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. 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,” said Todd Sanders, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. “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.

Click HERE for photos from the ATHENA Award reception.

Videos of the ATHENA recipients can be viewed at www.phoenixchamber.com/athena2015 .

Click HERE for the #ATHENA2015 Twitter stream from @phxchamber.

Click here to download a high-resolution image of the above photo for media use (please credit Melanie Berg/GPCC).

“I’m thrilled beyond measure and also humbled to be with such an incredible group of women,” said Melissa Sanderson, 2015 ATHENA Businesswoman of the Year Award recipient in the private sector. “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., 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.

When asked what advice she would give future ATHENAs, Sanderson responded, “Follow your passion and don’t let fear hold you back. And don’t seek reward, as I’ve found that rewards remarkably come to you often when you least expect them.”

“I’m overwhelmed, inspired and very grateful,” said Leah Fregulia, 2015 ATHENA Businesswoman of the Year Award recipient in the public sector. “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 Fregulia’s passions. As CEO for the Arizona School for the Arts, Fregulia’s leadership has established the institution as a top academic school. But Freguliadoesn’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.

Added Fregulia, “One of my primary goals, both in education and in mentoring others, is to help create the leadership of the future. We’re laying the foundation so that Phoenix will continue to be a great city and continue to grow. It’s important to build that pathway for the next generation and to help them succeed.”

“It’s humbling considering the caliber of women I was nominated along side,” said Ashley Kasarjian, counsel at Snell & Wilmer LLP. “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, 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.

When asked what advice she would give future ATHENA Award recipients, Kasarjian said, “Be authentic and be yourself. And invest your time and resources in your community to make it a better place.”

Sanderson, Fregulia and 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, Velocity Retail Group
  • Heidi Jannenga, WebPT
  • Melissa Sanderson, Freeport-McMoRan Inc.
  • Kay Wing, Southwest Advanced Neurological Rehabilitation (SWAN Rehab)

ATHENA Public Sector finalists:

  • Cathy Brown, First Things First
  • Lillian Garcia, American Red Cross
  • Sunnee O’Rork, i.d.e.a. Museum
  • Leah Fregulia Roberts, Arizona School for the Arts

ATHENA Young Professional finalists:

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

Congratulations to the 2015 Community Legacy Honoree
As a new feature of this year’s ATHENA Awards Luncheon, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce recognized Ambassador Barbara Barrett as its 2015 Community Legacy Honoree. The Community Legacy Honor recognizes an outstanding female former elected or public official who has dedicated her work and her life to improving the community, supporting women and being an exemplary role model for female leadership. Her work and efforts have left a lasting legacy on her community.


About the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce
Established in 1888 and representing 2,500 businesses across Metropolitan Phoenix, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce is Arizona’s largest and most-established business organization. The Chamber supports the growth and development of business by offering networking and marketing opportunities, money-saving programs and a voice in government, keeping its members informed, connected and prosperous. The Chamber also enhances members’ success by promoting economic development, entrepreneurship and a connection to the community.

About the ATHENA Award
The ATHENA Award, an honor awarded internationally, recognizes exemplary achievement and challenges its recipients with a continued sense of responsibility, support and leadership. The ATHENA Award honors women who have consistently invested in themselves, their profession, their community, and especially other women. They have achieved the pinnacle of success within their industry, have mentored women throughout their career, and have dedicated themselves to the community through various activities and charities.

About the ATHENA Young Professional Award
ATHENA International established an award to honor emerging young leaders in our community. The ATHENA Young Professional Award officially launched at the 2007 International ATHENA Leadership Conference and Phoenix was proud to be one of the first cities to present it within their community. These are the “women to watch.”

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Posted by Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce supports business growth and drives economic development in the region by helping members stay connected and prosperous, growing the economy through Phoenix Forward, our collaborative economic development partnership, and advocating for pro-business policies.

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