Franklin College’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion recently hosted the annual Women of Distinction Awards Breakfast in celebration of National Women’s History Month. The event, in its fourth year, is a celebration of women who have achieved, overcome and blazed a trail for other women through their professional leadership, volunteer efforts and civic and campus involvement.
Members of the Franklin College community are invited to submit nominations to honor women in each of the four categories: students, alumni, faculty/staff and community members. The nominees are then judged by a panel and a winner is selected in each category. All nominees were recognized at the breakfast and each received a certificate and a ‘Women of Distinction’ leather portfolio, while the winners were honored with a plaque.
Thomas J. Minar, Ph.D., president of Franklin College, greeted guests and remarked on the college’s long history of supporting and celebrating women. “While our focus this morning is on current women of distinction, I’d like to remind everyone that Franklin College has a long and proud history of supporting women in their relentless pursuit of a transformational liberal arts and sciences education, and in achieving personal and professional enrichment,” he said. “We are forever grateful for the group of 28 pioneering women who sought enrollment at Franklin College in 1842, seeking to build knowledge and skills that would help them contribute meaningfully to society. Those exceptional women cemented our college legacy as Indiana’s first co-educational institution, and the nation’s seventh.”
Terri Roberts-Leonard, director of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, and organizer of the event, presented the awards. Listed below are the winners in each category, followed by the fellow nominees:
Student: Taylor McElwain, daughter of Ms. Shannon Page of Indianapolis. McElwain excels academically and has held many leadership positions on campus, including New Student Mentor, Diversity Advocate and B.O.L.D. Living/Learning Community Leader. She is a champion of children and has served as a mentor for several children through the foster care system. Her nomination stated: “She is wise beyond her years … she stands up for and raises attention to the empowerment of women on the Franklin College campus … knowing her makes me want to do better.”
Fellow student nominees included: Megan Battles, daughter of Steve and Margaret Battles of Shelbyville; Alexis Cheatham, daughter of Riley and Jill Cheatham of Indianapolis; Erica Irish, daughter of Eric and Charise Irish of Indianapolis; and Samantha Loyd, daughter of Ms. Jessica McIntosh of Indianapolis.
Alumna: Brooke Worland of Franklin. A 1999 alumna of Franklin College, Worland had, until recently, served as the college’s assistant provost and dean of engaged learning. Earlier this month she transitioned to a new position within the community, now serving as the assistant superintendent/director of curriculum, instruction, and data for Franklin Community Schools. One of her nominators stated: “She is a collaborative, innovative, service-oriented, results-driven and person-centered individual … she was recognized in 2016 as one of the Top Forty Under 40 by the Indianapolis Business Journal … anyone who knows her knows that she is one of the hardest working individuals that you will meet, and she does it all with a smile on her face.”
Fellow alumnae nominees included: Angela Coy, of Franklin, is a 1997 graduate of the college. She is a CPA at Compass Pointe CPAs; and Mary Beth Hensley, M.D., of Franklin, is a 1996 graduate of the college. She is chief of family medicine with Major Health Partners in Shelbyville.
Faculty/Staff: (A tie in this category resulted in two winners.) Meredith Clark-Wiltz, of Franklin, is an associate professor of history and director of American studies. Nominated by multiple people, her nomination packet stated: “She empowers women to be their best selves by supporting them in leadership positions and helping other women be successful … she worked diligently to update the college’s liberal arts curriculum to focus on diversity … she literally impacted the entire campus community and students for years to come with her insight and expertise in diversity.”
Keri Ellington, of Franklin, is the dean of student success and retention. Her nomination included: “Her commitment to the empowerment of women is evident in who she is and how she leads … Her ability and desire to positively impact the people around her have led to amazing changes with the communities with which she is involved … she knows how to stand up for what she believes in and when to compromise … she has a way of engaging the people around her by making them feel important and valued.”
Fellow faculty/staff nominees included: Hannah Adams Ingram, of Franklin, campus minister; Ann Barton, of Greenwood, assistant director of the Pulliam School of Journalism and special events assistant to the Office of the President; June Henderson, of Indianapolis, human resources director and Title IX coordinator; and Kelli Jones, of Franklin, assistant registrar.
Community Member: Nieka Davis of Lawrence. A previous nominee, Davis serves as the executive assistant to the chief operating officer and director of human resources at Barnes and Thornburg, LLP. She views community service as a required part of her overall life, and not just something done on the weekend. She currently serves on the board, and is a founding member, of the Seven Beacons Foundation, which is dedicated to building stronger families and communities through the development of initiatives and support to organizations that promote education and commitment to service. Davis is both a leader and a supportive volunteer in her church and has served as a mentor to many collegiate women. For the last six years, she has participated in Franklin College’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, hosting campus events for young ladies on campus. Her nomination stated: “She is one of the most caring, compassionate and selfless people you will ever meet.”
Fellow community member nominees included: Lisa Linter, of Franklin, director of the Library Services Center for the Johnson County Public Library system; Heather (Coyle) Montgomery, of North Salem, director of older youth services programs for the Children’s Bureau and a 2011 graduate of Franklin College; Ashley Reagan, of Camby, community outreach educator at ASSIST Indiana; Kathy Stolz, of Franklin, self-employed writer and speaker; Sonya Ware-Meguiar, of Beech Grove, CEO of Girls, Inc. of Johnson County; and Nichole Wilson, of Indianapolis, vice president of Retail Health Services, Community Health Network Indianapolis.
The public celebration of women’s history in the United States began in 1978 as “Women’s History Week.” In 1987, Congress expanded the celebration to a month and March was declared Women’s History Month.
For more information, contact the Office of Communications at (317) 738-8185.
POSTED Apr 2, 2019