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The Business Page

Welcome to the business page, a blog where I'll take you behind the scenes of greater Rochester's fast-changing economy. My name is Ben Rand, and I intend to introduce you to some of the personalities, concepts and events that make news in business here. I've been a business reporter for eight years in Rochester and a journalist for 18, working in four states. I grew up in Pittsford, but moved away after college for about a decade. My wife and I live in Irondequoit with our two children.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

An Honor for Successful Women

Just returned from the Convention Center, where G. John Howard, newly hired as chief of staff to Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy, won the 2006 Athena Award. That honor is annually presented to a woman who demonstrates significant achievements in business and community service and promotes the professional advancement of women. D&C staff writer Amy Wu will have a complete report in tomorrow's paper. But here are some sights, sounds and observations she might not be able to cover:
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Master of ceremonies Ginny Ryan, evening news anchor at 13WHAM-TV, has a quick mind and quick wit. In introducing the head table, Ryan inadvertently introduced Richard Leutze of sponsor General Motors Corp. as "Margaret." As soon as the crowd began to stir, Ryan realized her mistake and retreated with a joke. "I'm sorry Richard," she said, "you're not on my list. But today is about women."
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This marks the 20th year of the Athena Award in Rochester. I suppose no event could last that long without effectively catering to sponsors. Which is perhaps why the program today contained a giant commercial. General Motors included forms on each table good for a $500 GMAC certificate toward the purchase of a new vehicle -- a GM, Pontiac, Buick or GMC. Each of the 1,000 people in attendance were entitled to one, as well as loan pre-approval.
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County Executive Maggie Brooks and Mayor Duffy got a chance to congratulate the Athena finalists. At one point, I was sure Duffy was about to let out the big news, prematurely. He specifically recognized and congratulated Jean Howard at a point in the ceremony when she had not yet been named as the winner. (The Athena committee keeps everyone in suspense until the end of the luncheon.) Me of little faith -- the law-enforcer-turned-politician was just honoring his new chief of staff for being nominated.
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Martha Mertz, founder of the Athena Award, is the keynote speaker. The Athena Foundation, based in Michigan, has award programs in more than 350 communities nationally. Rochester was one of the first to join the program, in 1987. She had people looking out for her during her brief visit. Mertz stayed in the Woodcliff Lodge in Bushnell's Basin. She told the crowd she discovered this morning she'd left her makeup bag on the airplane. One call to the concierge was all it took -- a hotel manager offered to share her own makeup. "Women's ways are known," she quipped.
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To learn more about the Athena award program, go to the Athena International site here. See a list of this year's finalists here.
To learn more about the Women's Council, an offshoot of the Rochester Business Alliance, visit here. The Women's Council presents the Athena Award in Rochester.

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