Who Wants to be an Athena?

The Athena Award is a prestigious, national honor given to a someone in the community who exemplifies eight attributes of female leadership: authentic self, relationships, giving back, collaboration, courageous acts, learning, fierce advocacy, celebration and joy.

As a previous recipient of this award bestowed by the local Chamber of Commerce, I had the privilege of participating in selecting the next awardee. As is our custom, the nominees are interviewed by a panel of previous recipients and a few others. All of this year’s applicants had been nominated in prior years. (I have the distinct honor of holding the county record for being nominated seven different years before I was selected; I jokingly tease my peers that they selected me simply because they didn’t want to see my nomination form again.)

I was fortunate in being well-acquainted with all of this year’s nominees. While it was a difficult choice for the committee to make, we selected the person we felt best exemplified the eight attributes of leadership at this time.

One of the adjectives that first comes to mind when thinking about the recipient is fearless. She is one of the most authentic people I know…intensely loyal to her family, friends and clients. As the expression goes, what you see is what you get. For one of our favorite community charities, we put together a progressive dinner package, with wine and hor d’oeurves at her home, the main course at my home, and dessert at someone else’s residence. This package netted about $800 for our charity; I’d like to think it was my gourmet entree that was the greatest value – but you can’t beat my friend in the entertainment department. She is one of the best-humored, intelligent, lively people I know. At this same auction, she offers a group of five people transportation and lunch at the Italian Market in Philadelphia: this generates the most active bidding of the evening because Diana is “the hostess with the mostest.”

Diana Hartman with a gowned Glass Slipper Gal

In one of her recent projects, she called me after witnessing a segment on the Today Show, showcasing a community who pulled together to collect used gowns to sell to young ladies who might not otherwise afford to attend their high school formal. In less than a month, she coordinated a massive effort, calling it the Glass Slipper Project, collected over 500 gowns, secured an empty storefront at the local mall free of charge, and informed the schools of the program. Over 100 gals walked out of that shop, some with tears and all with very broad smiles, carrying the gown of their choice (for which they paid $10), dreaming about their special night. This year, thanks to the great advance publicity, two seamstresses came forward offering their services for free so that the girls had access to free, onsite alterations. And over 100 more gals selected a gown to wear for their special evening.

Diana Hartman with a gowned Glass Slipper Gal

This Athena has served on several fundraisers for her private high school, assisted several female candidates in their political campaigns, served as Chairman of the Chamber, is the rising chair of the city business organization, founded the Home-Based Business Committee of the Chamber (which mentored hundreds of folks who started a local business), serves on the board of the Lebanon Family Health Services…and lots more. This entrepreneur has taken many a tough stand against injustices in many contexts in our community. This woman truly embodies the tenets of the Athena award, and her name is Diana Hartman. And it is my hope that the story of this strong, selfless woman inspires you.

“The greatest thing a man can do in this world is to make the most possible out of the stuff that has been given him. This is success, and there is no other.” (Orison Swett Marden)

You don’t need to conquer the world. Take a small step to help someone else as a way of thanking those who have assisted you along your journey. I can’t tell you what that step is; what I do know is that you have been given gifts to invest in the betterment of others. Use what you’ve got! So, get to work – and aspire to emulate the goddess of wisdom, because who wouldn’t want to be an Athena?

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