MORRIS – Pam Simpson said it was humbling to be in the company of Barb Rath and Joan Sereno.
All three were recipients of the first Grundy County Women of Distinction Award. Simpson said she’s known the other women for years – she and Rath are cousins – and said she’s looked up to both of them her entire life.
“I am honored and humbled to be standing here alongside these two amazing women,” Simpson said.
The award is given to women who have made a difference in Grundy County and who are role models as leaders in their fields and communities.
The first recipients were Rath, a teacher at Morris Community High School; Sereno, Grundy Community Volunteer Hospice executive director; and Simpson, owner and director of Pam’s Academy of Dance.
All three were honored Wednesday during a luncheon at Chapin’s North.
A special committee whittled the 18 nominees down to the three recipients. The awards were presented by Kim Landers, vice president of Patient Care Services at Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers.
The Morris Daily Herald and Minooka-Channahon Life created the award based on a similar award given by their sister publication, the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake.
Both publications are owned by Shaw Media.
Rath said she was honored to receive the award, and thanked her family, MCHS Principal Kelly Hussey, and the man who nominated her, fellow MCHS teacher Craig Ortiz.
She noted she was inspired to go into education by teachers she had as a child, and is inspired daily by the nearly 9,000 students she has taught during her 39 years of teaching.
“There’s not a day I didn’t want to go to work,” she said.
Sereno teared up after receiving her award, noting she loves what she does.
“I feel we all have a ministry in life, and mine has been the Grundy Community Volunteer Hospice,” she said.
She thanked her family, friends and patients, adding she believes each person she has encountered is a flower in her life, and “there are many flowers in my garden of life.”
Simpson said she wanted to be a dance instructor since she was 5 years old, and being able to do that through her studios is a dream come true.
“I look at myself as a dance teacher,” she said. “I didn’t think of all the things I do in the community. I’m humbled and thankful to get this award.”
Keynote speaker Diamond Mayor Teresa Kernc shared her journey in public service, starting as an officer with Bolingbrook police to street commissioner for Diamond to mayor of the village.
She said while there was a so-called “glass ceiling” when she started her career, “today I believe glass ceilings don’t exist anymore.”
She encouraged attendees to have both male and female role models, and noted there were many “amazing women” in Grundy County who qualified as role models.
In addition to presenting-sponsor Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers, major sponsors Exelon Generation and the Greater Joliet Area YMCA joined the MDH in honoring the women, as did keynote sponsor Aurora University and luncheon sponsors Country Financial Terri Gilmoure, the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Morris Retail Association.