady participants at two sites in Jasper. By 2018 they had grown to 178 participants at seven sites on nine teams, with participants from all four school districts in Dubois County. In 2019, GOTR serving Dubois County celebrated their fifth season with 206 participants and a 12-member Board of Directors. After much work and preparation, GOTR International approved Sarah’s team to expand their outreach to serve 13 counties in Southwest Indiana.

In addition to launching this important youth development program, Sarah has been an active leader in many organizations including as the president of the Fifth Street Elementary PTO, as a member of the University of Evansville Alumni Board, as president of the Jasper High School Boys Soccer Booster Club, and as chairperson for the Heartland Half Marathon Kids Fun Run & Festival. Sarah is active in her Church as a Sunday school teacher.

Sarah’s nominator shared that, “In my many years in the banking profession and in community involvement, I have known no person with as much passion and positivity as Sarah Leonard. I feel very strongly about the impact of the GOTR program on confidence, leadership skills, and future success of young women in our community.”


Somula (Sam) Schwoeppe

Sam's favorite leadership role has been on her family’s farm, Schwoeppe Dairy LLC, where she and her family have been leading the business since 2004.

Sam’s leadership story has been featured internationally by Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday program, PepsiCo, and by the Agriculture Future of America with the 2020 Beacon of Hope Award.

Doris Mold, Co-CEO of Annie’s Project — Empowering Women in Agriculture said, “While many wring their hands in despair during tough times, Sam Schwoeppe rolls up her sleeves and gets to work. Sam has brought hope to thousands of hungry families and stressed farmers through her work, both volunteer and professional. A dairy farmer that also works with Feeding America to ensure that nutrient-rich dairy products are available through food shelves.”

As Feeding America’s Senior Account Manager, Supply Chain, Sam is responsible for increasing access to fresh milk and dairy products throughout Feeding America’s network of 200 food banks and over 60,000 partner agencies. One of Sam’s largest successes has been increasing dairy distribution by 400 million pounds during the last three years.

Sam was elected to the Prairie Farms Dairy Incorporated Board of Directors in 2010 and as treasurer, serves as the first woman elected to serve in an executive role. In 2019, Sam was chosen as one of five women from around the globe to participate in “Closing the Crop Gap: Empowering Women to Feed the World,” a joint project by PepsiCo and CARE to highlight women’s vital role in global food production and community food security.

Sam has been active in her local community over the years in a variety of ways with the Dubois County 4-H program, as president of the Dubois County Young Dairymen and the Southwest Indiana Holstein Breeders. Sam served as president of the Holland Elementary PTO and the Southridge Wrestling Booster Club and served on the Southridge Football Boosters.


Marsha Shepherd

Marsha Shepherd is described by her colleagues as: “One who leads by example, always upholding her moral and ethical standards and expecting others to do the same; determination for quality and a ‘can-do’ attitude coupled with a work ethic that was superior to most; Marsha is a very compassionate individual; Her effectiveness in leadership, mentoring and organization are her strengths.”

Marsha has employed these characteristics for a total of 30 years at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Quality Services and Compliance. From 2012 to 2015, Marsha was recognized for her professional excellence by being selected as an Examiner for The Partnership for Excellence program — a volunteer program of examiners dedicating hundreds of hours of time, energy and commitment to the mission of “cultivating performance excellence in Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia.” Trained TPE examiners help organizations identify strengths and opportunities toward their journey of achieving world-class performance.

Marsha is active in her community serving in the past and currently on many boards and organizations including as president of the Ireland Elementary School PTO, as co-chair of the St. Mary’s Catholic Church Building for Our Future Campaign, as an instructor of religious education, as coordinator of the Jasper High School dance competitions, on the Strassenfest Committee, and as a member of Women Empowering Women. Marsha is passionate about education and has been an adjunct faculty member for Vincennes University since 2006. She also serves as president of the Patoka Valley Career and Technical Education Cooperative, Health Occupations Committee.

Sponsorships still available

Sponsorships at Gold, Silver, and Bronze levels are still available for the event. Contact Dianna Land at 812-639-3413 for more information. Sponsorships acquired before Aug. 1 will be included in the event program. Single admission tickets are also available.

Platinum sponsors for this event are German American, Kimball Electronics, Kimball International, MasterBrand Cabinets and Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center. Gold sponsors to date are Fifth Third Bank, Old National Bank, and Springs Valley Bank & Trust Company. Current Silver sponsors are Freedom Bank and Hoosier Hills Credit Union.

More on