Women of Distinction Ceremony
The only way to predict your future is to create it. Lincoln said it, and every year NCCWSL honors women who have lived it! They’ve found their place, they’re making the world better, and they’re going to empower you to do the same.
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Join us at the Women of Distinction Awards ceremony as these women share their advice, inspiration, and experience with the future leaders of tomorrow (that’s you, right?). After hearing their remarkable stories, you’ll have the opportunity to meet them, face-to-face, during the reception after the ceremony.
Who are the 2015 NCCWSL Women of Distinction?
Awardees are leaders in their fields, creators of unique programs and services, and lifelong advocates for critical issues. Here are this year’s inspiring women.
Elizabeth Acevedo is a poet born and raised in New York City, and her work is infused with her Dominican parents’ bolero and her beloved city’s grit. Currently living in Washington, D.C., she holds a bachelor’s degree in performing arts from George Washington University and is a master of fine arts candidate at the University of Maryland.
With more than 12 years of performance experience, Acevedo has been a featured performer on the BET and Mun2 television channels and delivered a TED Talk in March 2013. She has graced stages both nationally and internationally, including renowned venues such as the Lincoln Center, Madison Square Garden, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and South Africa’s State Theatre in Pretoria.
Acevedo is the 2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam representative for Washington, D.C., and placed in the top 25 in the overall competition. Additionally, she was named the 2014 Beltway Grand Slam Champion, and is a National Poetry Slam Champion. Acevedo has been published or has poems forthcoming in the Acentos Review,the Ostrich Review, Split This Rock, Callaloo, Poet Lore, and the Notre Dame Review.
Marcia Ann Gillespie
Magazine Editor and Writer
A trailblazer in the magazine industry and leader in the women’s movement, Marcia Ann Gillespie is a respected and award-winning editor and writer. She is the former editor-in-chief of two groundbreaking magazines, Essence (1971–80) and Ms. (1993–2001) and was also the president of Liberty Media for Women, a company she co-founded.
Appointed editor-in-chief of Essence at age 26, Gillespie rapidly transformed the publication into one of the fastest-growing women’s magazines in the United States. During her tenure, the magazine became known for its in-depth articles and investigative pieces and received a National Magazine Award, the industry’s most prestigious honor. In addition to her role as editor, she also served as a member of Essence Communications’ board of directors.
Gillespie has written extensively about issues relating to the African American community and about women, particularly black women. She’s the co-author of Maya Angelou: A Glorious Celebration, and several of her articles and essays are required reading in women’s studies classes and appear in anthologies and collections.
Gillespie has received numerous honors including the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Lifetime Achievement Awards from the New York chapter of the Association of Black Journalists and New York Women in Communications, and a doctor of letters from her alma mater, Lake Forest College in Illinois. Gillespie is currently a professor at SUNY Old Westbury College in the media and communications department.
Vice President for Strategic Partnerships
Lynn Rosenthal is the vice president for strategic partnerships at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a position she assumed in February 2015. Before that, she served as the first-ever White House adviser on violence against women. As a senior adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, Rosenthal developed new initiatives to combat sexual violence, reduce domestic violence homicides, and improve the workplace response to violence against women.
She worked closely with Biden to develop the 1 Is 2 Many campaign, which is focused on the high rates of violence facing teens and young adults. Rosenthal co-chaired the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, as well as an interagency working group that explored where HIV/AIDS and violence against women meet. Additionally, she served on the White House Council on Women and Girls.
From 2000 to 2006, Rosenthal was the executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence where she represented state domestic violence coalitions in Congress and worked closely with corporate and government leaders to develop new initiatives to prevent violence against women. She also served as the executive director of state domestic violence coalitions in both Florida and New Mexico and as a consultant in Florida working to improve housing options for domestic violence survivors. Rosenthal began her work at the grassroots level, serving as the executive director of a local domestic violence shelter and rape crisis center in Tallahassee, Florida.
CEO and Founder of GoldieBlox
Debbie Sterling is the founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, an award-winning toy company on a mission to “disrupt the pink aisle” with interactive construction toys and stories for girls. Sterling is an engineer, spokesperson, and one of the leaders of the movement getting girls interested in engineering and technology. Sterling was named Time magazine’s Person of the Moment and Business Insider‘s 30 Women Who Are Changing the World. GoldieBlox was named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company and Educational Toy of the Year by the Toy Industry Association, and it became the first-ever small business to win a free commercial during the Super Bowl. Sterling has made it her life’s mission to tackle the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math. She completed her degree in engineering at Stanford University in 2005 and currently lives with her husband in San Francisco.
Amanda Simpson is the executive director of the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives, which is an official government organization focused on implementing large-scale renewable energy initiatives within the U.S. Army. Previously she was the special assistant to the Army acquisition executive. In that role, she was a principal adviser to the assistant secretary of the Army on all matters relating to Army acquisition, procurement, research and development, and logistics.
Before joining the government, Simpson was employed by Raytheon and the Hughes Aircraft Company, both leading organizations in the aerospace and defense technology industries. She managed projects in target and night vision technologies, traveling wave tube production, advanced missiles, and unmanned aircraft. In 1999, her team received the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Award for Significant Technical Achievement, one of the highest awards in the industry. Simpson also earned the Raytheon Woman on the Move award in 2001 and the Raytheon Missile Systems Team Excellence Award in 2006.
Simpson holds an Airline Transport Pilot certificate and a Certified Flight Instructor license. She has logged nearly 3,000 hours of flying in more than 60 different types of aircraft, including single seat micro-light craft, float planes, flying boats, unmanned drones, and multi-engine jets.
In addition to her career achievements, Simpson has been a champion of LGBT rights. Simpson earned a 2004 Tucson YWCA Women on the Move award and the 2005 Arizona Human Rights Fund Individual Award. In 2010, she became the first transgender woman U.S. presidential appointee when she took the position of senior technical advisor to the Bureau of Industry and Security, an agency under the U.S. Department of Commerce. She is a nationally renowned speaker and actively communicates about issues of gender and diversity.
Simpson earned a Bachelor of Science in physics from Harvey Mudd College, a Master of Science in engineering from California State University, and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Arizona.
Miriam W. Yeung, MPA
Miriam W. Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), guides the country’s only national, multi-issue, progressive organization dedicated to building a movement for social justice and human rights for Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls in the United States. Yeung is an expert on issues related to reproductive justice; immigrant rights; women’s rights; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues; and cross-movement alliance building. With offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Atlanta and chapters in 15 cities, NAPAWF is the nation’s leading policy voice and leadership platform for Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls.
Recently, under Yeung’s leadership as co-chair of the We Belong Togethercampaign, 125 women activists participated in the largest all-women civil disobedience action in modern times to call for human immigration reform policies. Yeung is also the country’s leading expert on so-called “prenatal nondiscrimination” laws, which seek to ban abortions and target Asian American women.
Prior to NAPAWF, Yeung held many positions during her 10-year career at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in New York City. During her last year there, she served as director of public policy and government relations, where she oversaw policy matters on the local, state, and federal levels and helped develop the New York City Domestic Partnership Equality Act, the New York City Dignity for All Students Act, and the New York State Dignity for All Schools Act.
Yeung has been published in diverse publications both in print and online and is a sought-after speaker and workshop presenter. In 2014, Yeung was honored at the Ms. Foundation’s annual Gloria Awards: A Salute to Women of Vision. In 2012, she was recognized by the National Council for Research on Women with the Making A Difference for Women award and in 2007 received special recognition from the New York City Council for her work with the LGBT youth community.
Born in Hong Kong and raised in the projects of Brooklyn, Yeung is a proud queer Asian American immigrant woman activist who is committed to building social justice movements and raising her two young daughters to be fearless. She holds a bachelor’s degree from New York University and a master’s of public administration from Baruch College.
Check back as we announce our remaining 2015 Women of Distinction!
When does this year’s ceremony take place?
The event will be held the evening of Thursday, May 28, 2015.
How can I attend the ceremony?
Register for the conference.
What happened at last year’s ceremony?
Check out the highlights from the 2014 Women of Distinction ceremony.