3 Phoenix businesswomen receive 2015 Athena award

2015 ATthena Award Recipients: Private Sector recipient Melissa Sanderson, Public Sector recipient Leah Fregulia and Young Professional recipient Ashley Kasarjian. (submitted photo)

2015 ATthena Award Recipients: Private Sector recipient Melissa Sanderson, Public Sector recipient Leah Fregulia and Young Professional recipient Ashley Kasarjian. (submitted photo)

The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce announced the 2015 Athena Public Sector, Private Sector and Young Professional Award recipients at its 28th Annual Athena Awards Luncheon Oct. 29 at the Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort.

Melissa Sanderson, vice president of international affairs for Freeport-McMoRan Inc., was awarded the 2015 Athena Businesswoman of the Year Award in the private sector; Leah Fregulia, CEO of the Arizona School for the Arts earned the 2015 Athena Businesswoman of the Year Award in the public sector; and Ashley Kasarjian, counsel at Snell & Wilmer LLP took home the 2015 Athena Young Professional Award.

“All of today’s Athena Award finalists are powerful leaders who demonstrate what can be accomplished through hard work, determination, vision and empowerment,” stated Todd Sanders, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, in a press release. “They embody the spirit of Athena and truly understand the value of community service and mentoring others to strive for more. Their passion, perseverance and contributions are an inspiration and make Phoenix a better place. It is an honor for the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce to highlight these women’s achievements and celebrate their leadership, dedication and positive impact on our community.”

The event marks the 28th year the Greater Phoenix Chamber has honored Valley businesswomen. The Athena Awards, named after the Greek goddess of courage and wisdom, is a program of Athena International, a foundation dedicated to creating leadership opportunities for women.

“I’m thrilled beyond measure and also humbled to be with such an incredible group of women,” stated Ms. Sanderson in the release. “There is tremendous value in encouragement, inspiring others and mentoring. I’m so glad that the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce puts such a huge emphasis on mentoring as part of the Athena Award. It’s the responsibility of leaders to mentor others, it’s like an arrow shooting towards the future.”

As vice president of international affairs at Freeport-McMoRan Inc., Ms. Sanderson is responsible for coordinating activities between the social responsibility and communications groups and engages in strategic planning. Dedicated to the service of others, she advocates for and supports women entrepreneurs and illustrates her dedication to the mentorship of women by helping them to reach their full leadership potential.

“I’m overwhelmed, inspired and very grateful,” stated Ms. Fregulia, in the release. “I looked out across the ballroom and saw such amazing women. So to be a part of the Athena Awards is amazing.”

Cultivating talented students and being active within the emerging educational reform movement are just a few of Ms. Fregulia’s passions. As CEO for the Arizona School for the Arts, Ms. Fregulia’s leadership has established the institution as a top academic school. But Ms. Fregulia doesn’t just direct her organization’s mission-she lives it. Her dedication to community service includes promoting high-quality education, arts and culture and the development of a vibrant downtown.

“It’s humbling considering the caliber of women I was nominated along side,” stated Ms. Kasarjian in the release. “I’m so excited to be named this year’s Young Professional Athena and I look forward to the challenge of continuing to make our community great.”

Ardent and compassionate about bettering our community, Ms. Kasarjian believes it’s a moral obligation to offer support and to encourage future leaders to help them get where they need to be. We owe it to the community where we are bringing up the next generation of leaders, she said.

Ms. Sanderson, Ms. Fregulia and Ms. Kasarjian were chosen from among 11 Athena finalists, who were selected from a large group of nominations received in August. The following is a complete list of the 2015 Athena finalists:

Athena private sector finalists

  • Judi Butterworth, Senior Vice President, Velocity Retail Group
  • Heidi Jannenga, Founder and COO, WebPT
  • Melissa Sanderson, Vice President of International Affairs, Freeport-McMoRan Inc.
  • Kay Wing, Owner, Southwest Advanced Neurological Rehabilitation (SWAN Rehab)

Athena public sector finalists:

  • Cathy Brown, Regional Director, First Things First
  • Lillian Garcia, Chief Volunteer Services Officer, American Red Cross
  • Sunnee O’Rork, Executive director, i.d.e.a. Museum
  • Leah Fregulia, CEO, Arizona School for the Arts

Athena Young Professional finalists:

  • Jessica Hipskind, University of Phoenix
  • Ashley Kasarjian, Snell and Wilmer LLP
  • Lea Phillips, Ballard Spahr LLP

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