By Maya Gurarie
The Boulder Chamber served up warm weather and delicious cuisine on June 8 to celebrate Women Who Light the Community at the Lionsgate Event Center. Since 1996 this program has honored female leaders who are doing meaningful and often unrecognized work in Boulder. Musician Rebecca Folsom sang, “Shine Your Light,” which she wrote for the event, and Mistress of Ceremonies Jane Miller announced each award winner.
This year’s award winners include Boulder High School Advanced Placement Spanish Teacher Michelle Carpenter, Principal of Dullien Associates Vivian Dullien, University of Colorado Law School Professor Melissa Hart, Executive Director of Bridge House Isabel McDevitt and President of the Lyons Historical Society LaVern Johnson. Boulder High School student Greta Cain won the Emerging Young Leader award.
Some of this year’s and previous years’ award winners spoke about what this award meant to them.
Past Honorees Reflect on What Winning Means to the Community
Kim Coupounas, who won her award in 2014, is the Director of B Lab Colorado and educates companies about values and practices that can make them better corporate citizens. She felt humbled to be part of such an amazing group of leaders, many of them unsung heroes, who have been recognized by the Boulder Chamber.
“These amazing women are doing powerful work in and for our community. This award lifts up and shines a light on these role models so others can see how they too can make the community better,” she said.
As a member of the Boulder Chamber for 20 years, Coupounas has worked with the Boulder Chamber and others to co-found the networking and trade group Active Boulder that promotes economic vitality within the outdoor and fitness industries.
Gale Dunlap, Founder of Standout Strategies, won the Women Who Light the Community award in 2003.
Dunlap does consulting with C-level executives and senior executives who want to advance in their organization or to move on from their current work situation. When Dunlap moved to Boulder 30 years ago, the Chamber of Commerce provided a place to meet others who empowered her to provide consulting services in the business community. She felt honored to receive the award and get to know other honorees who have also received it over the years.
“The Boulder Chamber provides opportunities for networking which I believe is critical to any business success. Through the Chamber’s after-hour meetings, classes and events I’ve met future business colleagues, clients and made new friends. The Chamber is an important business catalyst in our community,” said Dunlap.
2016 Honorees Represent “Ageless” Passion for Service
As in previous years, the Boulder Chamber honored both established female leaders and young “emerging” leaders. This year’s award winners showed particularly that community service is “ageless.”
Greta Cain moved to Boulder from Chester Springs, Pa. before she started her freshman year at Boulder High School. As she searched for ways to adjust living in a new place, she chose activities that appealed to her. The Future Business Leaders of America, the Emergency Family Assistance Association, the Boulder Public Library and Rags Consignments shaped her experience. This summer she will take on an internship at the fashion design company Anna Sui in Manhattan. In a nice turn of events, two of Cain’s friends from Boulder will also be living in New York City this summer.
Cain didn’t know that a high school teacher had nominated her for the award. When she found out she’d won the award in class, Cain was surprised to be an honoree and amazed at what a great opportunity it was for her.
“There are so many opportunities in Boulder. I’ve only chosen things I’ve loved so I’m super interested in them. Boulder has an awesome community of people who want to be involved in it,” said Cain.
Octogenarian LaVern Johnson, also a winner this year, said about her award, “I was flabbergasted! At the same time they named a park [in Lyons, Colorado] after me, so I’m gettin’ famous!”
Johnson spoke about “fighting the good fight” for community issues. In the 1970s and 1980s, she raised funds to save the Redstone Museum, purchase Meadow Park and fund the Lyons Park and Recreation Department. She currently serves as President of the Lyons Historical Society, which is housed in an old school built in 1881 that she saved from demolition. Recently members of the Town of Lyons honored Johnson by changing the name of Meadow Park to LaVern M. Johnson Park.
“I want people to remember how Lyons is such a nice town with the historic school and the park. Everything we did took an effort. We all fought for it and accomplished it,” said Johnson.
This year’s Women Who Light the Community event has continued the tradition of shedding light on accomplished women of all ages and occupations, for what they’ve accomplished and for inspiring others to community service.