Local Chamber of Commerce Recognizes Strong Women’s Leadership

LANCASTER — Being the regional chairman of a bank would be a test of anyone’s leadership under normal circumstances, but with a global pandemic on top of that, it would test anyone’s abilities.

Having weathered both her first year and the pandemic, Laura Tussing is confident the bank can handle anything. As the recipient of the 2021 Athena Leadership Award, she said it was amazing to be chosen and to be part of the “group of dynamic and inspiring women” who received the award before her.

Rachel Hizey, a student at Ohio University at Lancaster, was chosen as this year’s Emerging Athena, recognizing her for showing the qualities of the Athena Leadership Award.

Presented by Athena International, the Athena Leadership and Emerging Athena Awards recognize those who stand out for their professional excellence, community service, and for actively helping women achieve professional excellence and leadership skills.

Selected as the 2021 Emerging Athena Award recipient, Rachel Hizey delivers her acceptance speech on Thursday, August 19.  The award is given to a promising community leader.

Athena International is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “develop, support and honor girls and women from the classroom to the boardroom, creating a global pipeline of women leaders”.

The 35th annual Athena Prize Banquet was held Thursday night in Lancaster, presented by the Lancaster County Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the Robert D. McGraw family, back after a year-long hiatus.

Athena International founder Martha Mayhood Mertz was the keynote speaker at the event. She said she was inspired to create the organization because she saw a lack of the same opportunities for women that men had, and to mentor women to lead as they thought they should. lead, to move away from the traditional leadership model.

Athena International Founder Martha Mayhood Mertz delivers the keynote address at Athena's 35th Annual Banquet on Thursday, August 19.  Athena International's mission is to develop, support and honor girls and women from the classroom to the boardroom.

“We’ve found that women follow a different style of leadership, and through research we’ve found guiding principles including being authentic, building relationships, and fiercely advocating for righting wrongs, which is the Athena model. “, Mertz said. “And that model is not how to ‘do’ leadership, it’s how to ‘be’ a leader, those are two different things. The leadership award recognizes someone who strives to be a great person, the best version of themselves.”

Tussing said she didn’t expect to be selected as this year’s recipient, but was thrilled to be chosen.

“When I heard there were 15 candidates, I was thrilled for us as a community. To hear that we are training so many women as leaders in our community is great, how dynamic we need to be” , she said. “I’m touched to be selected. I grew up here in the community and have worked here for 16 years. I wonder if other communities have great women like ours with the support of women’s leadership.”

She said that in her role at the bank, the guiding principle she follows the most is building relationships. Inspired by her parents, pastor father and teacher mother, Tussing says that’s what she learned growing up.

“At the bank, we have to work to make sure our customers feel seen and heard. And as a community bank, my neighbors are our customers, so we have to make sure we have good relationships,” he said. she declared. “I would say to anyone who strives to be a leader the same thing I say to my daughters: be brave and give grace to yourself and others. No one is perfect.”

“That’s the beauty of relationships: you have to move forward, even when it’s difficult. Every day is new, so take a breather and move on.

Tussing added that she hopes her example will inspire more leadership among women in the community and pave the way for future generations, as not so long ago it would have been hard to imagine her as president. of bank.

As an emerging Athena, Hizey said she was surprised when told she had been selected. The award recognizes an OU-Lancaster/Pickerington student for their work on campus and in the community.

Hizey studies communications, while recruiting new communications majors and serving in several honorary fraternities on campus. She also received awards in these groups.

After completing her undergraduate degree, Hizey plans to pursue two master’s degrees in organizational communication and higher education.

“I didn’t even know the award existed, but it was a happy surprise. I’m not looking for an award, but it was still exciting to hear that I had won. It was an honor to be selected , I always think of myself as Amanda’s daughter, I didn’t expect this kind of honor,” she said. “If I had to give any advice, I would share something my mother always told me. Don’t make decisions with your head or your heart, but follow your instincts.”

“If you do and achieve what you set out to do, that’s great. If you fail, however, don’t give up. Mistakes are part of life and you can always learn from your mistakes.”

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Mara R. Wilmoth