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Past Award Winners

2020 Women of Distinction Winners

Meet the remarkable Award Winners of 2020.

Diana Weir

Diana Weir: Arts | Culture | Design

Diana Weir has been with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra since 2012 and became its Executive Director in 2017. During her time with the organization, the HPO enjoyed five straight years of budget surpluses, invested in an unprecedented volume of community outreach activities, and increased revenues by 30 per cent. Diana graduated from McMaster University with an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and Cultural Studies and has worked for several nonprofit arts organizations, including the Canadian Opera Company and the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. In March 2019, Diana received the Canada Council’s prestigious John Hobday Award for Arts Management. In December 2019, Diana was appointed to the newly created role of Vice President, Strategic Partnerships at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Emily O'Brien

Emily O’Brien: Business Leadership | Entrepreneurship

Emily O’Brien is the founder of Comeback Snacks and star of the Digital Canaries series CRIMINALLY-ACCLAIMED™. An entrepreneur, social media influencer, and ex-convict, Emily founded Comeback Snacks in 2018, a boutique popcorn company inspired by the recipes used by inmates of the women’s prison where Emily served a brief term.
Emily’s mission at Comeback Snacks is to provide high quality, healthy, and tasty snacks for people to enjoy while also providing inspiration and training for ex-convicts looking to start fresh. She has advocated for prison reform and has sat with officials from city halls across Ontario to Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Emily holds an Honours Bachelor’s Degree in International Development from the University of Guelph, and has volunteered for organizations such as AIESEC and Habitat for Humanity. She has been featured in the Hamilton Spectator, on CHCH TV, and CBC Radio and TV.

Monique Lavallee

Monique Lavallee: Community Leadership

Monique Lavallee is a passionate advocate for Indigenous peoples and their right to self-determination. She believes that Indigenous people should have access to culturally relevant safe services in Hamilton. Through her leadership as the Executive Director of Niwasa Kendaaswin Teg, the organization has developed a cultural curriculum that guides their work; launched an Anishinaabemowin language app and created a land-based learning program rooted in Indigenous knowledge and skills. Monique works tirelessly to create opportunities for culture and language acquisition and revitalization in the community. She serves as President for the Coalition of Hamilton Indigenous Leadership and as the First Speaker for the Hamilton Urban Indigenous Strategy. Monique contributes to committees in the areas of equity, inclusion, and education.

Alfredine (Linda) Plourde

Alfredine (Linda) Plourde: Education | Mentorship

Alfredine (Linda) Plourde is a proud French Acadian Canadian. In 2007 she founded Protecting Canadian Children and has voluntarily devoted endless hours advocating for children exposed to physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Linda is a profound example of what it means to be a servant of humanity and a true model of what one person can achieve through selfless dedication to the welfare of all people. Linda’s work with Protecting Canadian Children has attracted support in Australia, England, Germany and the USA with her efforts supporting advocates for change in these countries with the same issues. In 2016, Alfredine received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers. In 2014, she received the World Citizenship Award and the same year also received the Calgary White Hat Award. Hamilton is being recognized through Linda Plourde’s committed efforts. Her belief is that other loyal and courageous people will follow in protecting the children of Canada, our future.

Dr. Audrey Hicks

Dr. Audrey Hicks: Health

Dr. Audrey Hicks began her career at McMaster University in 1988, as a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology. While establishing her research expertise and excellence in the areas of neuromuscular physiology, Audrey focused particular attention on aging and exercise rehabilitation in neurological populations. Audrey is the founding director of the MacWheelers and MSFitt Exercise Rehabilitation Programs for individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) and multiple sclerosis (MS), respectively. She has supervised numerous graduate students, authored over 100 peer reviewed papers and has been an invited speaker at many local, national and international meetings. Audrey is truly committed to making a difference in the world by translating the knowledge gained through research to help others achieve optimal health and wellness.

Kristen Parise from Blueberry Therapy

Blueberry Therapy: Outstanding Small Business

Kristen Parise is the owner and inspiration behind Blueberry Therapy, a multidisciplinary clinic providing Pelvic Health and Pediatric therapy services. Over the course of two years, Blueberry Therapy has experienced a tenfold increase in client traffic because of the leadership of Kristen and her amazing staff of women. Kristen is an educator and leader and has been an Assistant Clinical Professor at McMaster University for over 10 years. In this role she teaches, mentors and supervises students. She also provides educational seminars on pelvic floor dysfunction within the community to seniors, postnatal women, and men’s support groups. Kristen has donated her time and services to a number of community initiatives including the Dundas Terry Fox run and physiotherapy services to underserviced women through Birthmark Doulas.

Dr. Heather Sheardown

Dr. Heather Sheardown: Science | Technology | Trades

Dr. Heather Sheardown is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at McMaster University. She is a highly accomplished researcher, engineer, teacher, mentor and entrepreneur. She has an esteemed international reputation for her research and holds a prestigious Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Ophthalmic Biomaterials. As one of the first female engineering faculty at McMaster, Heather has been a trailblazer for women, fighting for equality and the promotion of women in science and technology. Leading by example, she has been an inspiration to the hundreds of students she has mentored and dozens more she has supervised. Heather genuinely cares about those she works with and has helped the next generation of innovators reach their goals and be successful in their careers.

Chyler Sewell

Chyler Sewell: Young Trailblazer

Chyler Sewell, 17, is an Anishinaabekwe youth from Garden River First Nation. She is the eldest of five kids, and strives to consistently be someone that they can look up to.
As an Ambassador of Hope for We Matter, member of the Youth Action Council for the SPACE Youth Centre, co-president of a school club called Niiwin, published writer and a full time student, Chyler can get very busy. Amidst all of this, she recognizes the importance of self-care, and does her best to prioritize her own mental health in order to be a role model within her community. Chyler has a deep desire for a safe community built on hope, love and respect.

Kayonne Christy

Kayonne Christy: Young Woman of Distinction

Kayonne Christy is a third-generation Jamaican-Canadian woman who is fiercely committed to social justice. Prior to beginning her masters of sociology at the University of British Columbia, Kayonne co-founded the McMaster Womanists, the Black Aspiring Physicians of McMaster, and the Black Outreach Leadership Directive. During her time at McMaster, she was a vocal anti-carding activist, the convener of the Race, Racialization & Racism working group of McMaster’s President’s Advisory Committee on Building an Inclusive Community, a member of the Afro-Caribbean Canadian Association of Hamilton, and a board member of the Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre. She is a two-time John C. Holland Award winner, and currently holds a Canada Graduate Scholarship (Master’s) from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Presently, Kayonne is a research trainee with UBC’s Women’s Health Research Cluster, a member of the Canadian Jamaican Medical Assistance Society, and a mentor with Uof T’s Research Assistance Support Initiative, and UBC’s Sociology Mentorship program. Kayonne is passionate about using her research as a tool for social change.

Lena Sutton

Lena Sutton: Lifetime Achievement

Lena Sutton is a feminist trailblazer and labour leader who has been advocating for fair hiring, pay equity, women’s leadership, and protection of Steelworkers widow’s pensions. For almost 50 years, she has transformed male-dominated labour organizations, raised thousands of dollars for local food banks, and helped thousands of local low-income people file their taxes and get out to vote. She educates and encourages the next generation of women to take leadership roles, still volunteers more than 30 hours a week as well as working part-time as an office cleaner. When her mother once wondered how she went wrong by raising such a union-activist, NDP-supporting daughter Lena replied, “What`s wrong with my brothers that they aren’t?”

Selbina Mwendwa

Selbina Mwendwa: Honourary Woman of Distinction Award

For her self-empowerment as well as her determination to empower women across the globe.

Women of Distinction Award Recipients
2006 – 2020

Diana Weir: Arts | Culture | Design
Emily O’Brien: Business Leadership | Entrepreneurship
Monique Lavallee: Community Leadership
Alfredine (Linda) Plourde: Education | Mentorship
Dr. Audrey Hicks: Health
Blueberry Therapy: Outstanding Small Business
Dr. Heather Sheardown: Science | Technology | Trades
Chyler Sewell: Young Trailblazer
Kayonne Christy: Young Woman of Distinction
Lena Sutton: Lifetime Achievement

Lisa Pijuan-Nomura – Arts|Culture|Design
Tammy Hwang – Business Leadership|Entrepreneurship
Clare Freeman – Community Leadership
Dr. Anna Moro – Education|Mentorship
Louisa Drost – Health
Col. Marguerite Ward – Lifetime Achievement
Maddie Brockbank – Young Woman of Distinction
ArcelorMittal Dofasco – Outstanding Workplace
Jamie McMillan – Science|Technology|Trades
Candace Gagne – Honourary Woman of the Year

Marlaise Dawson – Arts|Culture|Design
Erin Dunham – Business Leadership|Entrepreneurship
Grace Mater – Community Leadership
Dr. Kimberley Dej – Education|Mentorship
Jill Wiwcharuk – Health
Anju Joshi – Lifetime Achievement
Chelsea Mackinnon – Young Woman of Distinction
Alectra Utilities – Outstanding Workplace
Kathy Lerette – Science|Technology|Trades

Diana Panton – Arts|Culture|Design
Amy Back – Business Leadership|Entrepreneurship
Nancy Smith – Community Leadership
Emily Ecker – Education|Mentorship
Dr. Carys Massarella – Health
Anne Tennier – Lifetime Achievement
Shruti Ramesh – Young Woman of Distinction
REfficient Inc. – Outstanding Workplace
Deborah Sloboda – Science|Technology|Trades

Patti Cannon – Arts, Culture or Design
Dr. Brenda Vrkljan – Business, Education & Mentorship
Sarah Glen – Community Leadership
Dr. Maroussia Hajdukowski-Ahmed – Lifetime Achievement
Rachael Finnerty – Health
FirstOntario Credit Union – Outstanding Workplace
Alba Guarne – Science, Technology or Trades
Rebecca Babcock – Young Woman of Distinction

Kaime Woody Sherman
Lenore Lukasik-Foss
Ann Herring
Laura Michele Fortino
Brenda Symons-Moulton
Annette Hamm
Dr. Joanna Wilson
Louise Noel-Ambrose
Myriam Builes Lopez
Zaynab Al-Waadh
Romita Sur

Alexis Fletcher
Alyssa Lai
Astrid Hepner
Bernice E. Downey
Debbie Bang
Hailey Milligan
Juliet M. Daniel
Katherine Kalinoski
Maggie Steele
Mannat Malik
Nancy McMillan
Patricia Akers

Colina Maxwell
Maxine Carter
Emily Hart
Helen Martin
Helen McLeod
Jan Park Dorsay
Julia Scozzari
Karen Shea
Kim McCarthy
Laura Babcock
Sharon Babineau

Cheryl Jensen
Jan Lukas
Jeanette Eby
Krista Warnke
Loretta Hill-Finamore
Lorna Zaremba
Lucene Charles
Marni Flaherty
Mary Koziol
Patricia Jordan
Linda Dayler

Anna Sponer
Casey Johnson
Diane Chiarelli
Dr. Cheryl Ann Levitt
Leah Schwenger
Lisa Hepfner
Lorraine Chapman
Medora Uppal
Susan Tian
We ROCK

Donna Skelly
Dr. Jean Clinton
Emily Clark
Janice Locke
Kathy Archer
Queen Cee
Sally Palmer
Sandy Shaw
Sharon Marafon
Taunya Laslo
Woman Abuse Working Group

Barbara Milne
Emmaline Houston
Florence Sicoli
Jennifer Powell-Fralick
Joe-Anne Priel
Linda Ense
Mildred Gould
Ruby Amog
Shirley Elford
Hamilton Police Services 50th Anniversary Steering Committee

Debbie Crickmore
Dr. Alexandra Papaioannou
Joanna Chapman
Judith Bishop
Karyn Callaghan
Lynda Lukasik
Nomi Cuneo
Sandie Heirwegh
Susan Fowler
North Hamilton Community Health Centre

Ardyth Webster Brott
Betty Ann Bushell
Cathy Ferreira
Elizabeth Beader
Jessie Stoneman
Lauren Wallace
Madina Wasuge
Nancy DiGregorio
SACHA- Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton and Area)

Annette Brennan
Betty Mullin
Carole MacVicar
Elize Hartley
Krys Croxall
Krystena Wan
Nathalie Xian Yi Yan
Patricia Daenzer
Susan Clairmont
The Robert Land Mom’s Group

Women of Distinction Award Recipients
1975 - 2005

Brandy Gowling
Geraldine Voros
Judi Patridge
Mary Lamb
Renee Simone Wetselaar
Ruth Greenspan
Sara Lukacin

Betty Bechtel
Elizabeth Weaver
Hillary Smith
Joanne Ruggieri
Lyla Miklos
Mary Pocius
Melanie McFarlane
Myra James

Carolann Fernandes
Dr. Marie Bountrogianni
Elham Farah
Eva Marsh
Laura Ludwin
Mary Lou Weir
Renate Manthei
Shelley Scott

Barbara Jane Cowan
Dr. Lori Whitehead
Jean Yvonne Miles
Joyce Oliver
Margaret Warriner
Pamela Tracz
Pat Mandy

Andrea Henry
Connie Smith
Elizabeth Latner
Katie Alexandra Hui
Kelly Hayes
Ollie Thompson
Phylis Tresidder
Rhona Trott
Sura Abdul-Razzak

Antoinette Mongillo Howson
Barbara Patterson
Caroll Wiggens (nee Montag)
Carrie Bell
Esther Pauls
Gillian Leek
Patti Beckett

Anne Bain
Aznive Mallett
Bonnie Stayzer
Jasmine Kaur Aujla
Jill Rumble
Mary Gallagher
Sharon Easton

Carrie Sinkowski
Carron Barbas
Ceed Stapleton
Charlene Lockhart
Cumuli Arcand
Dr. Irene Turpee
Eleanor Rodney
Hilena Zylstr
Judy Kloosterman
Kelly Heaney
Lana Lowe
Linda Jacobs
Magenta Chernets
Marie Tuttle
Marjory Nairn
Mary Kiss
Mary Long
Meghan Burke
Odette Clarke
Pat Coward
Patricia Naber
Stephanie Morrison

Andrea Lynne Horwath
Ann Sloat
Anne Vallentyne
Dr. Barbara Gowitzke
Joyce Brown
Paulina Veronique Cote
Sunni Genesco
Vincenza Travale

Birgitt Williams (nee Bolton)
Candace Malott
Evelyn Myrie
Irene Stayshyn
Joyce Caygill
Leonor Sorger
Marlene Thomas Osborne
Sheila Copps
Virginia Binko

Doris Sanchez
Dr. Heather Johnson
Janice Brunet (nee Freckleton)
Marie Peebles
Sharon Bonham
Sr. Agnes Ward

Angela Maloch
Catherine Gibbon
Christine Silverberg
Denise Giroux
Patricia Kozowyk
Ruth Williams
Therese Quigley
Wendy Moore Spors

Doreen Johnson
Jude Johnson
Lydia Coy
Priscilla De Villiers
Shameela Karmali-Rawji
Thelma McGillivray

Doris Clark Ludwig
Florence Irvine
Gwen Lee
Jacqueline Pearce Harbour
Joan Bean
Shirley Turkstra
V. Jane Gordon

Basanti Majumdar
Denise Davy
Gwynneth Hawse Cook
Hoda El Maraghy
Patricia Wallace
Shirley Elford

Joan Coldwell
Joan Rapsavage
Marietta Pupo
Marion Farnan
Marnie Paikin
Sister Joan O’Sullivan

Barbara Chambers
Dr. Gene Sutton
Eleanor Morrow
Eunice Swanborough
Jeannette Walkem
Joy Warner

Brig. Elizabeth Peacocke
Diana Stewart
Elizabeth Holbrook
Lesley Russell
Marjorie Baskin
Shirley Molot

Alvina Werner
Betty Lou Lee
Irene Pearce
Judith Bishop
Mary Chantrell
May Cohen
Sheila Davies

Cecelia Carter-Smith
Eileen Morrow
Heather Murphy
Lynn Marie Spencer Duncan
Pat Ford
Patricia Rolston

Edith Schooley
Hanna Newcombe
Joan DeNew
Jody Orr
Mary Keyes
Olive Newcombe

Christine Hamilton
Emily Smith-Cain
Grace Harris
Joan Berta
Lynne Powell
Muriel Beatty

1983 – Joan S. McKee
1982 – Dorothy Thomas
1981 – Gloria O’Connor
1980 – Ruth Cornwell
1979 – Joan McKee
1978 – Mary Gibbon
1977 – Norma Berti

Dolores Marks
Doris Short
Elizabeth Lee
Elizabeth MacKay
Flora Nicholson
Jenny Hilstead
Joan Balinson
Mildred McGilivray
Nib Johnson
Patricia Lopresti
Shirley Gibbon

Dr. Roberta Bondar
Elizabeth Page
Carmeta Gentles
Roberta Jamieson
Anne Jones
Ellen Fairclough
Gwendolyn George
Patricia Wallace
Karen Cimba
Phylis McAvoy
Irmagard Westman
Denise Roger-McQuilkin
Bettina Campbell

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Women of Distinction

Meet the remarkable award winners of 2019

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