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Athena Committee

/Athena Committee

ATHENA_SculptureThe ATHENA Leadership Award® was inspired by the goddess of Greek mythology known for her strength, courage, wisdom and enlightenment – qualities embodied in the ATHENA Leadership Model®. The Award is unique in both scope—local, national and international—and the ATHENA mission upon which it is based. The ATHENA Leadership Award® is presented to a woman —or man— who is honored for professional excellence, community service and for actively assisting women in their attainment of professional excellence and leadership skills.

2015 ATHENA Stand Tall Award - Nancy Davidson

Nancy Davidson was selected as the 2015 “We Stand Tall” honoree.  This award is given annually to a woman—or man—who has inspired Athena members of the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce to  “stand tall” and to assume Athena_Nancy_Davidsoncommunity and statewide leadership roles.

Davidson is often recognized as a philanthropist along with her husband, Ian, of Davidson Company; however, she personally has volunteered an impressive amount of time to community and state organizations throughout the last 52 years.  It is for taking on leadership roles as a volunteer that the Athenas recognize Nancy Davidson.

Other than college years, Davidson has lived most of her life in Great Falls.  As Nancy Preston, she graduated from Great Falls High School in 1955 and University of Montana with a degree in  biological science in 1959.  After college she taught one year at West Junior High and then became a genetic research assistant at the McLaughlin Research Institute from 1961-1967.

She began volunteering with the Junior League in 1963.  She was chairman of the Celebrity Series committee when it slated Harrison Salisbury, Lillian Gish, and Vincent Price as speakers. Price was an expert on pottery so while he was in Great Falls, he juried a pottery show at the Russell Museum.

Once her obligation with the Junior League became fulfilled, she began volunteering  in education and science, both special areas of interest for her.  She served as chairman of the Great Falls Public School Board of Trustees and was a member of the Montana Higher Education Commission for the 90’s and beyond.

Seeing a need to support public universities as their budgets became tighter each year, Davidson was active as chairman of the University of Montana Foundation and a member of several  of its capital campaign committees.  She has been active with the Great Falls College MSU board and the Davidson Honors College Advisory Committee.

Davidson has lent her expertise when serving on the National Development Council for the McLaughlin Institute, Benefis Healthcare Foundation, and Montana Deaconess Hospital Board.

She also was the first woman director for the First National Bank.  All together she has served on 22 boards—often serving on several at the same time.  She is presently a member of the Special Olympics Montana Board.

“Nancy comes to a meeting prepared because she has fulfilled her responsibilities,” said Nancy O’Brien, an Athena member.  “She is succinct and accurate, which other board members always appreciate.”

Originators of the “We Stand Tall” award are those who have received the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Athena Award since 1986.  Each year a woman is recognized  with the Athena Award for  assuming business and economic development leadership roles and for mentoring other women.   By 2011 the number of Athenas had reached 25, which was sufficient to look, as a group, to the community to honor those who had inspired them to “Stand Tall.”   Molly Person and M.A. Roberts were honored in 2012; Bill and Joan-Nell Macfadden, in 2013; and  Judy Ericksen, in 2014.

2014 ATHENA Award Recipient Sandra Johnson-Thares

It’s with great pleasure that we recognize Sandi Thares as the 2014 Athena Award Recipient. Sandi began her career in the hospitality business 25 years ago in  Billings, MT and for the last 20     years has been part of the Great Falls Athena_Sandra_Johnsoncommunity, as Managing Partner and General Manager  of the O’Haire Motor Inn.  She manages not only the motel, but the World Famous Sip ‘N Dip Lounge, Clark and Lewie’s Restaurant   and   Clark and Lewie’s Catering. Sandi oversees a staff of about 30 people, in addition to the operating, finance, maintenance and business development needs of the property.  Sandi holds a Bachelor of Arts from Eastern Montana College in Billings, and is a Certified Hotel Administrator.

Her involvement and contributions to our community are as stellar as her business acumen. Some of her accomplishments include:
Past President Montana Hotel Lodging Association
Founding member Great Falls Tourism Business Improvement District
Board of Directors Great Falls Area Lodging Association
State Fair Rodeo and Tough Enough to Wear Pink supporting Breast Cancer Awareness
According to others in the community, Sandi gives up a significant portion of her spring and summer to be part of Tough Enough to Wear Pink in Great Falls. She has chaired a committee that was the 8’h highest grossing fundraiser in the US for Tough Enough to Wear Pink.
Whittier Elementary PTA
Supporting organizations like Special Olympics Montana, The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, CM Russell Museum of Art, The University of Great Falls, and The Children’s Museum of Montana, through substantial donations, as evidenced by the quote from a business person in our community:  “If there is a fund raising event in Great Falls, you’ll likely find Sandi in attendance. She rarely misses an opportunity y to give back. She’ll be in the crowd bidding or she will be behind the scenes preparing meals and  orchestrating  the service  that folks  are enjoying.”

 In addition to all of these responsibilities that Sandi gracefully and successfully juggles, she has been married to Wayne for almost 18 years, and they have two sons, Alexander (13 years) and Nicholas (11), who are at the top of her priority list. Sandi and her family enjoy traveling and spending time at the family cabin, as well as working with non-profits and charitable organizations in our community.

Past ATHENA Award Recipients

  • Barb Moe – 1986
  • Irene G. Russell – 1987
  • Marva Hoard – 1988
  • Helen Spurgin – 1989
  • Jeanne Kelley Pugh – 1990
  • Marilyn Rose – 1991
  • Nancy O’Brien – 1992
  • Joan Bennett – 1993
  • Sheila Rice – 1994
  • Nancy Trackwell – 1995
  • Ardi Aiken – 1996
  • Ronda Banik – 1997
  • Jane Weber – 1998
  • Colleen Kunz – 1999
  • Susan Humble – 2000
  • Suzanne Waring – 2001
  • JoAnn Roach – 2002
  • Peggy Bourne – 2003
  • Mary Sheehy Moe – 2004
  • Cheryl Patton – 2005
  • Deb Evans – 2006
  • Pam Guschausky – 2007
  • Michelle Belknap – 2008
  • Kathy Rice – 2009
  • Leslie Oakland-Thomas – 2010
  • Beth McFadden—2011
  • Cari Bennett-Yturri—2012
  • Brenda Peterson—2013
  • Sandra Johnson-Thares – 2014

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