Here are the 2020 Athena Award nominees

Feb 11, 2020 at 01:30 pm by RutherfordCable

2020 Athena Award by Rutherford Cable

RUTHERFORD Cable, founding sponsor of the ATHENA International Leadership Award for Rutherford County, announces the 2020 nominees for this year’s award; fifteen area women representing fifteen Rutherford County organizations have been nominated, along with five young professional women (see page 2 and beyond for a complete listing and bio of each nominee). The nominees were introduced today at RUTHERFORD Cable’s Feb. 11 breakfast meeting.

The communitywide celebration of this year’s nominees is open to the public and will be held Friday, April 17, at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 1200 Conference Center Boulevard. The luncheon event begins at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $65 per person or $600 for a table of 10. To reserve a seat at the luncheon, please go to to register.

In addition to honoring the accomplishments and contributions of Rutherford County women, the Rutherford ATHENA Awards also provides a $3,000 educational scholarship to a Rutherford County non-traditional female student who has been out of high school for at least five years. The local program is part of ATHENA International, a nonprofit organization that seeks to support, develop and honor women leaders. Since its founding in 1982, more than 8,000 ATHENA awards have been presented in eight countries.

“We are excited to introduce our fifteen Rutherford ATHENA nominees as well as our five young professional nominees and to showcase the caliber of professional, committed leaders we are fortunate to have here in our community,” said Amelia Bozeman, 2020 Rutherford ATHENA chair. “These individuals achieve in their careers, volunteer and take on leadership roles throughout Rutherford County. They make our community a better place to live, and we are proud to share their stories.

In addition to founding sponsor RUTHERFORD Cable, the 2020 Rutherford ATHENA Awards are sponsored by: Pinnacle Financial Partners, First Horizon Bank, Bell Bank, Farrar | Wright, Ellen Slicker, Redstone Federal Credit Union, State Farm, Ascend Federal Credit Union, Deloitte, Holloway Accounting, Titan Web Marketing

Solutions, VIP Magazine, Veda’s Flowers and Gifts, Stones River Total Beverages and Franklin’s Printing.

“RUTHERFORD Cable is proud once again to present this important program,” said Meagan Flippin, RUTHERFORD Cable President. “With the growth of Rutherford County, we want to honor leaders who are stepping up to make a difference right here at home. The scholarship component of ATHENA is an investment in our collective future. I especially want to thank all of the sponsoring organizations who are visionary and see the value in highlighting exemplary leadership.” 

The 2020 ATHENA Award nominees are:

Gretchen Bilbro, Locally Owned Murfreesboro

Gretchen Bilbro owns Cultivate Coworking, an office coworking space in downtown Murfreesboro. She also is co-founder and president of Locally Owned Murfreesboro, an association promoting local businesses. Bilbro is co-founder of the Boro Art Crawl and Kazapalooza, an annual national fundraising event for families who have adopted children from Kazakhstan. She has an associate degree in nursing from Columbia State Community College and a B.A. from Middle Tennessee State University.

Gloria L. Bonner, Saint Thomas Rutherford Ambassadors

Gloria L. Bonner, Ph.D., is retired Assistant in University Community Relations to the President of Middle Tennessee State University and was the first African American dean in MTSU’s College of Education and Behavioral Science. Bonner has a B.S. and M.E. from Middle Tennessee State University and a Ph.D. from Tennessee State University.

Helene Colvin, Murfreesboro Rotary Club

Helene Colvin is an LPL Financial Advisor with FirstBank Investment Partners. She was among the first eight women members of the Murfreesboro Rotary Club and its first female president. Colvin has mentored three women to become financial advisors, and is a charter member and Vice Chair of the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport Authority. Colvin has a B.S. from Louisiana Tech and an MBA from the University of Georgia.

Violet D. Cox-Wingo, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

Violet D. Cox-Wingo is an adjunct professor of social work at Middle Tennessee State University and former Chief, Social Work Service, Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. She is the NAACP’s Political and Social Action Chair. Cox-Wingo has a Master of Health Services Administration from Central Michigan University and a M.S. in Social Work from the University of Louisville.

Bobbie Johnson, Pinnacle Financial Partners

Bobbie Johnson is a financial specialist with Pinnacle Financial Partners and has worked in community banking for more than 25 years. An active community volunteer, Johnson is past president of the Murfreesboro Kiwanis Club and the 2019 recipient of the RUTHERFORD Cable Above & Beyond Award. Johnson has a B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University.

Dr. Elizabeth R. LaRoche, Charity Circle of Murfreesboro

Dr. Elizabeth L. LaRoche is the area’s first female obstetrician/gynecologist and formed Murfreesboro’s first all-female group practice. She currently has a gynecology-only medical practice and is Medical Director of Body and Face Cosmetic Center. She holds a B.S from the University of Memphis, a M. D. from the University of Tennessee, and is a Fellow and Diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Mary Magada-Ward, Advance Rutherford

Mary Magada-Ward, Ph.D., is the first and sole female Philosophy professor at Middle Tennessee State University. She will assume the chairmanship of the department in Fall 2020. Author of 20 articles, Magada-Ward also received the inaugural College of Liberal Arts Teaching Award, the MTSU Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching in General Education, and the MTSU Women’s and Gender Studies Program Award for Outstanding Teaching. Magada-Ward has a B.A. from Bowling Green State University and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Jackie Morgan, RUTHERFORD Cable

Jackie Morgan is Senior Education Program Manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta – Nashville Branch. She is immediate Past President of RUTHERFORD Cable and recipient of the RUTHERFORD Cable Spirit of Leadership Award. Morgan has a B.A. and B.S. from Colorado State University and a M.B.E. from Middle Tennessee State University.

Ladawna Parham, Junior League of Murfreesboro

Ladawna Parham is CEO of Nourish Food Bank. With more than 15 years in nonprofit leadership, Parham led the food bank’s rebranding and merger, increased grants and funding, and reorganized the nonprofit. Parham has a M.Ed. in Nonprofit Management from Belmont University.

Mary Esther Reed, Town Manager’s Office, Town of Smyrna

Mary Esther Reed is Mayor of the Town of Smyrna and owner of The Learning Circle. She has served as Mayor since 2013 and as a member of the Town Council since 2003. A lifelong resident of Smyrna, Reed has B.S., M.Ed. and Ed.S. degrees from Middle Tennessee State University.

L’Oreal Stephens, MTSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women

L’Oreal Stephens is a Lecturer in the MTSU Dept. of Communication Studies and an adjunct professor in the Dept. of Women’s and Gender Studies. She received the Outstanding Teaching Award in Women’s and Gender Studies. Stephens has a B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University, a M.A. from Austin Peay State University and is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Memphis.

Renee Toomer, Pi Nu Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Renee Toomer is district manager for TJ Maxx. She works with community organizations through her position, and serves as a mentor for students at Middle Tennessee State University. Toomer has a B.S. from Lander University and is a candidate for an MBA from the University of Tennessee.

Diane Cummings Turnham, United Way of Rutherford and Cannon County

Diane Cummings Turnham is Senior Associate Athletic Director and Senior Women’s Administrator with MTSU Blue Raider Athletics. This year, she is Chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. Throughout her career, Turnham has advocated for scholarships, access and parity in women’s sports. Turnham has a B.S. from Lipscomb University and a M.S. from Austin Peay State University.

Kory G. Wells, League of Women Voters of Murfreesboro/Rutherford County

Kory G. Wells, recent inaugural Murfreesboro Poet Laureate, is in her second career as a writer and mentor with MTSU Write, a continuing education program for aspiring writers. Wells also is founder of Poetry in the Boro and author of two poetry collections, articles and stories. Also a software developer, Wells has a B.S. in Computer Science and a M.S. in Industrial Studies from Middle Tennessee State University.

Michelle Willard, American Association of University Women (AAUW), Murfreesboro Chapter

Michelle Willard is marketing manager for Bondware, Inc., owner of copywriting company Clean Copy Communications and content manager of Murfreesboro Voice, a crowd-sourced news site. She is the communications chair for AAUW. Willard has won multiple awards for her work as an investigative journalist and feature writer. She has a B.S. in Mass Communication and a B.S. in Anthropology from Middle Tennessee State University. 

The 2020 ATHENA Young Professional Nominees are:

Gina Murfree DeJean, Charity Circle of Murfreesboro

Gina Murfree DeJean is Foundation Director of Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital and a lifelong resident of Murfreesboro. DeJean served on the Charity Circle’s Board as Publicity Chair and in multiple leadership roles. She has a B.A. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Brittany L. Dinaso, Junior League of Murfreesboro

Brittany L. Dinaso is an attorney with Henderson, Raque, and Cain. She served as an Ordnance Officer in the United States Army and received the Bronze Star. Dinaso is the

first in her family to receive a high school diploma. She has a B.A. in Political Science and French from Norwich University and a J.D. from Belmont University College of Law.

LaShan Dixon, United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties

LaShan Dixon is Assistant Public Health County Director, Rutherford County Health Department. In 2015, she developed and implemented the first Community Baby Shower with the Rutherford County Health Department in partnership with the United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties. Dixon has a B.S. in Physical Education and a M.S. in Health and Human Performance from Middle Tennessee State University.

Ashley Holloway, RUTHERFORD Cable

Ashley Holloway is a Certified Public Accountant and owner of Holloway Accounting Services, LLC. She is a past President of the Junior League of Murfreesboro and held multiple positions in the organization. She has a B.S.B.A. in accounting from Samford University.

Cristin Wittwer, Murfreesboro Young Professionals

Cristin Wittwer is Recruiting Director for Waffle House and serves as Murfreesboro Young Professionals’ Professional Development Chair. She was recently recognized as Murfreesboro Magazine’s Top 20 Under 40 Young Professionals. Wittwer is a candidate for a B.S. in Applied Leadership at Middle Tennessee State University in August 2020.

RUTHERFORD Cable is an 11-year-old organization of more than 250 members promoting the professional advancement of women. The organization provides professional and personal development, as well as business growth, through building long-term relationships, structured networking and referrals. The organization is the first chapter of the 40-year-old Nashville Cable.

Monthly breakfast meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month, with informal networking beginning at 7:15 a.m., followed by structured, facilitated networking and top keynote speakers. Meetings are concluded by 9 a.m. Free networking events are held monthly in addition to special workshops and a yearly mentoring program underwritten by First Horizon Bank. The organization’s mission is to be the premier leadership organization for women’s professional advancement.

RUTHERFORD Cable sponsors the Center for Executive Leadership in partnership with the Middle Tennessee State University Honors College and underwritten by Nissan. In 2014, RUTHERFORD Cable presented the first annual RUTHERFORD ATHENA International Leadership Award Program.

RUTHERFORD Cable sponsors include: Nissan, Pinnacle Financial Partners, First

Horizon Bank, Titan Web Marketing Solutions, Ascend Federal Credit Union, Deloitte, Redstone Federal Credit Union, Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital, UPS, Murfreesboro

Medical Clinic, State Farm, Delta Dental, GOCO Center for Aesthetics, and Stones River Dental. Visit to learn more or join us. 


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