2021 Distinguished Women Awards gala celebrates a diverse group of winners


Northwood University is proud to recognize the contributions of an elite group of outstanding women in business and social leaders with our Distinguished Women Awards. This tradition continued over the weekend as seven exceptional women were celebrated at several events, culminating in an awards gala on Saturday night at the H Hotel, attended by more than 150 guests.

A half-century of recognition for the contributions of remarkable women continued in Midland at the annual Distinguished Women Awards at Northwood University. This tradition marked the 52nd annual Distinguished Women Awards. Originally held in Detroit, the gala has taken place in many locations across the country over the years.

“The Distinguished Women Award goes back to the founders of Northwood University, and it is a great honor to continue this tradition today here in Midland,” said Northwood President Kent MacDonald. “It is a privilege to recognize these women who have dedicated themselves to making their mark in the world. They serve as role models and inspiration for the next generation of female leaders being developed at Northwood and who will advance The Northwood Idea. These women truly embody the values ​​Northwood stands for for its students: commitment to free enterprise, the partnership between the arts and business, and the management of global commerce. “

Northwood University Board of Trustees supports the Distinguished Women Awards to honor the significant contributions of women who have made a difference in their business and community, while upholding the vision and ethical values ​​of Northwood University .

The class of 2021 laureates includes:

  • Tina Lynn Hubbard, President and CEO, HDA Truck Pride

  • Melanie Kalmar, Corporate Vice President, CIO, Chief Digital Officer, Dow

  • Mindie Kaplan, CEO / Founder, Rated VR and Creator, MaleRoom Podcast

  • Martha Reeves, Musician, “Martha Reeves and the Vandellas” and President, Martha Reeves Enterprises

In addition, three community leaders from the Midland region received a Distinguished Women’s Group award for their tremendous help to the community following last year’s floods in Midland:

  • Holly Miller, President / CEO, United Way of Midland County

  • Sharon Mortensen, President / CEO of the Midland Area Community Foundation

  • Jenee Velasquez, Executive Director, Herbert H., and Grace A. Dow Foundation

Commenting on behalf of these dedicated women leaders, Holly Miller shared their inspiring mantra during these trying times: “Midland Together – Forward, Bold”. Reflecting on, Miller was inspired by the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “do what is necessary and possible to do the impossible”. She then thanked Northwood for “shining a light on women and their leadership.”

The 2021 laureates joined an exceptional fraternity of nearly 500 women who have been honored as Distinguished Women over the years. Melanie Kalmar inspired students and guests, “Be a spark that ignites someone to become a leader or a contributor… thank you, Northwood University, for enlightening distinguished women to be a spark to others. A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and distinguished woman, Martha Reeves led the crowd to song with a captivating version of the Lord’s Prayer and encouraged students to “come in where you are.” “

The gala was the culmination of an eventful weekend surrounding the Distinguished Women Awards.

Northwood University and area high school students had the opportunity to interact with the women on Friday morning at a panel discussion.

There followed a lunch on campus where the students and the community of Northwood had further opportunities to meet the women. Friday ended with a welcome reception at the HH Dow Academy Lounge at the H Hotel in downtown Midland.

On Saturday morning, the group gathered for an exclusive Honored-Only Breakfast hosted by the University’s First Lady, Mary-Ellen MacPhee.

Each winner was connected in advance with a Northwood student. These student presenters went through a competitive application process to be chosen to hear the stories of each distinguished woman so they could write an introductory speech at the weekend events. Nominated students and their paired laureates included Calista Shannon (Tina Hubbard), Jovana Petkovich (Melanie Kalmar), Jackson Gast (Mindie Kaplan), Kaitlyn Bremer (Martha Reeves) and Jordan Barker (Jenee Velasquez, Holly Miller and Sharon Mortensen).

The gala is supported by many generous sponsors who help raise funds for the Distinguished Women Endowed Scholarship. To date, 59 young women have had the opportunity to attend Northwood through this scholarship. Two students, Alissa Buther and Jordyn Boyne have been recognized and are currently benefiting from this scholarship.

President MacDonald also announced a six-figure giveaway from former Distinguished Woman Award recipient Betty Hardy that will help support the program for years to come. Hardy was originally from Houston and an internationally renowned fashion and television personality. She has long been associated with the fashion industry, particularly with Neiman Marcus.

“Betty was an amazing woman who loved to share and was known for saying ‘think beautiful thoughts and do beautiful things for others’,” said Justin Marshall, vice president of Advancement. “We are grateful to Betty and for her thoughtful gift which will help us continue to recognize women like her and inspire future women leaders. “


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