ATHENA Award History

The ATHENA Award® Program was created through the Chamber of Commerce in Lansing, Michigan by Martha Mayhood Mertz, and the first award was presented in 1982. The purpose of the award was to bring into focus the outstanding professional and business women in the community and to encourage the opening of leadership opportunities for women in the workplaces of the Chamber and the community. In 1987, the non-profit ATHENA international was established to staff the national expansion efforts of the ATHENA Award® Program.

Since that time, the Award has been presented in over 500 communities worldwide and the program has recognized over 4,000 women and men for their business accomplishments, community service, and the opening of doors of leadership opportunity for women. In 1995, the first ATHENA State Awards were presented in Arizona, Illinois and Michigan. These awards recognized companies for their business accomplishments, philanthropy, community service and for their companies’ initiatives to provide leadership opportunities for women.

The ATHENA International sponsors an annual national ATHENA Conference to allow all participants in the various ATHENA programs to come together to expand the impact of the ATHENA philosophy. A National ATHENA Award is presented at this event to a person who has demonstrated all of the ATHENA qualities and whose work is national in scope.

The ATHENA Award is a bronze sculpture hand-cast by designer Linda Ackley at her foundry, Third Millennium Fine Arts in Tampa, Florida. She designed the ATHENA sculpture while she was a graduate student at Michigan State University and has created every sculpture since then. Each bronze sculpture is numbered as one of a select edition.

The ATHENA Award is presented for outstanding achievement, service and assistance to women in reaching their full personal and leadership potential. In addition to recognizing one ATHENA recipient, the process also allows for the recognition of the many nominees who contribute so much to our community.

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