A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Living honorees to be celebrated Friday as Girl Scouts’ 100 Ky. Women of Distinction

Special to KyForward
Second of two parts


As part of the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts, the Willderness Road Council is honoring 100 Kentucky Women of Distinction at a noon celebration Friday, Nov. 9, at the Fasig-Tipton dining room.


The women who are honored come from the eastern half of Kentucky and span the 100-year history of Girl Scouts. They come from all walks of Kentucky life.


A few tickets at $60 each are still available for the event and a limited number of table sponsorships, starting at $1000 for a table of eight. Proceeds go to scholarships for Girl Scouts. Contact Susan Douglas, 859.293.2621, ext 233, or sdouglas@gswrc.org, for more information.


Yesterday, KyForward announced this historic honorees. The living honorees are:


Josephine Abercrombie founded Pin Oak Stud in Versailles, with her father, Texas oilman Jamie S. Abercrombie, in 1952, three years after they bought their first group of yearlings. Under her leadership, Pin Oak has thrived, breeding and campaigning more than 100 stakes winners.. She received the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Hardboot Award in 2005 and the Penny Chenery Distinguished Women in Racing Award in 2006.


Helen Alexander has done it all in the thoroughbred industry. She took care of the Thoroughbred portion of her grandfather’s King Ranch in the months before his death, established Middlebrook Farm in 1984, and bred and raced thoroughbreds with her mother and sisters. She is the only woman on the Breeders’ Cup Ltd. board of directors and has served in many leadership positions in the equine industry.


Ann Stewart Anderson is a feminist artist presenting unflinching portrayals of women and womanhood. She was born in Frankfort in 1935; she studied art in Massachusetts, taught in Washington D.C. and worked and trained at the Chicago Art Institute. She is now executive director of the Kentucky Foundation for Women.


Mira Snider Ball is Chief Financial Officer for Ball Homes LLC, which was incorporated in 1959 by Mira and her husband, Don. In 1991, Ball became the first female president of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce, and is the first woman ever elected to the Kentucky Utilities Board of Directors. In 1997, Ball was named the first chairwoman of both the Midway College Board and the UK Board of Trustees.


Nelda Barton-Collings was born in Webster County in 1929. When she became a widow in 1977, determined to support her family, she acquired a business partner to continue the business started by her husband, returned to school and became a licensed nursing home administrator. She was a five-time Kentucky delegate/28-year Committee woman to the Republican National Committee (RNC) and was the first woman from Kentucky to address the RNC. She was the first woman elected chair of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and served as secretary-treasurer of the National Institute of International Affairs.


Jane Beshear, First Lady of Kentucky, has dedicated her life to the service of others. Presently she is an ex-officio officer of the Kentuckyz Commission on Women and an honorary chair of Generations United Seniors4Kids program. She was awarded a Friend of Literacy Award from the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development for her work in adult literacy initiatives. In her role as First Lady, she is addressing the issues of breast cancer, school dropout prevention and energy efficiency.


Sallie Bingham is an American author, playwright, poet, teacher, feminist activist, and philanthropist who published her first novel , After Such Knowledge, in 1961. In 1985, she founded the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at Duke University. She currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Linda Boileau created her first political cartoon in 1984 for the Frankfort State Journal and has been creating them ever since. Linda has become recognized as one of the country’s leading cartoonists. About her work she says, “The wonderful thing about cartooning is that you have the opportunity to make someone think. Even if they disagree, you’ve opened up their minds to issues.”


Ellen Calipari, wife of a famous basketball coach, welcomes the members of the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team into her home. “They don’t have families around…I don’t push myself to be another mom to them, but I want them to be comfortable here, like a mom would be.” In 2012 the Calipari’s established the Family Foundation for Children in Kentucky to support programs such as financial literary.


Mary Lynne Capilouto, wife of University of Kentucky president Eli Capilouto, is former dean of the School of Dentistry at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. As a dentist, Capilouto has been moved by the plight of Kentucky children who don’t receive adequate, or any, dental care and looks forward to working toward better dental care for the children of Kentucky.


Helen Carroll started working in public relations at Toyota in Georgetown and now serves as manager of community relations with Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America. Among numerous awards, she received the A.D. Albright Award for Outstanding Community Service to Education. She co-chaired the Northern Kentucky’s Vision 2015 Education Excellence Implementation Team and chaired the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors.


Virginia Carter is executive director of the Kentucky Humanities Council, Inc., a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She developed for all Kentucky counties, Kentucky Chautauqua, one-person history dramas that bring to life Kentuckians who have contributed to the Commonwealth’s history and culture. Carter led the council in producing the theatrical Our Lincoln and Our Lincoln: Kentucky’s Gift to the Nation in Lexington in 2008, and again in Washington, D.C. in 2009.


Alice Headley Chandler has deep roots in the horse industry. She is the daughter of Hal Price Headley, who owned Beaumont Farm and was a founder/president of Keeneland. Her father left her the land on which she built her farm which includes over 1,000 acres where sher bred or raised champions. During her long career, she has served the thoroughbred industry in many capacities, including as president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association .


Judith G. Clabes, a lifelong Kentuckian, has had a distinguished career in American journalism. She was the first woman editor in the E.W. Scripps Company, becoming editor of The Kentucky Post in 1982. During a 37-year career with Scripps, she was also president/CEO of Scripps Howard Foundation where she was an innovative funder in journalism education – and conceived and saw to fruition the building of the Scripps Howard School of Journalism at Hampton (Va.) University. She is a member of the University of Kentucky Hall of Distinguished Alumni, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, and the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame. In 2011 she and her family founded a “model” online community newspaper, www.kyforward.com, which she serves as editor and publisher.


Nina Clooney, wife of Nick and mother of George, has earned her own reputation as a writer, inventor and activist. She is dedicated to improving the state of the film enterprise in Kentucky. She was appointed by Governor Steve Beshear to be the Chair of the Kentucky Film Commission in 2009. She will help bring Hollywood to Kentucky to further highlight and benefit the state. She has lived in Augusta, Kentucky for 35 years.


Jane Burch Cochran is a quilter who pushes the boundaries of the traditional art of quilting. She started making small bead and fabric collages in 1978 and has been a full-time artist since 1980. Her awards include Southern Arts Federation/National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Smith Artist Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. Her work is in many public and private collections including: Smithsonian Museum, National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, University of Kentucky Museum, the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.


Martha Layne Collins was the 56th Governor of Kentucky from 1983 to 1987, having served the previous four years as lieutenant governor. She is Kentucky’s first and only female governor. Her major accomplishment as governor was the transformational recruitment of the Toyota manufacturing plant to Georgetown, Kentucky. Toyota continues to invest heavily in Kentucky and recently celebrated its 25th anniversary in Kentucky, and has created thousands of jobs for Kentuckians and contributed more than $42million to charitable causes.


Sara W. Combs was the first woman and the first judge from the Eastern Kentucky counties of the 7th Appellate District to serve as chief judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. She served in that role from June 2004 until May 2010. Judge Combs also made history by being the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Kentucky when then Gov. Brereton Jones appointed her to serve on the state’s highest court in 1993. The Kentucky Bar Association named Judge Combs as Outstanding Judge of the Year in June 2010. Judge Combs has taught at the high school and university levels in addition to gaining broad experience in the practice of law.


Patricia “PJ” Cooksey had 2,137 wins as a jockey since beginning her career in 1979 and is a four-time Turfway Park leading rider. In 2004, she became the first ever female jockey to be voted the New York Racing Association’s Mike Venezia Memorial Award, an honor given annually to a jockey who exemplifies extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship. She is retired from racing and currently works for the Kentucky Racing Commission.


Diane Crump became the first female jockey to compete in a pari-mutuel race in the United States (at Hialeah Park, Florida in 1969), and in 1970 she became the first female jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby. She scored more than 230 victories on the track before retiring from the sport in 1985. Crump continued to work as a trainer and has her own horse breeding business.


Linda Scott DeRosier was born in the upper room of her grandmother’s log house at Boons Camp. She received her BS degree from Pikeville College at age 20 and went on to complete a cross-disciplinary doctorate in philosophy, education and psychology at the University of Kentucky. She served for five years as Director of the Center for Research in Education and Psychology at Kentucky State University and she was Director of The Institute for Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University from 1978 to 1980. Since 1988, Dr. DeRosier has served as Professor of Psychology at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana.


Bennie Doggett was born in 1943 in Covington and spent more than a decade as a social worker for the William Martin Northern Kentucky Community Center in Covington, where she helped the homeless find housing, the unemployed find jobs and students graduate from high school. She established a program at the community center that brought suburban white students to inner-city Covington to work with African American youth. She was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2010.


Sharon B. Fields was born in Paris, Kentucky. She is an educator, politician, and a minister as well as the first African American woman to become a city commissioner in Paris. Today, Rev. Fields is a member of the Paris Independent School Board of Education and has also served as pastor of the Eminence Christian Church in Eminence.. Rev. Fields is also an author, having written numerous articles for religious magazines such as Just Women and is the co-author of In OtherWords; stories of African American involvement in the early years of the Stone-Campbell movement in Kentucky.


Nikky Finney was born in Conway, S. C. attended college at Talladega College and Atlanta University. She is known for poems that speak of human trials and tribulations. She received the Kentucky Foundation for Women Artists Fellowship Award and just recently the National Book Award for Poetry. She currently is on the faculty at the University of Kentucky as a Professor of Creative Writing and was a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets.


Virginia Fox served as secretary of the Kentucky Education Cabinet and as executive director and CEO of both Kentucky Educational Television and the National Educational Telecommunications Association while also serving on the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Morehead State University and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Kentucky. She has received numerous awards for her achievements in education and public service.


Laura Freeman took over the family business in Clark County in 1985 and built it into a brand everyone knows: Laura’s Lean Beef. She is an active board member of Mothers and Others for a Livable Planet and serves on the advisory board of Partners for Family Farms. She is an entrepreneur whose success story comes from a combination of hard work, creative spirit and down-to-earth common sense.


Crystal Gayle is a blue-eyed country music singer from the Appalachian coal mining town of Paintsville. She introduced country music to mainstream audiences. Best known for her 1977 country-pop hit “Don’t Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” She accumulated 20 Number One country hits during the 1970s and 1980s and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Akiko Gothard has been a thoroughbred bloodstock agent, insurance agent, owner and trainer. A native of Tokyo, Japan, she moved to the United States in 1957. She attended the University of Kentucky and taught Asian Studies while still a student. She became a bloodstock agent in 1970 and married Marvin Gothard in 1985 after selling him his first Thoroughbred. The couple became trainers and worked together until Marvin’s death.


Sandy Hatfield is stallion manager for Three Chimneys Farm and received the 2011 Farm Manager of the Year Award from the Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club becoming only the fourth women to receive the award. She grew up riding and caring for quarter horses in Oklahoma and earned her animal science degree at Murray State University. She serves on the board of the Life Adventure Center in Versailles, has been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass and the Kentucky Equine Management Internship Program.


Heather French Henry graduated from The University of Cincinnati School of Design, Art, and Architecture & Planning. She competed in pageants through her teens, including the Miss Ohio pageant. She competed in the Miss Kentucky Pageant four times before winning the title on her fifth attempt in 1999. She won the 2000 Miss America pageant in September 1999, the first Kentuckian to do so. During her reign she raised awareness of homeless veterans; her father was a wounded veteran of the Vietnam War. She has received numbers awards for her work with veterans.


Eula Hall grew up off Greasy Creek in Pike County and has been a lifelong health activist and community organizer in Eastern Kentucky. She founded the Mud Creek Clinic in Grethel. Although her formal education went only through eighth grade, she made a major impact in the Eastern Kentucky mountain health and well-being.


Debra Hensley is owner of Hensley Agency of State Farm Insurance Companies. She serves on numerous boards and commissions and served on LFUCG City Council from 1986-1992. She is a recipient of the NCCJ Lauren K. WeingbergHumanitarian Award). In 2011 Hensley launched plantory.org, a multi-tenant non-profit center addressing the community’s needs and social mission.


Nancy Holliday grew up in Lexington and is the General Manager of Microsoft. In 2006, Holliday was asked to develop a public sector sales team, which grew from $173 to $313 million in two years. Currently she runs sales for U.S. Services, a $1.3 billion business. Nancy was the keynote speaker at the first annual Girls Raised in Tennessee Science Collaboration (GRITS) in 2011. GRITS helps raise girls’ interests to pursue science, technology, engineering and math careers.


Elizabeth L. (Libby) Jones is a native of Woodford County. Her father was Arthur Y. Lloyd, one time adjutant general of Kentucky. Libby Jones married Brereton Jones, former Governor of Kentucky, in 1970. She is co-owner and partner in operations at Airdrie Farm in Woodford County. She is an active volunteer in environmental, conservation, and farmland organizations and preservation advocate.


Ashley Judd is an American actress from Ashland who starred in films such as Ruby in Paradise, Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy, Where the Heart Is and High Crimes. Judd spent the majority of her childhood in Kentucky. She is an alumna of the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma at the University of Kentucky. She
graduated from the UK Honors Program and was nominated to Phi Beta Kappa, but did not graduate with her class. She continues to be active in social causes that affect women and children.


Naomi Judd worked hard to support her two daughters alone. She began singing with daughter Wynonna in the 1970s, and The Judds had a record deal by 1983. Younger daughter, Ashley, became a successful film actress. From small town Kentucky to the top of the charts, Naomi Judd is known for humanitarian efforts including River Cities Harvest, the Saint Louis University Liver Center, M.A.D.D., Parents Television Council, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and the July 4th Judd’s Annual Food Drive to benefit families of Appalachia, which she does in conjunction with Feed the Children.


Wynona Judd gained fame as part of the singing duo The Judds and then as a solo artist. She has received numerous awards and had an album and songs on the top of the charts.


Sheila Kavanaugh is Vice President and Human Resources Supervisor of TKT and Associates, Inc. She is a member of Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church (served on several boards including the parish council, bereavement committee and as Sunday School teacher for 12 years); member of the Louisville Society of HR Management (LSHRM) and Central Kentucky Society of HRM; and serves on the Danville-Boyle County Planning & Zoning Adjustment Board; CASA Advisory Board; Domestic Economy Club; Hospice Executive Board; as well as Habitat for Humanity.


Micki King is a two time Olympian (1968 and 1972) in diving who won the gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics in the three meter springboard event. King was a career officer in the United States Air Force from 1966 to 1992, retiring with the rank of colonel. From 1992-2006, King was assistant athletic director at the University of Kentucky. She put Lexington on the map by introducing WORLD FIT – Olympians for Worldwide Fitness into 11 Lexington Middle Schools. Through this Olympians’ inspired program, she has over 7,000 kids walking every day for six weeks each spring semester to help reduce childhood obesity .

Barbara Kingsolver is an American novelist, essayist and poet. Her widely known works include, The Poisonwood Bible, the tale of a missionary family in the Congo, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a non- fiction account of her family’s attempts to eat locally. Each of her books published since 1993 have been on the New York Times Bestseller list. Kingsolver has received numerous awards, including the UK’s Orange Prize for Fiction 2010 and has been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 2000, Kingsolver established the Bellwether Prize to support “literature of social change.”


Reese Koffler Stanfield, United States Dressage Federation Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medalist, is a lifelong professional horseman who has successfully competed in the sport of Dressage since early childhood. In 2010, she was the Head Eventing Dressage Coach for Argentina in the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Along with a very active high performance career, Reese is a member of several local and National Committees including USEF Safety Committee, Advisor to the University of Kentucky Equine Initiative, Advisor to the Georgetown College Equine Scholars, and member of the Masterson Equestrian Trust (M.E.T.).


Patty Loveless moved from Pikeville to Nashville at the age of 14 and by 16 she had a writing/singing tour with the Grand Ole Opry’s Wilburn Brothers. She has had several Number One hit songs and has been awarded the CMA (Country Music Awards) female vocalist of the year, the Academy of Country
Music top female vocalist and CMA vocal collaboration awards.


Crit Luallen comes from a family that values public service, including two ancestors who were governors of Kentucky. Luallen served as the State Auditor from 2003 until January 2012 and chaired EMPOWER Kentucky, a government efficiency initiative that produced savings to Kentucky taxpayers of $600 million. Among the many honors Luallen has received for her work are the Livingston Taylor Ethics Award in 2011 and Governing Magazine’s Public Officials of the Year 2009 Award. Luallen is a native of Frankfort and a graduate of Centre College, where she serves on the Board of Trustees.


Loretta Lynn was a true Coal Miner’s Daughter, born in 1934 in Butcher Holler. She has received more awards than any other woman in country music history. She is a member of the Country Music and Gospel Music Hall of Fame and received Kennedy Center Honors in 2003. Her autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was made into an Oscar-winning movie in 1980. She has released 70 albums and had 55 top ten singles in her career.


George Ella Lyon is the author of several adult titles and 25 picture books. Her recognitions include two Bluegrass Award winners, a Reading Rainbow feature, Editors’ Choice, Parents’ Choice Silver Medal, and School Library Journal (SLJ) Best Books of the Year. Lyon’s novel, Sonny’s House of Spies, received starred reviews in SLJ and Publishers Weekly; Lyon’s poem, Where I’m From, is used as a model by teachers around the world. In 2012, George Ella’s most recent novel, Holding on to Zoe, was released in July 2012. Lyon is now at work on two picture books, Planes Fly! and What Forest Knows.


Bobbie Ann Mason was raised on her family’s dairy farm in Western Kentucky and was interested in writing as a child. She was inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, but it was not until college that she discovered other writers, especially the fiction of Hemingway, Salinger, and Fitzgerald. Her first short stories were published in The New Yorker during the 1980s and Mason’s first book of fiction, Shiloh & Other Stories (1982), won the PEN/Hemingway Award and was nominated for the American Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Mason’s memoir, Clear Springs, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.


Pam Miller served as the mayor of Lexington from 1993 until 2003 making her the first woman to hold the position in state history. She has given her time as a volunteer with Girl Scouts of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road and has been an active member of the Central Kentucky Community serving as Council Woman. She has volunteered with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, Planned Parenthood of the Bluegrass, Lexington Opera Society and Fayette County
Education Foundation, and will serve on the Council until December 31, 2012.


Penny Miller (Harris) was Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Political Science at the University of Kentucky; her primary teaching and research fields include national and state legislative processes, political parties and elections, Kentucky politics, and women and politics. She is the co-author of two books, The Kentucky Legislature: Two Decades of Change (1988) and Political Parties and Primaries in Kentucky (1990), and author of Kentucky Politics and Government: Do We Stand United? (1994). She serves as a board member of the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, the Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center and the Kentucky Center for Public Issues.


Pamela Mullins, Covington, began her career in the early 1980s, when she, among others, demanded that the Covington Board of Education adopt Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a holiday. She served for seven years on the Covington Board of Education. In 1997, she became the first African American woman elected to the Covington City Commission. She introduced the ordinance that created the Covington Human Rights Commission and was placed in the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2007.


Jacqueline Noonan is one of the most important individuals in the history of American pediatric care. She discovered the Noonan Heart Syndrome and helped to establish the Kentucky Children’s Hospital during her 40 years of service with the University of Kentucky. An endowed chair in pediatric research has been established in her name, and she has been recognized with the 1971 Helen B. Frazer Award and 1985 Harpers Bazaar’s Best Women Doctors in America. Noonan is semi-retired as of 2007.


Nicki Patton combines her two passions by serving both as Chairwoman of the Kentucky Democratic Party (KDP) and Chairwoman of the Governor’s Early Childhood Task Force. Nicki got involved in politics in 1987 by working on her father’s, Governor Paul Patton, statewide campaign for lieutenant governor. In 1995, she served as a Deputy Campaign Manager for the Patton/Henry slate. As Chair of the Governor’s Early Childhood Task Force, Nicki helped develop “KIDS (Kentucky Invests in Developing Success) Now”-a 20-year comprehensive early childhood plan for Kentucky.


Susan Pfeifferis an artist who works in wood with deep respect for nature. She attended Murray State University and became a first-class woodworker under Paul Sasso’s tutelage. She teaches in the Radcliffe public schools and hopes to influence students to buy art from an artist and not from Walmart.


Leslie Phillips may be best known as Joker Phillip’s wife, but she also manages a full load as an assistant professor of kinesiology at Georgetown College. She attended the University of Kentucky, where she met the future Kentucky Football head coach. Although moving throughout the country for her husband’s coaching career, she found time to earn her doctorate.


Georgia Davis Powers was born in Springfield in 1923. After being involved in various civil right efforts, she became the first African American elected to the Kentucky Senate in 1968. She was one of the original organizers of the 1964 March on Frankfort in support of public accommodations. During her 21 years in the senate she introduced statewide fair housing legislation and sponsored civil rights legislation prohibiting employment discrimination as well as sex and age discrimination and supported legislation to improve education for the physically and mentally disabled.


Lillian Press has accrued a lifetime of public service. An advocate for community mental health, she played a critical role in the organization and development of Kentucky’s first Regional Mental Health Board and the establishment in 1967 of the first two Comprehensive Care Centers in Kentucky. In 1978, Governor John Y. Brown recruited her to organize and direct the new Governor’s Scholars Program, now in its 30th year. In retirement, Press turned her attention to increasing the influence of women in the political process with the creation of the Women’s Network: Advocates for Democratic Principles.


Charlotte Richardson grew up in Greenup County.. Her father’s family was Cherokee and her mother’s family was Creek. She spends time in schools giving students an accurate portrait of Native American myths and legends. She also makes authentic clothing and silver jewelry creating her own designs from Cherokee and Creek traditions. She served on the Native American Heritage Commission, which works to pass state laws that protect Native American burial grounds and artifacts.


Julia Link Roberts is the Mahurin Professor of Gifted Studies at Western Kentucky University and Executive Director of The Center for Gifted Studies and the Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science. She is an advocate for children who are gifted and talented at the state and national levels, and for that work she received the first David W. Belin National Association for Gifted Children Award for Advocacy. She led a 10-year advocacy campaign that resulted in establishing the Gatton Academy.


Kristin Ropp is vice president and general manager of the Cincinnati Cyclones, the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) affiliate of the Montreal Canadians and Nashville Predators of the National Hockey League. Ropp was named the league’s ‘Executive of the Year’ in 2010, becoming the first executive from Cincinnati, and the first female in ECHL history, to win the award.


Diane Snow, professor of neuroscience in the College of Medicine and faculty associate with the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center at the University of Kentucky, was honored with the Sarah Bennet Holmes Award in 2010. The Sarah Bennett Holmes award recognizes a female faculty member and a female staff member for contributions to issues that affect women at UK and across the Commonwealth and who promote the growth and well-being of other women.


Alice Stevens Sparks is a Trustee at University of Kentucky as well as the President and chief executive officer of SSK Company Communities. She is a Member and past chairperson for Northern Kentucky University (1992-1999) board of trustees and was a member of the Northern Kentucky University Presidential Search Committee which is involved in education issues on state and national levels. She served as state president of the PTA and has been actively engaged in educational reform efforts statewide.


Jane Stephenson founded the Berea’s New Opportunity School for Women 25 years ago. Having graduated 680 women, the program’s mission is to improve the educational, financial and personal circumstances of low-income, middle-aged women in the Appalachian region at no cost to participants.
She has helped to establish two additional residential sites at colleges in North Carolina and Virginia. In 2003, Jane was honored as an “Oprah’s Angel” and appeared on Oprah’s TV program. Stephenson is the author of the book Courageous Paths: Stories of Nine Appalachian Women, and her second book, Changing Lives in Appalachia, has just been released.


Pasty Todd served as the University of Kentucky’s first lady from 2001 until 2011. As the wife of the UK President, Lee Todd, she worked alongside her husband to improve academics, the arts and athletics through the course of her ten years as first lady. Her proudest accomplishment was the establishment of the Women & Philanthropy Network, which serves to broaden horizons for students by providing scholarships for research and study abroad opportunities.


Debbie Wagner has served for more than 30 years as an officer with the Lexington Division of Police. She works to bridge the gap between the police and the community by educating the public with Citizens Police Academy Classes and Crime Prevention Programs. She has received 200 letters of commendation, a 1994 Top 20 COPS Fitness Award, a 1997 Distinguished Employee Award, a 1999 National Citizen Police Academy Coordinator of the Year Award, and in 2007 a citation for her work Flight 5191 crash site.


Gloria Jean Watkins, is better known by her pen name Bell Hooks, an American author, feminist and social activist. Her writing focuses on the interconnectivity of race, class and gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination. She has published over 30 books and numerous scholarly and mainstream articles, appeared in several documentary films and participated in various public lectures. Primarily through a postmodern perspective, Hooks has addressed race, class, and gender in education, art, history, sexuality, mass media and feminism.


Beverly L. Watts has more than 25 years of civil rights enforcement and education experience in the public and private sector. From October 2004 to October 2006 she served as the first Executive Director of the National Fair Housing Training Academy, which was funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development located in Washington DC. Watts served as the third Executive Director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights from September 1992 until September of 2004. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the July 2005 Induction to the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame, as well as the 2005 Louisville Metro MLK Freedom Award.


Ellen Williams was the 1999 chairperson for the Kentucky Republican Party and vice chairman of the Kentucky Public Service Commission. She was appointed to the US Postal Service Board of Governors for a second term ending on December 8, 2014. She currently serves as vice chair of the board’s Compensation and Management Resources Committee and is a member of the Government Relations and Regulatory Committee. She currently runs her own business, Ellen C. Williams LLC, a government affairs and lobbying firm. A graduate of the University of Kentucky, she lives in Anderson County.


Isabel Yates is active in numerous community and civic organizations in Lexington.. She currently serves as Board Member and Secretary of the Lexington History Museum, Board Member with the YMCA of Central Kentucky, Chairman of the Lexington Philharmonic’s Picnic with the Pops, Board Member of the UK Center on Aging and LexArts Honorary Chair. She is heading the campaign to restore the history Kentucky Theater. She has also been active in the political world as an elected public official on the LFUCG Council for 11 years, including a term as vice-mayor.


For the historic Women of Distinction honorees, click here.

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