Photo above: The 2017 class of Tribute to Women Award recipients: (Back row, L-R) Brenda Barnicki, Ruth Moseley King, Melody Trimble, Susan Reid, Carol Transou, (Front row, L-R) Tina Camper, Mary Margaret Denton, Muriel Kagan Zager and CeeGee McCord Photo courtesy YWCA
By Scott Robertson
The 2017 class of Tribute to Women Award recipients includes several women who have made an impact on the Tri-Cities business community, from entrepreneurs and executives to an economic developer, as well as an educator, a journalist and not-for-profit administrators. Nine women were honored April 27 at a dinner at the Bristol Train Station.
The annual Tribute to Women awards program recognizes the outstanding achievements of individuals throughout the greater Tri-Cities region. Nominated by area organizations and chosen by an independent panel of judges, the nine award recipients exemplify those working to enrich the region and were honored in categories which reflect the impact of the YWCA in the region: Nurture, Empower, and Transform.
Lottie Ryans, 2017 Tribute to Women Chair, says, “The women honored this year through Tribute to Women demonstrate the power and effect a determined woman can have on a community, an industry, or an organization but equally important, an individual life. These outstanding people have empowered their colleagues, nurtured those in need of assistance, and transformed this region with their pursuit of excellence. We, and generations to come, are truly blessed by their legacy.”
The 2017 Tribute to Women Award recipients were selected for their leadership qualities, positive impact on community, and demonstrated growth and achievement. In paraphrasing a song from a popular Broadway musical, Ryans said to the recipients, “Because of you the region has been changed for the better. Because of you the region has been changed for good.”
The 2017 recipients
Educator Carol Transou dedicated her career as an educator to creatively bringing the past to life for her students. She volunteered to teach some of the first racially integrated classes in Chattanooga, TN. Later she organized groups of high school students to take school trips to Europe in the summers, inspired by the gift of such a trip provided by her grandmother. Following her retirement, she became an advocate for women and girls and she was instrumental in launching the Women’s Fund of the East Tennessee Foundation where she serves on the boards of several funds. She is a past Tennessee Teacher of the Year (1987) and was inducted in the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame in 2015. The Philosopher’s Sunday School Class of Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church nominated Transou.
Children’s advocate Mary Margaret Denton’s “fearless dedication to hard work has enriched the community”, according to her nominating organization, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Sullivan County. Holding a variety of volunteer and professional roles, including board president and clinical director, Denton has served children throughout her 47-year career as a social worker, counselor, and leader. Her stops along the way include stints with the Holston United Methodist Home for Children, national board of directors for the National Children’s Alliance, and the Children’s Advocacy Center. She is recipient of the Leadership Kingsport Alumni award. Currently she serves on the board of directors of the Wellmont Foundation and of Kingsport Emergency Communications.
Throughout her tenure at United Way of Southwest Virginia, Tina Camper has committed to serving the residents of 15 counties reached by her organization. Nurturing the growth of this United Way chapter has directly improved the health, education, and financial stability of the families served by the agency and its partners. In addition to her duties as Director of Administration, Camper is co-owner of a busy tourism recreation business, is completing a second associate’s degree at Liberty University, and participates in the Harvard University ManageMentor Program. More than 1,000 students benefit each weekend from her leadership of the Backpacks Unite food program for low-income children.
Gourmet chocolatier, Brenda Barnicki has founded and grown a thriving business with a social mission, Bellafina Chocolates. A former Fortune 500 executive, Barnicki made a mid-career shift with the goal of developing a business that would empower women recovering from addiction, incarceration, and abuse while providing funds to support children’s charities. Her work has been recognized by the Newman’s Own Foundation, and received two KOSBE small business awards.
Veteran journalist, author, and Middle East expert, Muriel Kagan Zager, became one of the very first women to cover Israel and other countries of the region, including Iran and Lebanon. She overcome cultural biases to develop human interest stories for the Bristol Herald Courier, and a column for the Washington County News. Her experiences inspired five novels, including The Faithful, which was a National Book Award nominee. Since her husband’s death she has written about her journey as a widow, inspiring and empowering numerous women coping with their own loss. A philanthropist, Zager, endowed an annual lecture series for diversity at East Tennessee State University, and sponsors a program in Holocaust Studies at Emory & Henry College.
Susan Reid, executive director of the First Tennessee Development District, has dedicated her 43-year career building a non-partisan, regionally-focused organization which has leveraged the cooperation of 20 municipalities and eight counties to develop projects resulting in everything from clean drinking water, to comprehensive care for seniors, to addressing the regional epidemic of opioid abuse. She is a board member of the Appalachian Regional Commission, and a recipient of the Tennessee Valley Corridor’s “Corridor Champion Award”, among many others. She is the longest serving and was the first female executive director of a development district in Tennessee.
Eastman Director of Global Public Affairs and Vice President of the Board of the Eastman Foundation, CeeGee McCord, is known as an inclusive leader who insists all voices be heard. Her efforts have broadened Eastman’s worldwide philanthropy and created the infrastructure for community partnerships in locations where Eastman has operations. She is known throughout the community for her leadership and volunteer roles with the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, Kingsport Chamber Board, East Tennessee State University, and Milligan College among others, and this past year has chaired the Kingsport 100 centennial committee. She has been named a Champion of Education by the Kingsport City Schools, and, together with her husband, was honored as a Champion of Youth by the Kingsport Boys and Girls Club. She is one of just 35 members of the 2016-2017 Leadership Tennessee Class.
A nurse, and seasoned healthcare administrator, Melody Trimble is Vice-President at Mountain States Health Alliance. She supervises four hospitals as CEO, including the region’s only children’s hospital, and the region’s only psychiatric hospital. Trimble is an active community volunteer, serving on the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, Washington County, TN Economic Development Council, and the Hospital Alliance of Tennessee. Among other achievements, she was named as CEO of the Year by the Arkansas Auxiliary, when she was market CEO for Sparks Health System in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Trimble is known for her devotion to delivering on patient care and quality improvement goals, inspiring and mentoring young leaders, and empowering her team.
A lifelong devotion to her community and six decades of transformational leadership earned Ruth Moseley King the nomination of the Blue Stocking Club of Bristol. Multiple generations have benefited from her professional contributions to the field of education at Sullins College for young women, and then transforming it into the Sullins School, which continues to thrive fifty years later. Her service to the YMCA of Bristol resulted in an outreach program to teach young people to swim. King’s efforts in the arts have supported live classical music through the Paramount Chamber Players, as well as the transformation of the Paramount Theatre itself. Finally, King was directly involved in the revitalization of State Street into the thriving downtown destination it is now as the proprietor of Ruth King Antiques, which she ran while mentoring and encouraging other downtown business owners.
The 2017 Tribute to Women banquet and silent auction raised funds to support the mission of YWCA Bristol including efforts to increase the economic empowerment of women and families, promote women’s health and safety, and to support racial justice and civil rights.