Nomination Form DW Honorees Information

Contact Information

  • Allison Tardonia
  • Senior Advancement Director
  • Northwood University Florida Campus
  • Office: 561-478-5539
  • Email:

About The Award

Award is given annually to recognize the tremendous contributions of the honorees. In 1970, the Northwood University Board of Trustees, under the inspiration of its founders Dr. Arthur E. Turner and Dr. R. Gary Stauffer, established the Distinguished Women's Award to recognize the enormous contribution women make to communities, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and public and private sector services world-wide. It is awarded annually and never in absentia. Each Distinguished Woman receives a medal that was originally designed by the late sculptor, Giulio Tamassy.

The honorees represent the values that Northwood espouses to its students: commitment to free enterprise, partnership of arts and business, and management in a global society. They serve as role models and mentors for students.

45th Annual Distinguished Women Awards Weekend

Friday, November 7, 2014

2:00 pm - Distinguished Women's Forum at Northwood University Florida Campus

6:30 pm - 2014 Distinguished Women Honoree's Welcome Reception at the Mar-a-lago Club, Palm Beach (by Invitation)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

9:00 am - Distinguished Women's Flower Breakfast  at the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa (by Invitation)

9:00 am - Breakfast Symposium with guest Lt. Col. Allen B. West

6:30 pm - Distinguished Women's Awards Gala at the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa


Northwood University
Florida Campus
2600 North Military Trail
West Palm Beach, FL 33409

The Mar-a-lago Club
1100 S Ocean Blvd
Palm Beach, FL 33480

Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa
100 N. Ocean Boulevard
Manalapan, FL 33462

2014 Distinguished Women Honorees

Laurie Cunnington

Laurie Cunnington

Birmingham, MI and Delray Beach, FL

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Laurie Cunnington is a Partner with Cunnington and Cunnington, a consulting firm specializing in midsize energy projects. She is the CEO and cofounder of the Cunnington Foundation. She is the former President of Ward Williston Oil Company, having led the firm to acquisition in 2013.

Mrs. Cunnington is devoted to philanthropic work with programs supporting education, mentoring, microfinance and relief work in the United States, as well as developing countries. She is currently working on projects in Rwanda, Mozambique, Sudan, Uganda, Jordan and the United States.

She holds the following board positions: Harvard University, J.F. Kennedy School of Government, Women’s Leadership Board, Oakland Family Services, Beaumont Hospital Foundation, Women of Tomorrow Advisory Board, and UN Women. She is a Trustee of Beaumont Health Systems. She is a member of the Clinton Global Foundation and a member of Committee of 200 (C-200). In addition, she is a former board member of Opportunity International and the executive committee of JAM, an African relief organization.

Honored by Ernst & Young with the Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Laurie received the Top Women Owned Business Award by Diversity Business.Com. She was honored as Woman of the Month by Women Of.Com. She was the featured story in Oil & Gas Financial Journal, was honored by D Business Powered by Detroit Women, and chosen by the Wall Street Journal for their Female Leaders Network. She serves as a Judge for the EY Winning Women’s Program. Under her leadership, her company was awarded Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Private Company in 2008 and the Top 50 Woman Owned Business in North Dakota.

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.

Tamara Darvish

Tamara Darvish

Potomac, MD

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A graduate of Northwood University, Tamara Darvish is Executive Vice President of DARCARS Automotive, a privately owned group of over 30 franchises throughout the Greater Washington DC area, with annual sales in excess of $1.2 billion.,/p>

Having spent the past 30 years developing and maintaining positive relationships with automotive industry team members, manufacturers, finance companies, business partners, and the many communities they serve, Ms. Darvish is actively involved with a variety of professional organizations. Now serving her third term on the Board of Directors for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), Darvish represents over 17,000 franchised automobile dealerships across the country, and is a member of the Regulatory Affairs Committee and the NADA Convention Committee. After assisting her local dealer association for 17 years, she was elected the first woman Chairman for the Washington Area New Auto Dealers Association.

Active in several corporate and philanthropic initiatives, Ms. Darvish believes that proper understanding and education of basic financial concepts are vital to sustainable economic growth and success. Valuing philanthropy and community service as a high priority, she considers her partnership with Junior Achievement to promote and educate community members regarding financial literacy a personal passion.

Along with the Darvish family and DARCARS Team Members, Ms. Darvish has supported countless charitable and philanthropic organizations including the Parkinson Foundation, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the Wounded Warriors, raising in excess of $1 million annually for the benefit of the communities they serve. Recently named the 2014 Philanthropist of the Year and the beneficiary of the James L. Eichberg Lifetime Achievement Award, she continues to meet her personal fundraising and volunteer goals.

Ms. Darvish often consults for government, industry, and media outlets on issues regarding the automotive industry, and has received numerous industry awards, including being named one of the “100 Leading Women in North American Auto Industry.”

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.

Patti Webster Hamilton

Patti W. Hamilton

Tequesta, FL

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After receiving her business degree from Northwood University Michigan in 1982, Hamilton launched her career with General Motors, and subsequently applied her experience towards a career in the automotive retail environment, holding a variety of sales and marketing positions, including full operational responsibility as General Manager and ultimately Vice President/Marketing for the Schumacher Automotive Group.

Contributing over 30 years of leadership and marketing experience towards her current position, she joined Southern Waste Systems in 2008 as a member of its Executive team where she serves with a focus on marketing, employee leadership advancement and community outreach. Representing the organization regarding recycling issues, she is called on to participate in speaking engagements in and out of the state of Florida.

Hamilton led the founding of the internationally recognized, Athena Awards Program in Palm Beach County in 1991 and was the recipient of the honor in 2002. She has been recognized with a number of community awards including the March of Dimes Women of Distinction, the Executive Women of the Palm Beaches, Women in Leadership Award, Northwood University’s Outstanding Alumni Award and most recently, the 2013 Gaeta Chairman’s Award, a recognition which honors those individuals and organizations that have provided the framework for the Northern Palm Beach County Community. She has been honored for her work with the Boys and Girls Clubs and the Boy Scouts of America.

In the fall of 2011, she was appointed to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women by Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater, where she serves as Vice Chair. Having held leadership positions with many professional and non-profit boards over the past 23 years, she currently serves on the executive board of the National Construction and Demolition Recycling Association and is the state board chairman for the Florida Festivals and Events Association. In addition, she serves as a board member of Bella’s Angels, the South Florida Fair and the Jupiter Medical Center Foundation Board. Hamilton is a Lay Eucharist Minister and member of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd.

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.

Donna Niester

Donna Niester

Fort Gratiot, MI

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Recognized for cultivating an atmosphere of trust and respect while helping clients achieve professional prosperity, Donna Niester has combined her knowledge gained as a Northwood University Advertising student and experience as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) toward the promotion of private, public and philanthropic growth within several large community development projects.

Having joined Jim Acheson and the Acheson Ventures Team in 2000 to assist with real estate development and philanthropic efforts, Niester now serves as Chief Executive Officer of the organization and as Vice President of its James C. Acheson Foundation.

While cultivating these efforts she has been instrumental with the development of Studio 1219, the largest public art gallery and studio space in Michigan's Thumb Region; the Blue Water River Walk, a $6 million dollar effort to rebuild almost one mile of shoreline along the St. Clair River, and the construction Oak Crest Homes, a model community on the south side of Port Huron. Additionally, her philanthropic efforts on behalf of the organization include initial funding and construction of a monetized donation system for the Clair County College Access program which now serves as a statewide prototype, extensive collaboration and funding for a long-term residence for homeless youth, and more.

Ms. Niester has served on the governor-appointed Michigan Community Service Commission since 2005 and as a volunteer in leadership positions for the Port Huron Hospital and its Foundation, Blue Water Health Services and the Port Huron Golf Club. A board member of the Community Foundation of St. Clair County since 2003, in 2013 she became the first woman board chair in its 70 year-history. One of the founding members of the Foundation's Women's Initiative, she personally organizes a private fundraising event to support women with cancer and is also a member of the Council of Michigan Foundations and the National Council on Foundations.

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.

Catherine Rodewald

Catherine Rodewald

Frisco, TX

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A summa cum laude graduate of Northwood University, Catherine Rodewald’s career in commercial real estate spanned over thirty-five years, and included overseeing the servicing, asset management and information technology associated with Prudential’s nearly $70 Billion commercial real estate mortgage portfolio.

Retired as President and CEO of Prudential Asset Resource, Inc. in December 2012, the former executive was named one of the country’s Top 5 Women in Commercial Mortgage Banking by Mortgage Banking Magazine in 2013. In 2011, she was recognized with the Distinguished Service Award from the Mortgage Bankers’ Association of America for her service to the industry and the organization. In 2009, she received the Athena Award from the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Changemaker Award recognizing her as one of the top 25 women in business in North Texas from the Dallas Business Journal.

Mrs. Rodewald’s professional assignments include a current appointment by Governor Rick Perry in which she serves as Commissioner for the Texas State Department of Licensing and Regulation and an acting position as a Board of Director for the Parkland Foundation, where she is a member of the executive committee and chairs the audit committee. Past Board of Director appointments include The Texas State Board of Public Accountancy where she sat on a variety of committees, the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Dallas Chapter of the International Women’s Forum. She is also past president of the board of the Dallas Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.

Lynn Heinzerling Stinson

Lynn Heinzerling Stinson

Bloomfield Hills, MI

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Five generations of successful family entrepreneurs have taught Lynn the value of free enterprise, a deep faith, and a strong code of ethics.

Hired by Guardsmark LLC, as the first female account representative in the United States, the same qualities that insured her success were a major factor in the rigorous hiring process. Working with retired Secret Service, FBI agents and top law enforcement officials of corporate security, Lynn’s background leant itself to continued success.

A career in photojournalism has led Lynn to prestigious awards and recognition for over 32 years. Her work is featured nationally and in private collections throughout the country. When Sports Illustrated published a photograph by Lynn, its double page coverage was ranked as one of the year’s top ten photos by the S.I. photo department.

Volunteering has always brought Lynn to significant Board positions. Awarded the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award in 1990, and Co-Chairing two successful International Scholarship Showcase fundraisers became the catalyst for an invitation to join Northwood University’s Michigan Board of Governors’, where she served for 13 years. Actively involved with Northwood University since enrolling in 1965, Lynn’s enthusiasm for all that Northwood University embodies, has brought many into the Northwood family of friends.

Lynn’s dedication to music and literacy inspired the "Barefoot Ballerina Project" in memory of her late mother Dee Heinzerling, author and composer of the The Barefoot Ballerina. Over 10,000 copies of the book, music and teddy bear have been given to children’s charities, hospitals, and schools nationwide. Its message of “never giving up” has been a family trait for generations. Lynn is the proud parent of Christopher Hunt Stinson, a successful second-generation Northwood University graduate.

Her core belief is that her faith is the basis of her happiness, supply and strength.

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.

Martha Tiller

Martha Russell Tiller

Dallas, TX

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Called “famous for making people famous,” Martha Tiller, President of Martha Tiller Company Public Relations, is internationally recognized for a variety of successes prior to founding her own reputation management company.

Known for working on an Emmy winning CBS television show, and successful positions as press secretary, social secretary and director of special projects for a former United States President and First Lady, she has served as an executive in the Office of the Governor producing the first statewide Governor’s Conference on the Arts, has directed public affairs for the US Department of Health Education and Welfare (HEW), facilitated “Gifts of State” for the US State Department, directed public affairs for a large advertising and public relations firm, and more.

Conversant in Spanish, Dr. Tiller attended the National University of Mexico and is a cum laude graduate of The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Named America’s Leading Broadcasting Coed while an undergrad, she is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Golden Key Public Relations Award from the American Hotel/Motel Management Association, the Woman of Excellence Award from Women’s Enterprise Magazine, and the Women Helping Women Maura Award from the Dallas Women's Foundation which recognizes exceptional leaders who have pioneered the way in improving lives for women and girls.

Having served on numerous boards including the Northwood University Texas Board of Governors, Tiller is a past president of The Dallas Summit and the Women’s Issues Network. She is a member of the International Women’s Forum and the Charter 100. In 2013, Northwood University bestowed Dr. Tiller with an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree.

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.