2024 ATHENA International Awards Magazine

Page 1



Thursday, February 1, 2024 Floreano Riverside Convention Center





Table of Contents 12 2024 ATHENA Award Finalists ATHENA Young Professional 22 2024 Award Finalists 024 ATHENA Organizational 30 2Award Finalists THENA Ambassadors: 38 APast ATHENA Award Recipients & Finalists



The Ripple Effect of Mentorship in Greater Rochester Since the earliest days of the women’s rights movement, Greater Rochester has celebrated women and their achievements. From civil rights leaders like Harriett Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony, to notable leaders in business, athletics, and music such as Kate Gleason, Abby Wambach, and Renée Fleming, all kinds of iconic women have called the Greater Rochester region home. These women and the outstanding ATHENA finalists being recognized tonight have at least one thing in common. They have relied on the support and encouragement of others. This includes those who came before us and paved the way for women to have a voice in important conversations. We all exist in the history and the context of these trailblazers. It also includes the everyday acts of those around us that enable us to grow and to be the best versions of ourselves. Nobody makes it to the top on their own, and mentorship plays a crucial role. Even the women we hail as the most powerful icons of female leadership and accomplishment have worked with each other. For example, Susan B. Anthony was mentored by Lucretia Coffin Mott, and she in turn mentored other leaders of the suffrage movement around the country. As we enter 2024, it is a perfect time to reassess our own mentorship roles, especially of women, to ensure that our region can succeed and prosper in the face of great opportunity. Mentorship benefits all of us, not just mentees. A UPenn study found that 87% of mentors and mentees are empowered by their relationship and reported greater confidence and satisfaction in their roles and careers. If you are not engaging in active mentorship programs, seek out opportunities to join one, as either a mentor or a mentee. If you’re already serving as a mentor, seek out opportunities to do more. A recent publication from Gallup suggested that mentorship is not enough on its own, suggesting that women need “career investors.” As they explain, career investors “put something of value - reputation, client relationship, future business chances - on the line to give other people an opportunity.” It’s important to not just reflect on the importance of the work we are already doing and the mentoring that is already happening, but to always consider what we can be doing more. I know that many of the business leaders in the room with us tonight already serve as mentors, but we need to continue to look for new ways to invest in the next generation of female leaders in Greater Rochester. As we celebrate all of these outstanding women in our community tonight, we thank them for the important work they are doing to create opportunities for other woman and for our whole region. Additional thanks are owed to Faraci Lange, our 2024 presenting sponsor, and all the other sponsors and supporters who made this event possible. And finally, thank you to all our attendees for coming together to recognize and celebrate female excellence. Congratulations to all our ATHENA International Award finalists. May you continue to inspire our community and the next generation of trailblazing women.


President and CEO Greater Rochester Chamber


President, Women’s Council

Greater Rochester Chamber and its Women’s Council affiliate are pleased to bring the 38th Annual ATHENA International Awards program to our region. We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of the ATHENA International Awards program sponsors. PRESENTING SPONSOR



Nocon & Associates A private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC


CORPORATE SPONSORS • AAC Contracting • Canandaigua National Bank • Excellus BlueCross BlueShield

• Rochester Public Library, Monroe County Library System, Friends & Foundation of RPL

• Golisano Children’s Hospital

• Monroe Community College/ MCC Foundation

• HCR Home Care

• Starbridge

• Nixon Peabody LLP

• Water for South Sudan, Inc.


• New York Kitchen

• Campus Construction Management Group Inc.

• SEI Design Group

• Constellation Brands


• Dennis Price Homes/ Hunt Real Estate

• TalentEdge | Authentica

• MMB + CO

• Urban League of Rochester

• Spall Realty & Spall Management Corp.

To sponsor this event next year, please contact Cassidy Franklin at Cassidy.Franklin@GreaterRochesterChamber.com

A message from our 2023 ATHENA Young Professional Award sponsor, Nocon & Associates Congratulations to all the ATHENA International Award Finalists! Your organization and our community are made better by on your determination, attention to detail and measured thinking. Your minds are wired for long-term strategic vision. Each of you brings a new, unique, and diverse perspective to our community which helps to move the needle and make the lives of those around you better. It’s inspiring to see ambitious and capable female leaders across the generations and industries chosen for the ATHENA International Award. This year’s ATHENA International Young Professional Award finalists represent an outstanding group of leaders that will ensure that Greater Rochester’s future is bright for years to come. There are some natural leaders, but most of us need to work towards being outstanding leaders. We need to be intentional not only on excelling in our chosen field, but also in our leadership and business skills. Life is about constantly learning and growing. We can rely on our resilience to overcome the hurdles that come along the way. We must always remember to pay it forward through mentorship so that the tradition continues. The more we practice, the more natural it becomes. Until then, we need to formally recognize the achievements of women and continue to advance in the next generation on female leaders in Greater Rochester. We are proud to be a sponsor of the ATHENA International Young Professional award!

Simon Business School University of Rochester

INCLUSION IS OUR FOUNDATION Join us in recognizing women’s leadership at the ATHENA International Awards.

We proudly recognize Julie Sadwick, director of admissions and EDI special projects, for her nomination and passionate advocacy in empowering women and transforming futures. At Simon, we are committed to fostering an inclusive environment that propels women toward success.





DISCOVER YOUR JOURNEY WITH SIMON Explore your path to success at simon.rochester.edu

Inspiring Ethical Excellence Congratulations to ATHENA Award® finalist Stephanie Schaeffer, Paychex Vice President, Chief Legal and Ethics Officer, and Secretary. Your guidance as a strategic business advisor, commitment as a champion of ethics in the workplace, and dedication to community service through volunteer leadership are an inspiration to our company and the Greater Rochester community.

HR | Payroll | Benefits | Insurance


ATHENA Leadership Model® The 8 Principals of Enlightened Leadership The ATHENA Leadership Model, developed through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, identifies eight distinct attributes that are reflective of women’s contributions to leadership: living authentically, learning constantly. advocating fiercely, acting courageously, fostering collaboration, building relationships, giving back and celebrating. These personal traits that are more intuitive to women. and combined with the strongest aspects of traditional leadership - taking risks, assertiveness, hard work - prepare women to be successful leaders in the 21st century. We know the value of emerging and transformative styles of leadership that are closely tied to the intuitive strengths that women bring to leadership. The ATHENA Leadership Model captures these principles for use in contemporary settings, while acknowledging that they have been handed down from women across the world and over generations. In short, the ATHENA Leadership Model meets the needs of emerging leaders and speaks convincingly to women leaders who will head the organizations of the future.

Live Authentically

Act Courageously

Learn Constantly

Advocate Fiercly

Build Relationships

Give Back

Foster Collaboration



Communities Served Worldwide

8,000+ ATHENA Awards Presented



Honoring & Empowering Women Leaders


KEYNOTE SPEAKER TRACI COSTA President & CEO ATHENA International Traci Costa is a prominent figure in the field of women’s leadership development. Her dedication to cultivating women leaders has earned her numerous accolades, including the prestigious ATHENA Leadership Award in 2018. Traci’s commitment to empowering women led her to serve on the ATHENA International Board of Directors until she was named the President and CEO in 2021. Before her tenure at ATHENA International, Traci played a pivotal role as the founding director of the Olivet College Women’s Leadership Institute. In under three years, she spearheaded the establishment of various women’s leadership programs that positively impacted the lives of over 1,500 girls and women. Additionally, Traci has had extensive fundraising background, as the north central regional manager for the Arizona Community Foundation (ACF). While working for ACF, she was elected to the Northern Arizona Association of Fundraising Professional Board and was named the 2009 Northern Arizona New Fundraising Professional of the Year. Traci’s leadership journey began with her experiences as a former NCAA Division 1 volleyball coach and athlete. A native of California, she attended California State University, Fresno on a full athletic volleyball scholarship. She went onto be the founding head volleyball coach at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Traci’s diverse experiences have helped shape her zest for leadership and vision for ATHENA; to inspire all leaders to do their part in accelerating a balance in leadership worldwide. Traci has a deep-rooted passion for supporting individuals, as they awaken their unique and authentic leadership strengths.


2023 Carmen Allen 2022 Dr. Colleen Davis 2021 Lauren Dixon 2020 Dr. Heidi Macpherson 2019 Hilda Rosario-Escher 2018 Sharon Napier 2017 Nannette Nocon 2016 Elaine Spaull 2015 Amy Tait 2014 Dr. Lynn Maquat 2013 Dr. Anne Kress 2012 Dr. Judith F. Baumhauer 2011 Kitty Van Bortel 2010 Jennifer Leonard 2009 Holly Hillberg 2008 Dr. Ruth Lawrence 2007 Patricia Malgieri 2006 G. Jean, Howard 2005 Carolyn A. Portanova


2004 Dr. Elizabeth R. McAnarney 2003 Ursula M. Burns 2002 Sandra A. Parker 2001 Dr. Katherine Keough 2000 Sue S. Stewart 1999 Betsy Harrison 1998 Susan McLaughlin 1997 Linda S. Becker 1996 Kathleen Whelehan 1995 Bernice Skirboll 1994 Barbara M. Kelley 1993 Karen Noble Hanson 1992 Katherine Hudson 1991 Mary-Frances Winters 1990 Louise Woerner 1989 Chris Pulleyn 1988 Rose Marie Beston 1987 (Inaugural Year) Dr. Judith Schwan

PAST ATHENA YOUNG PROFESSIONAL AWARD RECIPIENTS Since 2015 2023 Natalie Sinisgalli- Kettavong 2022 Tanvi Asher 2021 Cicely Strickland-Ruiz 2020 Julie Camardo

2019 Shaquana Divers 2018 Kim Allen 2017 Melisza Campos 2016 Melanie Wolk 2015 (Inaugural Year) Claudia Burcke


2020 Butler/Till

2022 Family Promise of Greater Rochester

2019 HCR Home Care

2021 Brockport Research Institute

2018 (Inaugural Year) Dixon Schwabl





Julie Chapus

Angelica Perez-Delgado

Lisa Harris, MD

Gerianne Puskas

Founder/Director Miss Julie’s School of Beauty

President & CEO Ibero-American Action League

Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer Excellus BlueCross BlueShield

President and Founder Mission Advancement Group

Cassandra Rich

Christina Lee

Special Counsel - Real Estate Group Barclay Damon LLP

Global Education Coordinator/ Board of Education Vice President Monroe Community College/ Brighton Central School District

Julie Sadwick

Director of Admissions & EDI (Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion) Special Projects Simon Business School, University of Rochester

Lynn Malooly

Executive Director Water for South Sudan, Inc.

Stephanie Schaeffer

Kim McCluski

Chair of Board Golisano Children’s Hospital

Vice President, Chief Legal & Ethics Officer, and Corp. Secretary Paychex

Denishea Ortiz

Stephanie Seiffert

Tiffany Owens

Dr. Stephanie Von Bacho

Executive Director, Strategic Marketing Rochester Institute of Technology

Partner Nixon Peabody LLP

Executive Vice President of Programs Urban League of Rochester

Senior Director, Learning & Development University of Rochester Medical Center


JULIE CHAPUS Founder/Director • Miss Julie’s School of Beauty Julie Chapus is a licensed Master Social Worker, 2001. She has worked in the Rochester Psychiatric Center, Park Ridge Chemical Dependency Unit, and Westfall Associates as the Dual Diagnostic Therapist treating chemically dependent and mental health diagnoses. She saw a need for human trafficked survivors to have a stable and lucrative income through state licensure. She went to cosmetology school in 2016 in order to open up Miss Julie’s School of Beauty. And in 2021 gained her cosmetology instructor license. Julie has taken her knowledge from the social work field and blended it with her training in cosmetology to create an in-depth class for a wide variety of professionals covering what trafficking is, what it looks like in our area, and what we can do about it. Julie’s training was reviewed by a multi-disciplinary panel of experts including some from FBI child exploitation task force and domestic violence experts Stop Abuse Campaign, coalitions against trafficking, the medical field and has been given the green light across the board. In addition to training local salon professionals, Julie has provided training to the Global Public Health Association at RIT, Nazareth college to psychology students, social workers, and nurses. More recently, Julie presented to the State Wide Trauma Informed Network Resource Center, CCSI under the Office of Mental Health. Additionally, Julie is working to combine resources across the county to support victims and create a permanent means of escape from trafficking through the first school of its kind in the USA.

LISA HARRIS, MD Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Lisa Y. Harris, M.D., is Senior Vice President and Corporate Medical Director for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. As the first African American and woman to hold this position, she oversees clinical services, quality and health equity. Certified in Internal and Pediatric Medicine, she served in clinical practice for more than 27 years in underserved and rural communities. Dr. Harris has always worked to support women and those in marginalized communities. She co-led a girl scout troop at what is now called the James A. Dobson Apartments for underprivileged girls. As president of the Christian Women’s Council at her local church and area president in Binghamton, she’s fostered spiritual growth for women and organized numerous clothing and food drives. She’s also created a women’s physician network for professional support and development at Our Lady of Lourdes. Currently, Dr. Harris is one of the leaders of the Women’s Leadership Program at Excellus BCBS and president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®, Delta Nu Omega Chapter, (the first African American Greek Letter Sorority in the country). As president of the Missionary Board at her church, her work encompasses Christian education, community outreach and spiritual development for women in ministry. She also serves on the board of directors for The Ronald McDonald House Charities. Dr. Harris and her husband are the proud parents of two adult children. In her spare time, she enjoys time with family, sewing and variety of outdoor activities.


CHRISTINA LEE Global Education Coordinator/ Board of Education Vice President

Monroe Community College/ Brighton Central School District

Photo courtesy of Sarah O Photo

Christina Heyon Lee (she/her) is the Global Education Coordinator at Monroe Community College. Her work focuses on building strategic partnerships and creating curricular programming with a global lens that incorporates perspectives on diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and social justice. She is co-chair of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accountability (IDEA) Council, leads MCC’s Global Roundtable, and mentors the Global Union Student Association. In the community, Christina is Vice President of Brighton Central School District’s Board of Education, board member of the Asian/Pacific Islander American Association of Greater Rochester and steering committee member for the Levine Center to End Hate. She also serves as vice chair of the community advisory board for WXXI/The Little Theatre. She is a graduate of the United Way of Greater Rochester’s Asian Pacific American Leadership Development Program and an alumna of the SUNY SAIL (Strategic, Academic, and Innovative Leadership) Institute. Born in Seoul, South Korea, she immigrated to Rochester as a child. She earned degrees in cultural anthropology from SUNY Buffalo and University of Colorado, Boulder, and is currently working on her EdD at the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester. She has three children who are kind, loving, and funny young adults.`

LYNN MALOOLY Executive Director Water for South Sudan, Inc. Lynn Malooly serves as Executive Director of Water for South Sudan (WFSS). Hired as the first US employee in 2010 as they transitioned from a volunteer-run organization, she became Executive Director in 2015, overseeing staff in the US and South Sudan. Lynn works closely with the team in South Sudan where they provide access to water, hygiene, and sanitation in remote areas of the world’s newest nation. WFSS has grown from a grassroots nonprofit that began by drilling one well in Founder Salva Dut’s home village to a leading NGO whose partners include UNICEF and The Carter Center. WFSS’s water projects, including more than 625 water wells, bring clean water to more than half a million people a day. WFSS’s supporters include donors in all 50 states and 65 other countries. A native of Chicago, Lynn is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame. She lives with her husband Charles Blum in Penfield where they raised and homeschooled their three children. She founded and served as a teacher and board member of Lilac Children’s Garden, an enrichment program for homeschoolers now in its 25th year. She is a lifelong fan of public libraries and served on the board of the Penfield Public Library, and is a founding board member of the Penfield Public Library Foundation.


KIM MCCLUSKI Chair of Board • Golisano Children’s Hospital Kim has always had children’s education and well-being at the center of her volunteer work in both educational leadership as well as chair of the Golisano Children’s Hospital Board. With a BS in accounting from Ithaca College, Kim began her career with Peat, Marwick & Mitchell after which she spent 8 years at Strong Memorial Hospital with the majority of it as Assistant Director of the Patient Accounts Office. When her husband’s job relocated them to Connecticut, she quickly developed a passion for education as a volunteer in their 2 sons’ school. With a move to Pittsford in 1988, Kim continued her volunteer work where she served for 24 years on the Pittsford Board of Education, serving as President or VP for 16 of those years. During that time, she also served 3 years as VP & President of Monroe County School Boards Association. Currently, she is the Pittsford School’s representative to the BOCES 1 BOE where she is serving as President. Kim also served for 14 years on the Nazareth College Board of Trustees. With the passing of their son, Ryan, in 2004, through Dr. Elizabeth McAnarney, who had been a huge support for their family during that time, Kim became involved in Golisano Children’s Hospital. In 2005, she joined the Golisano Hospital Board and has served as their chair since December 2021. She is devoted to supporting the hospital by raising awareness and funds for their many programs & projects. She is thankful to the doctors, nurses and all of the hospital employees who work so hard to keep our community healthy.

DENISHEA ORTIZ Executive Director, Strategic Marketing Rochester Institute of Technology Denishea brings 21 years of experience in higher education and consumer packaging goods (CPG) to her role as executive director of strategic marketing at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She trailblazed an industry-standard in the pet care category for optimizing sales, driving traffic, and increasing product distribution. At RIT, her team creates interactive experiences, including AR and VR, that drive awareness of campus services and student connections. She pushes boundaries to seek unconventional thinking and believes transformation is central to collaborations and empowerment. A recipient of NextGen’s Young Philanthropist of the Year, she embodies give where you live. She makes significant contributions to her communities. She currently serves on the board of Rochester Area Community Foundation, Causewave Community Partners, IBERO Action League, Urban League of Rochester, and Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Señoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc. She served as an education commissioner for the City’s and County’s Commission on Racial and Structural Equity. Her family has started an endowment for education and special health care needs in memory of her son, Gian. She hosts an annual book drive, donating 1500 books in four years and volunteers often. She is an avid international traveler, teaches fitness, loves family date nights, winter, and hiking.


TIFFANY OWENS Executive Vice President of Programs Urban League of Rochester Ms. Tiffany Owens began her career in non-profit work in October 2020 as an Executive Director of an area community based service organization. She currently serves as the Executive Vice President of Programs for the Urban League of Rochester (ULR), a community-based, nonprofit affiliate of the National Urban League. She is responsible for the oversight of program execution and provides staff support and professional development while providing services to the population served. She started with ULR in 2022 as VP of Entrepreneurship and Wealth Building. Prior to working for local non-profit organizations, Ms. Owens served over 20 years in the corporate sector in Rochester and Atlanta where she rose into leadership positions. Throughout her career, she has taken on complex business areas that lacked structure and developed those areas to become more productive with higher levels of accuracy and improved customer service and quality. She has mentored and inspired emerging leaders within organizations contributing to their professional development and overall success. Devoted to the Greater Rochester area’s success, Tiffany serves as Board President for FIGHT Village Development Fund Inc, an organization founded by her late father, Minister Franklin D. Florence Sr.; Board President-United Youth Music and Arts. She serves on Board of Directors for: Jordan Health, Monroe County-Rochester Workforce Development Board (WDB). She is also a member of the Black/African American Patient & Family Advisory Council for URMC, Monroe County Aging Alliance and was formerly on the Board for Council of Agency Executives.

ANGELICA PEREZ-DELGADO President & CEO Ibero-American Action League In 2019, Angelica Perez-Delgado (Angie) was named the seventh President and CEO in the 50-year history of the agency. She has over 25 years of experience in not for profit and began her career as a substance abuse therapist before transitioning into administration in the last decade in a half. Angie is a Rochester native and grew up in the city’s North Clinton neighborhoods. Even though she experienced poverty, trauma and dropped out of high school, she was able to turn her life around through the services she leads today. Her personal experience of failed systems as a young teenage mother, prepared Angie for her return to her roots, her barrio and her current position as the President and CEO of the Ibero-American Action League. Angie has a Master of Science in Health Administration from Roberts Wesleyan College, an Advance Certificate in Theology, Scripture and Ministry from Northeastern Seminary and a Bachelor of Science in Community and Human Services from Empire State College. Angie is an active grassroots Latino community organizer in the Northeast part of the city of Rochester and participates in various advisory groups and boards throughout the community. In her spare time, she enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends as well as riding motorcycles with her motorcycle club.


GERIANNE PUSKAS President and Founder Mission Advancement Group Gerianne Puskas established Mission Advancement Group in 2023 to provide strategic support, coaching, and consultation to smaller nonprofits in the Greater Rochester area. She founded the Group with over 25 years of experience in fundraising, non-profit management, change management, strategy design, marketing, and communications. Puskas served in various positions with national nonprofit agencies focusing on diversifying fundraising portfolios, starting new community events; and managing regional and national accounts. Locally, Puskas served as Chief Advancement Officer at Villa of Hope and VP of Development & Communications at Lollypop Farm. In all roles she coached and mentored staff and volunteers. In 2021 Puskas became an AFP Global Master Trainer and in 2018 achieved the rank of Certified Fund-Raising Executive through CFRE International. Puskas also serves as a SUNY Empire State University Business Management & Economics adjunct team helping to educate and coach the next generation of nonprofit leaders by evaluating students’ experiential learning to award undergraduate non-profit management credits. Puskas is currently President of the Greece Rotary Club, on the Advisory Board of Push Physical Theatre and past President of the Penfield-Perinton Kiwanis Club. Puskas and her husband, David, are the proud parents of Rich Farrands, and two rescue dogs.

CASSANDRA RICH Special Counsel - Real Estate Group Barclay Damon LLP Cassandra Rich is special counsel at Barclay Damon LLP and was previously a partner at Boylan Code LLP. She concentrates her practice on real estate, representing companies, lenders, individuals, and municipal clients in matters involving sales, acquisitions, financing, restructuring, easements, and leases. Cassandra currently serves as the president of the board of trustees for the Monroe County Bar Association and is also a member of numerous committees. Cassandra also serves on the board of trustees for the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House and on the Seventh Judicial District Grievance Committee. In 2023, Cassandra was selected to the Daily Record Power 20 Real Estate Law list and to the Rochester Business Journal and Daily Record Power 50 Law list. For her work in the Rochester legal community, Cassandra was named one of Rochester Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 in 2015. Clients have said, “Her attention to detail and thoroughness while maintaining a professional calm amid stringent deadlines and complex closings [are] the norm for her. Cassie’s ability to identify potential problems and rectify them without causing delay was like a superpower of hers. To say that she provided client satisfaction is a bit of an understatement.” Coworkers have said, “I consider her a keystone of our office because her presence makes everyone around her better.” Cassie spends her free time with her extended family, including her parents, her brother’s family, her three cousins’ families, and close aunts and uncles. She is a proud aunt of 12 exceptional nieces and nephews. When Cassie isn’t with family, she loves to travel and explore other countries and cultures.


JULIE SADWICK Director of Admissions & EDI Special Projects Simon Business School at University of Rochester Julie is a stalwart leader and passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion in graduate education. Her contributions have been pivotal in shaping the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School’s Full-Time MBA program, consistently surpassing Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) enrollment goals. Her leadership contributed to the School being designated as the #1 most diverse MBA program among the top 50 in the United States in 2021. Julie’s dedication to advancing the school and its students earned her the prestigious Simon Community Award in 2014, reflecting her unwavering commitment to excellence. In her current and recent roles, she has played a pivotal role in shaping the admissions landscape at Simon, contributing significantly to the internationally recognized Full-Time MBA program. She actively represents Simon at impactful on-campus and offcampus recruiting events, acting as a global ambassador, and fostering relationships with prospective students and partner organizations. Julie’s strategic contributions extend to gender parity initiatives within the MBA program, particularly through her dedication to the Forté Foundation partnership. Her commitment to diversity is further evidenced by her involvement in The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, where she actively contributes to promoting the advancement of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans in American business. Julie lives in Greece, NY, with her amazingly supportive husband, Rick, and their rescue dog, Penny Lou. Her beloved adult children (daughter, Taylor, and son, Lucas) live and work within easy driving range of Rochester but stay connected to their parents through FaceTime.

STEPHANIE SCHAEFFER Vice President, Chief Legal & Ethics Officer, and Corp. Secretary Paychex Stephanie Schaeffer was appointed the first Chief Legal Officer of Paychex in 2006, was named Corporate Secretary in 2011, and became the company’s first Chief Ethics Officer in 2019. In all facets of her leadership, Stephanie strives to protect the company and ensure it acts as a responsible corporate citizen. She leads a team of professionals who oversee all Paychex legal, ethics, and corporate responsibility functions. Throughout her tenure, Paychex has been recognized 15 times as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere Institute. Stephanie is a champion for our community, serving on the boards of United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester. She previously served in Board leadership roles for Catholic Family Center, VLSP, and Villa of Hope. Stephanie is also a founding officer of the Paychex Charitable Foundation. Stephanie has been happily married to Paul Schaeffer for 28 years and has two sons, Matthew and Nicholas. She received her B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and J.D. from Notre Dame Law School. She enjoys spending time with family and is a huge fan of ND football and the Buffalo Bills. Stephanie strives to make a positive impact in all that she does, including uplifting women, through kindness, caring, and action.


STEPHANIE SEIFFERT Partner Nixon Peabody LLP Stephanie Seiffert is a partner in Nixon Peabody’s Private Wealth & Advisory Group, with a mission “to nurture a vibrant and successful community for business and professional women.” She blends her knowledge of trusts and estates law and experience with implementing investment strategies to develop sophisticated estate plans for individuals and families as well as to provide fiduciary counsel to financial institutions. She manages an all-women team of legal professionals who deliver exceptional services to all clients. Stephanie’s focus is to empower women. Throughout her career she has served the community in numerous capacities. She is past-president, vice president, and long-time board member of the Women’s Council of Greater Rochester, a current member and past chair of its Young Women of Distinction Scholarship program. She is a foundation board member and vice president of Heritage Christian Services, member of the Planned Giving Council of the American Cancer Society, as well as the Planned Giving Committee at Asbury First United Methodist Church, and a former board member of the YWCA of Greater Rochester. Stephanie has been named to the Daily Record’s “Power 20 Trusts & Estates” list since its inception in 2021. She was a 2019 Rochester Business Journal Women of Excellence recipient, a 2018 Daily Record “Top Women in Law” recipient, and a 2010 Rochester Business Journal “Forty Under 40” recipient. Additionally, she was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2024 in the field of Trusts and Estates, where she has been listed since 2018. Stephanie is a dedicated mom and wife to husband Rob and children, Joe, Sophia, and Lillian. She is known for her loud cheering during her kids’ sporting events and her amazing brownies.

DR. STEPHANIE VON BACHO Senior Director, Learning & Development University of Rochester Medical Center Dr. Stephanie E. Von Bacho is currently serving as the Senior Director of Learning and Development for the University of Rochester, the University of Rochester Medical Center, and UR Medicine. In her 35 years with the organization, Stephanie has served in a number of leadership roles. Stephanie earned her AAS in Nursing from Monroe Community College, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Rochester School of Nursing while working as a Registered Nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital. She went on to complete her Master of Science in Nursing Administration from the University of Rochester School of Nursing. Stephanie later received a Master of Education from the University of Pennsylvania and most recently, she earned her Doctor of Education from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. As the Senior Director of Learning and Development, she has championed the establishment of the UR Career Pathways Program which focuses on creating and supporting career pathways for entry level employees into high-demand positions. This innovative program has fostered numerous community outreach relationships and resulted in the development of new educational programs and graduates in the region. Stephanie has been involved with a number of community organizations including serving on the Executive Board of the MCC Foundation, the Boy Scouts of America, the Genesee Valley Hunt Races, and the Finger Lakes Regional Burn Association. She is nationally certified as a Nurse Executive Advanced by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and has served as an appraiser for the ANCC International Nursing Excellence Magnet Program for the past 10 years.




Congratulations to all the 2024 ATHENA International Award finalists! Great companies thrive with great people. Whether you're small, medium, or large, companies like yours are working with Authentica to hire with confidence.

Lynn Malooly Executive Director

Meeting Rochester’s home care needs for over 45 years! SERVICES OFFERED: • Nursing • Physical Therapy

Congratulations Lynn Malooly for being named a 2024 Athena International Award Finalist! We are inspired by your leadership and dedication to make a difference for people and communities in South Sudan.

• Occupational Therapy • Speech Therapy • Medical Social Work • Home Health Aides • Care Management • Nutrition Services

HCR Home Care is proud to sponsor the Greater Rochester Chamber and support the ATHENA International Awards.

Watering the Seeds of Change waterforsouthsudan.org Home Care

800-270-4904 | HCRhealth.com

Congratulations to Kim McCluski, Chair of the Golisano Children’s Hospital Board, on your Athena award nomination. We are extremely grateful to you for your tireless efforts, dedication and support on behalf of the children in our region.



Elissa Burke

Jazzmyn Ivery-Robinson

Chief Program Officer Starbridge

Assistant Director for Campus Life: Student Clubs and Organizations Rochester Institute of Technology

Collene Burns

Kristin Merrick

Vice President of Global Talent ITX

Partner Faraci Lange LLP

Lindsay Connelly

Dr. Tyana Rene Velazquez-Smith

Owner, President Linden Digital Marketing

Nicolette (Niki) Gaesser Project Manager Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.

Director of Early Childhood Rochester Area Community Foundation

Nicole VanGorder

Agathi Georgiou-Graham Owner, President Arbor Venues + Agathi & Co.

Brie Harrison

Finance Director & Capital Projects Manager Monroe County Library System & Rochester Public Library


Chief Operating Officer Rivent Partners



Chief Program Officer Starbridge

Vice President of Global Talent ITX

Elissa Burke (she/her/hers) is the Chief Program Officer at Starbridge. She has been a leader in the not-for-profit human services field for over fifteen years. She has an entrepreneurial spirit that has been a driving force in promoting advocacy for policy change and growth. Elissa’s personal and professional experience has allowed her to bring compassion and vision as a leader.

Collene M. Burns is Vice President of Global Talent at ITX Corp., a custom software product development firm with global headquarters in Rochester. She and her team of human resources professionals support nearly 300 team members locally, across the United States, and in 21 countries around the world.

Elissa has significant experience building out human service programs. Providing hands-on support as well as leadership and coaching. Elissa’s focus is to achieve sustainable growth while increasing service delivery. A top priority for Elissa is being able to create career opportunities for those in the field, while meeting the needs of our community. Elissa is a Nazareth University alumna, attended Dale Carnegie Leadership Institute, Citizen-Centered Leadership through Cornell University, holds a certificate in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion from The University of South Florida. Elissa was nominated as an Emerging Leader through ANCOR and was a 2023 Greater Rochester Chamber IGNITE Award Finalist. Elissa serves as the Vice President of the Webster Theatre Guild, CEO and Chairman of the Board for Camp Joy, Inc., and an advisor on the Board of Directors for New England Brittany Rescue. Elissa enjoys spending time with her husband, two daughters, on their hobby farm in Ontario, NY.

A Rochester “boomerang,” Collene returned to her hometown in 2012 after more than a decade in Seattle, WA. While there, she worked for Microsoft Corporation, progressing through HR-related roles. Upon her return to Rochester, Collene continued in her role as a global talent partner and leader, holding positions at Simon Business School, Aramark, FLPPS, and ITX. Collene also owns and operates a mediation and consulting business, usefully, Inc. As a passionate community volunteer, Collene currently serves on the Board of the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House. She previously served on the boards of the Genesee Valley Women’s Foundation and Irondequoit Public Library, among others. Collene is a graduate of Cornell University and Simon Business School. She lives in Irondequoit with her husband, McLean, and their son, Jackson, a Photojournalism student at RIT. In addition to community volunteer work, can be found wellcaffeinated in local coffee shops or practicing her Spanish-speaking and bassoon-playing skills.




Owner, President

Project Manager

Linden Digital Marketing

Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.

For over a decade, Lindsay Connelly has proven herself a successful digital marketer who enriches the Rochester community.

Nicolette (Niki) Gaesser is a Project Manager within the Development Group’s New Store Design team at Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. She is responsible for the overall management of new Food Market projects through collaboration with groups companywide and beyond. Niki also holds the roles of Interior Designer for the Buffalo Division and Project BIM Coordinator, leading the coordination and management of information exchange between all parties within a project’s lifecycle.

Linden Digital Marketing was founded by Lindsay in 2018 and the company is now a flourishing marketing firm supporting digital marketing strategy, tactics, website development, and more. What began as a one-woman operation has quickly grown into an LLC that employs fourteen local marketing experts. Linden has more than doubled in size in each of the last two years. Lindsay was named an RBJ 40 Under 40 Honoree in 2022 and Emerging Tech Woman of the Year by TechRochester in 2023. When Lindsay isn’t working on her thriving business, she invests her time in raising her two young children, rock climbing, and volunteering as a board member for Journeys of Solutions Inc., St. Ann’s Foundation & Home Acres Brighton. Lindsay loves the Rochester community and gives back through her time, talent, and leadership.


With a background in Architecture, she combines her love for design with her passion for her community by volunteering with Greater Rochester Habitat for Humanity. She is also a participant in CANstruction Rochester, promoting greater awareness of hunger issues in the Rochester Community while spotlighting the design and construction industry. Niki is honored to serve on the Executive Committee of the Rochester Women’s Council Board of Directors, fulfilling their mission to support women by providing opportunities for personal and professional development. As an advocate for our youth, she cochairs the Young Women of Distinction Scholarship Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding high school senior girls. She is a Dale Carnegie Highest Achievement Award recipient, a 2023 IGNITE Finalist, and a graduate of the 2023 United Way Emerging Leaders Development Program. With all her accomplishments, her greatest is her young and growing family.



Owner, President Arbor Venues + Agathi & Co.

Monroe County Library System & Rochester Public Library

Agathi Georgiou Graham is a trailblazer in the Rochester wedding scene, and in what it takes to create spaces for women to thrive. She turned her boutique event planning business into a seven-figure women-owned and run empire, consisting of three event venues, two catering companies, and the small business that started it all, Agathi & Co. Agathi has consistently dedicated herself to giving women a space to shine in the male-dominated hospitality industry. What started as just herself and one other employee quickly grew to a company of over 50 people, where women make up 70% of all jobs, and 100% of upper-level management positions. Agathi’s contributions to the community go far beyond her capabilities at Arbor Venues. She has recognized her resources and poured them into the two things she loves most: her Greek family and culture, and her late dog Bruno. She gave back to her cultural community at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church through the pro-bono renovation of their church hall into the event space 962 East, and her planning of the church’s annual Greek Festival. As a proud dog mom, Agathi began the nonprofit Bruno’s Blessings in collaboration with Rochester Hope for Pets, providing families with the financial ability to nurse their senior dogs back to health. Agathi was able to raise over $30,000 and has donated funds to over 40 senior dogs. Agathi is a board member of Rochester Hope for Pets. A passionate mentor and businesswoman, Agathi resides in Chili, New York with her husband Zach, daughter Anastasia, and fur-baby Penny Lou.

Finance Director & Capital Projects Manager

As Finance Director and Capital Projects Manager for the Monroe County Library System and Rochester Public Library, Brie leads the library’s capital and operating budgets, private endowment, and grants administration. She advises a diverse network of independent libraries, assisting with fundraising, consortia purchasing, and governance recommendations. Brie has expanded library partnerships with community agencies such as Foodlink, Empire Justice’s CASH program, and the Rochester Brainery. Brie is a lifelong Rochester resident and her passion for the region is represented through her volunteering. She has served on the Boards of the YWCA of Rochester and Monroe County, Volunteers of America Upstate NY, and currently serves as Treasurer for the RDDC and on the Investment Committee for the RMSC. She has also volunteered through WXXI’s Reachout Radio program and CASH’s free tax preparation program. Most recently, Brie is completing her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification to support the Foundation for Women’s Financial Education, an area 501c3 that offers personal financial education classes and pro-bono financial planning to women in the Rochester area. Brie is grateful to the many female managers and mentors that have shown true leadership, outstanding ethics, and excellent humor over her career. She is also thankful for the support of her husband David and her children, Clare & Nolan.




Assistant Director for Campus Life: Student Clubs and Organizations Rochester Institute of Technology

Partner Faraci Lange LLP

Jazzmyn Ivery-Robinson is the Assistant Director for Campus Life: Student Clubs and Organizations at the Rochester Institute of Technology focusing on designing processes and trainings to support student organizations and advisors on event promotional, communication, assessment, and risk management. A native of Rochester, Jazzmyn earned her B.S. in Political Science from RIT, M.S. in Management, and M.S. in Marketing & Communication from Nazareth College. Jazzmyn is currently working on her doctoral degree in Education Leadership & Management with a concentration on Mind, Brain, & Learning and a focus on educational neuroscience at Drexel University.

Kristin Merrick is the third woman to become an equity partner at Faraci Lange, LLP. She began her legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office. Thereafter, Kristin moved to civil practice representing injured victims in personal injury law with Faraci Lange, LLP.

Prior to RIT, Jazzmyn served in the role as the Assistant Director for Advocacy & Social Justice Education at Nazareth University where she managed the Office for Diversity & Inclusive Excellence Education. Within this role, Jazzmyn was committed to creating and supporting sustainable efforts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. Jazzmyn is a board member of the Rochester Regional Library Council and the Women’s Council. Jazzmyn holds memberships within Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated and Sigma Beta Delta International Honor Society.


Jazzmyn is trained in restorative justice practices, mental health first aid, a safe zone trainer, bystander intervention trainer, circle trainer, and certified as a virtual reality educator. She has taught collegiate courses on Race, Gender, & Voting Rights, Analytics & Data Visualization, and Service Learning.

Kristin currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Monroe County Bar Association’s Lawyers for Learning Committee. She has been a member of the Lawyers for Learning committee for the past seven years and meets and mentors students weekly at Adlai E. Stevenson School No. 29. After returning to in person learning, Kristin helped lead the re-structuring of the program to provide class base attorney mentoring increasing the amount of students who can benefit from the program. Previously, Kristin as served as a board member for the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys; the Young Lawyer’s Section of the Monroe County Bar Association and Homesteads for Hope, a nonprofit inclusive community farm for individuals with and without disabilities to learn, work, live and grow. Kristin lives in Brighton with her fiancé, Imoh, and their dog Maggie. In her spare time, Kristin enjoys traveling, boxing, reading and spending time with her family and friends.



Director of Early Childhood Rochester Area Community Foundation

Chief Operating Officer

Dr. Tyana Velazquez-Smith, a passionate activist, educator, and dedicated researcher, is resolutely focused on advancing educational equity and inclusivity in her community. Her research locally highlights the critical importance of cultural literacy practices in supporting the identities, genius, and experiences of young Black girls in Rochester. As an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Rochester, Dr. Velazquez-Smith shares her expertise through courses like EDU 498: Literacy as a Social Practice and EDU 522: Race, Class, Gender & Disability in American Schools, equipping future educators to foster equitable, inclusive classrooms rooted in love. As the Director of Early Childhood at The Rochester Area Community Foundation, Dr. Velazquez-Smith champions early childhood initiatives, focusing on innovative and inclusive learning strategies. Her commitment to experiential and play-based education ensures equal access to enriching experiences and fostering educational inclusivity. As Founder/CEO of Sensational Inclusions, Dr. Velazquez-Smith dedicates herself to equitable educational environments, offering professional development and optimizing curriculum for diverse learners. Her transformative work in Rochester sets a powerful precedent for inclusive and responsive education, profoundly impacting her community and fostering a more equitable educational landscape. Dr. VelazquezSmith embodies dedication & innovation in education, leading with unwavering passion & commitment.

Rivent Partners As Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Rivent Partners, Nicole oversees all day-to-day operations and is responsible for the growth and strategy of the firm. During her tenure with Rivent, Nicole has helped grow the firm to over $200,000,000 in client assets. This visionary move resulted in a remarkable 400% growth in the consulting business and enabled the company to hire three additional female team members. In a traditionally male dominated industry, Nicole has made it her mission to mentor and hire women in the financial industry. Outside of work commitments, Nicole is involved in her community. She has served on many boards including the Villa of Hope, former Alumni President of St. John Fisher University, and the Mental Health Association of Greater Rochester. She currently serves on the Boards of WXXI Public Media & the Little Theatre, the YMCA of Greater Rochester and the Rochester Museum & Science Center. Nicole founded and ran the Social Exchange; a monthly meet-up group for individuals with disabilities. Nicole is a birth doula and works with women in preparing for parenthood. When she is not at a birth or board meeting, she can typically be found running after her two young sons! Nicole has been featured in the Money section of US News & World Reports, Financial Advisor Magazine, PBS documentary ‘A Good Life’, the Rochester Business Journal, and the Democrat & Chronicle. She is a 2014 RBJ 40 Under 40 recipient & the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Volunteer Service Award. In 2020, Nicole was honored by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce as the IGNITE Future Leaders Award winner.


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Well-deserved recognition for all that you have achieved. Canandaigua National Bank & Trust congratulates all of the ATHENA Award nominees. We admire your enthusiasm for your profession and your community, and your dedication to helping others. These are values we share as well. And it’s why we strive to enrich the communities we serve.

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Congratulations to our 2024 ATHENA International Award Finalists We’re inspired by your leadership and commitment to excellence in our community.

Christina Heyon Lee Global Education Coordinator, Monroe Community College Board of Education Vice President, Brighton Central School District

Stephanie E. Von Bacho ’88, Ed.D., MSEd, MS, RN, NEA-BC

Senior Director, Learning and Development, University of Rochester/ University of Rochester Medical Center/UR Medicine Executive Board Member, MCC Foundation

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield congratulates Dr. Lisa Harris for being named a 2024 Athena Award finalist.

Making an impact Congratulations to Stephanie Seiffert on your selection as a 2024 ATHENA International Award finalist. Your leadership and service to our community make you a true role model.

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AAC Contracting, LLC Michelle Schleher President & CEO

JK Executive Strategies, LLC Jill Knittel President & CEO

Littler Mendelson P.C. Jacqueline Phipps Polito Office Managing Shareholder

Van Bortel Auto Group Kitty Van Bortel Owner/President

YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County Dr. Myra Henry President & CEO


AAC CONTRACTING, LLC Michelle Schleher, President & CEO With over 26 years of experience in the construction field, Michelle Schleher stepped into her role as President & CEO of AAC Contracting in January 2022. Headquartered in Rochester, AAC performs abatement, demolition, firestopping & fireproofing services across NY State. She and her team celebrated 40 years in business in 2023 and is honored to be Rochester’s premier environmental remediation contractor. Under her leadership, Michelle and her team have accomplished so much including earning a place on ENR’s (Engineering News Record) Top 20 Asbestos Contractors in the US, placing #7 on the Rochester Chamber’s Top 100 and is the #1 Environmental Service Provider on RBJ’s Book of Lists. AAC is proud to be a WOSB (Women Owned Small Business), a WBENC (Women Business Enterprise National Council) and NYS WBE (Women Business Enterprise) certified contractor. Within the community Michelle is a member of NAWIC, CREW, and Rochester Women’s Council, is the co-chair for the annual Young Women of Distinction event, sits on the gala committee for Make-a-Wish, is an adjunct professor at RIT and is currently a mentor in the Chamber of Commerce CLIMB program.

JK EXECUTIVE STRATEGIES, LLC Jill Knittel, President & CEO JK Executive Strategies, LLC (JK Exec) was launched in August 2017 by Jill Knittel to serve the Executive Search needs of high performing organizations across the United States with best-in-class search methodologies and processes. The JK Exec team follows a proven methodology and discipline for every search, resulting in clear expectations, timelines, and communication throughout each engagement. With over 25 years of experience in direct hire and retained search, Jill Knittel and her team have completed successful searches including national retained searches for all kinds of senior leadership roles. Today, her team assists companies across the country in executive and leadership searches, as well as contract talent services to help companies make the right hire at the right time. Jill has expanded her team by more than 500% in just six years. In 2023, Jill launched a Nonprofit Consulting Division. Headquartered in Monroe County, N.Y., JK Executive Strategies is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and is nationally certified as a NYS MWBE Certified Firm, Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) and Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB). Past accomplishments and awards include the 2022 Circle of Excellence and Greater Rochester Chamber Top 100 (2023 and 2022), 2020 Business Person of the Year, Women of Excellence Award (2019) by the Rochester Business Journal, a recipient of the RBJ’s Forty Under 40 award (2006), and a finalist of the ATHENA Award (2014). Jill is involved in multiple volunteer roles including, serving as Chair of the Hillside Family of Agencies Board of Governors as well as an honorary board member of Bivona Child Advocacy Center.


LITTLER MENDELSON P.C. Jacqueline Phipps Polito, Office Managing Shareholder With more than 1,800 labor and employment attorneys in offices around the world, Littler provides workplace solutions that are local, everywhere. Our diverse global team, led by Managing Director Erin Webber, and proprietary technology foster a culture that celebrates original thinking, delivering groundbreaking innovation that prepares employers for what’s happening today, and what’s likely to happen tomorrow. From its inception, Littler has believed that a culture that prioritizes inclusivity leads to better outcomes, including the importance of having women leaders at every level of the firm, which is reflected in its leadership ranks: 37% of board members, 46% of office managing shareholders, and 39% of practice and industry group leaders are women. Additionally, through its Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), Littler focuses on developing and retaining women leaders. Lawyers involved with this initiative discuss their experiences and readiness to take on new roles, learn how to promote their successes and identify the skills needed to advance. The WLI provides women lawyers at Littler with the tools and resources to achieve their goals. The firm’s Rochester office, managed by Jacqueline Phipps Polito, regularly supports and participates in a number of local organizations that provide development opportunities for women.

VAN BORTEL AUTO GROUP Kitty Van Bortel, Owner/President As winner of the Subaru Love Promise Customer and Community Commitment Award, Ford President’s Award, and Chevrolet Mark of Excellence Award, we are proud to have been recognized for our achievements and dedication across all of our automotive brands. Recognized by Subaru of America for providing exceptional customer experiences and outstanding commitment to our community, by Ford Motor Company for achieving the highest levels of customer satisfaction in both sales and service, and by Chevrolet for extraordinary performance in sales, superior professionalism, and customer satisfaction excellence. At Van Bortel, we believe in building lifelong relationships with our customers and being a positive force in our community. While Kitty Van Bortel has shown her passion for leadership in business through her unwavering commitment to customer care, she has also been a leading light in community service supporting passions and causes in important areas such as the environment, community, health, education, and pets. Kitty not only donates and fundraises, but dedicates considerable time engaged in causes. As a breast cancer survivor and proud supporter of The Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, Van Bortel speaks about her experiences in promoting women’s health, awareness, and working toward a cure. Van Bortel supports many other organizations including, It’s About Caring for Kids, The National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House, Foodlink, and The House of Mercy.


YWCA OF ROCHESTER & MONROE COUNTY Dr. Myra Henry, President & CEO For 140 years, YWCA of Rochester and Monroe County has stayed true to our mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. Led by Dr. Myra Henry, President and CEO, YWCA addresses systemic issues of racial and gender inequalities, while acting fast when women and families are in crisis and need the security of safe, affordable housing. Our full continuum of housing programs include emergency housing for individuals and families, long-term housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness, supportive living for women in recovery, rapid re-housing for women escaping domestic violence, and health home services. YWCA also offers racial equity education and career development programs, including Equity through Development. Embracing diversity and inclusion, YWCA has created a nurturing environment where individuals from all backgrounds come together to learn, grow, and thrive. YWCA’s Board of Directors and Strategic Leadership team are exclusively women – empowering a generation of women. Their commitment to eliminating racism and empowering women continues to profoundly impact countless lives in Rochester and Monroe County.


ATHENA Champions are individuals who have played a pivotal role in our finalists’ journeys and contributed to their success as a 2024 ATHENA Award Finalist and beyond.

David Chapus Nominated by Julie Chapus “I would not be where I am now without David. He is a dedicated, compassionate, and selfless husband who has played an integral role in my personal and professional journey. His contributions have not only made Miss Julie School of Beauty possible, but have also impacted the lives of human trafficking survivors.”

John Falk Nominated by Kristin Merrick Partner, Faraci Lange LLP

“John Falk is the champion and mentor that I never expected to find. Not only did I learn the law from him and observe his meticulous preparation for every case, I also saw him support all young attorneys before him. He was gracious, helpful, and treated everyone with decency and respect. John saw potential in me that I didn’t see in myself.”

Edward Zachary Graham Nominated by Agathi Georgiou-Graham Co-Owner, Arbor Venues

“No person has shown up for me more as my partner, confidant, problem-solver and backbone than my business-partner-turned-husband, Zach Graham. Zach, without a second thought, selflessly pivoted his own dreams and used his skills to help me achieve mine. Without Zach, Arbor Venues would not be what it is today.”

Christina Gullo Nominated by Gerianne Puskas “Christina Gullo’s leadership and support of leadership development made a huge difference in who I am today. Through our close work together, I witnessed Chris’s authentic leadership, and her personal authenticity. Her investment of time and faith helped me to overcome decades of insecurity and become an authentic leader.”

Soon Ja and Kae Yol Lee Nominated by Christina Lee “As I think about the eight values of the ATHENA award, I recognize how my parents embody these values for me and their grandchildren. I could not have raised a family and pursue professional and volunteer opportunities without their support. They stand by me, help take care of my kids, and always provide words of encouragement. ”

Tricia Marsherall Nominated by Nicole VanGorder President, Marsherall Partners, LLC

“Tricia goes above and beyond for her clients, employees and friends. She is a great example of an ATHENA woman in that she truly lives courageously, gives back to her community and builds lasting relationships with all those she meets. I am blessed to have her in my life. She is a shining, guiding star through and through.”

Elyse Mee Nominated by Lindsay Connelly

Digital Marketing Analyst, Linden Digital Marketing “Linden Digital Marketing’s success would be impossible without Elyse Mee. Her relentless drive and optimism have been instrumental to our 3x revenue and employee growth over the past three years. We joke that she’s everyone’s favorite because of her perpetual optimism, ability to listen and her uncanny ability to deliver results.”

Carrie Michel-Wynne Nominated by YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County

Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, YWCA of Rochester and Monroe County

“No one better embodies YWCA’s mission than Carrie Michel-Wynne. For 16 years, Carrie has empowered members of our team and all of the women that walk through our doors. She puts everything we stand for into practice every single day. Racial equity. Empowerment. Trauma-informed care. These are more than just buzz words for Carrie.”

Ida Pérez Nominated by Angelica Pérez-Delgado

President, Scrantom Street Block Club

“My aunt has worked in the early childhood field for over 30 and is actively involved in her neighborhood and was a key contributor in Project CLEAN and El Camino Committee. Ida has exemplified eight core attributes in her advocacy and activism in revitalizing the North Clinton area.”

Mary Ellen Rich Nominated by Cassandra Rich “From the day she gave birth to me, Mom has been behind me 100%. She has been my life-long role model. Being authentic, a great listener, patient and capable of compromise are necessary to build strong relationships - something I have watched my mom do forever. She has been there for every high or low point of my life and career.”

Nikisha Ridgeway Nominated by Elissa Burke

President & CEO, Starbridge “Nikisha Ridgeway has been a champion of excellence and fierce advocate for change her entire life. Nikisha has supported me in growing my professional career and provided mentoring and coaching. The skills I have learned from her transcend throughout my work in the professional arena and into my community engagement and volunteering.”

Nancy Tourje Nominated by Stefanie Seiffert “I would not have become an ATHENA Finalist without the example set by and the steadfast, passionate support of my mom, Nancy Tourje. She showed me that it was possible to have a fulfilling career and be a present, involved wife and mother. My belief in myself and my talents is because my mom believed in me first.”

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Upcoming Signature Events 2024 Women Empowering Women Conference Thursday, March 14, 2024 Tickets and sponsorships now available!

2024 Greater Rochester Chamber MWBE Awards Thursday, May 2, 2024 Applications & sponsorships now available!

2024 Greater Rochester Chamber IGNITE Award Thursday, June 6, 2024 Applications & sponsorships now available!

2024 Colors of Success DEI Leadership Award Thursday, October 3, 2024 Nominations & sponsorships now available!

Visit my.GreaterRochesterChamber.com/Calendar to see all of our upcoming events!

ATHENA AMBASSADORS Our ATHENA Award Ambassadors are past ATHENA Award Recipients & Finalists who continue to support our awards program and uplift women in the Greater Rochester region. We recognize and celebrate their continued success.


ATHENA Organizational Award Recipient 2022

What has been your journey since being recognized as an ATHENA Recipient? 2023 was a year of growth and learning for Family Promise of Greater Rochester as the organization continued to address the crisis of local housing affordability and accessibility. Receiving the ATHENA award in 2022 affirmed FPGROC’s commitment to assisting the most vulnerable households in our community, while providing compassionate care and recognition to the frontline staff doing the daily work. The Board of Directors approved the formation of a 3-woman Leadership Team, which meets monthly to make collaborative decisions on operations and program initiatives. We are proud to have earned this ATHENA recognition, a result of having critically examine how our organization and individuals within it can be a driving force toward a more just, humane community. In the words of ATHENA, how can we “improve the quality of life for others in the community”? At FPGROC this means using our voice, and catalyzing others to use theirs, to eradicate systemic racism, poverty, and homelessness from all parts of the region.

BRIDGET A. MARTIN ATHENA Award Finalist 2019

What has been your journey since being recognized as an ATHENA Finalist? Since being an ATHENA finalist, I used my skills and experience gained during my 20-year finance and commercial real estate career and pivoted to a career in non-profit because I wanted to give back to the community in a more meaningful way. I contribute to the incredible work that Bivona Child Advocacy Center provides to children and families in our community and that is far more rewarding than any work I have ever done. Last year alone, approximately 2,000 children received intervention services at our center and prevention services were provided to over 50,000 in our schools and community. Being a transformative change maker, trailblazer and leader requires you to always be your authentic self. Find your true passion and make it your work. Take chances and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. It is in those moments that you truly can achieve greatness not just for yourself, but for your organization and your community. As you reach your goals, lend a hand backwards and lift another woman to help her reach her goals. It is important to lead by actions, not words, and never stop paying it forward, something I have continued to do since my ATHENA recognition.


What has been your journey since being recognized as an ATHENA Recipient? After receiving the ATHENA Award, I stepped down as CEO of Ibero American Action League. However my commitment to make a difference in this community have not stopped. I continue to serve in the board of the Rochester National Museum of Play, Empire State Development, Common Ground Health, and chair the Project Review for the State Office of Mental Health. I am also on the board of Rochester Hope, working to bring services that are not accessible to the Northeast Community. Career-wise, I consult with Acacia Network, a nonprofit based out of NY and am working on launching a for-profit called La Roca LLC. Last but not least, I am enjoying spending time with my grandkids.


Congratulations to the 2024 ATHENA finalists!

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Proud Supporter of ATHENA International Awards

ATHENA AWARD JUDGES Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and its

originally established to honor the achievements of

Women’s Council affiliate thank the independent panel

exceptional women leaders. And more importantly, it

of judges that determined the recipients of the ATHENA

was established to inspire others to achieve excellence in

International, ATHENA Young Professional, and ATHENA

their professional and business lives.

Organizational Awards. These community leaders from

The ATHENA Award recognizes women who:

diverse backgrounds and industries volunteered their time to assess the ATHENA nominations and choose the finalists based upon professional achievement, community service, and the support and mentoring of

• D emonstrate excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession • P rovide valuable service by contributing time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the

women. The internationally-recognized ATHENA Award Program was founded in 1982 in Langsin, Michigan by ATHENA International Founder Martha Mertz. The award was

community • Actively assist women in realizing their full leadership potential.

ATHENA Award Judges










Beyond the Sanctuary

Rochester Regional Health


ATHENA Young Professional Award Judges

Nazareth University

The Well Dressed Brand

ATHENA Organizational Award Judges


New York Kitchen

HR Works

Partners + Napier

4 2 0 2 r u o t a s Join u

Thursday, March 14, 2024 Hyatt Regency Rochester 11:30 AM - 6:00 PM Sold out in 2023 with over 400 women in attendance, you won’t want to miss this year’s Women Empowering Women conference! Join an amazing group of professional women in learning how to make an impact in your career and community, identify your strengths, and get clarity on your next power move! This conference is structured to foster collaborative learning and bring attendees together to maximize our collective impact.


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A Note from Presenting Sponsor


Faraci Lange is thrilled to be the Presenting Sponsor for the 2024 ATHENA International Awards. The Rochester business community has exceptional women leaders, and Faraci Lange applauds the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and ATHENA International on its mission to recognize them. This year’s slate of nominees and organizations is impressive and represent a wide array of business sectors in our community. The finalists represent women in leadership in corporations, non-profit organizations, universities, and law firms, who are being recognized not only for their achievements in business, but also for their community service and contribution to the professional advancement for women. The impact these women and organizations have on the Greater Rochester Region is immense and taking the time to recognize them inspires others to follow in their footsteps. It is important to us to sponsor this year’s ATHENA Awards because a mission to honor and

Faraci Lange Essay

empower female leaders is one that Faraci Lange fully supports. While the legal profession has come a long way in the last decade with regard to retaining and promoting women, we still

have not closed the gap. In 2021, women constituted 55 percent of graduating law students with the vast majority entering the legal profession upon graduation. Despite the number of

women entering the legal field, according to recent surveys women make up only 25 % of law firm partners, hold only 25% of law firm board of director seats and represent just 25% of law

firms’ managing partners. We know that women are underrepresented in corporate leadership as well. As of this year, women CEOs run just 10.4% of Fortune 500 companies. It is trailblazers like this year’s finalists that are going to ensure these numbers continue to grow, which is why it is so important that the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce continues to recognize the contributions of these stellar women. Faraci Lange’s first female partner was named in 2014 with two more joining the partnership in recent years. As we enter our 56th year of business, we will for the first time in our history be led by a group of Partners made up of more females than males. On behalf of everyone at Faraci Lange, I would like to congratulate all of this year’s ATHENA Award Honorees on this outstanding achievement. Your passion, hard work and philanthropy make Rochester a great place to work and live. We look forward to learning more about all of the individuals and organizations being honored at this year’s ATHENA Awards.

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