By Whitney Pancoast
This month, the Journal Record hosted its Woman of the Year program at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The evening was dedicated to honoring the influence of women in the workforce and community.
The 33rd annual event brought together the most prestigious group of Oklahoma women, each being recognized with the Journal Record’s 50 Making a Difference award. Among the honorees was one of CNB’s own, Cheryl Cohenour, president of Cherokee CRC. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Cheryl for a few years now and was especially honored to have the privilege to attend the event as her guest.
Cheryl’s passion for her community was shared by many of the nominees, including the 2013 Woman of the Year, Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits president and CEO, Marnie Taylor.
In fact, many of the women recognized have been at the forefront of community affairs and continue to play vital roles in the development and sustainment of social and economic services supporting Oklahoma’s less fortunate.
As the night went on, we learned more about each honoree’s achievements, and it became astoundingly clear the impact these women have in our state. As if their accomplishments as business and community leaders aren’t enough, they’re also devoted to serving as role models and mentors for future generations of aspiring women leaders. Their compassion and dedication to service are beyond inspiring.
There absolutely could not have been a better choice for the evening’s featured speaker than international speaker, author and life coach Liz Murray.
Murray was born to loving but drug-addicted parents in the Bronx. At age 15, she found herself on the streets. When her mother died of AIDS, she decided to take control of her own destiny and go back to high school, often completing assignments in the hallways and subway stations where she slept. She squeezed four years of high school into two, while homeless; won a New York Times scholarship; and was accepted into Harvard University.
After sharing her story, Murray took a moment to acknowledge that, despite her determination to survive and prevail, her success would not have been possible had it not been for local community groups that provided meals and care when she needed it the most, and for her mentor.
She closed the evening with a call to action, urging everyone in the room to find a way to make a difference in someone’s life. She added that you may never know who your mentor’s mentor was, but they were there for you because someone had been there for them, and now “tag, you’re it.”
During the drive home that night, I thought about how lucky I am to have been surrounded by such inspirational women and how thankful I am for the mentors and role models I have had thus far in my life. It was an honor to attend this event and celebrate the accomplishments of these wonderful women.