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Column: Help us find next woman of influence

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When I welcomed more than 100 guests to last year’s Woman of the Year reception, I joked that it was a good thing winner Sherry Stark had managed to avoid run-ins with the local police.

After all, investigators could have found her fingerprints all over the city.

As nominators noted, Stark had served on many civic boards, committees and foundations. It was common to find her in leadership roles, often as the president, chairwoman or chief executive officer in these types of activities.

“She’s a go-to woman,” Harry McCawley, The Republic’s retired associate editor, said when he announced her as The Republic’s 2013 Woman of The Year.

“If you want something done, you go to Sherry,” McCawley said.

Former Mayor Robert Stewart was at last year’s reception, speaking fondly of the woman he picked in 1986 for a job in the city’s department of community development. That role became a launching pad for many projects that Stark took on, each time leaving the community better off than it was before.

While the challenge of choosing just one woman of the year can be an intimidating one, it was easy to see why Stark stood out — as one friend after another came to congratulate her for a giving spirit, positive nature and love of community.

Stark will be invited back for this year’s Woman of the Year ceremony. As tradition calls, it will be her honor to present the 2014 winner with a gold medallion necklace and offer her own congratulations.

But that’s getting a little ahead of things. First of all, we need to generate nominations for the 2014 award. That’s where you come in.

I invite you to submit the name of someone you know as a Woman of the Year nominee. It’s not that hard, and in fact we work to make it fairly easy.

You can go online to submit a nomination, as well as see a gallery of the 32 previous winners and brief bios on each.

Just go to, then click on the “Community” tab and then on “Woman of the Year.” You can then click on a link that will allow you to fill in an electronic form.

What’s needed:

Nominator’s email address and telephone number.

Name and address of the nominee.

Reasons why your nominee should be considered, including her involvement with civic groups or volunteer activities, and personal or professional accomplishments.

If you would rather not file a nomination electronically, you also can pick up and return a nomination form between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at The Republic, 333 Second St.

If you have questions, newsroom coordinator Jane Peabody can assist at 812-379-5633.

All women who are residents of Bartholomew County are eligible to win.

The Woman of the Year award was founded in 1982 by the late Jean Prather when she was The Republic’s features editor. Prather died in 2012 at the age of 92, a community servant in her own right.

The award’s purpose back in 1982 was the same as it is now: To recognize one woman from Bartholomew County for unselfish contributions toward creating a vital community and a high quality of life with an emphasis on long-term activity, hands-on work and diverse involvement.

Besides the custom-made necklace, the winner is awarded $2,000 from The Republic to be given to her designated charity or charities. Last year, Stark divided the money among eight deserving groups.

Deadline to submit entries is Sept. 21. The Woman of the Year will be honored during an Oct. 21 ceremony at Donner Center.

I look forward to reading all of the great nominations that fellow readers submit.

Tom Jekel is editor of The Republic. His column appears each Sunday. You may reach him by phone at 379-5665 or by email at

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