Verni Howard among finalist for Virginia K. Shehee Most Influential Woman Award

6 finalists announced for Virginia K. Shehee Most Influential Woman Award

A passion for serving their fellow human beings characterizes the six finalists for the 2018 Virginia K. Shehee Most Influential Woman Award. They are accomplished women who don’t seek the spotlight but lead in innumerable ways.

This year’s finalists are Cassie Hammett, founder of The Hub urban ministriesVerni Howard, executive director of Providence HouseDr. Margaret Olmedo, associate professor and program director, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, LSU Health, Shreveport; Markey Pierre, PhD, president and managing partner, Southern Strategy Group of North LouisianaMary Smith, owner of IMA Louisiana and Access Health;  and Angie White, senior vice president, North Louisiana Economic Partnership.

TICKETS: Purchase them here for Sept. 21 luncheon

In addition to their many professional honors, they serve through extensive volunteer work in North Louisiana. They give immense amounts of time and money and all believe in their responsibility to give back to the community.

Their accomplishments, many behind the scenes, are extensive, starting in North Louisiana and reaching throughout the country. Their commitment includes helping homeless families, assisting sex-trafficking victims, helping orthopedic surgery patients and teaching physicians, promoting business ownership and economic growth, improving health care and helping young people reach their potential.

 “This year’s finalists reflect impressive talent and expertise in an array of organizations and business fields,” Bridges Hall, Shreveport-Bossier market president for Red River Bank, award sponsor, said. “They give of themselves in so many areas of civic engagement and help make Northwest Louisiana a better community.”

Finalists will be recognized — and the top winner announced — at a community luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 21 at East Ridge Country Club. The luncheon will be a fundraiser for Holy Angels, a residential and training campus in Shreveport for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Holy Angels is so grateful to our generous community for supporting our mission of love, support and empowerment through this event each year,” Chief Executive Officer Laurie Boswell said. “The late Virginia K. Shehee was one of our biggest supporters. This year’s finalists honor the leadership qualities that she and the founders of Holy Angels held.”

Chosen by a community panel, the six honorees exemplify the leadership and volunteerism shown by the late Virginia K. Shehee, civic leader, businesswoman and philanthropist, for whom the award is named. Red River Bank and Shreveport Times, a member of the USA TODAY Network, created the award in 2015 and sponsor it annually to honor Shehee’s legacy. Several of the six knew Shehee and credit her with inspiring them and providing guidance in their lives.

 “The reach of the finalists–combined with sell-out crowds at the luncheon–brings us together as friends, neighbors and co-workers,” Jeff Gauger, executive editor of Shreveport Times, said. “We are grateful for these examples of great things going on in Northwest Louisiana and for the ways Virginia K. Shehee’s influence lives on.”

 The Shehee family is humbled by the community response to the award, daughter Nell Shehee said. “Virginia would be so pleased to know that her legacy of leadership and caring for our community continues with this annual recognition of new leadership.”

Harold Turner, Red River Bank chief corporate development officer, points out the depth of the finalists. “Each year we are increasingly inspired by the involvement and leadership of nominees,” he said.  “A volunteer panel of leaders chooses the finalists, and the task is a hard one.”

 Master of ceremonies for the fourth annual ceremony will be last year’s Virginia K. Shehee Most Influential Woman, Peggy Murphy, PhD, associate professor in medicine at LSU Health. “These smart, energetic, hard-working, multi-talented and determined women all represent strength, hope, innovation and progress for the individuals and families of our community,” she said.

“The finalists show us the many ways citizens step up to serve—and how they do so with immense love for our community,” Gauger added. “The impact of these leaders helps make this a better place to live and work.”

Table sponsorships, tickets available for luncheon

Table sponsorships and individual tickets are available for the fourth Virginia K. Shehee Most Influential Woman Awards luncheon. Proceeds from the luncheon go to Holy Angels.       

The event will be at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 21 at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport. Six finalists will be honored, and the top winner will be announced.

“In honoring these outstanding leaders, we also bring together hundreds of local people to celebrate the legacy of Virginia K. Shehee and raise money for Holy Angels,” Red River Bank Chief Corporate Development Officer Harold Turner said. “The result is a dynamic event that shows the power of community partnerships.”

Main sponsors for the award are Red River Bank and Shreveport Times. Cornerstone sponsors are Sid Potts and Gumbeaux Productions. Nominating sponsor is Holly Roca, a Keller Williams real estate agent. Supporting sponsors are BRF, Sloan’s Formals and Professional Tax & Accounting Services.

Members of the 2018 selection committee were: Tari Bradford, executive assistant of governmental affairs in the Shreveport mayor’s office; Gayle Flowers, vice chancellor, economic and workforce development, Bossier Parish Community College; Emerie Eck Gentry, owner of Lagniappe P.R.I.M.E. LLC and a finalist for the inaugural award in 2015; Brent Latin, owner of Young Professionals Entertainment; Maggie Martin, columnist, Shreveport Times; and Shehee family representatives Nell and Margaret Shehee, daughters of Virginia K. Shehee.

Each finalist receives an etched crystal award donated by Sid Potts. In addition, the top award winner will receive a crystal trophy that rotates among winners from year to year.  Lee Michaels is donating four $250 gift cards for a drawing at the luncheon.

Table sponsorships are $1,000 and include luncheon tickets for eight, a mention in the program and a centerpiece made by Holy Angels residents. To buy a table: visit

Individual tickets are $75: visit

For more information, contact:  Kelley Matkins, event coordinator, Holy Angels, (318) 629-1711.

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