RUTHERFORD Cable, founding sponsor of the ATHENA International Leadership Award for Rutherford County, has announced the nominees for this year’s award.

Fifteen area women representing 15 Rutherford County organizations have been nominated.

The celebration of this year’s nominees is open to the public and will be held Friday, April 17, at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 1200 Conference Center Blvd. at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $65 per person or $600 for a table of 10. To reserve a seat at the luncheon, go to  

The Rutherford ATHENA Awards also provides a $3,000 educational scholarship to a Rutherford County non-traditional female student who has been out of high school for at least five years. RUTHERFORD Cable is an 11-year-old organization of more than 250 members promoting the professional advancement of women.  

The 2020 ATHENA Award nominees and their sponsoring organizations are:

Gretchen Bilbro, Locally Owned Murfreesboro: Bilbro owns Cultivate Coworking, an office coworking space in downtown Murfreesboro. She also is co-founder and president of Locally Owned Murfreesboro, an association promoting local businesses. Bilbro is co-founder of the Boro Art Crawl and Kazapalooza, an annual national fundraising event for families who have adopted children from Kazakhstan. 

Gloria L. Bonner, Saint Thomas Rutherford Ambassadors: Bonner is retired Assistant in University Community Relations to the President of Middle Tennessee State University and was the first African American dean in MTSU’s College of Education and Behavioral Science.  She has a Ph.D. from Tennessee State University.  

Helene Colvin, Murfreesboro Rotary Club: Colvin is an LPL Financial Advisor with FirstBank Investment Partners.  She was among the first eight women members of the Murfreesboro Rotary Club and its first female president.  Colvin has mentored three women to become financial advisors, and is a charter member and Vice Chair of the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport Authority.  

Violet D. Cox-Wingo, NAACP: Cox-Wingo is an adjunct professor of social work at Middle Tennessee State University and former Chief, Social Work Service, Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. She is the NAACP’s Political and Social Action Chair. 

Bobbie Johnson, Pinnacle Financial Partners: Johnson is a financial specialist with Pinnacle Financial Partners and has worked in community banking for more than 25 years.  She is an active community volunteer and is past president of the Murfreesboro Kiwanis Club and the 2019 recipient of the RUTHERFORD Cable Above & Beyond Award. 

Dr. Elizabeth R. LaRoche, Charity Circle of Murfreesboro: LaRoche is the area’s first female obstetrician/gynecologist and formed Murfreesboro’s first all-female group practice. She currently has a gynecology-only medical practice and is Medical Director of Body and Face Cosmetic Center.  

Mary Magada-Ward, Advance Rutherford: Magada-Ward, Ph.D., is the first and only female philosophy professor at Middle Tennessee State University. She will assume the chairmanship of the department this year. Magada-Ward also received the inaugural College of Liberal Arts Teaching Award, the MTSU Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching in General Education, and the MTSU Women’s and Gender Studies Program Award for Outstanding Teaching. 

Jackie Morgan, RUTHERFORD Cable: Morgan is Senior Education Program Manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta – Nashville Branch.  She is immediate Past President of RUTHERFORD Cable and recipient of the RUTHERFORD Cable Spirit of Leadership Award. 

Ladawna Parham, Junior League of Murfreesboro: Parham is CEO of Nourish Food Bank. With more than 15 years in nonprofit leadership, Parham led the food bank’s rebranding and merger, increased grants and funding, and reorganized the nonprofit. 

Mary Esther Reed, Town Manager’s Office, Town of Smyrna: Reed is mayor of the Town of Smyrna and owner of The Learning Circle. The lifelong resident of Smyrna has served as mayor since 2013 and as a member of the Town Council since 2003. 

L’Oreal Stephens, MTSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women: Stephens is a lecturer in the MTSU Department of Communication Studies and an adjunct professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. She received the Outstanding Teaching Award in Women’s and Gender Studies.  

Renee Toomer, Pi Nu Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.: Toomer is district manager for TJ Maxx. She works with community organizations through her position and serves as a mentor for students at Middle Tennessee State University.

Diane Cummings Turnham, United Way of Rutherford and Cannon County: Turnham is Senior Associate Athletic Director and Senior Women’s Administrator with MTSU Blue Raider Athletics. This year, she is chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. Throughout her career, Turnham has advocated for scholarships, access and parity in women’s sports. 

Kory G. Wells, League of Women Voters of Murfreesboro/Rutherford County: Wells is in her second career as a writer and mentor with MTSU Write, a continuing education program for aspiring writers. Wells also is founder of Poetry in the Boro and author of two poetry collections, articles and stories.  

Michelle Willard, American Association of University Women, Murfreesboro Chapter: Willard is marketing manager for Bondware, Inc., owner of copywriting company Clean Copy Communications and content manager of Murfreesboro Voice. Willard has won multiple awards for her work as an investigative journalist and feature writer.  

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