Honoring ‘Women of Achievement’
For more than 60 years organization has honored women in the St. Louis region for contributions to the community
By Charlotte Beard
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis serves as a celebratory luncheon location every year to honor the achievements of women around St. Louis. These women are known as Women of Achievement.
This year the organization honored and welcomed 10 new women on May 15 at its annual luncheon. The nominated and selected honorees span the areas of: civic responsibility, community betterment, humanitarian concerns, caring and compassion, multicultural awareness, music therapy advocacy, family empowerment, social enterprise, social justice, and impactful leadership. This year’s new members are: Karen D. Anderson, Teka Childress, Shannon Marie Diekemper, Victoria Dolan, Judy Preddy Draper, Rachel Ebeling, Kim Hutton, Tammy Iskarous, Marilyn L. Ratkin and Risa Zwerling Wrighton.
Dr. Gwendolyn Packnett, who has a two-year tenure for president of the organization, shared more about the background of the 10 new members.
“The 2018 Women of Achievement honorees are exceptional. They have dared to tackle timely issues of our day, while aptly modeling the change they wish to see. Compassion is the hallmark of their volunteer service and they continue to transform the lives of those often found in the shadows. Their impactful leadership provides renewed hope for so many, and further frames the important dialogue worth having. The Women of Achievement organization is honored to have these 10 outstanding women a part of the sisterhood.”
Each honoree receives a silver tray engraved with their name, title (optional), and recipient year. Additionally, they are given a gift from Neiman Marcus and the retail giant hosts the luncheon in their honor where their achievements are highlighted. The Women of Achievement organization also presents each honoree with a Women of Achievement necklace.
Women of Achievement began as an awards program in 1955. Organizers believed that the community benefited greatly from the volunteer service of women. They also believed that there should be public recognition to celebrate them and inspire others. In 1993 the program was established as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization by former recipients who desired to ensure its existence for future generations. To date there are over 600 members due to the annual honors and the organization’s website lists over 700 nonprofit organizations that are represented by past honorees. Its officers and board of directors consist of only Women of Achievement members.
Anyone can nominate a woman who they believe deserves this honor. Packnett stated that people are encouraged to initiate their nomination online for the sake of ease in the process though there is the option to print the form for completion and mail. The criteria for nomination, form and instructions are available online at www.woastl.org via the menu item for honorees and the ‘Nominate’ option.
Following the annual May event, the organization meets each fall, and in the months leading up to the next event.
“Once we have the selections we [form our] two-tier committee,” shared Packnett. “The initial selection committee is comprised of all former Women of Achievement [honorees] and the president. We narrow over 100 nominations down to 25. The initial selection committee is given a week to read each of those nominations. [Each of them] then [submits] their choice of 25. A meeting is held to determine who the top 25 are based on the responses from the initial selection committee. That list goes to the second selection committee comprised of community leaders, some of our sponsors as well as former Women of Achievement.”
Packnett went on to explain that each of the latter committee members receive a list of the top 25 nominees and each of the members are given the opportunity to make their selection of the top 10. The top 10 honorees for the year are determined during a final meeting by this group.
“We all have in common this passion to see community betterment,” stated Packnett. “And therefore, work to transform things and shape things within the St. Louis metropolitan region. We are intentional about diversity at every level; that is reflected when we honor our women.”
Packnett shared that the organization believes in reflecting an array of age ranges; their oldest member is believed to be over 100 years old.
“We have a significant number in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. I feel honored to be in their presence. They are just dynamic women with vision and they dare to follow their passions and they dare to follow their hearts in making a marked difference in this community in real significant ways.”
The next 10 women will be honored May 14, 2019 at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis. Visit the website for details on the acceptance of 2019 nominations and more: www.woastl.org.
CUTLINE: Photo courtesy Tom Tussey Women of Achievement Class of 2018 are (bottom row, from left) Risa Zwerling Wrighton, Kim Hutton, Judy Preddy Draper, Tammy Iskarous, Marilyn L. Ratkin, (top row from left) Rachel Ebeling, Victoria Dolan, Shannon Marie Diekemper, Teka Childress and Karen D. Anderson.