Women Who Lead | 2020 Honorees

760 WJR’s annual Paul W. Smith Women Who Lead campaign seeks female leaders from throughout the Great Lakes region who are influencing our communities in positive ways.  Each year, we honor 12 of these amazing ladies at our Women Who Lead Honoree Ceremony.  These women come from all backgrounds and fields … business leaders, small business owners, community organizers, civil servants, volunteers, and more.  Each offers an inspiring story of a women who is leaning in and pushing the world to new heights.  

Beyond the annual ceremony, WJR also presents “Women Who Lead, a monthly one-hour radio program hosted by Ann Thomas and Luanne Thomas Ewald.  Each edition airs the 4th Saturday of the month at 1 p.m., offering highlights of the personal and professional accomplishments of our nominees and other inspiring female leaders.


Zaneta Adams
Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency

Trudy Archer
Former First Lady of the City of Detroit
Retired 36th District Court Judge

Terry Barclay
President & CEO

Najah Bazzy
Founder & CEO
Zaman International

Sarah Cook
Automotive Hall of Fame

Darienne Hudson
President & CEO
United Way for Southeastern Michigan

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun
Chief Medical Executive
Michigan Department of Health & Human Services

Linda Alexander Little
President & CEO
Neighborhood Services Organization

Dr. Alex Peahl
Michigan Medicine
Obstetrician and Gynecologist

Veronika Scott
Founder & CEO
Empowerment Plan

Margaret Trimer
Vice-President, Strategic Partnerships
Delta Dental of Michigan

Rosalie Vicari
Joe Vicari Restaurant Group



**note- List reflects Honorees’ positions at the time of nomination.

2011 Women Who Lead Honorees

  • Linda Blair — Executive Vice President & Chief Business Officer, ITC
  • Beth Chappell — President & CEO, Detroit Economic Club
  • Louise Downs – Founder, Desert Angels Inc.
  • Renee Draves – Owner/Operator, McDonald’s franchisee
  • Sheila Kasselman – Founder, “Sky” Foundation
  • Sandy Pierce — Chairman & CEO, First Merit Michigan
  • Linda Prister — Nurse & Executive Director, Dearborn Surgery Center
  • Nancy Schlichting — CEO, Henry Ford Health System
  • Carol Schoch — Founder, Detroit Children’s Choir
  • Rhonda Walker — TV New Anchor, WDIV Channel 4
  • Monica Yesh — Captain, Michigan State Police
  • Lisa Zimmer — Founder & President, “Just For Kids” Foundation

2012 Women Who Lead Class

  • Hortensia Albertini – Founder, Global LT
  • Sister Bridget Bearss – Head of School, Academy of the Sacred Heart
  • Susan Goodell – President & CEO, Forgotten Harvest President
  • Kouhaila Hammer – President & CEO, Ghafari Associates LLC
  • Arestea Kakaris – Owner, Kakaris Family Dentistry
  • Florine Mark – President & CEO, WW group
  • Carol McCloud – Author, “Have You Filled A Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids”
  • Nancy Nawrocki – Founder, Nawrocki Center for Elder & Family Law
  • Faye Nelson – President & CEO, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy
  • Jill Ryan, Vocalist
  • Jackie Shuk – Chief Engineer, Ford Motor Company Product Development
  • Regina Villemure – Founder, “Children with Hairloss” Charity

2013 Women Who Lead Class

  • Lori Blaker – President, TTI Global
  • Mary Liz Curtin – Co-Owner, Leon & Lulu- a destination lifestyle store in Clawson
  • Debbie Dingell – President, D2 Strategies & Wayne State Board of Governors
  • Irma Elder – President & CEO, Elder Automotive Group
  • Connie Holzer – Owner & Dealer Principal, Tom Holzer Ford
  • Donna Inch – Chairman & CEO, Ford Land
  • Nancy Maxwell – Executive Director, Sweet Dreamzzz Inc.
  • Tami Powell – Owner, Oxford Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Center
  • Paula Silver – Vice-President of Communications, Quicken Loans
  • Lou Anna Simon – President, Michigan State University
  • Elana Sullivan – President, National MS Society Michigan Chapter
  • Damita Williams – Vice-President of Patient Care Services, DMC Children’s Hospital

2014 Women Who Lead Class

  • Mary Barra – CEO, General Motors
  • Susan Ianni – General Manager, Gordon Chevrolet
  • Denise Ilitch – Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Lawyer, and member of the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan
  • Grace Keros – Owner, American Coney Island
  • Suzanne Mallare Acton – Asst. Music Director, Michigan Opera Theatre
  • Christine Mason Soneral – Vice-President & General Counsel, ITC
  • Barbara McQuade – U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Michigan
  • Cindy Paskey, Founder, Global IT and Strategic Staffing Solutions
  • Gael Sandoval – Senior Manager, Ford Global Action Team
  • Sue Snyder – Michigan’s First Lady
  • Pam Turkin — Founder, Just Baked Cupcakes
  • Kym Worthy – Prosecutor, Wayne County

2015 Women Who Lead Class

  • Susie Dahlmann — Executive Director & Co-Founder, Reaching Higher
  • Jane Englehart – Director of Advertising, Ford Dealer Advertising
  • Sharon Gaber – President, University of Toledo President
  • Amanda (Amy) L. Good – CEO, Alternatives For Girls
  • Nanci J. Grant — Chief Judge, 6th Circuit Court
  • Kristine B. Mestdagh — Executive Director, John A & Marlene L Boll Foundation
  • Jane McNamara – President & CEO, Green Path Debt Solutions
  • Terri O’Brien – President, Street Marketing
  • Lisa Price – Co-Founder, JACK’S PLACE for Autism Foundation
  • Anne Schenk – Vice-President of Advancement, Gleaners Community Food Bank
  • Luanne Thomas Ewald — Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE); Regional Vice-President of Business Development, DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan
  • Debbie Windey – Director of Corporate Alliance & Executive Services, Ford Motor Company

2016 Women Who Lead Class

  • Tonya Allen – President & CEO, The Skillman Foundation
  • Rose Bellanca – President, Washtenaw Community College
  • Tammy Carnrike – COO, Detroit Regional Chamber
  • Lisa Dancsok – Vice-President, Rock Ventures
  • Carole Kowalczyk – Founder, Michigan Center for Fertility & Women’s Health
  • Terry Merritt – Sr. Vice-President, Walbridge
  • Patti Poppe – President & CEO, Consumers Energy
  • Rochelle Riley – Columnist, Detroit Free Press
  • Kelly Rossman-McKinney – CEO & President, Truscott Rossman
  • Amy Tattrie-Loepp – Owner, Tattrie Strategies and Co-Founder, Impact 100 Oakland County
  • Susan Smyth – Chief Scientist for General Motors Manufacturing and Director, GM’s Manufacturing Systems Research Lab
  • Gretchen Valade – Business mogul (Carhartt, Detroit Jazz Fest, The Parade Co.)

2017 Women Who Lead Class

  • Farideh R. Bagne – Founder, President & CEO, Magnolia by the Lakes Senior Living Resort
  • Carolyn Cassin – President & CEO, Michigan Women’s Foundation
  • Anne Doyle – President, Michigan Chapter of International Women’s Forum
  • Melanie Duquesnel – President & CEO of Better Business Bureau Eastern Michigan Division
  • Andrea Fischer Newman – Former Sr. Vice-Presidet of Government Affairs, Delta Airlines and U of M Regent
  • Karen Fox – Vice-President, Trinity Tool Co.
  • Emily T. Gail – Slogan Creator, “Say Nice Things About Detroit”
  • Jennifer Gilbert — Founder, Amber Engine, Doodle Home & dPop
  • Wendy Hilliard – Founder, Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation
  • Mary Kramer – Group Publisher, Crain’s Communications
  • Christina Lovio-George – President & CEO, Lovio-George Communications + Design
  • Martha Reeves – Entertainer & Politician

2018 Women Who Lead Class

  • Maura Corrigan – Justice, Michigan Supreme Court (formerly)
  • Denise Gray – President, LG Chem Michigan
  • Mona Hanna-Attisha – Pediatrician / whistle-blower of the Flint Water Crisis
  • Danialle Karmanos – Detroit area Philanthropist and Social Entrepreneur
  • Tricia Keith – Executive Vice-President, BCBSM
  • Ronia Kruse – Co-Founder & CEO, OpTech
  • Zavid Mangaru – Executive Vice-President of Product Strategy & Innovation, North American Bancard
  • Mary Martin — Owner, Martin Media Services
  • Kylee Mitchell Wells – Executive Director, Ballmer Group’s Detroit Office
  • Lois Shaevsky – President, Variety the Children’s Charity (Detroit Chapter)
  • Amanda Sheehan – Dentist, Oakland Family Dental
  • Shirley Stancato – President & CEO, New Detroit

2019 Women Who Lead Class

  • Tavi Fulkerson, Founder of The Fulkerson Group
  • Marcy Hayes, Founder of C & B Scene PR & Marketing
  • Anne Parsons, Detroit Symphony Orchestra CEO
  • Annette Rummel, President & CEO of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Mimi Musser Cunningham, Former Vice-President of Grand Hotel
  • Anne Blake, Pope Francis Center Chief Administrative Officer
  • Kimberly Lowell-Leverett, Director of Volunteers for The Parade Company
  • Candice Miller, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner
  • Kelly Carroll-Burgin, Owner & Founder of K. Carroll Accessories – makes one of “Oprah’s Favorite Things”
  • Rev. Faith Fowler, Executive Director of Cass Community Services
  • Robin Terry, Motown Museum Chairwoman & CEO
  • Governor Gretchen Whitmer