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50 Leading Businesswomen honored

RAYMOND — The 50 Leading Business Women Awards Luncheon was held Aug. 13 at Hinds Community College’s Eagle Ridge Conference Center in Raymond, and played to a packed house. Established in 1997 by the Mississippi Business Journal (MBJ), this year’s winners represent the 13th class of the awards program. 

“I am very proud to be a part of such an important, statewide tradition,” said MBJ publisher and editor Ed Darling. “This is another great class, and brings to 650 the number of women who have been recognized for their accomplishments since the program began.”


The festivities actually started the afternoon of Aug. 12 when the winners met for orientation at Eagle Ridge. That evening, limousines whisked the women away to Jackson for the annual “Ladies Night Out.” The first stop was the Governor’s Mansion, where a champagne reception was held. There, the 2009 class was treated to wines from E&J Gallo Winery and hors d’oeuvres from Mangia Bene.


From there, limos carried the women to Fairview Inn, an antebellum bed and breakfast listed on the National Register of Historic Places and home to Sophia’s Restaurant. The class enjoyed a four-course meal complete with wine flights. The women then returned to Eagle Ridge and prepared for the next day’s luncheon.


The day of networking/awards luncheon started early when the class assembled for registration and a breakfast buffet at 7:30 a.m. After a general session, the morning offered informative, entertaining seminars. Terry Sensing, R.N., coordinator of Healthy Heart Advantage at St. Dominic Hospital who spoke on “Heart Healthy for Life,” and Gay Saxon, director of training at Eagle Ridge who is a 50 Leading Business Women alumna (class of 2004) and serves on the 50 Leading Business Women Advisory Committee, led the seminars.


“It’s just such a privilege to be asked to be a presenter,” said Saxon, whose self-described “light-hearted, fun” presentation was titled “I’m not Difficult… I’m Just not You.” “It gave me the opportunity to hopefully make a difference in the lives of these women.”


A hallmark of the 50 Leading Business Women luncheon has been the participation of the program’s alumnae, and they were well represented again this year. In addition to Saxon, Debra McGee (class of 2004) from BankPlus led the pledge of allegiance. Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth (class of 1997 and former Business Woman of the Year) of St. Dominic Health Services gave the invocation.


The keynote speaker, too, is an alumna. Lynn Fitch (class of 2008), executive director of the Mississippi State Personnel Board, gave an address titled “Your Most Important Presentation.”


“Everything you do, from the time you wake up until you go to bed, is presentation,” Fitch told the capacity crowd.


The presentation of the awards followed Fitch’s address. Joey Garner (class of 2008 and the most recent Business Woman of the Year) of TEC helped hand out the awards to her newest peers.


The luncheon required a small army of sponsors and contributors. Sponsors were the Mississippi Economic Council, St. Dominic, E&J Gallo Winery, BankPlus and Vera Bradley. Those contributing services included Eagle Ridge, Mangia Bene, Fairview Inn, Green Oak Nursery, A+ Signs, National Awards, LeFleur Limousines, Mississippi Music, Stegall Photography and Super Limo.


More will be heard from the 2009 class of 50 Leading Business Women. An upcoming special publication will highlight their lives and accomplishments, list all the former classes, offer a little background on the awards program and more.


And, the class will gather again Jan. 14, 2010, for the Business Woman of the Year Luncheon. Part of the offerings of the Mississippi Business & Technology EXPO held annually at the Mississippi Trade Mart in Jackson, one of the 2009 class will be selected as the Business Woman of the Year, and all of the 2009 winners will be recognized again.


For more information on the Business Woman of the Year Luncheon and/or the 50 Leading Business Women awards program, contact Kathy Arich, MBJ advertising director, at (601) 364-1011 or kathy.arich@msbusiness.com.


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