Raymer wins ATHENA Award

March 10, 2017
Messenger-Inquirer

Kathryn Raymer, an executive vice president and mortgage lending national operations manager with U.S. Bank, is this year’s ATHENA Award recipient.

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer.  Kathryn Raymer smiles as she thanks everyone after receiving the 2017 ATHENA Award.

She accepted the Girls Inc. and Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce honor Thursday during a luncheon at the Owensboro Convention Center.

Raymer, who leads a group of more than 1,000 employees from across the nation out of her Owensboro headquarters, provides support and funding for more than $37 billion in originated and purchased loans annually. She was recently recognized as a member of U.S. Bank’s Top Women in Banking and was one of Brescia University’s three distinguished alumni.

But Thursday, she was thanked not only for her distinguished professional career, but also for how she’s used it to mentor and guide other women in her footsteps. Kirk Kirkpatrick, who emceed the awards luncheon, said she encompasses the vision and essence of ATHENA.

“She believes that the act of women supporting other women is essential for our overall success and development as individuals, and she sees the beneficial relationships derived from mentoring strengthening communities and companies,” he said. “She has been committed to the idea that promoting an attitude of support and inclusion promotes diversity, opportunity and unity.”

It’s the 19th time Girls Inc. and the chamber have partnered annually to offer a local affiliate of the nationally recognized leadership award. It’s designed to highlight business and professional leaders who support and uplift women.

And while Raymer doesn’t consider herself all that much of a champion — she said she has spent her career doing simply what she thought was right and expected of her — she did express an ongoing interest in the role that women can play in inspiring others.

“As a young, single mother starting out, I struggled,” she said. “I struggled for all the reasons that all young, single women do.

As I’ve been fortunate enough to grow in my career, it was only natural for me to reach out to other young women. In fact, I think for any of us to be successful, we have to be surrounded by other people who are willing to help and support one another. I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without surrounding myself with people who were better than me. I think it’s really important to give that back.”

And that was a theme on which almost all of Thursday’s speakers touched.

Young girls just reaching their reading milestones, high schoolers ready to graduate and keynote speaker Whitney Hanley — a Girls Inc. alum who will soon begin her doctorate study in exceptional education at the University of Central Florida — each thanked the crowd for helping them succeed through Girls Inc.

While Raymer wasn’t a member of Girls Inc. as a child, she said such organizations play an influential role that can’t be understated in narrowing the professional gender gap. Their successes, she added, have been built upon by strong, decisive women before her who laid a foundation for equality.

One of those women was honored as the region’s inaugural Legacy Award. The late Clara Oldham, a graduate of the University of Alabama and Tulane University, worked at Duke University Hospital and the New Orleans Health Department as a medical social worker. She moved to Owensboro in 1950 to raise her children, but she later taught at Kentucky Wesleyan College and worked for the Kentucky Department of Child Welfare and Mercy Hospital.

She and her husband marched, organized and testified tirelessly for women’s rights, ATHENA Chairperson Sue Napper said during the presentation. She was a co-founder of the Owensboro Chapter of the National Organization for Women and served as a representative to the Kentucky Women’s Agenda; the Kentucky Pro-ERA Alliance; the Owensboro Coalition of Women; and the White House Conference on Family. She was a founding member of Citizens Against Rape and the Center for Creative Choices and was an active member in a number of human rights and medical advocacy organizations.

She campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment and played a crucial role in helping found what is today known as OASIS Women’s Shelter for victims of domestic violence.

“Every woman in this room has been touched by Clara,” said Napper. “For those who were fortunate to know her, she taught them courage, about stepping up and speaking out, about expecting the most from themselves. She helped them pursue careers. She made them feel they could do anything. She made them understand why inclusive language was necessary if women are to be whole and equal.”

March is Women’s History Month, and Tish Correa Osborne, local Girls Inc. CEO, said days of recognition and the people that champion them are turning a tide and calling attention to the plight of underserved, abused or neglected women.

“There are so many things locally that we can do to break down obstacles and barriers,” she said. “If we all do a little bit, we can affect the change we want to see happen.”

Austin Ramsey, Messenger-Inquirer

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