A Message From The President

February 2013

                        Accolades Abound.

What a week it’s been! On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon where Renee Vaughn, as president of the Leadership Tampa Alumni, presented Ann McKeel Ross with the Parke Wright III Leadership Award. This award is presented annually to a member of Leadership Tampa Alumni who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and made a significant difference in the Tampa Bay community. Ann had been the Director of Community Relations at USF for a number of years and a strong advocate for the USF Graphicstudio. Later, as Vice President of the Straz Center, Ann’s influence in promoting Tampa as a city of the arts was evident in the numerous partnerships that she encouraged, combining her love of art with her dedication to our community. We all enjoy the Straz, but did you know that Ann also helped develop Berkeley Prep’s fine arts program? As a parent of Berkeley alumni, my family benefitted directly from that program.

On Thursday, the Hillsborough County Commission on the Status of Women announced the selection of Dottie Berger MacKinnon, Juel Smith and Deanne Roberts (posthumously) for induction into the Women’s Hall of Fame. The Commission announced its selections by proclamation at Thursday’s Board of County Commissioners Meeting; a formal awards luncheon will follow on March 28. What fantastic selections! The strength, grace and commitment of these three women is truly inspiring.

Dottie Berger MacKinnon has dedicated her life to children and worked to establish pragmatic solutions to difficult problems facing the most vulnerable of our city’s children. She has been an untiring advocate for informed adoption, keeping children safe, access to early mental health intervention and creating ways to keep siblings together where none existed.  She founded Joshua House, Friends of Joshua House, Kids Charity of Tampa Bay and A Kid’s Place. One of my favorite scrapbook pictures is one of Dottie on the side of a road waving a campaign sign during her successful bid for Hillsborough County Commissioner.

Juel Shannon Smith really exemplifies graceful strength and is a true educator. She was a driving force at USF as Founding Executive Director of the USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy Program, Founding Executive Director of the USF Institute of Black Life and the Center for Africa and the Diaspora. Juel was also the international director for “Education Across the Miles,” an organization that builds schools for children in remote villages across South Africa for The Links Inc. and served for eight years on the Board of Directors of the International Habitat for Humanity.

Deanne Dewey Roberts was influential throughout the County as former Chamber of Commerce chairperson, founder of Emerge Tampa, Connect Tampa and Creative Tampa Bay and mentored young professionals throughout Tampa. She worked on the Florida Aquarium, SunTrust building, Riverwalk and the Tampa Bay History Center. Deanne is perhaps best remembered, though, for her ability to see strength in others and keep a razor clear sense of what matters – priorities. A strong communicator, Deanne could help focus others on the core principles as reflected in the everyday. In her acceptance of the Park Wright III Leadership award in 2008, Deanne focused on why community leadership organizations are vital. “They link leaders to each other so we can use our combined strengths to take big leaps forward for our communities.” Her words are a continued inspiration and a reminder of a core value of being in Athena.