A program like none other in the area, Tribute to Women was born in 1992 as a way to empower women by recognizing their dedicated work and its positive effect on our community. Tribute progresses the YWCA mission by providing community corporations, organizations and businesses a platform to publicly acknowledge the outstanding achievements of women in the Northeast Tennessee-Southwest Virginia region. Additionally, this great program serves as a significant source of funding for the vital services offered to women and families through the YWCA.
Many outstanding women across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia were nominated by area organizations for the 2023 Tribute to Women Award; from these nominees five were chosen by an independent panel of judges for recognition.
Business and Industry
Mary Johnson founded Land Partners in 2010, a female-owned real estate company that specializes in commercial real estate across the eastern United States. Mary's passion for professionalism, new ideas, and relationship building has contributed to her success. A dedicated community servant, Mary has volunteered for over 50 years, serving over 20 organizations at the local, state, and national levels. Her love for the outdoors inspired her work to secure $12 Million in funding for the establishment of Rocky Fork State Park in East Tennessee. Mary's advocacy for women's rights has been instrumental in helping pass legislation requiring insurance companies to cover post-mastectomy reconstructive surgeries for breast cancer survivors as well as legislation criminalizing the act of stalking. Mary is a strong advocate for empowering women, encouraging them to take bold steps toward their dreams!
Jennifer Owen is known for her attention to detail, positive attitude, and excellent customer service skills. In less than five years, she has climbed the ladder of success from Senior Commercial Loan Officer to her most recent leadership position, Senior Vice President and Market President for Appalachian Highlands at Truist Bank. Her numerous accomplishments include graduating from Leadership Kingsport and being a past recipient of 40 Under Forty. Her dedication to empowering others is reflected in her role as a mentor and her commitment to community service. Jennifer serves the community through numerous committee and chair positions, including YWCA, United Way, Northeast State Community College, and The Crumley House Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center. Jennifer's hard work and positive attitude make her a valuable asset to our community.
Dr. Michelle Durham
Dr. Michelle Durham, Clinical Director of Audiology at Bristol Regional Speech & Hearing Center, is widely respected for her exceptional leadership skills and tireless advocacy for patients. Her high standards inspire coworkers to strive for success, and her transparent communication style fosters an environment of trust and open dialogue. Michelle’s visionary leadership keeps the organization at the forefront of its field, while her tireless work securing insurance coverage for services delivered has earned her admiration from colleagues and patients alike. She takes special joy in seeing hearing-impaired babies and children becoming able to hear out of both ears for the first time. Michelle continually looks for ways to improve speech and hearing services in the region, and her leadership is a testament to her dedication to making a positive impact on the lives of children and their families.
Vanessa Bennett showcases the power of dedication and hard work. Vanessa is a leader at the forefront of diversity, equity, and inclusion – she has a heart that believes in dignity for all. As the current Chief Operating Officer and former Executive Director of Operations and Talent Development for the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, her passion for community service and humanitarian initiatives is evident in her innovative approach to developing new programs, events, and celebrations that benefit Kingsport. She has been instrumental in the organization and success of Healthy Kingsport, SAFE Spaces, and Project HOPE and she is one of this year’s Juneteenth Festival leaders in Downtown Kingsport. Vanessa’s unique ability to develop fresh ideas is a critical factor in the success of these initiatives. She is an inspiring example for young women and girls everywhere!
Chancellor Donna Henry
Chancellor Donna Price Henry made history in 2013 when she became the first female Chancellor at University of Virginia's College at Wise. With a wealth of experience in higher education, Donna is widely recognized as a leader among her peers and is a staunch advocate for STEM-H. Her expertise has made her a sought-after voice on various boards, councils, and panels at conferences across the Commonwealth. Donna has dedicated herself to equality, diversity, and inclusion, creating the College's first office specifically devoted to that mission. She has worked to increase diversity among her cabinet and senior administrators. Donna’s efforts have brought forth new concepts and understanding that benefit the world and all those who live in it. She is truly a role model to emerging female leaders in various sectors.
Congratulations to Our 2020 Recipients!
Jennifer Adler is a mentor, professor and public official. She empowers others to think independently while exposing them to new and different ideas. Jennifer’s story empowers young women in our region who don’t have familial models of academic achievement. In Jennifer they see themselves-that they, too, can be a professor, a public official, and a champion for others.
Lori Hamilton, RN has been recognized with many achievements including Health Care Hero Award and 2018 March of Dimes Nurse of the Year in Public Health. She has developed a comprehensive program that benefits Food City’s associates, customers, and community partners. Lori is a strong advocate for health and wellness, and her strong commitment to serving others is evident to all.
As a patrol officer Debbie Richmond became a role model for women interested in law enforcement. She was later assigned to the Criminal Investigations Division, where, guided by her unique blend of strength and kindness, she became a trusted advocate in the Bristol community, for the most vulnerable victims. Her overwhelming desire to serve victims has been especially meaningful to our community.
Linda Shepherd is a dynamic nursing professional and accomplished healthcare executive. She has a vision and optimism for the nursing profession, and particularly for nursing in Southwest Virginia. Linda has and continues to demonstrate skill development and growth in transforming not only herself professionally, but also in those she leads through her involvement in many organizations.
Katy Ford Sikorski consistently leads by example through her willingness to work, positive attitude, and dedication to service. As president of the Rotary Club she guided the club’s many community and international initiatives. . She currently provides oversight, coordinates and manages clinical deliveries for drug trials. Katy is currently responsible for an international study with 110 sites in 11 countries and a domestic study in 58 US cities.
Jamie Swift plays a significant role in the safety of people throughout the region, as well as within the system’s 21 hospitals and many other facilities as the director of infection prevention at Ballad Health. She is one of the primary experts in the region on infectious diseases, and her guidance in the community on how to prepare and react to the threat of these diseases is crucial.
Becca Davis is the co-founder and executive director of ReFrame Association, which supports affordable housing rehabilitation and repairs for low-income people throughout the United States, ensuring homes are safe, healthy, and more livable for residents. She empowers nonprofits by identifying and sharing their best practices, educating them in sustainable repair methods and techniques for improved volunteer recruitment and retention.
Dr. Shelley Koch ‘s teaching philosophy at Emory and Henry College has been shaped by her personal journey, with one foot in the world of ideas and one in the world of work life. Shelley is a powerhouse in Southwest Virginia and has served on the board of Appalachian Sustainable Development and Appalachian Peace Education Center. She has also published books and articles focusing on food and society.
Dr. Rene Rodgers played an integral role in the development of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum while adhering to the high standards of the Smithsonian. She is also works with other organizations to help make the community stronger. Rene personifies grace under pressure and inspires others through her tireless work ethic and methodical approach to problem solving