The Fort Worth Business Press held its annual Great Women of Texas ceremony at Ridglea Country Club Thursday night, paying tribute to 23 influential women representing a wide spectrum of professional and personal achievement.
Topping the list of honorees were the winners of four special awards: former Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award; Leah King, president and CEO, United Way of Tarrant County, the Legacy Award; Pam Minick, marketing executive and broadcast personality, the Legend Award; and Ellen Harris, co-founder of the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation, the Angel Award.
“We’re honoring a lot of people who have done a lot of things,” said Business Press president and publisher Richard Connor, who served as master of ceremonies. “What you’re going to hear about these people is only a fraction of all they did.”
Among the speakers on the program was Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, who told the crowd of more than 400: “If we’re going to get something done in Tarrant County, these ladies in this room are going to get it done.”
Connor offered some history behind the ceremony, which was being held for the 22nd year, and praised his two daughters, whom he said were an inspiration for the program.
“I still think it’s difficult for women,” he said.
Presenting sponsor for the event was BMO Harris Bank. Sustaining sponsors were The Kimbell Art Museum and United Way of Tarrant County. Bronze sponsors were The Rios Group, Goodwill Of North Central Texas, Velvet Box, Simmons Bank, Tarleton State University, North Texas Community Foundation, and M. Gale & Associates.
Price served as mayor for 10 years before retiring last spring at the end of her fifth consecutive two-year term. She is renowned for helping Fort Worth become one of the healthiest cities in America and for playing a major role in the city’s tremendous growth during her tenure as the longest-serving mayor in Fort Worth history.
“Betsy Price was a great mayor,” Connor said. “She asserted bold, fearless leadership day after day, year after year.”
In her acceptance speech, a humble Price said, “This room is filled with the leadership that makes this possible.”
She added of her beloved hometown, “I was born here, I’ll be buried here. I’ll visit (other cities), but I won’t live anywhere but Fort Worth.”
Then she took a moment to thank her husband of five decades, Tom Price, saying, “Everyone has someone who is the wind beneath your wings.”
Other dignitaries in attendance included former Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief and his wife Rosie, along with the city’s current Mayor Pro Tem, District 5 Councilwoman Gyna Bivens.
“I’m just glad to be out. I’m hugging people I don’t even like,” Bivens quipped, referencing all the shutdowns and social distancing connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bivens reminded the audience to communicate with her and other council members about their wants and needs.
“Without your input we don’t know what you want,” she said, adding with a chuckle, “And if you get real mad you can come down to City Hall on Tuesday (when the city council meets).”
A touching moment during the evening came when Ellen Harris received the inaugural Great Women of Texas Angel Award. She was honored for dedicating her life to those who have suffered the tragic loss of loved ones, as she did when her daughter Jordan committed suicide in 2012.
Harris, along with husband Tom, is co-founder and co-chair of the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation, named in honor of their late daughter. Serving over 75 schools, the foundation has helped thousands of students deal with depression and thoughts of suicide.
Harris reminded the audience of her belief that we are here to help others. She ended her acceptance speech with a comment she said was inspired by Jewish law: “It’s not incumbent on you to finish the work, but neither are you free to evade it.”
Legacy Award winner Leah King expressed gratitude for the work of her fellow citizens in caring for others, but added that more can always be done.
“This city, this county is great, but imagine what can be done if we practice kindness until it hurts,” she said.
Pam Minick, a former world champion rodeo competitor, praised all of her fellow honorees as she accepted the Legend Award, saying they all “cowgirl up and get it done.”
She added, “To me, being part of this community means being part of a team, and it means to give.”
In addition to the four top awards, 19 honorees were recognized as Great Women of Texas Women of Influence:
• Katy Kothmann Abraham CEO/President Construction Cost Management
• Lori Baldock, Simmons Bank, Fort Worth Market President
• Anna Boulware, M Pak Inc., Vice President
• Rose Bradshaw, North Texas Community Foundation, President & CEO
• Dr. Jennifer Giddings Brooks, Brooks Educational Consultants, Founder/CEO
• Rosemary Cruz, Goodwill North Central Texas, Vice President of Retail Sales & Donated Goods
• Missy Gale, M. Gale & Associates, President & CEO
• Sheryle Gillihan, Cause Labs, CEO
• Ruth Hughs, Kelly Hart & Hallman, Partner and Co-Chair of Public Law Group
• Dr. Dorothy (Tina) Jenkins, Tarrant County College, Associate Professor & Project Manager for the Visions Unlimited Program
• Kim Kilpatrick, Higginbotham, Managing Director
• Lauren King, Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, Executive Director
• Marcelle LeBlanc, Velvet Box, CEO and Founder
• Mary-Margaret Lemons, Fort Worth Housing Solutions, President
• Kim McCuistion, Tarleton State University, Vice President for External Operations/Dean, Fort Worth Campus
• Rachel Navejar Phillips, The Rios Group, Business Development Manager
• Shanna Saldana, Linbeck, Business and Community Development
• Julie Swearingin, Fort Worth Police Department, Assistant Chief
• Dr. Shagranda Traveler, Tarrant Area Food Bank, Executive Vice President, Advocacy/Government Relations/Communication