Seven Toledo area women will be honored for their hard work, leadership, and dedication at the 19th annual Milestones Award Luncheon Thursday.
The event sponsored by the YWCA of Greater Toledo will pay tribute to the women, who have made their mark in politics, business, education, and other facets of life in northwest Ohio.
“We have some remarkable women in this community, and every year it tops the year before,” said Barbara Vaughn, event coordinator. “These are women who have been in their field a long time and are very successful and accomplished.”
A committee selected the recipients from a pool of about 100 nominees. In its 18-year history, more than 100 women have been honored through Milestones, which also serves as a YWCA fund-raiser. The organization hopes to raise $40,000 to $50,000 to benefit its programs, which include a battered women’s shelter, a childcare resource and referral program, H.O.P.E. (rape crisis), supportive housing, and youth development.
This year’s honorees are:
Leslie Adams (Arts)
Ms. Adams is a nationally recognized artist who specializes in figurative art and portraiture. Her work has been exhibited internationally and in some of the most prestigious art institutions in the country, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Her patrons include many distinguished members of private society, as well as corporate, academic, religious, cultural, and civic leaders. Her solo exhibit, Drawn from Life, is featured at the Toledo Museum of Art. Ms. Adams’ works have received numerous awards from various institutions. One day, she hopes to paint the official White House portrait of the president of the United States.
Marianne Ballas (Business)
As president of Ballas Buick GMC, Ms. Ballas has achieved many milestones. She was the first woman in northwest Ohio to own an auto dealership, as well as the first female representative from this region to be appointed to the women’s Retail Network of General Motors. She was elected to the Buick/GMC National Dealer Council to represent the company’s North Central Region, and has served on the national council for four years. Ms. Ballas took over the dealership after the death of her husband, George, but sold the business to cover estate obligations. After working out a business plan, she repurchased the dealership and says she would do everything in her power to not let down the 90 families who rely on her for their income, benefits, and health care.
Susan Martyn (Education)
Mrs. Martyn has taught at the University of Toledo for 33 years and is currently the Stoepler professor of law and values in the college of law. She has been an inspiration to women in the field of law and is highly regarded for her dedication and ability to inspire her students to achieve more. Mrs. Martyn said she hopes the next generation of women will not feel the same pressure she did to please everyone. She attributes her success to hard work and her ability to understand different points of view.
Vallie Bowman-English (Government)
Mrs. Bowman-English, Toledo municipal clerk of court, is the first African-American and the first attorney elected to the office. She is a member of the Toledo Bar Association and currently is its third vice president. In 2012, she developed a mobile application that allows quick access to the court schedule, case information, case documents, and case payment. TMC Courtwatch was the first application of its kind in Ohio. Because of its success, she has been invited to national conferences to share the story of her accomplishment.
Dr. Sonia M. Najjar (Sciences)
Dr. Najjar is a biomedical researcher and educator in the field of diabetes study. She is a tenured professor at the University of Toledo and founding director of the Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Research, which brings together scientists in the emerging fields of metabolism and cardiovascular research. She also worked to develop the Middle East Diabetes Research Center. Dr. Najjar has continually been a force for change locally, encouraging Toledo to be a community that values education.
Kim Sidwell (Social Services)
Mrs. Sidwell found her passion when she began working in the world of nonprofit fund-raising, and discovered her ability to inspire others to help change lives. Mrs. Sidwell worked for the Muscular Dystrophy Association handling marketing, public relations, and fund-raising for six years before moving to Toledo. Since joining the staff of United Way of Greater Toledo 22 years ago, she has helped the organization make a substantial impact on the health and well-being of the Toledo community. Mrs. Sidwell, now senior vice president of resource development at United Way, has been involved with the Public Relations Society of America NW Ohio Chapter and the Press Club, where she is a member of the board of directors and former president and chairman of its Touchstone Awards.
Barbara Eikost (Volunteerism)
Ms. Eikost has often been involved with efforts to improve public education. In the 1970s, she formed the Multi-Unit School Program, which was designed to stimulate the intellectual and creative abilities of high-achieving students from three school districts. She is currently working with young people in central city schools and as a mentor with graduates of the Bridges Out of Poverty program. At Hospice of Northwest Ohio, as the first paid volunteer director, she set the tone for what the roles of volunteers can be within an organization. She believes that well-trained volunteers are capable of doing great work that is as valuable as that of the paid staff.
Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6133.