A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Here are the winners of Outstanding Women, special awards to be presented at event next week

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Women’s Initiative will present the 2019 Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky honorees on May 15.

Sponsored by St. Elizabeth Healthcare the event will be held at the St. Elizabeth Training and Education Center (3861 Olympic Blvd., Erlanger).

Tickets are $40 and are available online.

The Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky Awards were established in the fall of 1984, by the late Nancy Boothe, wife of then-NKU President Leon E. Boothe. Since 1985 nearly 200 women have been recognized for blazing trails, opening doors, or demonstrating leadership in their homes, their professions, their communities, or their state.

The awards honor women who exemplify notable achievement, outstanding service in their professions or to the Northern Kentucky community, and the qualities of personal integrity, perseverance and leadership.

Outstanding Women Awards

Geralyn Isler, President
Business Benefits Insurance Solutions

Geralyn Isler was named the president of Business Benefits Insurance Solutions effective July 1, 2018. Business Benefits is a local community-oriented family business with large-scale capabilities Geralyn’s commitment to innovative employee benefit solutions, customer service and community-mindedness are evidence that her role as president ensures Business Benefits’ 34-year legacy of excellence and dedication to the employer community continues. In addition to her leadership duties, Geralyn continues her work with employers to develop customized and sustainable employee benefits packages as she has during her two decades with the agency.

Geralyn Isler

Employers understand that employees need education to help them appreciate their benefits and approach health care as informed consumers. Geralyn’s skills as an educator mesh perfectly with this crucial function, allowing her to communicate effectively with employer groups of a variety of backgrounds. With 22 years of experience, Geralyn is well respected within the community for her research and understanding of changing laws and how they impact employers and their employees.

Geralyn has served on Humana’s Broker Advisory Council, the Health Collaborative’s Gen-H Committee, and is the current secretary of the Board of Directors for the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. Geralyn has been involved in several NKY Chamber programs including the Top Tier Leadership Program, business advocacy, employer solutions, and the Women’s Initiative. Her work on these committees has contributed to the significant success of the Women’s Initiative as well as the important aspect of advocating for the business community and health of our region. As 2012 and 2013 chair of the Chamber’s health care policy committee, she played a vital role in bringing attention to the effect heroin was having on the region.

Geralyn explains how family and community contributed to her success. “I have had the great privilege to be a part of a loving family and part of a great community. Thank you to my parents, George and Barbara Beatrice, for instilling in me the importance of placing others’ needs over my own.

“I am regularly inspired by so many I have met and worked with in various capacities. Thank you to my husband Bob, children Samantha and Mitchell, and all of my family and colleagues for your incredible support, and love!

Barbara B. Stewart
Northern Kentucky Workforce Investment Board

For more than 32 years, Barbara has been a driving force behind workforce development in Northern Kentucky. With a bachelor’s in social work from the University of Cincinnati and a master’s in business administration from Xavier University, she began her career in workforce development under the Job Training Partnership Act.

Barbara Stewart

She ultimately became the director of the Northern Kentucky Workforce Investment Board (NKWIB) and was key in local Career Center implementation.  Per the strategic plan of the NKWIB, Barbara has been instrumental in focusing the work of the Career Center system on providing valuable business services to meet the needs of employers, designing a robust sector-focused model to enhance utilization of allocations and resources, and making significant connections between the workforce development system and the education and economic development partners in the Northern Kentucky area. Through her efforts, the NKWIB was the first Workforce Investment Board in the state to receive designation as a “High Impact WIB”.

Barbara credits her upbringing as the source of her philosophy. “My journey in the workforce development arena has been incredibly special. It speaks to a personal value I learned very early. I was raised to believe we are responsible for each other.”

“In Judaism, there is a concept called “Tikkun olam,” Hebrew for repairing the world. It is about aspiring to behave and participate in acts of kindness. This can affect how we tend to our environment or care for animals. It also applies to how we treat each other. This has translated in my career to how we help people be the best they can be, to be able to take care of their families and live a quality life. My work with the Northern Kentucky Workforce Investment Board (NKWIB) has provided a valuable platform for operationalizing this value. This board has strategically designed a service delivery model through its Kentucky Career Center system that synergistically connects employers and job seekers. Employers get qualified candidates that meet their hiring needs. Job seekers gain employment that allows them to support and take care of their families. It is a win-win that elevates everyone.

“I could not do this work without an amazing support system of my own. First of all, of course, is my family. Buz, my husband, has been my perfect partner for 37 years! Our children, daughter Rachel, son Daniel, and daughter-in-law Maddy are gifts that keep giving. They have always grounded me to stay focused on what’s really important, and are sweet reminders of how love should be.”

Jessica Averitt Taylor
Director of FUEL, NKU

Jessica Averitt Taylor is the Director of FUEL NKU, the campus food pantry and community center at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). She also serves as an associate professor of social work in the College of Education and Human Services at NKU. Through her focus on community engagement and commitment to social justice, Taylor works to support educational access for a diverse student community. In addition to her current roles as related to higher education, Taylor previously served as an initial team member and assistant to the editor in the establishment of the peer-reviewed Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship.

Jessica Taylor

Engaging and supporting our communities is a central motivation for Dr. Taylor, and her work focuses on projects such as FUEL NKU (Feeding the University and Enriching Lives) that directly impact student persistence and empowerment. FUEL NKU recently expanded capacity through a partnership with the Kroger Zero Hunger|Zero Waste initiative to offer holistic support for students. It also functions as a community model for the expansion of educational opportunities for all community members.

Taylor currently serves as both a board member of the Food for Thought pantry at Gateway Community and Technical College and an editorial board member for the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship. In addition, she is a founding board member of the Division of Community Affairs at The University of Alabama.

Taylor completed the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development in 2018 and was selected as a “Wise Woman of NKU” during that same year. She completed her Ph.D. in social work at The University of Alabama, with a concentration on social support and public health.

Taylor is grateful for the support of her advisory board and colleagues, her student team, the NKU Foundation, and the NKU College of Education and Human Services. In particular, Dr. Megan Lindsey, Jim Parker, Erin Rolfes, Sunny Parr, and Shelley Walters make it possible to keep the doors open at FUEL NKU. She also wishes to share the following:

“I am incredibly grateful for this amazing group of women in my circle who mean the world to me — together we create change for the better in our communities. I hail from the Deep South, and I was so fortunate to be nurtured by women who surrounded me with models of leadership and independence. My sister moved up from the coast to be my best friend here in Northern Kentucky, and my amazing son teaches me every single day that it is right to love others and to focus on serving people. I believe, heart and soul, that we each have this innate gift: the power to share love with one another.”

Caroline Weltzer
Vice President of Finance, Viox & Viox

Caroline Weltzer is the vice president of finance for Viox & Viox. She has been with the civil engineering, surveying, and landscape architecture firm for 19 years. As a leader within a small business, her job encompasses many different aspects, but her primary responsibility is to manage the company’s finance and human resource functions. She is also the Treasurer of the company’s Board of Directors. Being able to volunteer and contribute to the Northern Kentucky community has been an added perk of her position.

Carolin Weltzer

Going through Leadership Northern Kentucky in 2006 ignited Caroline’s passion to get involved in the community. This newfound passion led her to accept a position on the Diocesan Catholic Children’s Home Board and eventually become chair. Hoping to steer programs to help other small business leaders such as herself, Caroline also became involved with the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. She is serving her third term (non-consecutive) as a board member for the NKY Chamber. Caroline has especially enjoyed being a part of the Chamber’s Women’s Initiative program and feels strongly about the effort to empower women to be financially independent and supported through programs and education.

Caroline is amazed by the passion and work of those who commit themselves to bettering others every day. After getting involved in Be Concerned (a Covington food pantry), and eventually chairing their board, she saw how helping others, especially as a community, brings people together. Today she continues to see the amazing work of the people whom she serves with on the Brighton Center properties board, the Sisters of Notre Dame investment committee and the Boone County Mental Health Tax Board.

2019 Helen Carroll Champion of Education

Dr. Laura Koehl
Notre Dame Academy

An educator for 35 years, Laura Koehl is finishing her 13th year at Notre Dame Academy, currently serving as the school President. In her first four years at NDA, Laura taught biology and chemistry and then served as the Principal for five years prior to becoming the President in 2014. Laura’s professional experience also includes five years in college admissions, six years as Vice President for Student Development and three years as VP for Enrollment and Planning at Thomas More University. She has done consulting work in science education for the University for Cincinnati, Miami University and the Ohio Department of Education.

Laura Koehl

Laura’s lifelong passion for education has focused especially on opportunities for young women. In her work at Notre Dame Academy, she finds great reward in working with a dedicated faculty and staff to create a supportive environment that empowers young women to embrace their gifts and become women who excel in community service, family life and professional achievements Laura describes NDA as a mission-driven institution, embracing a rich heritage as a school sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame (SND) and dedicated to educating women who will make a difference in the world.

Laura received her B.A. in biology from Thomas More College, M.S. in plant ecology from Illinois State University and an Ed.D. in educational foundations from the University of Cincinnati. Her doctoral dissertation focused on lessons learned from the lives of successful women scientists.

The SND have had a profound and lasting impact on Laura’s life. She is very involved with the SND educational mission locally and nationally. She serves as the Chair of the Advisory Council for the SND National Education Office and vice chair for Notre Dame Urban Education Center Board. She is also a member of the Thomas More University Board of Trustees.

Laura is very grateful for a lifetime of rich blessings found in family, friends and colleagues. She has been married to Brian, a Principal Consultant for PCM, for 35 years. Their family includes sons Sam, Alex, his girlfriend Carrie, and Louis and his wife Denice. Laura and Brian reside in Ft. Thomas.

Emerging Leader

Holly Mazzocca
Wealth Advisor and Principal
Bartlett Wealth Management

Holly Mazzocca is a wealth advisor and principal with Bartlett Wealth Management. In her role, Holly focuses on combining her two passions – her love of finance and desire to help others. Holly provides investment management and financial planning services to individuals, families and non-profit organizations, helping them identify their goals and create an action plan to make those dreams a reality.

Holly Mazzocca

Holly also oversees the firm’s marketing function and is the youngest member of Bartlett’s Management Committee. She is a CFP® professional.

Holly is a native of Northern Kentucky who returned home in 2015 after spending seven years in Chicago working in the investment industry. Holly earned her B.S. from Indiana University and her M.B.A. from the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management while working full-time and was a recipient of the Dean’s Service Award.

In the community, Holly is a board member of the DCCH Center for Children & Families and Chair of the Audit Committee and Vice Chair of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Women’s Initiative Regional Women’s Summit. She is a proud member of the Leadership Northern Kentucky Class of 2019. Holly also volunteers with the UC Economics Center StEP Store, the Cincinnati Community Tool Bank and coaches her son’s basketball team. She resides in Ft. Thomas with her husband, Louis, and their two sons.

Holly provides a glimpse into the foundation of her success. “I was blessed to be raised by parents who believed in the mantra, “To whom much is given, of him much will be required.” Thank you to my Dad and Mom, Denny and Jackie Hirt, for demonstrating by example and showing me how to be a leader, while always encouraging me to embrace those attributes that made me special. Thank you to the village of strong women in my life who have blazed their own paths and have each contributed to my personal and professional growth.

“To my husband, Louis, thank you for being my partner and my avid supporter every step along the way. Coming home to our family is the best part of my day, every day.”

Henrietta Cleveland Inspiring Women Award
Presented by St. Elizabeth Healthcare

Eva G. Farris

Eva’s life began in Havana, Cuba, where she grew up and attended Catholic grade school and high school. She went on to the University of Havana and received her master’s degree in commerce. She then enrolled at Columbia University in New York City.

Eva Farris

During one of her trips from Columbia to Havana, she stopped in Miami, Florida, during a terrible hurricane, and there her life changed forever. She met a gregarious young man from Eastern Kentucky whose big smile she just could not resist. His name is Oakley Farris. After two years of telephone calls and letters, they were married in New York City and then moved to Covington to start their new life together.

When Eva married Oakley, she took over the couple’s finances. She learned to drive and bought a car to surprise Oakley, who swore off driving after failed attempts to drive while he was in the Army. She began driving him around the country on his business sales calls. Eva was a savvy businesswoman. She encouraged Oakley to turn a duplex into an apartment building and rent out the attic, living room, and two-car garage as furnished studio apartments. Soon, the two set a goal and typed up a contract that stated by a certain date they would own 20 apartments. Oakley and Eva each carried a contract and posted one on their bathroom mirror. They started with nothing, but before that deadline, had more than 20 apartments. At one point, they owned more than 40 rentals. Oakley says Eva has been the couple’s driving force, literally and figuratively, for much of their marriage. Oakley Farris has always credited his wife for his success and it is the reason why so many of their charitable endeavors bear her name.

From the very beginning and even until the present day, she inspired her husband with the confidence that he could do anything that he set his mind to. Nothing was impossible. They worked closely together in business and invested wisely, particularly in their Covington community. Their investments grew and paid tremendous dividends over time allowing them to supplement Eva’s long-standing and remarkable community and charitable work with strategic cash investments. The Farrises have donated more than $10 million to organizations. Eva made it her business to help others, especially young people, meet and exceed their fullest potential. Among the many charitable contributions of the Farrises are contributions to Northern Kentucky University, City of Covington, Holmes High School, Behringer Crawford Museum, St. Elizabeth Medical Center, Thomas More College, The Carnegie, Gateway Community and Technical College, Kentucky Educational Television (KET), Covington Latin School, and Covington Archdiocese. This list is just a sampling of their generosity. They have donated to so many others in the Northern Kentucky region.

These many, extraordinary contributions are a powerful testament to a man and a woman who loved each other more than life itself and whose love produced a generous spirit that has transformed our community.

“When you have the ability to do so, doing good just makes sense.”

Nancy James Boothe Scholarship Recipients

Emily Lowe
Northern Kentucky University

Emily Lowe has demonstrated a commitment to the health and well-being of Northern Kentucky’s future generations, first as an elementary teacher, and now in pursuit of her registered nurse license through Northern Kentucky University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing program.

Emily Lowe

Emily graduated Summa Cum Laude from NKU in 2012 and worked as an intervention teacher for two years. In 2015, with the birth of their second child, Emily’s world and career were turned upside down. Emily’s daughter was born with multiple congenital heart defects that were found to be inoperable. After 8 short days, her daughter passed away in her arms. It was the exemplary care from the nurses in the Cardiac ICU at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital that fueled Emily’s intent on becoming a nurse.

In addition to her nursing program, Emily has worked as a clerical technician in the Neonatal ICU at St. Elizabeth, volunteered as bereavement support coordinator with the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association, organized community fundraisers for CHD research, advocated on Capitol Hill for funding for the CDC and NIH, and spoke before multiple organizations about nursing impact on patients and their families.

Emily believes in the sanctity of life and knows it is a privilege to positively impact her patient’s lives through exemplary healthcare, healing, and love.
She explains her commitment to service.

“I first would like to thank my children, Wyatt and Maggie, for showing me what unconditional love means and being my inspiration to care for others. I would like to thank my husband Ryan, for his unwavering support; my mother, Michelle, for helping care for Wyatt, and my family for their love.”

Patti Watters
Thomas More University

Patti Watters is a registered nurse with St. Elizabeth Healthcare, currently earning her bachelor’s degree in the science of nursing from Thomas More University. Patti’s passion for the medical profession began when, at 11 years old, she experienced a month-long hospital stay following surgery for a ruptured appendix and subsequent development of severe peritonitis.

Patti Watters

She began her nursing career as a home health aide while earning an associate degree in the science of nursing from Northern Kentucky University. The plan had been to continue and earn a bachelor’s degree, but other life events (getting married and having children) put those plans on hold. Following graduation, Patti worked for 5 years on a medical/surgical unit and then transferred to the PACU where she spent the next 26 years, 16 of those on an as needed basis.

In addition to medicine, Patti has also had a keen interest in forensic nursing and earned an associate’s degree in paralegal studies from Beckfield College. Armed with this and her medical knowledge, Patti began a dual career: providing patient care at the hospital on a PRN basis while serving as a full-time nurse consultant for a very busy medical defense law firm. Currently, she has returned to the hospital on a full-time basis working in the Quality Management Department. In her free time, she volunteers tutoring children at the Notre Dame Urban Education Center and helps coordinate The Stephen Watters Memorial Benefit.

Pattie attributes her success to colleagues, friends, and family.

“Thank you, Judy Crist, for nominating me. Thank you, Brett, for being by my side and pushing me when needed. I thank my mother, Dot Decker, who is an exceptional role model and mentor. I thank my children — Billy, Jessica, and Jamie—who have inspired me to show them that they can achieve anything with perseverance and hard work.”

Rebecca L. Wolfe
Gateway Community & Technical College

Rebecca began her college career in her late 40s. She finally felt ready after raising her children and overcoming significant obstacles in her life. She lost her father at age nine to a coal mining accident, and the demands of a family member’s poor health interrupted her dreams of beginning college classes during her senior year of high school. At age 32, Rebecca was widowed with a small child.

Rebecca Wolfe

Nevertheless, as Rebecca puts it, “Each day I wake up to a new day, and I choose how I wish to face this day. Sad, happy, tragic and just plain crazy will happen each day. I choose to be happy and do my very best to smile and change a life for the better.” 

Neighbors and co-workers observe her commitment to her work, education, and community. Some describe Rebecca as having a great deal of integrity and tenacity and demonstrates her collaborative nature through her work at the WEDCO District Health Department & Home Health Agency. “In addition to her intellectual ability, Rebecca makes you feel like you have known her your entire life. She brings much-needed laughter into the workplace,” states a colleague.

Rebecca plays a significant role in her community. When Falmouth was devastated by a deadly flood that left 80% of the town underwater, Rebecca spent tireless hours helping others get back on their feet by giving out supplies, cleaning debris, and offering assistance where needed. She helped a local family by painting, drywalling, replacing flooring, and helping them move. Rebecca regularly volunteers at a local bingo hall and other events to raise money for the public school to purchase supplies. She is pursuing an associate of science degree at Gateway and will transfer to NKU for her bachelor’s degree.

Sponsors include:

Title Sponsor: St. Elizabeth Healthcare

Silver Sponsor: Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc.

Education Partners: Toyota, Gateway Community and Technical College, Northern Kentucky University, Thomas More University

Media Partner: Northern Kentucky Tribune

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