YWCA 2015 Outstanding Women Awards

Words to live by, productivity advice, visions for Richmond’s future and more, from the 2015 YWCA Outstanding Women honorees.


Ana Ines King • Latin Ballet of Virginia

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I saw Ana Ines King speak once–I won’t say at what event it was, but let’s say it really perked me up after a long day of hearing speakers who weren’t nearly as exciting. Her commitment to the Latin Ballet of Virginia includes making the arts more accessible to low-income families and more empowering for young girls and women from diverse backgrounds, in addition to making sure Hispanic culture stays alive and vibrant throughout our community. She warned me that writing in English is not her strong suit, and that she’d rather be dancing, but, truth be told, I have no clue what she’s talking about. It was perfectly perfect.

What are your words to live by?

Love and life.

“Love is the real power of all powers of life” or “El Amor es el poder real entre todos los poderes”

“To live every day as it is the last one” or “Vivir cada dia como si fuera el ultimo”

These are quotes I live by. I learned them at a very young age from my parents and grandmother. I have always included them in my personal biography but also in my teaching and choreography. I even incorporated it into the first slogan of the Latin Ballet, “A Passion for Dance, A Love for Life.” I want my students to understand the power and importance of love, so I try to model living life to the fullest, celebrating each day, and sharing those experiences with the ones I love.

You clearly are able to accomplish a great deal in a day, a week, a month, a year. Do you have any processes that help you stay productive?

If I have a dream and persevere for this dream, I know I will be able to reach and do what I am pursuing. If I do not reach it right away, I am confident there will be more opportunities and open doors to accomplish what I promised myself I would do. I am also driven by my passions in life–dance and preserving the Hispanic culture. In Colombia, I worked to preserve our roots and traditions through dance. When I came to Virginia, I found it was even more important to do this work here. Through the Latin Ballet, I am able to provide support to minority, at-risk youth and their families. For those families who are new to the United States, the Latin Ballet provides a welcoming environment, a place to feel proud of their heritage and a means to build skills for success in their new country. And through our performances and classes, the Latin Ballet builds a stronger community by educating Virginians on the beauty and value of Hispanic culture. These are the things that drive me to persevere each day.

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Marilyn House West • M.H. West Co.

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Not only has Marilyn West been at the helm of a successful management consulting company for 23 years, but she’s also known for her pervading commitment to her community. An active member of a number of business and nonprofit boards over the course of her career, Marilyn currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Metropolitan Business League, the Bon Secours Richmond Health Care Foundation Board, and chairs the Black History Museum & Cultural Center.

What are your words to live by?

Never sell yourself short. My dad shared these words with me when I was a young girl. I continue to hold on to them.

What’s a change you’d like to see Richmond make in the short or long term?

Stop trying for the big win that satisfies only some of the people. Try for small wins that satisfy most of the people, most of the time. Small wins connected represent a big win.

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?

The biggest obstacle is myself. I keep raising the bar for self-achievement in order to stockpile my resources and know-how with others.

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Genene D. LeRosen • J. Sargeant Reynolds

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Genene LeRosen, Executive Vice President of J. Sergeant Reynolds, is known for her approaching her job with passion–directing both the academic and professional programs as well as the College’s external relations. The Advance College Academy, her pet project in collaboration with Henrico Public Schools, is being cloned in four other school systems and will make major inroads towards minimizing college debt and expanding economic opportunities. Through her efforts, the futures of those who have traditionally been underserved by the existing educational system are significantly brighter.

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?

Getting over the guilt of not being home when my daughters were young. As a young professional, trying to balance the demands of the job, going after that advanced degree, and raising two beautiful, bright daughters was daunting work. Often I found myself second-guessing whether my chosen path as a working mother was adequate, especially when many of the mothers in my neighborhood met their children every day at the bus stop, told stories of their children’s conquests, and smiled knowingly at my self-doubt. It wasn’t until one of my daughters, who was probably in the fifth grade, told me that the stories I shared with her about my work were interesting and a bit different from those she had heard at her friends’ homes. I realized then that my work stories provided context and real-world meaning that in the end added depth, courage, and confidence to my daughters’ personalities.

You clearly are able to accomplish a great deal in a day, a week, a month, a year. Do you have any processes that help you stay productive?

I have several strategies for managing my work as well as juggling the work-life balance. First, I provide my direct reports (and others that I may be mentoring) access to my calendar. I make it a point to regularly scan the upcoming months, paying attention to whether particular weeks are busier than others. I note upcoming deadlines as well. Where possible, I make adjustments to my calendar to make up for those extremely busy weeks with some “bench time.” Time to get caught up on document preparation, email housekeeping, etc. I schedule these “bench times” on my calendar and do my best not to move them. In addition, I add personal events to my calendar such as travel, special dinners, time with family, and exercise. Individuals who have access to my calendar can then see the balance I’m trying to achieve, hopefully the role modeling provides them license to do the same!

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Health & Science

Melissa Byrne Nelson • PACKids

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Tirelessly working to improve the health of area children, Melissa Nelson has helped her community through Pediatricians Associated to Care for Kids (PACKids), Chair of Pediatrics at St. Mary’s Hospital (2008-2009), Alumni Board of Directors at Virginia Tech and the Medical College of Virginia, and the World Pediatric Project. Her goal? Giving children–regardless of race, ethnicity, or family income–the best medical care available.

What’s a change you’d like to see Richmond make in the short or long term?

We all love our children and want the best possible care for them when they are sick. It’s time for Richmond to build a children’s hospital so that every sick child will have equal access to our region’s best resources in a place that recognizes who they are, just a child.

Excellence in pediatric care that already exists in our community will be brought together in a single location with a family centered environment. VCU’s premier pediatrics department and the best pediatric medical teams in our community will take care of our children as a collaborative team.

The opportunity to build a facility that is nationally known for education, research and exceptional clinical care across all areas of pediatrics is within our grasp. I want to see the leaders of Richmond’s medical, philanthropic and business communities come together and make it happen.

What are your words to live by?

Whatever the challenge – school, work, family – don’t be a bystander and just get through it. Get involved. Whether it’s big or small, each of us has an opportunity to make a contribution. You just might make it a better place for the people and the children behind you.

You clearly are able to accomplish a great deal in a day, a week, a month, a year. Do you have any processes that help you stay productive?

An extremely supportive spouse that I love and admire. He brings out the best in me.

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Human Relations & Faith in Action

Susan Brown Davis • The Community Foundation

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An embodiment of the concept of “servant-leader,” Susan Davis leads by eliminating barriers. Her work as Senior Vice President of Community Leadership Initiatives at The Community Foundation lets her change the lives of our most vulnerable community members, particularly women and children. Her leadership has been put to good use for several boards and organizations and has been a crucial participant in Nonprofit Learning Point and the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence.

What are your words to live by?

I have two quotes on my computer screen that inspire me every day. The first is Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So whether it is a colleague or someone from one of the many nonprofits that The Community Foundation supports, it is always important to treat people with kindness and respect.

Secondly, Nelson Mandela said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” My career has been in human services, public health, and philanthropy–each of which taught me to treat everyone fairly, no matter what their condition or station in life. The people for whom I have the greatest respect are those who dedicate their lives to serving others.

You clearly are able to accomplish a great deal in a day, a week, a month, a year. Do you have any processes that help you stay productive?

At the Community Foundation, I have had the opportunity to assemble a staff of bright, committed women and men who share my work ethic and commitment to mission. Everyone knows what they need to do individually and as a team to get the job done.

On a personal level, I eat in moderation, exercise regularly to relieve stress and stay fit, and try to get plenty of sleep each night. I rely on my husband and adult children in New York, with whom I talk regularly, to keep me grounded.

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Law & Government

Mary E. Langer • Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney

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Social justice, fairness, and equality have been Mary Langer’s mission for more than 25 years, handling sensitive issues in the juvenile and domestic relations courts with aplomb. Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney since 2006, Mary fills her time with other methods for helping raise awareness and preventing abuse, serving on the VBA Commission on the Needs of Children. Her words below are almost certainly going to make you feel emotions.

What are your words to live by?

Well, I know my friends expect me to say “Play like a champion today” as a nod to my beloved Notre Dame. And I do try to be the best at whatever I undertake, but those are not the words that I hear in my head to manage the day-to-day challenges. In those situations, I hear my mother saying, “God never gives you a cross you can’t carry.” I guess that was my mother’s generation’s way of saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” My mother lived that faith that she could tackle whatever life threw at her with grace and dignity, toughness and humor. Her words, and more so her example, continue to guide me in my approach to life’s challenges.

What’s a change you’d like to see Richmond make in the short or long term?

I would like to see Richmond become a city with a true non-violent culture. Not just a city where violent street crime is at a minimum, but a city where the pervasive atmosphere is one of peace and kindness. A city where all people, but especially children, are free from exposure to violence, as well as actual abuse in their community and in their homes. A place where excuses for causing harm cease, and efforts to ensure safety for all take precedence. A city where school is a safe and welcoming place for all students. A city with a culture that encourages kind words and actions, in person and on the internet, rather than glorifying violence, rewarding meanness and perpetuating intolerance. That is certainly a long range goal…but one worth working towards, I think.

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Nonprofit Management

Kathy Glazer • Virginia Early Childhood Foundation

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Kathy Glazer is considered the mind behind Virginia’s school readiness system, and her dedication to promoting literacy and regional collaboration is well-known. The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, of which she serves as President, builds relationships with public and private organizations that advance that case. Her efforts extend to the Advisory Board of the Literacy Institute at VCU and the Executive Council of Bridging RVA.

What are your words to live by?

My sister once shared a quote with me: “It is not the speaker who controls communication, but the listener.” I remind myself frequently to listen more than I speak. With any valued relationship–whether personal or professional–hearing the other person’s point of view brings important perspective that I really appreciate.

How has the landscape for women in your industry changed, and how do you think it will continue to change

I believe there is growing recognition of the value of women’s leadership in the non-profit field specifically and in the workforce generally. Women innately tend to have characteristics that are useful in forging partnerships, identifying solutions, and negotiating agreements–key strategies in any field of work. I have observed this dynamic in professional women who have been my mentors, and my own skill set and expertise has grown richer through my experiences as a daughter and a mother. It’s exciting to see a new generation of young women thriving in their careers and lives, embracing their varied roles and unique talents and abilities.


Judy Anderson • Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and others

Judy Anderson - for web

The YWCA’s quote about Judy Anderson is too good not to include: “Selected as the 2015 OWA Honoree in Volunteerism for her grit, determination, and commitment to social justice and equal rights that spans over 40 years of service to the community.” Judy began with Housing Opportunities Made Equal, investigating discrimination in housing, and has since served on the Capitol Square Civil Rights Memorial Foundation, the Richmond Arts Council, Richmond Community Hospital, the Virginia Department for Children, the League of Women Voters, and the YWCA itself, among others.

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?

I think most people (and this includes friends and acquaintances-even a few family members) assume that I’m an innately confident person. This could not be farther from the truth. Throughout my life, I have overcome self doubts–especially when tackling challenging projects, a new job or a complex task. I’ve achieved this by implementing careful research and observation, establishing and maintaining solid relationships with people, listening carefully to and learning from others and then developing a game plan for success.

I guess you could say that my mantra is, “I’ll begin it, and we’ll find a way.”

You clearly are able to accomplish a great deal in a day, a week, a month, a year. Do you have any processes that help you stay productive?

Prior to injuries I sustained in a November 2012 automobile accident, I had been an early morning walker. During those energizing walks in my neighborhood, which I’m no longer able to do, I would plan my day and mentally organize my tasks. Thanks to technology, the technocrats from the Genius Bar, and tutorial help from my granddaughter, I’m now able to plan and organize my days using my laptop computer, my iPhone, or my iPad. I rely heavily on the “reminders” that beep to inform me of meetings or tasks for the day. I confess that I have become an elderly captive of these “New Age” technologies. That said, I think it keeps me young of heart, mind, and spirit!

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