Meet the Ten Top Women

These community leaders will be feted on Dec. 3

Ten of our region’s most outstanding women will be honored at the upcoming 2013 Ten Top Women luncheon on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Sinclair Community College’s Ponitz Center.

This is the 51st year for the annual community gathering that attracts more than 500 guests. Tickets are now available for the special afternoon sponsored by the Dayton Daily News. This year’s emcee is Letitia Perry, WHIO-TV news anchor.

Today, we’re delighted to introduce you to the inspiring women who are being recognized.

Meet Kimberly Duncan

What began with an interior design degree from Miami University and an entry-level interior design position has led to a successful 33-year career in the commercial furnishings industry for go-getter Kim Duncan.

The founder of Elements IV Interiors — a business she sold in 2010 — Kim is also dedicated to her community, lending her talents to nonprofit organizations ranging from March of Dimes to Clothes That Work.

“Kim is an idea-a-minute person who has energetically offered ways to help our program expand,” says Deb Seger, fund development manager of Crayons to Classrooms, the organization that allows teachers to “shop” for needed items for their students.

Kim also found a creative way to combine her business and volunteer efforts when she started a community outreach program at Elements IV Interiors 10 years ago in an effort to recognize that “we are only as strong as our community and we need to be a part of the solution.” Each year a committee of employees selects a nonprofit organization to assist.

“We then spent the rest of the year helping out as we could through volunteering, fund-raising, in-kind donations and assistance with spreading the word of their mission to the public,” Duncan says. Clients are welcome to use a company meeting room at no cost but asked to make a donation to the charity-of-the-year.”

“When I retired, the gift I received was far better than the traditional gold watch,” says Duncan. “My business partner named this meeting room as the Kim Godden Duncan Learning Center. That touched my heart greatly, as everyone who enters will hopefully leave the room more knowledgeable, energized or enlightened then when they entered.”

Meet Sandy Gudorf

She has lots of reasons to be proud — from the role she played in developing RiverScape to the success of downtown Dayton’s Urban Nights. And then there’s Activated Spaces, the creative program that’s helped to fill vacant storefronts in the downtown area by linking young professionals with entrepreneurs interested in growing their own small businesses.

“When someone mentions the name Sandy Gudorf, two things come to mind — dedication and downtown Dayton,” says nominator Toni Perry Gillispie about the president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership. “Sandy is dedicated to making downtown a better place to live, work and visit. Her passion for our center city is undeniable and she works extremely hard for the community and for the property owners the Downtown Dayton Partnership represents.”

One of Gudorf’s special skills, adds Gillispie, is her ability to “bring all the right minds to the table to collaborate on a variety of projects.”

In addition to her role as leader of the Downtown Dayton Partnership, Gudorf also serves as executive director of the Dayton Holiday Festival, and has also helped to create downtown’s First Friday events, The Square is Where noontime entertainment programs on Courthouse Square and the RiverScape River Run.

Says Gudorf: “For me, it is all about passion and working hard. Love what you do and do what you love.”

Her advice to others? Set goals and work hard, everything else will fall into place. Cherish your family and friends as they will enrich your life in so many ways. Laugh and continue to learn each and every day. Be thankful for everything you have in your life.”

Meet Lynda Hoffman

Lynda Hoffman believes in living each day to the fullest.

“We never know what tomorrow may bring or if tomorrow will even come,” says the woman who serves as community affairs manager for Vectren Ohio. “Take care of yourself. Be good to others and count your blessings every day.”

Nominators Joyce Kasprzak and Debbie Lieberman say that their friend lives that philosophy, addressing community needs as she encounters them and sticking with them until the desired results are gained. They say Lynda is never just a figurehead but engages in hands-on work for organizations ranging from United Way to Culture Works.

“She has an unstoppable perseverance for helping others,” they have written. “Her overarching motivation for long-term involvement in the community offers Lynda an ‘inside view’ on what is going on in the community which allows her to discern worthwhile and credible service organizations to support.”

Hoffman’s responsibilities have ranged from organizing nine years of hospitality tents for over 850 attendees at the annual Vectren Dayton Air Show to picking up a hammer for Habitat Build days.

“I have always wanted a job that lets me work on my own but still have the opportunity to interact with others from many walks of life,” says Hoffman. “When I was given the responsibility of representing Vectren to the community, I found my niche. No job is perfect but mine is as close as it gets.”

Meet Rhoda Z. Mahran

“The first thing you notice about Rhoda is not her 80 years of age — but her eyes, which shine brightly as if she were 20,” says Rhoda Mahran’s nominator Ashley Fernandes, a colleague and friend who co-teaches with Mahran at Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine.

As a voluntary adjunct assistant professor in Community Medicine since 2008, Mahran has made significant contributions to local medical students by keeping alive the important lessons of the Holocaust. Having lost her husband to Alzheimer’s disease and been blessed with a special-needs granddaughter, she also teaches the effects of aging on patients as well as the value of the disabled.

“Rhoda developed an interest in philosophy and bio-ethnics while reflecting on her own family’s devastation during the Holocaust,” says Fernandes. “She had personally experienced anti-Semitism growing up in America and after raising her children decided to return to college and give back by volunteering and teaching in the community.”

Mahran, who has also forged bonds with local veterans, has recruited them to teach and share their valuable experiences with Wright State’s medical students as well.

Mahran says she’s proud when medical students tell her that her class was the best they’d had during their four years of study.

“And (when they tell me) that they carried those lessons they learned into their residencies,” she adds.

Mahran’s own life is best exemplified by her favorite saying: “It is amazing what you can do if you don’t know you cannot do it.”

Meet The Honorable Frances E. McGee (Cromartie)

She has a right to be proud — both personally and professionally.

In 2007, Frances McGee was appointed to the bench as a judge for the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas and retained that seat after the 2008 campaign.

In 2012, in celebration of the national Girl Scout’s 100th anniversary, this third-generation Girl Scout was named one of the 100 Girl Scout Greats in tribute to her exceptional service both locally and nationally.

“For the past 30 years, she has sat on boards, created educational opportunities in the areas of criminal justice and/or voting, and mentored young people,” says nominator James A. Bolden. “She is a tough but compassionate judge who is willing to help felons get the tools they need to become law-abiding citizens.”

Judge McGee says it can sometimes be difficult to see God in every person you meet.

“Some people make terrible decisions and have terrible lapses; others are weak and without courage, while others still are just plain mean or difficult,” she says. “However, by focusing on God and not the people who are doing the acts, it is possible to reach acceptance and to accomplish much.”

She has indeed accomplished much — whether it is traveling to the state of Mississippi on a church mission trip to assist displaced individuals whose lives had been disrupted by Hurricane Katrina, helping to start Kids Voting, Ohio and the country’s first Black Leadership Development Program, or writing inspirational stories for Guideposts and Angels magazines.

“Never be afraid to try something and fail,” she advises. “From failure, you will gain the tools that will help you become more successful when you do finally succeed.”

Meet Maureen Patterson

“If I were going to take one person with me to sell the Dayton region, I would take Maureen,” wrote Ohio’s Secretary of State Jon Husted in support of Maureen Patterson’s Ten Top Women nomination.

“Maureen’s love of community and her genuine belief in our region and its people are infectious.”

He’s referring not only to Patterson’s work on behalf of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce and Dayton Development Coalition, but as first lady of Kettering and a volunteer leader of countless community institutions and activities.

Patterson is also well known for her compassion and “spirit of selflessness.” An amazing case in point was her willingness to donate a kidney to a co-worker who was facing serious health issues.

Bryan Bucklew, president of the Greater Dayton Hospital Association, labels himself a “friend and admirer.”

“I believe her greatest gift to the Dayton region is that every day that someone comes into contact with Maureen Patterson, that person’s day is always a better day than it was previously.”

Patterson has garnered awards ranging from the Women of Influence, Lifetime Achievement and President’s Award from the YWCA to the Dayton Development Coalition’s “Regional Leadership Award,” which has been renamed the “Maureen Patterson Regional Leadership Award.”

One of the secrets of Patterson’s success is her philosophy of life: “Always listen more than you speak,” she says. ” God gave us two ears and one mouth. Listen intently to what others are saying.”

Meet Michelle L. Riley

What could be more important than significantly increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables for local food pantries to provide to hungry families?

That’s just one of the accomplishments of Michelle Riley, chief executive officer of The Foodbank. She also gets credit for planning and managing the move to the new headquarters and warehouse that will take place in January.

As chief operating officer and director of programs for the YWCA Dayton, Riley’s childcare center at the Y received recognition and advancement from the State of Ohio for its quality and training. She also implemented the best practices for the YWCA’s domestic violence and homeless shelters and became a unifying force in the community’s efforts to address and reduce domestic violence.

“Michelle Riley is a dynamic and innovative leader that has toiled in the trenches, doing hard and usually unsung work for our region’s most vulnerable populations,” says nominator Mary Wiseman.

Riley says she’s especially proud of the “Good to Go Back Pack” project — each week The Foodbank delivers 950 backpacks filled with kid-friendly foods to school kids so they’ll have food for the weekends when they might otherwise go hungry. The project provides nutritious yet fun food to children, and often their siblings, who would suffer from a lack of food when not receiving school breakfasts and lunches.

“My general philosophy of life is to maintain balance between my personal and professional roles, while driven to provide food to families facing hunger,” Riley says. “Maintaining balance requires a sense of humor about myself and life’s unanticipated obstacles.”

Meet Joann Ringer

Not many people have the opportunity to oversee the building and growth of a hospital from the ground up but Joann Ringer has accomplished just that. Her Miami Valley Hospital career path has taken her from serving as a director of business development to becoming a chief operating officer and vice president of Miami Valley South.

Nominator Bobbie Gerhart, president and CEO of Miami Valley Hospital, says Ringer exemplifies both leadership and survivorship and does a remarkable job of balancing the vast responsibilities in her professional life with her personal life as a wife, a mother and a community volunteer.

During the project, Ringer faced an additional challenge: a cancer diagnosis. She scheduled her six-month chemotherapy regimen on Fridays so that she had weekends to rest and could be back on the job each Monday morning.

“At Premier Health we practice ‘Making the Most of Moments’ by building relationships with every patient and their family everyday,” says Ringer, who tries to reflect that philosophy in her personal life as well. “There is no guarantee what tomorrow will bring so I try to make the most of the moments everyday in everything I do.”

Meet Beth Mehlberth Whelley

“In her private, professional and public lives, Beth exemplifies not just a spirit of concern for the community, but a commitment to get the job done,” writes Judge Jeffrey Froelich. “She is defined by her high-energy, care and dedication.”

Whelley, senior vice president at marketing communications agency Fahlgren Mortine, believes that “what you focus on expands.”

“And so, focus on what feeds your soul,” she says. “Focus on what you’re good at, your strengths or opportunities. And so, focus on what lies ahead.”

Whelley’s own contributions range from chairing the NCCJ search committee for a new executive director to designing and launching a 10-week Accreditation Prep course for Dayton’s Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapter.

In addition to a demanding public relations job, Whelley makes time to conduct a book group with young adolescent girls at the Dayton Early College Academy and serves as an elder at Westminister Presbyterian Church.

“Over the years I’ve been able to play a role in connecting many people in ways that led to new positions, or new relationships that have led to some amazing successes and achievements,” she says proudly.

Nominator Judy Dodge calls Whelley “an inspirational whirlwind.”

“Beth loves this community with all of her heart and soul,” she says. “The breadth of her activism spans education, community diversity, arts and culture and the underserved.”

Meet Penny Wolff

As early as 1971, Penny Wolff was making an impact on the Miami Valley with involvement in the Dayton League of Women Voters and the Dayton Public School’s study on integration. Her children call it the beginning of their “activist mom period.”

That “period” has turned into a lifetime of service to the community. Wolff’s accomplishments range from the creation of the Stivers School for the Arts Community Advisory Board and the school’s pilot enrichment program, to the establishment of the West Chester Office of Sebaly Shillito & Dyer law firm.

“Penny Wolff’s contributions to the community — as a volunteer and a professional — are enormous,” wrote nominators Mary Sue Kessler and Paula MacIlwaine.

As an administrative director responsible for carrying out Human Services Levy agency funding and evaluation, Wolff directly oversaw the implementation of policies and procedures as well as placement of the Levy on the voter ballot.

“I am proud of the work I did on campaigns to ensure passage of the Human Services Levy,” she says.

Her philosophy of life is to be in the now.

“Have no regrets,” she advises. “I can’t do anything to change the past and I can’t predict the future. However, my actions in the present can influence the future.”

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