Reynolds Is ATHENA Recipient

October 4, 2004
Print
Text Size:
A A

GRAND RAPIDS — When Sharron Reynolds re-entered the work force, her goal was simple: Earn some extra money to finance college educations for her four children.

While she was able to accomplish that goal, her career turned out to be much more than that. Last Wednesday, Reynolds, vice president of community relations for Huntington Bank, was honored with the 15th annual ATHENA Award during a Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce celebration at FrederikMeijerGardens and SculpturePark

The award was in recognition of Reynolds' commitment to encouraging and developing women in the Grand Rapids community.

This year's award ceremony had the added distinction of being the last function for award founder Martha Mayhood Mertz as a Michigan resident. The founder of the ATHENA Foundation intends to relocate shortly to Sonoma, Ariz.

The inspiration for the ATHENA programs originated with Mertz in Lansing more than 20 years ago. As the owner of Mayhood/Mertz Realtors Inc., she was asked to serve on the board of directors of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. At that time, she was the only woman on the board.

"I was this small businessperson shoulder to shoulder with all these mighty businesses," she recalled. "And I remember asking myself, 'What could I possibly bring of value to this group?'

"Then I realized that I was the only woman in the room," she said. "And outside there were lots and lots of women looking to get in. I decided that my contribution was to open that room up to other women."

Mertz soon discovered that in 75 years of presenting awards, her local chamber had only once honored a woman. She realized that in recognizing woman as leaders, she could inspire other women to lead.

"We needed to elevate them," Mertz explained. "We needed to make visible the women who are leaders in our community."

While forming her foundation, Mertz began to understand that many of the traditionally honored traits of womanhood did not equate to leadership.

"We needed to find a model for what a woman leader looked like," she said. "And we chose (the Greek goddess) Athena, known for her courage, strength and enlightenment."

On those principles, she founded the ATHENA Foundation, dedicated to creating leadership opportunities for women, and the ATHENA Award, which now recognizes individuals on local, national and international levels.

When the award was first presented, Mertz had 10 of the bronze sculptures made that have since served as the symbol of the award, thinking that would be enough to last the duration of the award's lifespan.

Last week, the 4,799th ATHENA Award was presented to Reynolds, who Mertz said embodies the goals she originally set forth when creating the award.

Reynolds was the first woman manager at Lear Siegler and the first woman director at Smiths Industries. She also has established women's groups at companies throughout her career to educate women on their financial power and fiscal responsibilities, raise awareness of inequities in women's career advancement and focus on professional development.

Reynolds also has served on the boards of many organizations within the community, including MetropolitanHospital, DavenportUniversity and the Van Singel Fine Arts Council.

"It really has been an exciting journey — being the first in so many different things," she said. "I just hope that I may have been an example and an inspiration to others."

Reynolds linked her success to her contributions in the community.

"I have always taken great satisfaction in helping others in the community," she said. "My advice to anyone looking to start in business today would be just that. Find something you're interested in and help out. If you do a good job, you won't be able to handle all the requests from people who will want to work with you."

Currently, she is beginning to relinquish some of her duties at Huntington in favor of more work in community development before eventually moving toward retirement.

"I am very lucky that my bosses are allowing me to use my, well, Huntington's time to continue with my community activities," she said. "This award is really an exhilarating way to move from one stage of my life to another."

Suzanne Geha, a close friend of Reynolds' and coworker of her deceased husband, former WOOD TV8 sports director Warren Reynolds, hosted the program.

"I cannot think of a woman that more embodies the spirit of this award than Sharron Reynolds," Geha said. "All the odds have always been against her, and she has succeeded in all these male-dominated fields: banking, aerospace and defense, the Catholic church. Then all these boards and commissions — she has really accomplished it all."    

Recent Articles by Daniel Schoonmaker

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus