2014’s honorees exemplify the talent, passion and dedication that makes them Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky

Launched in 1984, the Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky Awards look to honor the amazing, trailblazing women of Northern Kentucky for their achievements, integrity and leadership. The awards were created by the late Nancy Booth, wife of then-Northern Kentucky University President Leon E. Booth, and were sponsored by the Kentucky Post. After the newspaper closed in 2008, Toyota became the major sponsor and helped fund the scholarships.

To qualify, nominees must live, work or volunteer in the region. They must exemplify notable achievement, outstanding service in their professions or to the local community, as well as the qualities of personal integrity, perseverance and leadership. They represent the great diversity and extraordinary accomplishment of today’s women, and are ideal role models for the young women who follow in their footsteps.

This year, four honorees were selected, along with the recipient of this year’s new award, the Helen Carroll Champion of Education award. Other award winners include an Emerging Leader recipient, a Judith Clabes Lifetime Achievement recipient and a recipient for the Henrietta Cleveland Inspiring Women Award, presented by St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

Carroll is the manager of community relations for Toyota’s U.S. headquarters in Erlanger and a leader in Northern Kentucky’s volunteer community. Clabes is the retired president of the Scripps Foundation and a former Post editor, as well as a current editor and columnist for NKY Magazine. Cleveland founded the hospital in 1861.

St. Elizabeth Healthcare is community partner, NKY Magazine is media partner and the education partners are Northern Kentucky University, Thomas More College and Gateway Community & Technical College.

— The Outstanding Women honorees —

Heading a consultation firm that specializes in leadership solutions means understanding and developing the best opportunities for success. As the founder and principal of Tapke Leadership Solutions, Dr. Jeanne-Marie Tapke has a vast pool of experience from which to glean. Her involvement with several high profile nonprofit boards, including Thomas More College, the Women’s Crisis Center and the St. Elizabeth Medical Center Foundation Board, have motivated her to support everyone around her, especially the younger women she encounters.

“I love my career and mentoring other women along,” says Tapke. “It’s nice to share opportunities that we’ve both been given and [to offer] advice.” — Danny Restivo


The Mary Rose Mission, the first soup kitchen in suburban Boone County, is feeding the souls as well as the stomachs of those who visit the nonprofit Catholic ministry in Florence. Carris has been the driving force behind the mission, which opened little more than a year ago after several years of effort.

“Cindy’s pledge to ensure a person in need of a warm meal and a comfortable setting demonstrates her service to her Northern Kentucky community,” says Debbie Fulkerson, who nominated her for the Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky award.

It’s not just food, but kindness and compassion, that the mission’s several hundred volunteers provide.

“When you see our guests come in and they’re feeling hopeless, and you can pick them up with a warm meal, it’s truly miraculous,” Carris says.

Mary Rose, which recently expanded to four days a week, has served more than 6,000 people since it opened—but Carris isn’t satisfied. Her goal is to be open seven days a week for those in need. — Mike Boyer

The Catalytic Development Funding Corp. is facilitating the renaissance of Northern Kentucky, and Jeanne H. Schroer, executive director of Catalytic Development, has helped laid the economic groundwork. She single-handedly raised $10 million for the CDFC. The funds will help develop the area while moving the business climate forward. It’s a prospect that keeps her motivated and excited.

“This area has the potential to become an attractive option for urban living,” she says. “It’s going to become a high-quality choice for people wanting that type of environment.” — DR

Debbie Simpson’s philosophy is simple: “There’s great opportunity in the word ‘yes,’ ” she says.

That willingness to accept new challenges has guided her through a 45-year career at her family’s marketing firm to the leadership of the Northern Kentucky Chamber, as only the fourth woman to lead the business organization.

“God puts things in front of you. It’s up to you to open the door,” she says. Her willingness to say “yes” has led to her serving on the board of Gateway Community and Technical College, Tri-County Economic Development Corp., the business advisory committee of the College of Mt. St. Joseph’s (where she earned a business degree), and numerous roles with Printing Industries of America, a trade group which named her to its prestigious Ben Franklin Society last year.

“There’s always a benefit from serving, and when I’m involved, I’m in 100 percent,” she says.

She is co-founder of the Chamber’s Women’s Initiative, a networking and professional development organization, that has positively affected thousands of Northern Kentucky women over the last five years.

“There is no other woman in Northern Kentucky who is touching more lives of women right now,” says Laura Kroeger, vice president of Gateway Community College. — MB

2014 Henrietta Cleveland Inspiring Women 30th Anniversary Recognition Award Recipient Presented by St. Elizabeth Healthcare

Hard work, resourcefulness and kindness have served Christina Rust’s patients well. As the Maternal Child Educator at St. Elizabeth, Rust developed a “cocooning” program to reduce pertussis, or whooping cough, among newborns. The program offers free vaccines to new mothers and other adult family members in regular contact with the infant. Since its inception, the program has reduced the number of whooping cough cases in Northern Kentucky. By mentoring nurses and staff, Rust’s leadership continues to improve the lives of childbearing women and their newborns. — DR


In addition to the winners, 2014 Nominees:

Karen Bishop

Karen Cheser

Nell Fookes

Pam Goetting

Amanda Greenwell

Kim Hallbauer

Mary Lunn

Billie McDaniel

Serena Owen

Ginger Rood

Tiffany Sams

Sue Sorrell

Gabrielle Summe

2014 Scholarship Recipients

Melissa Tatum
Northern Kentucky University

Betty Cordray
Gateway Community & Technical College

Melisa Al Jamal
Thomas More College

— Other honorees —

Judith Clabes Lifetime Achievement 30th Anniversary Recognition Award Recipient

Having dedicated much of her life to community service in the Northern Kentucky region, it’s no surprise that Bennie Doggett has been chosen as the honoree of the 2014 Judith Clabes Lifetime Achievement award.

Doggett served as a board member for the Northern Kentucky Area Development District and the City of Covington Board of Adjustment, volunteered for nonprofits like O.A.S.I.S and served on many other councils and associations.

“She has been a tremendous leader, mentor and teacher,” says her nominator Kara Williams. “Over the past few years, I have stopped in to the O.A.S.I.S. Center in the Eastside of Covington, where Bennie volunteers four days a week, to find her helping a young person fill out a job application, explaining the computer and filing system to a church volunteer or helping students from the neighborhood with their homework.”

Doggett is a positive role model for African-American girls, instilling in them the importance of education. Her reference Jack Moreland states on the nomination form, “Her commitment, through her church, to mentor young girls has been at the source of success for literally dozens of teens and pre-teen youngsters.” — Belinda Cai

Helen Carroll Champion of Education Award Recipient

Prior to her appointment as executive director, Polly Lusk-Page had worked on the Northern Kentucky Edcuation Council and was director for Community Engagement and Education initiatives with the Partnership for Successful Schools. “During this time, her passion for commitment to literacy and the education of the students in our region and the Commonwealth was evident, helping to bring issues of importance to the forefront at the Council meetings,” says Bradley A. Bielski, vice president for academic affairs and dean of Thomas More College.

Bielski says that Page not only brought up issues, but offered solutions. For example, Page played a large role in bringing the region’s successful “One to One” reading initiative to fruition. — BC


Emerging Leader Award Recipient

Active in the United Way for nearly a decade, Gibson chaired the 2013 NKY United Way Campaign that raised a record $4.38 million.

A native of Northern Kentucky, Gibson “takes very seriously the need to provide stewardship in the place she calls home,” says Leshia Lyman, one of her nominators for the Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky award.

Her other community activities include serving on the board of the Northern Kentucky Education Council, Boone County Success by 6 and the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board.

“She is a role model for how a young professional woman can have a successful career, young children and still have time to contribute to community efforts,” says Lyman. — MB


Join the Celebration!

The Outstanding Women of NKY luncheon will be at 11:30 a.m. April 30 at Receptions Banquet Center, 1379 Donaldson Highway, Erlanger. For reservations, call 859-578-9720 or email laraterman@aol.com. Details at ownk.org.