On June 20, 16 women will be welcomed into an exclusive club that includes the likes of nationally known singer-songwriter Chaka Kahn, civil rights attorney and former Urban League board chair Frankie Freeman, local philanthropist Thelma Steward, and Fox Theater co-owner Mary Strauss, among other illustrious company.
The women will be honored by the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis at the 11th annual Salute to Women in Leadership Gala. “We look for women who have excelled in their careers and also have given back through their time, effort and energy to help others,” says Urban League president and CEO Michael McMillan, who founded the event while serving as board chair of the St. Louis Community Empowerment Foundation. “All of these women fit the bill in an exceptional way; they’re another fantastic and diverse group of honorees.”
The 2014 honorees include actress Anna Maria Horsford; two-time Emmy nominee and author Judge Glenda Hatchett; Graybar chairman, president and CEO Kathleen Mazzarella; Home State Health Plan president and CEO Shannon Bagley; St. Louis County NAACP president Esther Haywood; St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones; Mound City Bar Association president and assistant attorney general and unit leader for the state of Missouri Nicole Colbert-Botchway; Davis and Associates principal Darlene Davis; Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club VP Barbara Washington; Ozella J. Foster Funeral Services CEO Ozella Foster-Robinson; St. Louis Community College board of trustees vice-chair Rev. Doris Graham; Ladue News’ own editor-in-chief Trish Muyco-Tobin; Urban League senior human resources director Melanie Chambers; North County Surgical Services executive VP and Heat-Up St. Louis auxiliary chair Donna Knight; The Ethics Project founder Dr. Christi Griffin; and Teach for America-St. Louis executive director Brittany Packnett.
The honorees were chosen from a wide variety of fields, including civic, legal, business, corporate, education, civil rights, health and government, as well as the Lifetime Achievement honoree, Anna Maria Horsford, who is known for her roles on Guiding Light, Amen, The Wayans Bros. and Minority Report. “She personally gives a tremendous amount of time to helping women and disadvantaged citizens across the country, and she has lived a life that exemplifies the mission of the Urban League,” McMillan notes.
Another recipient, Shannon Bagley, calls it a privilege to be part of the 2014 class of honorees. “The role that I play in eliminating the barriers that affect quality health care provides me with an opportunity to build upon the lessons that I learned at an early age from my mother.”
Finding role models for young women to look up to is the basis upon which the awards were founded, McMillan says. “We want to promote equality at every level, and promote those women who have excelled. It will be a long time before we have 25 female governors and 50 female senators and 200 congresswomen. Hopefully, we’ll live to see the day when that will happen; but until then, it’s important for young women to see those who have shattered the glass ceiling.”
According to former honoree, St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission president Kitty Ratcliffe, the camaraderie of the event was a highlight. “The experience of being introduced to these women was rewarding for many reasons, most of all because it gave me an even greater appreciation for the power for good within us all.”
During the event, each of the honorees will receive an array of commendations and honors, provided by Urban League’s supporters and various levels of government, all the way up to the White House, McMillan says. “We want them to be queen for a day, and to have a wonderful evening that pays tribute to them. We want the women who are there—and the women in the audience—to enjoy each other and be inspired by each other and want to give back even more.” The event’s title sponsors are Anheuser-Busch, and World Wide Technology and the Steward Family Foundation.
Salute to Women in Leadership Gala
When: 5:30 p.m., June 20
Where: Renaissance Grand Hotel
Tickets: 615-3668 or ulstl.com