Skip to main content
Important FAFSA Update

Please click here to learn more about how we can support you.

2021 Distinguished Women Awards Gala Celebrates Diverse Group of Winners

October 25, 2021

Northwood University is proud to recognize the contributions of an elite group of remarkable women business and social leaders with our annual Distinguished Women Awards. That tradition continued over the weekend as seven outstanding women were feted at multiple events, culminating in an awards gala Saturday night at The H Hotel attended by over 150 guests.

A half century of recognizing the contributions of remarkable women continued in Midland at Northwood University’s annual Distinguished Women Awards. That tradition marked the 52nd annual ceremony for the Distinguished Women Awards. Originally held in Detroit, the gala has been held at many locations across the country over the years.

“The Distinguished Women Award traces its origins to the founders of Northwood University, and it is a great honor to carry this tradition on today right here in Midland,” said Northwood President Kent MacDonald. “It is a privilege to recognize these women who have dedicated themselves to leaving their mark on the world. They serve as role models and inspiration for the next generation of women leaders being developed at Northwood who will drive The Northwood Idea forward. These women truly embody the values Northwood espouses for its students: commitment to free enterprise, the partnership of arts and business, and the management of global commerce.”

The Northwood University Board of Trustees supports the Distinguished Women Awards to honor the significant contributions of women who have made a difference in their business and community, all while upholding the vision and ethical values of Northwood University.

The 2021 class of honorees include:

  • Tina Lynn Hubbard, president, and CEO, HDA Truck Pride

  • Melanie Kalmar, corporate vice president, chief information officer, chief digital officer, Dow

  • Mindie Kaplan, CEO/founder, Rated VR and creator, MaleRoom podcast

  • Martha Reeves, musician, “Martha Reeves and the Vandellas” and President, Martha Reeves Enterprises

In addition, three Midland-area community leaders were recognized with a Distinguished Women’s Group Award for their tremendous assistance to the community following last year’s flood in Midland:

  • Holly Miller, President/CEO, United Way of Midland County

  • Sharon Mortensen, President/CEO Midland Area Community Foundation

  • Jenee Velasquez, Executive Director, Herbert H., and Grace A. Dow Foundation

Commenting on behalf of these dedicated women leaders, Holly Miller shared their inspirational mantra during those trying times, “Midland together – forward, bold.” When reflecting, Miller drew on the words of St Francis Of Assisi, “do what is necessary and possible to do the impossible.” She went on to thank Northwood for “shining the light on women and their leadership.”

The 2021 honorees joined an exceptional sisterhood of almost 500 women who have been honored as Distinguished Women over the years. Melanie Kalmar inspired students and guests, “be a spark that ignites someone to be a leader or contributor…thank you, Northwood University, for illuminating distinguished women to be a spark for others.” Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and distinguished woman Martha Reeves led the crowd in song with a captivating version of the Lord’s Prayer and encouraged students, “get in where you fit in.”

The gala was the highlight of a weekend full of events surrounding the Distinguished Women Awards.

Northwood University and area high school students had the opportunity to interact with the women on Friday morning at a roundtable discussion.

Following was an on-campus luncheon where students and the Northwood community had additional opportunities to meet with the women. Friday closed with a welcome reception at the H.H. Dow Academy Lounge at The H Hotel downtown Midland.

Saturday morning, the group came together for an exclusive, honorees-only breakfast hosted by the University’s First Lady, Mary-Ellen MacPhee.

Each honoree was connected with a Northwood student in advance. These student presenters went through a competitive application process to be chosen to get to know the stories of each Distinguished Woman to be able to write an introductory speech at the weekend’s events. Designated students and their paired awardee included Calista Shannon (Tina Hubbard), Jovana Petkovich (Melanie Kalmar), Jackson Gast (Mindie Kaplan), Kaitlyn Bremer (Martha Reeves), and Jordan Barker (Jenee Velasquez, Holly Miller, and Sharon Mortensen).

The gala is supported by many generous sponsors that help raise funds for the Distinguished Women Endowed Scholarship. To date, 59 young women have had the opportunity to attend Northwood through this scholarship. Two students, Alissa Buther and Jordyn Boyne were recognized and are currently benefiting from this scholarship.

President MacDonald also announced a six-figure gift from former Distinguished Women Award recipient Betty Hardy that will help support the program for years to come. Hardy was a native of Houston and an internationally known fashion and television personality. She was long associated with the fashion industry, especially with Neiman Marcus.

“Betty was an amazing woman who was fond of sharing and was known for saying ‘think beautiful thoughts and do lovely things for others,’” said Justin Marshall, vice president of Advancement. “We are thankful for Betty and for her thoughtful gift that will help us continue to recognize women like her and inspire future women leaders.”

More From Northwood

Forge Your Path Forward