In celebration of Women’s History Month, Spartanburg Methodist College hosted their annual Pioneering Women Awards Luncheon on Friday, February 20th to acknowledge women of character, courage and commitment in the Upstate community. During the 2015 event, SMC recognized nine women with awards for their commitment and leadership in their respective fields of media, education, public service, missions, philanthropy, politics, leadership and business.
“The Pioneering Women awards program provides SMC with the perfect occasion to celebrate women in our community who are making a difference close to home, around our state and beyond,” said Leah Pruitt, committee member and Director of Alumni Relations. The annual awards luncheon draws over 100 women attendees from a variety of fields.
“The pioneers recognized today are individuals who possess courage and ambition to overcome obstacles – and there are always obstacles when one tries to do something worthwhile,” stated SMC President Colleen Perry Keith.
Heather Witt, Vice President of Community Impact for the United Way of the Piedmont, was the Keynote Speaker at the event, which was held in the Gibbs Auditorium located in Ellis Hall on the SMC campus.
Born and raised in Canal Winchester, Ohio (a small suburb of Columbus), and Witt earned a Bachelors in Public Health Administration and more recently a Bachelors in Organizational Management and Marketing graduating with honors from Southwest University. She began her non-profit career working for the Columbus Medical Association Foundation. Since moving to the Upstate, she has worked as Executive Director for Prevent Child Abuse of Pickens County and for the past, nearly 4 years has served at the United Way of the Piedmont managing all of their impact work and was recently promoted to Vice President of Community Impact.
Witt is a graduate of the 2013 Leadership Spartanburg class, and the 2014 Women Connections Program through Furman University. She serves as a member of the Spartanburg Business and Professional Women Civic Group; she is also an Advisory Board Member for the Spartanburg County Community College, Co-chairs the Behavioral Health Taskforce and actively volunteers as a Guardian ad-litem for the county.
2015 Awards and recipients were as follows:
- Alumna Award: TK Butler, Police Officer, Aiken Department of Public Safety
- Media Award: Kathie Bennett, Founder and President of Magic Time Literary Agency;
- Public Service Award: Mary Deku, Former award-winning educator and active community volunteer;
- Missions Award: Melanie Watt, Founder of Hope Remains Youth Ranch;
- Philanthropy Award: Cyndi Beacham, President, Charles Lea Center Foundation
- Political Leadership Award: Jane Hall, District 4 Councilwomen, Spartanburg County Council;
- Business Award: Karen Knuckles, owner of Express Employment Professionals;
- Creative Leadership Award: Kathy Cann, Author, Researcher, Historian and Professor of History and Chair of the Social Sciences Department at SMC;
- Education Award: Susan Burgess, School Counselor, Chapman High School
Prior winners have included:
- Pioneering Women Lifetime Achievement Award: Sheila Breitweiser (’14).
- Alumna Award: Elizabeth Hartley Renneker (’14); Jill Johnson (’13); Stacie Williams (’12); and Jessica Mack (’11)
- Media Award: Christy Henderson (’14); Amanda Bass (‘13); Charmayne Brown (’12); and Keisha Kirkland (’11).
- Public Service/Government Award: Sharon Porter (’14), Judge Ponda Caldwell (’13); Barbara Barnes (’12); and Hope Blackley (’11).
- Missions Award: Jean Bradley (’14)’ Jayne McQueen (’13); Julia Lyons (’12); and Lou Landrum (’11).
- Philanthropy Award: Betty Montgomery (’14); Mary Thomas (’13); Phyllis B. DeLapp (’12); and Dr. Charlotte Ellis (’11).
- Political Leadership Award: Erica Brown (’14); Harriett Rucker (’13); Liz Patterson (’12); and Rita Allison (’11).
- Business Award: Beth Jeter Hrubala (‘14); Sue Schneider (’13); Tammy Devine (’12); and Susan Bridges (’11).
- Creative Leadership Award: Betsy Teeter (’14); Peggy Magarahan (’13); and Mary Ellen Suitt (’12).
- Education Award: Penny Fisher (’14); Donna Christopher (’13); Margaret Peach (’12); and Melissa Andrews (’11).