Maryanne Stevens, president of the College of St. Mary, was named the woman of the year at the inaugural Inspire: Celebrating Women’s Leadership Awards luncheon in Omaha on Wednesday.
The ceremony drew more than 600 guests to the CHI Health Center Omaha.
Stevens, who has been president of CSM since 1996, said it was humbling and gratifying to win the award and said credit should go to the faculty, staff and students.
“It’s really the college and working here that has inspired me. I have grown so much in this role over the years,” she said. “I think you always have to be listening to the students as they come forward. You can’t get stuck in your ways in any shape or form. It would be easier to keep doing things the same way, but you can’t.”
Stevens plans to retire at the end of the academic year, when she’ll be 75. She’s developed several innovative programs during her tenure, including building a residence hall allowing single mothers who are college students to live with their children on campus.
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She faced one of her biggest challenges just in the past few years because of the worldwide COVID pandemic and said she’s proud of leading the school through those tough times.
“Moving us forward in spite of the pandemic,” she said.
Wednesday’s event, sponsored by The World-Herald, honored outstanding women in 10 categories. Recipients were chosen from almost 400 nominations submitted by the public.
The Inspire Advisory Board chose five finalists in each category. Each has made a significant impact in the lives of others, said Ava Thomas, president and publisher of The World-Herald.
“These women deserve to be celebrated, and that’s what today is all about,” she said.
Other finalists for woman of the year were: Dr. Anne Hubbard, CEO and president of the Claire M. Hubbard Foundation; Julie Kalkowski, executive director of the Financial Hope Collaborative at Creighton University; Lulu Rangel, clinical director at Completely Kids; and Carmen Tapio, owner and CEO of North End Teleservices.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert made an appearance via video teleconference, saying that women must work together and be involved. Serese Cole of KMTV was master of ceremony and presented the awards.
“You look good, and most important you are doing good,” she told the audience.
Other winners include:
Excellence in Business (Large)
Carmen Tapio, North End Teleservices, owner and CEO: Tapio focuses on expanding economic impact and helping people create and achieve the vision for their lives. Her mission as a servant leader is to create career pathways, economic independence, education, inspiration, access and community revitalization. She serves on a variety of nonprofit and public company boards.
Excellence in Business (Small-Medium)
Tricia Riggins, RG & Associates, managing partner: A certiﬁed public accounting ﬁrm based in Omaha, RG has ﬂourished into a successful, mid-size ﬁrm providing businesses and their families with the highest level of quality services and care. Tricia’s philosophy is that good things happen to those who take care of each other, and she employs that thinking in managing her business and daily living. She’s a member of various charitable organizations.
Excellence in Education
Abby Fehr, Rose Hill Elementary, principal: Abby partners with staff, students and families to create a culture of joy, enthusiasm and hope. Through a hands-on leadership style, she immerses herself in all the life in an elementary school. Abby has worked hard to engage the Benson community by partnering with local artists to beautify the school. She also partnered with a local nonproﬁt to create an expanded community/school garden.
Excellence in Public Service
Gina Tomes, Bethlehem House, family life director: While serving in every capacity at Bethlehem House since its inception in 2005, she spearheads programming and housing for women who are pregnant, homeless and experiencing crisis and choose life. Bethlehem House serves as a national flagship program for maternity homes. Gina serves on a national advisory board empowering other cities to launch similar programming.
Dr. Anne Hubbard, Claire M. Hubbard Foundation, CEO and president: The retired physician, a pediatric radiologist, did clinical care and research for 33 years. The foundation she runs focuses on the environment, STEM education and Indigenous communities. It works to connect as many of the funded organizations as possible to improve outcomes. She serves on the board of the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, the University of Nebraska Foundation and the Kiewit Luminarium.
Excellence in Healthcare
Dr. Kristine McVea, OneWorld Community Health Center, chief medical officer and physician: Driven by her passion for the organization’s mission to serve the underprivileged and racial and ethnic minorities, her work has made OneWorld’s patient outcomes stand among the best in the nation. She is board certified in internal medicine and pediatrics and has practiced at OneWorld for 25 years. McVea belongs to several professional organizations and holds positions at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Valentina Arriola, Little Sister in the BBBSM program: The Mercy High School senior is a second-generation immigrant who works twice as hard as a way to represent her family and the people of Mexico. She is the first in her family to get into college. At school, she participates in eight clubs. In the span of two months, she had jumped more than 30 places in class rank. Her interests revolve around protecting human rights for everyone.
Ashley Kuhn, Blair Freeman Group: She helped to start one of the largest real estate development companies in Omaha. During her time at White Lotus Group, she oversaw over $700 million in real estate development, grew the staff from 1 to more than 450 and led the acquisition of the majority ownership in a construction company. She co-founded a 100% woman-owned and 100% Black-owned construction and owners representation company, Blair Freeman.
Alajia McKizia, freelance artist and curator: The 2022 Populus Fund grantee was a 2020 Inside/Out fellow at the Union for Contemporary Art. She’s curator of Juneteenth Joy Fest, a Black arts and cultural festival in North Omaha, and Sunday Soul, a five-part performance series honoring women artists. She has created many community art projects, and has participated in many group exhibits and performances.