Women Who Make America

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Meet the 2017 Makers Award Winners!

From left: Laurie Black, Mary Alice Smothers, Sue Edinger, Mary Beer, Diana Abdella, Kylie Pierce, Marsha Tait representing Ruth Colvin, Christie Waters, Karen Sammon, and Laura Miller.

WCNY is proud to announce the 2017 Makers! Ten women were honored at the March 10, 2017 award ceremony held at the Women’s Rights Historical Park in Seneca Falls. Thank you to this year’s Women Who Make America Awards sponsor, the Lockheed Martin Employees’ Federated Fund.

2017 Makers Award Winners

Meet the 2017 Makers Award Winners!
WCNY is proud to announce the 2017 Makers! Ten women were honored at the March 10, 2017 award ceremony held at the Women’s Rights Historical Park in Seneca Falls. Thank you to this year’s Women Who Make America Awards sponsor, the Lockheed Martin Employees’ Federated Fund.

Diana Abdella

Veterans Event Organizer

Diana plans and executes the CNY Veterans Parade and Expo in Syracuse. She manages the non-profit organization’s event throughout the year. Over the past nine years, this event, attended by thousands, has grown to be an outstanding community demonstration of gratitude for the military services of veterans. The event also provides information about services and jobs available to veterans. Diana is deeply committed to honoring, recognizing, and supporting veterans and their families.

Mary Beer

Public Health Director

Mary has been laser-focused on public health needs during her tenure as Ontario County Public Health Director. She worked tirelessly to adopt a local law prohibiting smoking, including the use of e-cigarettes, on County property – efforts that have reduced smoking rates countywide. She has developed creative programs aimed at decreasing obesity, managing hypertension, preventing suicide, and fighting the scourge of the heroin crisis. A leader in her field, she is an active member of the S2AY Rural Health Network working on national accreditation procedures for public health departments in the region. Mary also believes in the importance of volunteering. She serves on a number of local boards and is an active Hospice volunteer, dedicated Rotarian, and a bell choir member.

Laurie Black

Public and Community Service

During her more than 20 years in public and community service, Laurie has worked with the Syracuse Boys and Girls Club, United Way of CNY, the Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County and board member of the Huntington Center. Laurie served as administrator to Syracuse 20/20 before her appointment to her current position as coordinator of the Early Childhood Alliance. But perhaps her most passionate contribution to the community is her work creating the Book Buddies program at Seymour Elementary School. Community volunteers read one-on-one students to help them build strong literacy skills and achieve reading gains. This year more than 140 first and second graders met with their Book Buddies two to three times a week, growing academically while discovering the joy of reading.

Ruth Colvin

Adult Literacy Pioneer

The story of the adult literacy movement cannot be told without underscoring the contributions of Ruth J. Colvin. It was 1961 when Ruth read a newspaper article highlighting the problem of illiteracy in Onondaga County: more than 11,000 adults in her community were “functionally illiterate.” In 1962, Ruth founded Literacy Volunteers, now known as LiteracyCNY, to put into action her mission and passion to arm adults in her community with the tools to learn how to read. In 1987, Ruth earned the highest award for volunteerism in the United States, the President’s Volunteer Action Award. In 1993, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 2006 she received the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom. Over the course of 50 years, Ruth and her husband, Robert, also provided literacy training to adults in more than 60 countries.


Sue Edinger

Hospitality Industry Leader

Sue Edinger has lived many places but has made Central New York her home. As Chief Operating Officer of the Inns of Aurora, Sue oversees 10 commercial properties and a team of 200 employees. Leading the company since its founding in 2003, Sue has managed the development of several multimillion-dollar projects within the National Historic District of the Village of Aurora, simultaneously restoring the village while creating good jobs for the community. Sue has and continues to mentor men and women to rise to their potential. She developed and trademarked the “Leadership Job Chart,” a standard for communicating organizational core values and a model she uses today to inspire her team.

Laura Miller

Manufacturing Industry Leader

“I want to be on top of it, covering ground,” says Laura Miller, General Manager of Darco Manufacturing, about her horse. This statement reveals much about how a curious, hard-working, gritty, compassionate, and visionary woman approaches her mission-driven life. The mission is to promote manufacturing in CNY by celebrating its rich tradition, craft, and work. Laura’s mission is realized in her management style and her co-founding of the “Making it in Central New York” initiative in partnership with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Her mission is evident in her tireless support for community members seeking jobs and training in manufacturing and in her participation on local boards and advisory councils, where she consistently lends support – and hands – to efforts that align with her mission.

Kylie Pierce

Arts Advocate

As Development Director of the Rome Capitol Theatre, Kylie has raised extensive funds to maintain, preserve, and improve the theater over the past decade, leading to an approximate 300 percent increase in theater programming. Similarly, she provides extensive support to the Capital Region BOCES, through which she is employed as a grant writer raising funds for educational programming. Kylie is also involved in supporting the local and regional arts community. This includes providing professional development opportunities to local artists, encouraging tourism, supporting others in the field of nonprofit development. Through her work with the NYS Council for the Arts, Kylie helps determine the distribution of funds to arts organizations throughout the state. She has also served as a Girl Scout troop leader and has been a member of Zonta.

Karen Sammon

Business Leader

As CEO of Par Technology, Karen works tirelessly at creating a future that not only positions PAR as an industry leader, but creates a winning work culture where employees feel valued and energized to make a difference at work and in the community. Whether it’s the opportunities PAR creates for employees to learn and grow, the new jobs being created right here in Upstate NY or the powerful environmental sustainability programs – Karen is changing the game. She embraces the challenge of making a different as a leader at her company, in her community and in her family. Karen is focused on the community she grew up in and the impact she can have by growing Par Technology right here in Central New York.

Mary Alice Smothers

Community Advocate

For more than three decades Mary Alice Smothers has been working with low income individuals in crisis. While working for the Department of Justice to reduce gang violence, she developed her innate ability to help people dealing with difficult circumstances. Mary Alice brought those skills to PEACE, Inc. Westside Family Resource Center, which she affectionately calls the “little white house of hope.” There, she advocates for families in crisis and focuses on critical needs like employment, hunger, housing and other basic human necessities. Mary Alice organizes a community wide Thanksgiving event where hundreds come together to share a delicious meal, gives thanks and build community with one another. While Mary Alice is a tremendous force in changing all people’s lives for the better, her passion is the young people of the neighborhood. She teaches children and teens that they are personally responsible for their behavior now and their success in the future. Mary Alice has dedicated her entire career to making our community stronger.

Christie Waters

STEM Education Leader

 Christie, Division Chair of Cayuga Community College’s science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) program, is recognized for her leadership in creating pathways for local women and first generation college students in the fields of applied science and technology. Christie has taken the lead in partnering with local industry leaders to build and nurture two-year degree programs that provide a pathway to high-wage jobs in the advanced manufacturing industry. She was instrumental in the development of the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program for Auburn Central School District students. Christie’s efforts to recruit and mentor young women who show an aptitude for technology, including engineering, but who might not have thought they could pursue this career path.

2016 Makers Award Winners

Lisa Betrus

Sharon BuMann

Janet Callahan

Mary Q. Chapin

Annette Guisbond

Mary Krause

Katie MacIntyre

Anne Orr

Theresa Pagano

Tammy Van Epps

2015 Makers Award Winners

Kimberly Boynton

Virginia Carmody

The Honorable Bernadette T. Clark

Jean Harper Dean

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

Lorraine Kinney-Kitchen

Dr. Mary Martin

Mia Adams McSherry

Dr. Erica Miller

Teresa Mosher

Jennifer Nadler

Virginia Robbins

Marietta von Bernuth

Wendy Washeleski

2014 Makers Award Winners

Mary Alice Bellardini

Margaret Buckley

Glynis Hart

Dr. Leslie Kohman

Sr. Monica A. Nortz, CSJ

Rebbecca Oppedisano

Melinda Sorrentino

Melissa Spicer

Patricia Sullivan

2013 Makers Award Winners

Megan Rae Bliss

Marlene Brown

Kimberly Burch

Sue Considine

Renee DeVesty

Rose Marie Fagan

Kate Finn

Gouverneur Business Women Breast Cancer Walk Fund Executive Committee

Dr. Rathika Martyn

Pam Matt

Agnes McCray

Andrea E. Rankin

Gigi Redmond

Karen Y. Richmond

Jean Siracusa

Linda Townsend, Ph.D

Carrie M. Tuttle

Support for WCNY’s “Women Who Make America” Awards provided by:


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