The Jackson Area Business and Professional Women presents the recipients of the 2020 Sterling Awards including 20 Most Influential Women in West Tennessee, Sue Shelton White Award winner and Outstanding Woman Military Veteran.

UT Martin women among most influential in West Tennessee

Dr. Cindy Boyles, associate professor of criminal justice, and Virginia Grimes, coordinator of the University of Tennessee at Martin’s WestStar Leadership Program, are among the 2020 Sterling Award winners.

Jackson Area Business and Professional Women announced the Sterling Awards 2020 winners: 20 Most Influential Women in West Tennessee, Sue Shelton White Award winner and Outstanding Woman Military Veteran on Tuesday, March 31, Equal Pay Day.

Five WestStar current members and graduates were also named as the 20 Most Influential Women in West Tennessee including Joyce Brown, Natalie Porter, Mary Ann Sharpe, Sandy Tarkington and Dr. Cheryl Browne.

The awards ceremony has been postponed until August due to the coronavirus outbreak. The 10-year anniversary of the awards highlights women in West Tennessee who are outstanding in their fields of endeavor and who are community activists.

“These awards were created to honor women who work tirelessly to better lives in their West Tennessee communities,” said Wanda Stanfill, Sterling Awards director and vice-president, JABPW. “Every year when the nominations pour in, our Board of Selectors spends hours going through the resumes and letters of support. We are so proud of these women who give so much and expect so little in return.”

“These amazing women succeed in business, education, government, industry, law enforcement and the arts. We have singers and musicians, poets, writers, and artists. They run marathons or become gourmet chefs. Our Sterling recipients like to hike, fly fish, shoot rifles, drive large truck and off-road ATVs.  They studied abroad, hitchhiked across Europe and traveled across the United States.

“We hope you’ll join us when we are able to celebrate their accomplishments on stage at a later date,” said Stanfill.

The Sue Shelton White Award 2020 goes to Judge Christy Little, General Sessions Judge, Division II, of Jackson; and the Outstanding Woman Military Veteran is Lenore Ventimiglia, U.S. Marine Corps, honorable discharge, of Jackson.

The 20 Most Influential Women in West Tennessee are:

  • Cindy Boyles, Jackson, associate professor of criminal justice at UT Martin.
  • Joyce Brown, Gibson County, County Clerk/Juvenile Court Clerk of Gibson County.
  • Cheryl Browne, M.D., Fayette County, retired internal medicine physician and medical group administrator.
  • Gina Dieudonne, M.D., Jackson, pediatrician.
  • Virginia Grimes, Martin, program manager/coordinator, WestStar Leadership Program, UT Martin.
  • Jane Jarvis, Jackson, retired attorney.
  • Juanita Jones, Jackson, founder and executive director of Keep My Hood Good (KMHG) Community Campaign.
  • Laurice Lanier, Jackson, professional vocalist, entertainer, music director and businesswoman.
  • Esther Gray Lemus, Mercer, assistant professor of music at Jackson State Community College.
  • Shirlene Mercer, Jackson, retired field representative for Rep. John Tanner, retired teacher, community activist.
  • Natalie Porter, Carroll County, Carroll County register of deeds.
  • Hope Reasons, Jackson, founder of Sisterhood Purses Inc.
  • Jennifer Rowan, Jackson, paralegal for Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell, P.L.C.
  • Mary Ann Sharpe, Brownsville, Director of Main Street Brownsville.
  • Nola Spears, Jackson, retired social worker/indigent care specialist, Hamilton County government.
  • Judge Vicki Snyder, Paris, Henry County General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge.
  • Sandy Tarkington, Dyersburg, marketing director/vice president of marketing and public relations, First Citizens National Bank.
  • Linda J. Theus, Jackson, associate professor of business and area coordinator for business administration programs at Lane College.
  • Jean Marie Walls, Jackson, professor and chair, Department of Language, Union University.
  • Kathy Haney Williams, Jackson, retired executive administrative assistant/human resources specialist, genealogist.

The winners are outstanding in these categories: government and public service; small business/entrepreneur; business and technology; service (community/non-profit); education; labor/manufacturing; health care; legal and other fields.

“These women choose to live their lives with courageous commitment to helping their communities thrive,” said Stanfill. “We hope that our West Tennesseans continue honoring these women through nominations.”

For more information on the Sterling Awards, contact Stanfill at (731) 693-8359.




Photo ID:

Front row (L-R): Lenore Ventimiglia, Nola Spears, Shirlene Mercer, Dr.Cindy Boyles,  Judge Christy Little.

Second row: Hope Reasons, Jennifer Rowan, Kathy Williams, Virginia Grimes, Natalie Porter.

Third row: Jane Jarvis, Judge Vicki Snyder, Esther Lemus, Mary Ann Sharpe, Linda Theus, Juanita Jones.

Fourth row: Dr. Cheryl Browne, Dr. Gina Dieudonne, Jean Marie Walls, Sandy Tarkington, Joyce Brown.

Not pictured: Laurice Lanier of Jackson.

Previous Story

Communications faculty member honors Civil Rights activist Rev. Joseph Lowery

Next Story

Meet the Beetles: University Scholar uses flesh-eating insects in forensics research project