Forty-seven years ago, the Distinguished Women Award was created by the Northwood University Board of Trustees to honor the enormous contributions of women. The award is a recognition of excellence. The recipients represent the values Northwood espouses for its own students: commitment to free enterprise, the partnership of arts and business, and the management of global commerce. The honorees serve as role models for Northwood University students.
The Distinguished Women Award is bestowed at a multi-day celebration held annually and never given in absentia. The honorees receive their award in the form of a unique bronze medallion at an evening gala.
This event creates an occasion to bring Northwood University to the attention of those who share a dedication to its principles of higher education. We encourage the Distinguished Women to become involved with the University and its students, and to participate in the growth of the Distinguished Women Endowed Scholarship Fund.
For more information contact Ashleigh Summers, Director of Signature Programs & Special Gifts at 989.837.4465 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Director of the GM Women’s Retail Network
Celeste D. Briggs is the director of the General Motors Women’s Retail Network (WRN), a position she has held since January 2011. She is responsible for the profitability, growth and retention of the network and leveraging its resources to increase GM’s market share among women consumers. Celeste is also executing several programs to more closely align and leverage women dealers in the GM product design process and attract more women into automotive retail through initiative such as the WRN’s “Drive to Succeed” scholarship. To create a more diverse dealership workforce, she is also working with Northwood University to create dealership internship opportunities for minority and female students in GM minority and women owned dealerships.
During her 32-year distinguished career in the automotive industry, Celeste has served in sales, service, network planning and distribution positions throughout the country. She is the architect of a variety of innovative, cost-saving retail initiatives and is well acquainted with the daily workings of a dealership and the customers and communities they serve. This experience has given her special insights into the enormous influence of today’s female consumers and the importance of GM’s dealer network in reaching them.
An active participant and driving force in the communities in which she lives, Celeste is a life member of the Girl Scouts of America, NAACP, public service sorority Delta Sigma Theta, Detroit Alumnae Chapter, and winner of the 2015 Women’s Automotive Association International (WAAI) Spirit of Leadership award.
A native of Detroit, Briggs Celeste earned a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College in 1981. She and her husband, Wade, make their home in Detroit and are the proud parents of the couple’s five daughters.
Owner, Audrey’s Classic Designs
Audrey Peterson Kline is the owner of Audrey’s Classic Designs, a custom home furnishings business in upstate New York since 1991. Her work as been featured in numerous Saratoga Parade of Homes, the 2015 Albany Vanguard Showcase home and Old House Interiors Magazine as well as hundreds of local homes in the area. She has attended domestic and international trade shows and seminars to expand her knowledge of the design business.
Before starting her business, Audrey was a buyer for a chain of department stores in Schenectady, NY. In the early days of her business, she had the opportunity to design prototypes for Swany America Corporation. When they became a sponsor for the men’s and women’s US Olympic bobsled, luge and skeleton teams for the Nagano, Japan Winter Olympics, Swany looked to Audrey to supply all the custom-made competition suits. This caught the attention of Hollywood and led to costuming for several movies, including G.I. Jane, U.S. Marshals and Planet of the Apes. Other costuming experiences include fabricating over 200 custom riding jackets for the horse show market of dressage through a catalog called Riding Right.
Audrey is a member of Window Covering Association of America and The Custom Home Furnishing Network. Her volunteer focus includes being a Vestry Member of St. John’s Episcopal Church, where she has been an active fundraiser to support a program called NOAH (Needy Or Alone and Hungry), feeding those in need every Sunday of the year. She is a founding supporter and previous board member of Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association, established to recognize Stanton as an early pioneer of women’s rights. Audrey has been a member of Soroptimist International, an organization supporting scholarships for young women.
Audrey earned her associate degree in fashion merchandising from Northwood University with honors, and her bachelor’s degree in business (focusing on retailing of clothing and textiles) from Michigan State University with honors. She and her husband George live in Johnstown, New York.
Owner, LaFontaine Automotive Group
Maureen LaFontaine is the owner of LaFontaine Automotive Group with her husband, Mike. Today, the business includes 30 franchises, 16 retail locations, and four collision centers with over 1,400 employees that all work and live by the LaFontaine mission statement: Build lifelong relationships, connect families, strengthen communities, and personalize the automotive experience. Among many other accolades, LaFontaine Automotive Group is listed in Crain’s Business Top 100 Private Business and the Top Auto Dealers in Michigan. Individual store awards include the Toyota President’s Award, the Honda President’s Award, and Cadillac Buick GMC Dealer of the Year for the past six consecutive years. The LaFontaine Buick-Pontiac-GMC store was named #1 for sales in the nation.
Maureen and Mike founded the LaFontaine Company in 1980 with their Toyota Store in Dearborn. Maureen became the owner of the first LaFontaine Cadillac Pontiac GMC store in Milford in 1984; she doubled the store’s output within her first two months of leading the daily operations. Maureen’s insight made it not just a dealership but a destination for customers that included a boutique, café, kids’ zone, and a 450-gallon fish tank.
Maureen has earned a lifetime of achievements. Her individual accolades include serving as president of the Cadillac Dealers’ Association as well as an executive board member of the Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation, which funds automotive industry scholarships for young women. In 2009 she was recognized by Inforum, Michigan’s premier organization for professional women, with the “Most Powerful and Accomplished Women Business Leader” award. She was named one of the “Top Metro Detroit Business Women” at the Dior Smooth Style Bash. Maureen also gives back to the community through the National Kidney Foundation, Elle’s Place, Childhood Cancer Campaign, Huron Valley Educational Foundation, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, The American Red Cross, Cub Scouts of America, Angels of Hope, and U Can-cer Vive.
Maureen attended Harvard Business School in Boston. Three of her children have attended Northwood University, with two grandchildren attending this year. Maureen and Mike reside in Highland, Michigan.
Executive Vice President, Marketing and Business Development Penske Automotive Group
Terri Mulcahey is the executive vice president of marketing and business development at Penske Automotive Group, an international transportation services company that operates automotive and commercial truck dealerships principally in the United States, Canada and Western Europe and distributes commercial vehicles, diesel engines, gas engines, power systems and related parts and services principally in Australia and New Zealand. She is responsible for e-commerce and marketing strategies, identifying new business opportunities, and providing key support for many customer service initiatives. She was a key team member in the smart USA launch and most recently in the launch of Penskecars.com.
Terri joined Penske Automotive Group in 2007 after a 20-year career at the Reynolds and Reynolds Company, where she held various leadership positions focusing on sales, service, customer support and training. As the senior vice president of sales and service, Terri had complete oversight of North American sales and service operations, which included 2,000 associates and 10,000 dealers. Prior to that role, she was vice president of customer services and held several senior positions in sales, customer education and quality.
Terri is active in the community and serves on the board of the DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan. She earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree with high distinction from Northwood University, with dual majors in computer information systems and business management.
Patricia Anne Shaheen has worked tirelessly to revitalize Saginaw County and the Great Lakes Bay Region. Throughout her time managing business entities, residential apartments and office complexes, she and her family have kept major landmarks alive and have created new ones for the benefit of all the region’s residents.
Among Patricia’s major accomplishments is her support of the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra (SBSO), for which she served on the Board of Trustees from 2001-2013, and as president from 2004-2006. She initiated and chaired the Holiday Housewalk, a signature SBSO fundraiser, from 2001-2014.
Patricia and her husband, Dr. Samuel Shaheen, were also responsible for the revitalization of the Temple Theatre. They purchased the decaying building in 2002, funded its $7 million renovation, and gifted the Shaheen Performing Arts Center back to the community in 2010. Their gifts included a $3.5 million endowment fund via the Temple Theatre Foundation, with $700,000 donated by the Shaheen family.
Patricia has been active in numerous local, regional, and national organizations. In addition to her work with the SBSO, she has served on the St. Mary’s of Michigan Advisory Committee and the St. Mary’s Medical Foundation Board of Trustees, the Saginaw Community Foundation Board of Trustees and several committees, the Junior League of Saginaw Valley Board of Trustees, the Nouvel Catholic Central High School Educational Foundation, the Saginaw County Osteopathic Society, and the American Association of University Women, among others. Patricia was a founding member of Saginaw Township’s Art in Public Places initiative.
Patricia studied at the University of Massachusetts at Amhers and the L’Institut Catholique Summer Program in Paris, France. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saginaw Valley State University. She and Samuel live in Saginaw, where they raised their three children.
President, Dow Chemical Canada
As the president of Dow Chemical Canada ULC, Deborah Stephens leads Dow’s business and governance across Canada. In particular, she focuses on leading key business portfolios, identifying and accelerating new opportunities for business growth in the region, and developing workforce talent. In addition to working closely with the Dow businesses to drive results, Deborah also plays an instrumental role in representing Dow’s interests to key stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, joint venture partners, employees, and government, while maintaining positive relationships across the communities in which Dow operates.
Deborah joined Dow in the Marketing Development Program in Chicago, IL. She held a variety of sales positions in the Chemicals and Metals and Chemicals and Performance Products businesses in Chicago and Detroit before being named market development manager for the Plastics business in Dow Automotive. She then moved to Houston, TX as commercial manager, olefin feedstocks in the Hydrocarbons and Energy business. She held various commercial positions of increasing responsibility within the Feedstocks and Commodity Risk Management group before being named commercial director, ethane Americas in 2004. In 2007, she joined Dow Technology Licensing in Midland, MI as global director, marketing and new business development. She added business responsibility for Olefins, Aromatics and Alternatives in 2013 before being appointed to her current role in 2014.
Deborah is a director on the Board, and Board Chair-elect of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada. She is a member of the Business Council of Canada and the International Women’s Forum, and a former member of Zonta International. She is a trustee on the Board of the Calgary Zoo.
A native of Ann Arbor, MI, Deborah earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan. While at U of M, she was also a four-year varsity letter winner in softball and a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority. She resides in Calgary, Alberta.
President of Schumacher Chevrolet Auto Group
Judith Schumacher-Tilton is president of Schumacher Chevrolet Auto Group, New Jersey’s largest-volume Chevy dealer with locations in Clifton, Little Falls and Denville.
Judith was former chairman of the General Motors Women’s Dealer Advisory Council for three years. She is currently a member of the Tri-State Chevrolet LMA Board. Locally, she serves on the Montclair State University Foundation Board, the Boys and Girls Club of Clifton Trustee Board, the Lakeland Bank Advisory Board, the Passaic County 200 Club Trustee Board and is co-founder of Give the Kids Hope Foundation. Inc., which supports underprivileged children in New Jersey.
Among her many accomplishments, she was nominated as 2012 TIME Dealer of the Year–becoming New Jersey’s first-ever female to compete for this very prestigious award. In recognition of her dealerships’ performance and her extensive community service, she went on to win the title of Northeast Regional TIME Dealer of the Year and was among the four finalists for the national title, which was published in TIME Magazine.
In 2015 she was honored by the New York Business Journal as a recipient of the 2015 Women of Influence award. In 2016 she was recognized by the Honor Legion of the Police Departments of the State of New Jersey (NJHL) for her community outreach and her dealerships’ support of local law enforcement, and by NJ BIZ as one of the “Best 50 Women in Business.”
Judith resides in Montclair, New Jersey.