Winners of our 2nd Annual "Women Making History" Awards and Celebration will be announced shortly.
Below are Winners of The Walnut Club’s First Annual "Women Making History Awards":
Renée Cardwell Hughes is the first African-American woman to be appointed CEO of the American Red Cross, Eastern PA Region. She began her prestigious career in a private practice and specialized in corporate, health care, worker’s compensation and insurance defense law. Before opening her own law firm, she was an associate in the corporate department of Mesirov Gelman Jaffe Cramer and Jamison; Associate Counsel with Independence Blue Cross where she was responsible for legal and regulatory matters for Delaware Valley HMO, a subsidiary of Independence Blue Cross; and general counsel for the Law School Admissions Council and Law School Admissions Services.
The Honorable Renée Cardwell Hughes’ involvement in the Philadelphia community is extensive. She serves on the Board of Directors of Independence Blue Cross; The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; the Public Health Management Corporation and the Joseph J. Peters Institute, a non-profit mental health agency. She is a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Judge Hughes currently teaches at Drexel University; Villanova University School of Law and Temple University Beasley School of Law.
Jeri Lynne Johnson is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra and first African-American woman to win an international prize for conducting. She founded Black Pearl in 2008 as a 21st-century model for American orchestras to find better ways of combining artistic excellence and organizational innovation with cultural diversity and meaningful community engagement. In its brief time, the BPCO has garnered critical acclaim and prestigious awards from the Knight Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Maestro Johnson has led orchestras around the world and has been featured in numerous media including NBC’s Today show and NPR’s Tavis Smiley show. A graduate of Wellesley College and the University of Chicago, she is honored to include numerous citations from Philadelphia City Council, a 2010 British American Project Fellow and a 2010 Creative Ambassador for the City of Philadelphia among her accolades. In 2005 she made history as the first Black woman to win an international conducting prize when she was awarded the Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship.
Cynthia Link is the first female Superintendent of Graterford Prison. She began her career as the first female Defensive Tactics instructor, first female Police Firearms instructor and the first female to teach Interpersonal Communications to officers. Cynthia left state service for a brief time and ran her own business. She returned to state service and is the first female Superintendent at State Correctional Institute, Graterford Prison, in its storied 90 year history. Her corrections career began as an officer in 1987, at SCI Graterford as a corrections officer trainee. Cynthia is also the first female to rise to the rank of Captain at Graterford, a groundbreaking accomplishment for the Corrections industry.
Cynthia continues to make inroads for women in her profession. She is dedicated to the concept that every woman has a responsibility to support and foster the success of the women around her. She believes in the value of reaching back and bringing other women forward as she progresses on her own path. “Each one, reach one. Each one, teach one,” prides Cynthia.
Councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez is the first Latina woman elected to City Council of Philadelphia. A veteran activist with over 30 years of service to the City of Philadelphia, she is currently serving a third four-year term on Philadelphia City Council. Maria has advocated tirelessly for creating and preserving family-sustaining jobs, investing in a trained and educated workforce, reducing blight and transforming vacant land, keeping families in their homes, mandating ethics and transparency in government, revitalizing neighborhood economies, reforming unsafe demolition practices, and securing the rights of women, families, and workers across the City.
Maria made history in November of 2007 when she rallied grassroots support and nearly 80% of the vote towards becoming the first Latina elected to a district seat in City Council. In 2008, Maria was named “Best of Philly” new Councilperson and among the City’s future women leaders to watch by the Philadelphia Daily News. In 2009, Philadelphia Magazine named Maria one of the “Most Influential 50” in the City of Philadelphia.
Leslie S. Richards is the first female Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. She has extensive leadership experience in the management of transportation projects both in her private sector work in the planning and engineering fields over the past two decades, as well as in her work in local government.
Her private and public sector backgrounds give her a unique perspective on understanding stakeholder issues, and on the importance of bringing projects to completion on time and on budget. Secretary Richards is recognized in the public and private sectors for her ability to build consensus in order to find solutions to problems.
Marilyn is the award-winning morning personality on 95.7 Ben FM and the creator of the groundbreaking “Woman of the Week” series dedicated to celebrating women for their contributions in their communities and companies. It has become a powerful platform for women in Philadelphia to showcase and promote their game-changing work and accomplishments in numerous industries such as; arts/culture, education, non-profit, and business.
Marilyn studied Journalism with dreams of being a copy-writer. Early on, she was convinced by her close advisors that because of her unique voice, she should try voice over work. She worked in many facets of the voice over community, lending her voice to Microsoft, Comcast and the Linda Creed foundation among others. She has been recognized both locally and nationally for over two decades of broadcasting accomplishments and has interviewed everyone from Hillary Clinton to Bradley Cooper. Marilyn’s philanthropic outreach in the community extends to the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Foundation, and Volunteers of American to name a few.
Joan Shepp has been a retail pioneer and fashion-authority in Philadelphia for over 45 years. She opened her first boutique in the Philadelphia suburbs in 1971. After several years in Lafayette Hills and Elkins Park she went on to open a Center City location in Rittenhouse Square in 1999. Over the last thirty years, as a Philadelphia area fashion authority, her constant focus has been to discover the most exhilarating and innovative fashion collections and present them with inspiration and excitement. It is Joan’s goal to move “shoppers” into the boutiques family of long-term clients.
Joan Shepp has won several awards for excellence; “Best Service in a Boutique Award” by Philadelphia Magazine, “Best Store” and named one of the Top Ten boutiques in the United States by Lucky Magazine. Joan was also selected as a “Style Leader” by Harper’s Bazaar magazine. Featuring European, Asian & American designers the boutiques collections include Dries Van Noten, Marni, Rick Owens, Urban Zen, and Yohji Yamamoto.
Lynn Yeakel is the Founder and President of Vision 2020, a national initiative of Drexel University College of Medicine’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership that works to achieve women’s economic, political and social equality by the year 2020, the 100th anniversary of women’s voting rights. Yeakel was a founder of Women’s Way, the first and largest women’s fundraising coalition in the nation, and served as its CEO from 1980 until 1992, when she ran for the U.S. Senate. She drew national attention in what was called the “Year of the Woman,” winning the primary and nearly unseating the longtime incumbent. In 1994, she was appointed by President Clinton to the position of Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
She has long been active in leadership positions for local and national non-profit organizations and is the recipient of numerous honors and awards for leadership and humanitarian contributions, including the Pennsylvania Citizen Action Award, the Lucretia Mott Award, and the Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania Award. Since 2010 she has been honored with the John Gardner Lifetime Achievement Award from Common Cause, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Red Cross, a leadership award from the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, the Alice Paul Equality Award from the Alice Paul Institute, and the Helena Devereux Award from the Main Line Chamber of Commerce.
Her first book, A Will and A Way (2010), presents insights into the key issues of women’s independence based on her own experience and lessons from history.
Rosita Youngblood is a member of he Pennsylvania House of Representatives and has dedicated her life to not only improving the lives of her constituents, but also the lives of women and minorities across the state of Pennsylvania. Following her election to an 11th term in the stat House, Youngblood was elected by members of the House Democratic Caucus to serve as the Democratic Caucus secretary, becoming the first African-American female to hold a leadership position in the history of the General Assembly.
Throughout her tenure, Youngblood has focused on serving the constituents of the 198th Legislative District by introducing several issue-specific pieces of legislation and sponsoring a variety of community outreach programs and activities. Other notable achievements are: she is the first Vice Chairwoman, Philadelphia Democratic Party and the Founder of Women for Women.