DeKALB – Tia Anderson said she was shocked to be named the 31st Athena Award recipient Tuesday evening during a small in-person ceremony at Stage Coach Theater in DeKalb, the first Athena reception of its kind due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I haven't really thought of receiving an award of what I do on a day-to-day basis, I just live my best life," Anderson said. "My work is what I enjoy. It's an honor to be here among the women recognized today, and I feel I'm not worthy."
The Athena Award is sponsored locally by DeKalb Sycamore Chevrolet, Buick, GMC. The Athena International program was started in Lansing, Michigan, in 1982. The award is given to individuals who excelled in their professions, gave back to their communities and helped raise up other leaders, especially women. The ceremony was streamed live also due to crowd control mandates during the pandemic.
Tuesday's reception honored this year's four nominees: Tia Anderson, retail manager at Heartland Bank & Trust Company, Carrie Baldwin, director of nursing at Bethany Rehabilitation & Health Care Center, Lynette Spencer, executive director of Adventure Works, and Cortney Strohacker, executive director of the DeKalb County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Spencer was not able to attend the ceremony in person due to a precautionary COVID-19 quarantine.
Some words used to describe Anderson in her letters of support were integrity, respect, tough love, cheerleader and great listener.
Each nominee's letters of support are sent to three other Illinois chambers of commerce with strong Athena programs for scoring. The scores are totaled and the recipient determined using the Athena International score sheet.
Nominees are judged according to their ability to match the following criteria: demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession, provides valuable service by contributing time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community, serves as a mentor or role model and actively assists women in realize their full leadership potential.
Each year's Athena Award Reception also recognizes Women of Accomplishment, women who are retired or no longer working in their career in DeKalb County. This year, there were no nominees.
Anderson's advice to other women is to "find a spot at the table and use your voice."
"Never be afraid to use your voice," she said. "I've lost sleep for not speaking up, but I've never lost sleep when I did speak up."
Matt Duffy, the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce's executive director, said that he is "excited to see what women can do going forward."
The ceremony was livestreamed on DeKalb Chamber of Commerce's Facebook page and can be viewed there online.
For more information about the Athena Award and this year's recipient and nominees, visit wwww.dekalb.org/athena.