2017 Women Impacting the Community Award Winners

2017 Women Impacting the Community Award Winners

Thursday, April 13, 2017
Article by: Kelly Lapczynski, Staff Writer
The Tullahoma News

Four influential women were honored for their achievements by the Tullahoma Area Chamber of Commerce Tuesday during the third annual Women Impacting the Community awards luncheon at Lakewood Golf and Country Club.

Ascend Federal Credit Union President and CEO Caren Gabriel, Ray’s Montessori School owner Pat MacLanahan and community youth volunteer Christy Sherrer were honored from a field of 24 nominees in three categories: business, education and community service, respectively.

For her many years of contribution in all three categories, Dot Watson was awarded with the event’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Accepting the award, Watson said, “I love Tullahoma and I do love the fact that I have the opportunity, often, to serve many different roles.  I love what I do.  I couldn’t do it without each of you and all the volunteers who helped make all of it possible.”

Photo caption:
Catherine Murray, left, congratulates Dot Watson after she is announced as the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the third annual Women Impacting the Community awards luncheon Tuesday at the Lakewood Golf and Country Club. - photo provided by Chris Barstad

Lifetime Achievement

Lifetime Achievement winner Dot Watson has devoted thousands of volunteer hours to a number of organizations over the years. As both a former teacher and registered nurse, Watson has spent more than two decades in retirement supporting both the local adult education program and a free health clinic for the working uninsured.

Though she is most closely associated with the Literacy Council and Partners for Healing, her reach has extended into many areas of the community, including the Daughters of the American Revolution, First Christian Church and the Tullahoma Sunrise Rotary Club.

“She’s full of ideas, energy and passion for making her community a better place, her hometown, a better place,” said Mayor Lane Curlee in a video tribute.

In 2013, Watson was honored among the outstanding volunteers from each of Tennessee’s 95 counties with the Governor’s Volunteer Star Award.

Watson said at that time that being an active member of the community is just a part her nature.  As a child, she said, tagging along with her mother when the town gathered to take care for the soldiers at Camp Forrest before they shipped out set the example of neighbor helping neighbor.

Business Award

Ascend Federal Credit Union President and CEO Caren Gabriel received the award for Business.

Recognized for her dedication, leadership and passion at the event, Gabriel has been the chief executive officer and president of Ascend Federal Credit Union since 2004.  Prior to that, she served as an executive vice president and general counsel from 1985 to 2004.

Under Gabriel’s leadership, Ascend has doubled its assets and was, in 2015, named Federal Credit Union of the Year.

Gabriel was recognized in 2016 as one of Nashville Business Journal’s Women of Influence in the company executive category.

“I want to thank my team,” said Gabriel.  “I couldn’t do it without them.”

Noting that the credit union is an organization in which women have a significant presence, she said, “We look forward to continuing to advance that.”

Additionally, Gabriel has been a director of CMFG Life Insurance Company since 2012.

Photo caption:
The third annual Tullahoma Area Chamber of Commerce Women Impacting the Community (WIC) awards luncheon, sponsored by Ascend Federal Credit Union, was held Tuesday at the Lakewood Golf and Country Club. From left are Dolly McNabb, WIC committee co-chair; Caren Gabriel, Business Award winner; Pat MacLanahan, Education Award winner; Dot Watson, Lifetime Achievement Award winner; Christy Sherrer, Community Service Award winner; Tisha Fritz, WIC committee member; and Michelle Martin, WIC committee chair. –Staff Photo by Chris Barstad

Community Service Award

Christy Sherrer, director of Christian education for youth at First Presbyterian Church, received the award for Community Service.

Working with middle school and high school children in Presbyterian Youth Connection programs, Sherrer was recognized for lending a helping hand whenever needed.

Thanking the group, Sherrer said, “I have been honored to do this job for the past 14 years.  I got my degree in early childhood; I was going to be a kindergarten teacher for all my life and the Lord lead me and said, ‘no, you’re not doing that, you’re doing teenagers,’ and I said ‘no, no, I’m scared of teenagers,” she joked, “but God kind of threw me in there by my belt loop.  Thank you so much for this recognition.”

Education Award

Pat MacLanahan, owner of Ray’s Montessori School on Wiseman Road, was honored with the award for education.

She was recognized for 48 years of work, making learning fun for the students of her Montessori preschool.

“She loves children more than anyone I know,” said Dolly McNabb, introducing MacLanahan.  “She loves teaching, she loves watching them grow and she wants all of her children not only to learn but to be kind, compassionate people.”

“I have been so blessed in my life to have taught so many children that I love and adore.  I’m teaching children of children now,” said MacLanahan.  “It has been a pleasure.  I’ve had so many teachers that I’ve loved so much and have been so wonderful to me and so many people who have supported my school, friends and champions.  Thank you so much; this is very special.”

Additional Recognitions

Also nominated for awards this year were Candy Couch, Florence Hull, Karla Smith, Katie McNabb, Lisa Cole, Melanie Ketcherside, Pam Shasteen, Rebecca French, Ginger Ennis, Joan Pepper, Kathy Orr, Kathryn Hopkins, Kelly Gilbert, Laurel Stone, Evelyn Curlee, Andrea Muse, Jenna Morris, Fran Gray, Peggy Burton and Sheema Mohyuddin.

The event, sponsored by Ascend Federal Credit Union, is scheduled each year for the end of March to be held in conjunction with National Women’s History Month.

At the event’s start, keynote speaker Fran Marcum urged attendees to “expect the unexpected” in the paths of their careers. That advice proved to be the overarching theme of a luncheon riddled with technical difficulties as the winners were announced to a capacity crowd of more than 150 attendees.

Though not every video tribute compiled to honor the winners was shown at the event, those videos can be viewed online now on the Tullahoma Area Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.