ATHENA winner talks about inspiration, meaning of leadership

Jan 24, 2020

From left, Kimberly Jones of Butler/Till, which won the third annual ATHENA Organizational Award; The College at Brockport President Heidi Macpherson, winner of the ATHENA Award; and Zweigle’s owner and CEO Julie Camardo, winner of the ATHENA Young Professional Award.
Credit Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce

Heidi Macpherson, president at The College at Brockport, has won this year's ATHENA Award.

The annual honor goes to a professional female leader who has demonstrated significant achievements in business, community service, and the advancement of women.

Macpherson credited her parents for instilling in her a sense of what was possible very early in her life, by setting an expectation.

"My mother started almost every conversation with me as a child with the words, 'When you go to college,' " she recalled.

Macpherson not only went to college, she also studied abroad and later taught and held leadership positions at a university in England as she made a career out of higher education.

"It changed and transformed my life and it made me, I think, a citizen of the world," she said.

For Macpherson, a leader is someone who asks a lot of questions and listens to the answers. She said for many years, when women were denied positions of power, communities missed out on their ability to connect to others and take the best of people's ideas and make something bigger.

"Now, it's not that every woman that can do that, and it's not that no man can," she added, "but I think the more diverse voices we have around the table, the better opportunity we have to ensure that people's understanding of what leadership is can be expanded and transformed."

Rochester, she said, is a community that excels at bringing women to the table.

Click on the LISTEN link above to hear Macpherson talk about her parents' faith in her, why she wanted a career in higher education, and how she learned from her own mentors, including those who taught her how not to be a good leader.

The winner of this year's ATHENA Young Professional Award was Julie Camardo, owner and CEO of Zweigle's, and Butler/Till Media Services received the ATHENA Organizational Award.