Middle Tennessee State University athletic department administrator Diane Turnham has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 ATHENA Award.

The Rutherford ATHENA International Leadership Awards were held last Wednesday at Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro.

Turnham, who was nominated by The United Way of Rutherford and Cannon counties, serves as senior associate athletic director and as senior women’s administrator with MTSU Blue Raider Athletics. She chairs the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.

The ATHENA Award recognizes an individual who excels in her profession, gives back to the community, and helps develop other leaders, especially women.

Throughout her career, Turnham has advocated for scholarships, access and parity in women’s sports. She began her 38-year career at MTSU as an assistant basketball coach. Although she had never played or coached volleyball, she added the role of head women’s volleyball coach to her basketball coaching duties.

Turnham quickly recognized a disparity in funding and facilities between men’s sports and women’s sports.

“I never dreamed that there would be issues with these necessary elements to support a college athletic team. I was one of two female coaches at the time, and if I did not fight for these ladies, who would? I developed a fierce desire to fight for everything our women’s programs needed to succeed. That’s when I realized I would become an athletic administrator and change opportunities for our female athletes at MTSU,” she said.

Turnham has fought for additional scholarships, better travel conditions, more operating funds, better equipment, better practice, locker room and game facilities, greater access to academic tutors, athletic trainers, additional assistant coaches for each sport and equal salaries for coaches of men’s and women’s sports.

“If you walk into my office you see a wall filled with pictures of former athletes. Why? Because they tell the story of my life. If you invest in people, they will invest in you and themselves. They have all shaped my life and my profession in some wonderful ways. Athletes’ dedication, commitment to excellence and desire to excel have changed my life for the better. I do not see myself as a leader but as a servant, a person committed to making this world better for those around me,” she said.

The other ATHENA nominees were: Gretchen Bilbro; Dr. Gloria L. Bonner; Helene Colvin; Violet D. Cox-Wingo; Bobbie Johnson; Dr. Elizabeth R. LaRoche; Dr. Mary Magada-Ward; Jackie Morgan; Ladawna Parham; Mary Esther Reed; L’Oreal Stephens; Renee Toomer; Kory G. Wells; and Michelle Willard.

The 2020 ATHENA Young Professional Award Recipient is LaShan Dixon, nominated by The United Way of Rutherford and Cannon counties. The Young Professional Leadership Award recognizes an emerging leader under the age of 40 who exemplifies the ATHENA attributes and serves as a role model for young women.

Dixon earned a B.S. in physical education as well as an M.S. in health and human performance from Middle Tennessee State University. She serves as assistant public health county director with the Rutherford County Health Department. In 2015, she developed and implemented the first Community Baby Shower with the Rutherford County Health Department in partnership with the United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties.

Since 2015, she has partnered with The United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties to help provide more than 2,100 families with essential baby supplies, working with more than 560 volunteers to assist with the event.

Dixon is also a spokeswoman for Beauty Behind Bars and has impacted more than 1,200 girls and women by partnering with schools, churches, and detention centers.

Other Young Professional Award nominees were: Gina Murfree DeJean; Brittany L. Dinaso; Ashley Holloway.

Amelia Bozeman serves as chair of the ATHENA program and awards event. RUTHERFORD Cable is a leadership organization for women’s professional advancement. The 10-year-old organization has more than 250 members.

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