Auntie Anne’s Founder Addresses Athena Nominees

Athena Award winner
Dr. Laura Meeks, president of Eastern Gateway Community College, was named the winner of the Athena Award on Thursday.

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Nearly 30 women from across the Valley were nominated for the 2013 Athena Award, and Eastern Gateway Community College President Dr. Laura Meeks was chosen the winner Thursday at the 21st annual Athena Award banquet at Mr. Anthony’s.

Hundreds showed up to hear keynote speaker Anne Beiler, founder of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, the world’s largest mall-based pretzel franchises.

The Athena Award honors 29 of the Valley’s best professional and business women. The award is sponsored by the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber and The Vindicator.

The award recognizes women who have excelled in their careers, as  well as in their communities, and who have helped other professional women reach their goals.

This year’s Athena Award nominees were:

  • Rachel A. Barber, corporate secretary and accounts receivable manager for VEC, Inc.
  • Sandi Bates, president of the Youngstown Columbiana Association of Realtors
  • Cara Berg-Carramusa, director of therapy services at Park Vista of Youngstown
  • Kelly Bianco, principal at HBK Valuation Group, LLC
  • Sarah Brown-Clark, Youngstown Municipal Clerk of Courts
  • Rosemary Bulmer, assistant clinical nurse manager for the cardio vascular thoracic department at Northside
  • Rose Carter, executive director of ACTION, Inc.
  • Linda Case, PPS coordinator and clinical supervisor at Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital
  • Lisa Colla, regional controller for De-Cal, Inc.
  • Barbara Ewing, chief operating officer for the Youngstown Business Incubator
  • Dale Foerster, vice president for Starr Manufacturing, Inc.
  • Kimberly Foster, senior vice president and regional retail manager for First Place Bank
  • Dawn Friedken, chief operating officer for Classic Optical Laboratories, Inc.
  • Janelle Fumerola, managing principal and lead advisor for JFS Wealth Advisors
  • Winifred Hosking, owner of Leeda Northeast, Inc.
  • Angela Kerns, chief nursing officer for the Surgical Hospital at Southwoods
  • Kelly Kiraly, office manager for Bury Financial Group
  • Dr. Nancy Landgraff, professor and chair of the department of physical therapy at YSU
  • Brenda Mack, president of the Ohio Black Republican Association
  • Dr. Laura Meeks, president of Eastern Gateway Community College, who won the award.
  • Jill Murphy, vice president of government banking for Huntington National Bank
  • Merry Nemeth, controller, RailWorks Track Services, Inc.
  • Mariann Pacak, director of heart and vascular services for Humility of Mary Health Partners
  • Diana L. Palmer, owner and CEO of Diana Palmer, CPA, Inc. & Family Financial Planning, LLC
  • Jodi Riedel, supervisor of special needs at Trumbull Career and Technical Center
  • Beth Scheller, vice president of strategic advancement at the YMCA of Youngstown
  • Lorilyn Shandor, gift planning and campaign director for the OPRS Foundation at Park Vista
  • Lori Sylvester, vice president of clinical services at Trumbull Memorial Hospital
  • Barbara Yates, division director of Behavioral Health Outpatient Services for Compass Family and Community Services

“It’s a humbling experience and I just feel proud. It’s very exciting. They create such an atmosphere around it that you really feel the excitement of the moment,” said nominee and Youngstown Municipal Clerk of Courts Sarah Brown-Clark.

Beiler said she has received a warm reception from business people in Youngstown.

She started making pretzels in 1987 to help her husband  open a counseling service. The pretzels became a hit around her small town of Gap, Pa., near Lancaster. Beiler founded Auntie Anne’s in 1988.

“The way it exploded from Gap, Pa.,  to Jacarta, Indonesia, and then 25 other countries now. It’s truly been amazing and I call it a modern day business miracle,” Beiler said.

She gave out a little advice and wisdom for the 2013 Athena nominees and for all women.

“They’ve already achieved a lot.  And so I think the best advice I could give to them would just simply be to stay on the high road. Follow your heart, follow your passion and your purpose,” Beiler said.

She sold Auntie Anne’s 2005.  The company is now owned by Focus Brands, which also owns Cinnabon.

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