Debby Ballard is Director of Sprint Community Affairs and President of the Sprint Foundation. She is responsible for local and national community-outreach programs, employee engagement, employee-giving campaigns, and charitable and corporate giving. She’s been with Sprint for 31 years.
Ballard currently serves on several non-profit boards, including The Central Exchange (2016 Board Chair), The KC Rep, Francis Family Foundation, UMKC Trustee, Truman Foundation Board and The Wireless Foundation. She is the immediate past chair of the Friends of the Zoo Board, past chair of the Friends of Alvin Ailey Board and past president of The Jackson County Chapter of the Links, Incorporated.
She received the YWCA Heart of Gold award, Kansas City Humanitarian Award and is one of The Kansas City Globe's 100 Most Influential African-Americans in Greater Kansas City.
Dianne Cleaver is a civic leader and community activist who has over 30 years experience working in health, human services and education. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Bryn Mawr College and a Master of Arts in Social Psychology from the University of Missouri, Kansas City. She is licensed as a psychologist in the state of Missouri.
Mrs. Cleaver is Executive Director of the Urban Neighborhood Initiative, an organization that is one of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Big 5 ideas, formed to help revitalize neighborhoods in the urban core. Current major initiatives include development of a Purpose Built Community and a Collective Impact Initiative to address Vacant Housing. Previous positions include: President of Symmetry Consulting LLC specializing in human services, educational reform and cultural competence; Chief Administrative Officer for the Kansas City Missouri School District; Coordinator of Governor Bob Holden’s State-wide Initiative for Families and Children; Director of Community Development for Truman Medical Center; and Mental Health Director at Swope Parkway Health Center, where she lead the center in development of a wide array of programs for adults and children.
She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of University of Missouri at Kansas City; and the Jacob and Ella Loose Foundation; and on Advisory Boards for the Kansas City STEM Alliance and Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City.
Mrs. Cleaver has provided leadership as chairperson of: United Way of Greater Kansas City, the Jackson County Charter Review Task Force Starlight Theater Board; Missouri Coalition of Community Mental Health Centers, Kansas City Kids Safe Governing Council; Community Network for Behavioral Health Care; Statewide Task Force on African-American Issues in Mental Health; Renaissance West Substance Abuse Treatment Facility; and the Rose Brooks Center; and has served as Co-Chair of the Kansas City Early Child Education Commission, the City-Wide Campaign to renew the Earnings Tax and the Kansas City Host Committee, National Conference of Black Mayors. She has served on the National Board of the Girl Scouts and the boards of Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, Kauffman Foundation Youth Development Board, COMBAT Anti-Drug Commission; and the American Bar Association’s Commission to revise the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Her awards include Alumnus of the Year, University of Missouri at Kansas City, College of Arts and Sciences; Greater K.C. Women’s Political Caucus Pillar Award; Starlight Theater Star Award; Honorary Inductee National Jesuit Honor Society; Presidents Award, Kansas City Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Kindest Kansas Citian Honoree; Delta Sigma Theta Woman of Courage Award, and Woman of the Year, Missouri Legislative Black Caucus; “Friend In Deed” Award, Metropolitan Lutheran Ministries; and GLAD (Gay/Lesbian Alliance) Leadership Award.
She is married to Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and they are the proud parents of four young adults and proud grandparents of five (wonderful) children.
Betsey Solberg is an executive consultant for FleishmanHillard Kansas City. Solberg was raised in Dallas, Texas and came to Missouri via the University of Missouri Journalism School. She began her career as a reporter for The Kansas City Star. Following brief stints at WDAF-TV and Park College, Solberg opened FleishmanHillard Kansas City in 1977 as the first office outside the firm’s headquarters city of St. Louis. As a senior partner, Solberg was involved in the firm’s planning for its massive growth in the 1980s and ‘90s. She led the firm’s expansion into Canada in the early ‘90s, where she was president. In 1998, she was named regional president and co-chair of the firm’s worldwide operating committee. In 2003, she became more involved in building up and overseeing the firm’s operations in the Asia Pacific and in 2006 she retired to spend her time as a weekend potter and community volunteer. In 2009 she was asked to return to FleishmanHillard as an executive consultant.
Solberg is active in civic and business leadership, serving on executive committees and boards of the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, the Truman Library Institute, UMKC Trustees and the Bloch School of Management and Entrepreneurship, UMKC Foundation and Truman Library Institute, among others. She was the first female Chair of the KC Chamber from 1994-1995.
SuEllen Fried, founder of BullySafeUSA, is recognized for her numerous accomplishments include advocacy for women and children in abusive relationships. She’s a creator of dance therapy and a Charter Member of the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA), giving people a therapeutic outlet through the arts. She’s been recognized by President George H.W. Bush for her 30 years of volunteerism with the Kansas Department of Corrections and contributions to Reaching Out From Within (ROFW), which has shown positive reductions in the rates of recidivism. In 1970 she became the first woman president of the Kansas Mental Health Association (KMHA). In 1976 she was asked to orchestrate a Model Chapter for the group, now known as Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA). The success of the Kansas model prompted her to become Chairman of PCAA in 1980 and she continues to serve as a Life Board member. She has authored or co-authored four books on child and peer abuse and bullying. She founded BullySafeUSA in 2002 and was invited to participate in 2011’s White House Conference on Bullying Prevention.
Janice Kreamer joined the Ewing Marion Kauffman Board of Trustees in December of 2006. She is the retired president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and Affiliated Trusts.
Under Kreamer’s leadership, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation’s asset base grew from $14 million to $1 billion. Today, it is among the leaders in assets, gifts received and grants made among the more than 650 community foundations across the country.
While at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, Kreamer was instrumental in creating the Partnership for Children and YouthNet organizations, as well as New Start, a pilot program that extends Head Start to full-day, year-round support. In her honor, the Community Foundation established the Janice C. Kreamer Community Fund with $1 million in assets focused on strengthening area nonprofit organizations.
Kreamer serves on the boards of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, and the Edna McConnell Foundation in New York. She recently chaired the fundraising effort for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
Mary Kay McPhee is recognized as one of this Kansas City’s most dedicated and cherished volunteer leaders. Her model for building grassroots support has proven successful in organizations throughout the metro area. By lending her name and leadership to such initiatives as Kansas City Free Health Clinic and the Greater Kansas City AIDS Council, she has created a groundswell of support for causes and programs that have become near and dear to Kansas City. Mary Kay shows remarkable dedication to UMKC, even though she is an alumna of the University of Kansas. She recognizes the importance and impact that an urban university has on the community surrounding it. Her thorough understanding of the issues facing students, particularly women and minority students, contributed greatly to many programs at UMKC including the Women’s Council/Graduate Assistance Fund; the STARR Education Endowment; the Herman Johnson African American Scholarship; the Women and Gender Studies department; and the UMKC’s Women’s Collaborative. Many women have benefitted from Mary Kay’s wisdom, dedication, and mentorship. As an educator, Mary Kay has devoted her life to investing in the lives and health of young people, and this investment will change the trajectory of the community for many generations.
2010 ATHENA™ Award Recipient
Adele Hall’s civic contributions are legendary. A longtime community leader, she has been honored for her work with education, youth, health, and political causes both locally and nationally. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Local Investment Commission, Starlight Theatre and a board member of Wayside Waifs. She serves on the Advisory Board of the George Bush Presidential Library Center. She is a Lifetime Member of the Central Governing Board of Children’s Mercy Hospital and the Salvation Army Advisory Board. She is married to Donald J. Hall. They have two sons, Don, Jr. and David; one daughter, Margi Pence, and nine grandchildren.
2009 ATHENA™ Award Recipient
“I grew up with ‘colored’ and ‘white’ signs… but I didn’t see them. The indignities that my family and I endured made us stronger and helped us to know that life can be better,” says 2009 ATHENA Award recipient, Mamie Hughes.
From the beginning, Hughes knew there was work that had to be done. As the daughter of educators she was influenced by her family and their colleagues’ leadership and contributions to the community. As a young girl, Hughes would join her grandmother in volunteering at the Clara White Mission in Jacksonville, Florida, serving meals and doing office work for the center. And that was the beginning of her career in civic service. “It went on from there. I knew I had to follow before trying to lead. My mother and grandmother helped open doors for me; and if someone helps you, you should help others,” said Hughes.
A founding member of the Central Exchange
, a charter member of the Jackson County Legislature, a member of the Women’s Public Service Network, the Missouri Holocaust Education and Awareness Commission, and a mother of five, Mamie Hughes is truly a “champion of women leaders.” Working tirelessly to help improve the quality of life in Kansas City, Hughes served as Chair of the Mid-America Regional Council
and was involved in the plan to install immediate emergency services, and aided in establishing the “Meals on Wheels” program.
An active member of the Panel of American Women and advocate for equality, Hughes often makes presentations to groups about how discrimination, racism, and bigotry have affected our lives. “There’s work that still needs to be done. There are so many people that are so talented, but there are just so many blockades,” Hughes says.
In her commitment to the community, Hughes pushed for an increase in economic development in the 18th & Vine Historic District, and serves as member Emeritus on the board of the Samuel U. Rodgers Community Health Center. Ombudsman for the Bruce R. Watkins Drive, the ATHENATM recipient is also recognized as a woman who has “changed the heart of the city.”
It’s not every day that the City names a bridge on a well-traveled highway after you. But Mamie Hughes can say that she has one. During the 71 Highway road construction, she assisted in negotiations on behalf of the residents within the area, and inspired the City of Kansas City to come together for the common good. “I think it’s wonderful,” says Hughes. “I call it a ‘people bridge.’ It’s for all of us. It signifies people crossing lines. So many people from different groups had to come together to make this project happen.”
Leading a long and interesting life, our Mamie Hughes is in the process of writing an autobiography:
From the Ocean to the Lake: The Life and Times of A Colored Woman. With her continuous involvement on a number of advisory boards and committees, Hughes doesn’t think she’ll be slowing down anytime soon, “You would think at my age that I would be taking it easy,” says Hughes. “But I can’t. Help is always needed.”
2008 ATHENA™ Award Recipient
“I wish I’d kept all of my business cards over the years,” 2008 ATHENA Award winner Susan Stanton says. “It would be a very eclectic collection!”
That’s the truth. That collection would include: head of the Jackson County Jail, President & CEO of Payless Cashways; and executive positions with H & R Block, La Petite Academy, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Her two latest business cards cite her, first, as Interim President and CEO of United Way of Greater Kansas City and – her current position - Interim President and CEO of KCPT-TV Channel 19
“Its just fun to learn new stuff,” Stanton says about the United Way and Channel 19 jobs. “Both are organizations that are important to the community. Both had to find a permanent CEO, so, if I can take away some of the time-pressure stress from the selection process, great.”
Though their missions are very different, Stanton says both those positions involve, “walking people over the bridge to what’s next... It’s still leading a team; it’s still raising public awareness, handling the administrative duties. It’s still many of the same responsibilities but in a unique setting.”
Under her leadership, Channel 19 will continue to focus on local programming. Among the shows on tap for the coming season: “Liquid Assets,” a PBS show on water and infrastructure that will be followed by a local call-in show; similarly, PBS’s “Unequal Care” will be rebroadcast and will include a local segment. “We’re in the midst of ‘Uniquely Kansas City,’” Stanton says, “and in the midst of producing a food review show called ‘Check Please.’
Local programming, she says, “will definitely continue to be a strong part of the mission for KCPT. The Board is supportive of that. The challenge is to find funding, but if we continue to produce programs of interest to the community, we’ll find it.”
Stanton also defends the decision to cancel the long-time Channel 19 Auction. Only 17 percent of PBS stations still hold on-air auctions; the national PBS office this year closed its auction support department; and the auctions interrupted regular programming anticipated by viewers. Finally,"the auction was no longer significant to the bottom line," Stanton said. "We’re trying to cultivate new opportunities for volunteers that are more toward our mission."
Stanton, herself, is a volunteer. Her particular passions are Operation Breatkthrough and Friends of Alvin Ailey. As a former dancer with the Westport Ballet, she says the Ailey Camp for kids is a “sweet spot” for her.
As for what comes after her time in the television biz? “I’m going to continue to do a lot of volunteer work,” Stanton says. “I want to be flexible, I want to be intellectually challenged. I want to have fun.”
Her motto, Stanton says, is, “This is the time when it's not important for others to see how good you are but for you to help others see how good they are.”
2007 ATHENA™ Award Recipient
Karen Pletz has been President and CEO of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCUMB) since 1995. The ATHENA Award recognizes exemplary leadership and service, and, most importantly, honors an individual who has actively assisted in opening pathways for others, especially women. Karen Pletz certainly fits that bill.
Under her leadership, KCUMB has enhanced its research capacity with the addition of the new 45,000 square foot Dybedal Center for Biosciences Research. KCUMB is also a partner in the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute.
Pletz served as Chair of The Chamber in 2004. During her term, she put a great emphasis on fostering regional cooperation. She led The Chamber’s first Leadership Exchange visit and, ever since, has served as Vice Chair for the Regional Alliance which grew out of that first trip. The purpose, as she described it then: “to foster a regional psychology in metropolitan initiatives for the future.”
Pletz is very active in the community, currently co-chairing the United Way campaign and the Kansas City Area Development Council. She’s on the boards of the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, Midwest Research Institute, Rockhurst University, and Kansas City Southern. She was a special advisor to former KCMO Mayor Kay Barnes, and was appointed by Barnes to chair the city’s Emergency Medical Services Advisory Commission.
Pletz has a B.S. in education and a law degree. She is also a graduate of the Harvard Medical School’s Program for Leaders in Medical Education.
Governor Kathleen Sebelius
2006 ATHENA™ Award Recipient
Kathleen Sebelius was sworn in as the 44th Governor of Kansas in January 2003, and just under three years later, Time magazine named her one of the nation’s top five governors, citing her work to cut waste in government and bridge the partisan divide. Job creation is a priority of her administration, as is promoting the safety and security of Kansas families at home and in the community. Governor Sebelius also has initiated audits of school districts to ensure every child has an effective and efficient school, and is working to reduce the cost of health care for businesses and families.
Governor Sebelius serves on the National Governors Association’s Executive Committee. She is chair of the Governor’s Ethanol Coalition and chair of the Education Commission of the States.
Sebelius served four terms in the Kansas House of Representatives and two terms as the state’s Insurance Commissioner, and is the first daughter of a U. S. governor to serve in that same position. Kathleen has been married to her husband, Gary, a federal magistrate judge, for 31 years, and they have two sons: Ned, a law student, and John, a recent college graduate.
2005 ATHENA™ Award Recipient
Roshann Parris began her career as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate, and spent a decade on the staff of former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, serving as lead coordinator/negotiator for overseas trips by President and Mrs. Clinton in over 50 countries worldwide. In 1988, Parris founded Parris Communications Inc., a Kansas City-based public relations and marketing communications firm specializing in strategic corporate communications, media relations and crisis communications. Her clients include Sprint, Hallmark, Starlight Theater, J.E. Dunn Construction, and many more.
Parris has served (or serves) on the Boards of Directors of Children's Mercy Hospital, Boys & Girls Clubs of Kansas City, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, Kansas City Women's Employment Network, and the Central Agency for Jewish Education. Additional efforts have included: Greater Kansas City Fundraising Coordinator for the Breast Cancer Race for the Cure; Bi-State Marketing Board, American Cancer Society; Steering Committee, Kansas City Women's Public Service Network and the Mid-Continent Council of Girl Scouts.
Parris is a 1999 recipient of the Kansas City Spirit Award, a 2000 recipient of the Central Exchange Firehouse Award, and was named 2003 Kansas City Woman of the Year. Additionally, her firm was honored to be named as the 2003 Kansas City Small Business Philanthropist of the Year, having contributed pro bono services to such extraordinary organizations as the Ronald McDonald House, the Kansas City Neighborhood Alliance, the Children's Therapeutic Learning Center and the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.
This is the fifth year for The Chamber's ATHENA Award. Past recipients include civic leaders Beth Smith and Anita Gorman, philanthropist Julia Irene Kauffman, and Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn. The ATHENA Award is given in more than 375 U.S. cities and has recognized more than 2,600 men and women nationwide.
Mayor Peggy Dunn
2004 ATHENA™ Award Recipient
The ATHENA Award is presented annually by The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce honoring a person "who has achieved the highest level of professional excellence, devoted time and energy to the community, and, especially, opened the doors of leadership opportunity to women." We are proud to announce that the 2004 recipient of the Chamber’s ATHENA Award is City of Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn.
In the two-plus decades since Peggy Dunn has lived in Leawood, she’s seen her city prosper and grow at an astounding rate. In fact, as she remembers quite clearly, “it really wasn’t so very long ago that State Line Road had only two, narrow lanes, and 119th Street was just a bumpy, gravel road.”
Undoubtedly, things have changed; and, as Leawood’s Mayor since 1997, Dunn is involved in every one of them. “Today, one of Leawood’s most critical issues is the remaining build-out of the 135th Street corridor.” Recently, the City Council approved a new mixed-use development…retail, office, residential…totaling approximately 850,000 sq. ft. between Mission and Roe on 135th Street. “What’s important,” says Dunn, “is that developments like this one continue to provide ample open and green space. We want these to be pedestrian-friendly, and provide good, useful buffers for our residential communities.”
Residents of Leawood also enjoy a profusion of cultural activities…the art in public places initiative, the Leawood stage company, studio tours, Shakespeare classes, not to mention hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers. Dunn explains that “we have a public art impact fee…10 cents per sq. ft. for non-residential development, and a cultural art line item in the budget: $5 per person living in Leawood city limits.” And she knows the money is being put to such good use. “We’re very proud of the contribution these activities make to the quality of life in Leawood.”
As much time and focus as Dunn devotes to preserving and furthering the quality of life in Leawood, she’s also intimately involved with the issues facing the Kansas City metropolitan community. She’s a whole-hearted supporter of County Question 1, and recognizes its importance to the future of arts organizations and sports in Greater Kansas City. “I feel that without regional collaboration, we all lack the ability to reach the heights and victories we hope to accomplish. After all, the sum of our parts is always greater than any individual component.”
She also notes that the new voter-approved plan for Downtown could well be the single largest economic booster ever for the area. “Downtown is really surging. There’s the new arena, the H&R Block headquarters, and the new performing arts center,” championed by last year’s ATHEN Award recipient, Julia Irene Kaufman.
Dunn sees a powerful synergy developing. “We believe that being part of the downtown region will connect everything inside and outside that loop, including the River Market area, the 18th & Vine District, and Union Station.” As part of the task force to analyze funding needs for Union Station’s operation, Dunn is well aware of the importance of this initiative, and its potential for the future of the Greater Kansas City area.
Last, but certainly not least, are Dunn’s hopes and dreams for her four children, all of whom she stayed home to raise, while pursuing a very active volunteer career. For her only daughter, Katie, who was married this past summer, Dunn sees a future “with a lot more opportunities today than ever before, in a lot more fields than ever before. When I was in school, nursing and education were the primary fields of college education for women. You didn’t see a lot of business majors then. Now, they’re encouraged to do anything they want to do.”
Julia Irene Kauffman
2003 ATHENA™ Award Recipient
Exemplary leadership and service and opening pathways of opportunity for others. These are the qualities that the ATHENA Award celebrates. The Chamber and the University of Health Sciences are pleased to announce Julia Irene Kauffman as the recipient of the 3rd Annual ATHENA Award.
As Chairman and CEO of the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation Julia Irene Kauffman focuses her philanthropic activities on the performing and visual arts in Greater Kansas City. As a driving force behind the new Performing Arts Center for Kansas City, Ms. Kauffman is working to bring renewed vitality to the performing arts scene in the metropolitan area, as well as cultural enrichment, arts education, and enjoyment to the community for decades to come.
Some of Ms. Kauffman other involvement includes: the Kansas City Symphony Foundation Board of Directors; Chairman of the Kansas City Ballet Board of Directors; member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Missouri-Kansas City; and, a member of the Metropolitan Performing Arts Fund Board of Directors.
We thank Julia Irene Kauffman, recipient of The Chamber’s 3rd Annual ATHENA Award for all she’s done, and continues to do, for our community.
2002 ATHENA™ Award Recipient
Anita Gorman’s contributions to the Greater Kansas City community are numerous and distinguished, including serving as the first woman commissioner of the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation, as well as the first woman commissioner of the Missouri Department of Conservation. Ms. Gorman was also the 1992 recipient of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Kansas Citian of the Year award, one of the most prestigious awards The Chamber bestows.
Ms. Gorman is involved in the community as: Director, Commerce Bank of Kansas City; Director, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City; Board member, Salvation Army; Board member, Full Employment Council; Director, City of Fountains Foundation; LINC Commissioner; Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast; member, Northland Betterment Committee; Northland Neighborhoods, Inc.; Co-chairman, Vivion Road Gang. She also served as co-chairman for the successful campaign for the Police Tax Increase; the Lighting the Bridge Project; the Clay County Veterans’ Memorial; and an Honorary Co-chairman on the Metropolitan Community College Campaign.
We congratulate and thank Anita Gorman, recipient of The Chamber’s 2nd Annual ATHENA Award. The work she does for the community is invaluable and greatly appreciated.
2001 ATHENA™ Award Recipient
Community activist Beth Smith was the obvious choice for The Chamber's first ATHENA Award. Her history of leadership, courage, and commitment made her the perfect choice. The list of Smith's accomplishments and service is long: She has been an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a senior fellow at the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, chairwoman and member of numerous boards, commissions and advisory bodies. She's worked with the Jewish Community Relations Bureau, The Chamber and the Center for Management Assistance, among others.
Smith, along with Kansas City, Mo. Mayor Kay Barnes and others, founded the Central Exchange at a time when downtown business clubs were closed to women. She has also directly touched the lives of thousands of low- and no-income women through co-founding (along with the late Marjorie Powell Allen) the Women's Employment Network. The non-profit agency helps poor women obtain job skills and employment. Since it began in 1986, more than 2,000 women have graduated from the job-readiness program.