Women of Distinction Past Honorees
The information on each recipient was obtained the year the award was received.
Susie Elson is known as a champion for community service. For nearly 50 years, Elson has been a volunteer leader supporting causes ranging from social services to education and the arts. Her longstanding interest in mental health issues on the local and state levels culminated in her serving as president of the National Mental Health Association, which has more than 1 million members.
A Palm Beach resident for more than 45 years, Nancy Murray has contributed to the beauty and philanthropy of the community. Professionally, she was an associate editor of The Saturday Evening Post and the assistant managing editor of The Ladies’ Home Journal. Her volunteer endeavors include serving as president and treasurer of the Junior League of the Palm Beaches. A Master Gardener, she was president and a founding member of the Horticulture Society of South Florida.
A resident of Palm Beach for more than 30 years, Gail Coniglio was elected mayor of the Town of Palm Beach in 2011 after previously serving two terms as councilwoman. She was re-elected to a second term during the January 2013 Town Caucus. Mayor Coniglio is a successful restaurateur and business owner, committed civil servant, devoted wife and proud mother of six children and six grandchildren.
Danielle Hickox Moore
Danielle Hickox Moore grew up in Palm Beach and received her degree from Duke University. She is a licensed Realtor-associate with Brown Harris Stevens, president of the Mary Alice Fortin Foundation Inc., a director of the Fortin Foundation of Florida Inc., and director of the Barker Welfare Foundation and a member of its Finance Committee. Following in the footsteps of her grandmother, Mary Alice Fortin, and mother, Lesly Smith, Moore is a philanthropist and charitable-cause activist.
Joyce Licht Sang
Joyce Licht Sang founded The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation with her husband, Dusty, after their only child, Ryan, passed away from bipolar disorder in 2004 at the age of 24. Ryan was born and raised on Palm Beach Island, having attended Palm Beach Day School. From its earliest days, The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation established a clear mission to foster awareness, understanding and research for early-onset bipolar disorder and to support research in the Foundation’s “Quest For The Test™” to find an empirical, biomarker test for bipolar disorder leading to early detection and intervention.
Sally Ross Soter
Sally Ross Soter has dedicated her efforts to encouraging the arts and promoting access to healthcare for women. In the Palm Beaches, Soter has been actively involved with The Norton Museum of Art for more than 15 years in various leadership and committee roles. Presently she chairs the photography committee and serves on the governance and development and capital campaign committees. She also serves on the board of trustees for The Society of the Four Arts and is a member of the library committee. In Ohio, she serves as a member of the Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital Board of Trustees and the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Advisory Council, both at The Ohio State University Medical Center.
Eileen Corroon Burns
An ardent preservationist, Eileen Corroon Burns was a recipient of the Ballinger Award in 1990 for her restoration of The Vicarage, the second oldest house in Palm Beach. Mrs. Burns founded the Policeman's Ball at Mar-a-Lago, the primary fundraising event for the Palm Beach Police Foundation of which she is a board member. She is a trustee of The Society of the Four Arts, and a longtime member of the special events committee at the Norton Museum of Art. A supporter of Ambassador Nancy Brinker's "Race for the Cure," Mrs. Burns co-founded "Wake Up For the Cure," the annual breakfast event at Club Colette. She also supports a host of Ireland-based causes and organizations.
Suzanne Wright and her husband, Bob, are co-founders of Autism Speaks, North America's largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism. Inspired by their grandson, who suffers from autism, they launched the foundation in February 2005, which also works to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In May of 2010 the Wrights received honorary doctor of humane letters degrees from St. John's University.
Iris Apfel and her husband Carl founded Old World Weavers, an international textile manufacturing company. The designs attracted the sophisticated tastes of Greta Garbo, Marjorie Merriweather Post, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Estée Lauder. Though the couple sold the company to Stark Carpet, they have remained involved as consultants. Apfel was the topic of a 2004 exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. In 2007, The Norton Museum of Art featured a streamlined version of the exhibit by Apfel.
Dr. Gail Austin Cooney
Dr. Gail Austin Cooney is the medical director emeritus for Hospice of Palm Beach County, an independent, not-for-profit hospice, where she currently serves as a board member. She serves as president of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and was named a fellow in 2004. She is board certified in Hospice & Palliative Medicine and Neurology. Dr. Cooney is chairman of the Ethics Committee for both Good Samaritan Medical Center and Hospice of Palm Beach County. She is a graduate of the Mayo Medical School.
Mrs. Vicki Halmos has a call to service to improve the lives of children and families -- often through the arts. She serves on the boards of the Center for Creative Education, focusing on academic standards of kids at risk through the arts; The Ann Norton Sculpture Garden, encouraging conservation education; and The Palm Beach County Film Institute, initiating responsible film projects for students. She is on the board of directors for Turtle Nest Village and Kids@Home, both of which help teenagers transition from foster care to adulthood. Mrs. Halmos is a graduate of the University of Alabama.
Gay Hart Gaines
Mrs. Gay Hart Gaines is a trustee of the Palm Beach County Republican Party, past president of the Palm Beach Republican Club and a current board member. In the early '90s, Mrs. Gaines was elected chairman of the National Review Institute. In 1993, Congressman Newt Gingrich recruited Mrs. Gaines to be the chairman of GOPAC, a national organization dedicated exclusively to electing Republicans to state and local offices. She remained chairman until 1997. In 2003, Mrs. Gaines was appointed to the board of Corporation for Public Broadcasting by President George W. Bush, and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a term of six years. She holds degrees from Sweet Briar College and the University of Minnesota.
Sydell L. Miller
With her late husband, Arnold, Sydell L. Miller co-founded Matrix Essentials, Inc., the largest manufacturer of professional hair and beauty products in the country. After Mr. Miller passed away in 1992, Mrs. Miller more than doubled the company's sales before selling the business to Bristol-Myers Squibb in 1994. She remained chairman of the board until retiring in 1996. Mrs. Miller is the founder and director of the Sydell and Arnold Miller Foundation. She is one of the founders, and is president of the board of directors of SalonQuest. Mrs. Miller was inducted into the National Cosmetology Association’s Hall of Fame -- the first non-cosmetologist to receive that honor.
*Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau
Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau is synonymous with the fashions she created and the business she developed, Lilly Pulitzer®. In the fashion world and in Palm Beach, Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau is widely known for her support for a wide range of philanthropic causes – from supporting the children and elderly of Darfur to serving as honorary chairman of the 2008 Red Cross Designer’s Show House. In addition, Mrs. Rousseau is a supporter of Stop! Children's Cancer of Palm Beach County, Inc. and the Palm Beach Cat Rescue and Humane Society.
Helen DeVos is a philanthropist and longtime supporter of the arts, health and education. She and her husband, Rich, received the William E. Simon Prize in Philanthropic Leadership in 2006. Mrs. DeVos is an honorary board member of the American Symphony Orchestra League in New York City, since serving as a board member from 1982-1992, vice chairman of the executive board from 1985-1992 and chairman of the nominating committee from 1989-1991. DeVos is the founding sponsor of the symphony’s DeVos Quartet and Artist in Residence program, and is a life member of the Women’s Committee.
Michele Kessler is the director of community relations at The Kessler Group, and is the co-founder and director of the Kessler Family Foundation of Boston. She and her husband, Howard, are active philanthropists through their family’s charitable foundation, which has made significant contributions to various health and welfare initiatives in the Boston and Palm Beach communities. Mrs. Kessler is a trustee of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and a member of the Women’s Health Leadership Forum at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She has chaired and co-chaired events for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Fund, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and The American Cancer Society.
Mrs. Diana Ecclestone is executive vice president of National Investment Company. As a hospitality industry leader, she was appointed to the County’s Tourist Development Council, and has served since 1999. Mrs. Ecclestone has chaired many of the American Heart Association’s events including the 1999 Palm Beach Heart Auction and 2000 Heart Ball. In 2005, she was co-chairman of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s Discovery Ball. She was an elected member of the Republican Executive Committee, a delegate to Presidency III and a member of the Regents.
Mrs. Frances Fisher founded the National Environmental Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., and also served in the West Wing of the White House as a special assistant to the legal counsel to the President and member of the advance team for Barbara Bush. She is a member of the board of directors of the Norton Museum of Art and The Humane Society of the Palm Beaches. Mrs. Fisher was recognized for her support of the Center for Family Services with their Humanitarian Award (2003). Lacoste honored Mrs. Fisher with the CROCO Award for outstanding community service and made a charitable donation on her behalf to the South Florida Science Museum (2005).
Mrs. Alicia Blodgett has devoted her time to civic and charitable activities, including chairing the American Cancer Society Ball and the Ultimate Dinner Party for the Children’s Home Society. She has served as honorary chair for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Junior League. She serves on the boards of the United Way, American Cancer Society, Children’s Home Society and the Palm Beach Republican Club. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina.
Julie Fisher Cummings
Julie Fisher Cummings, along with co-founders Denise Ilitch and Susan Kleinpell, established the Lovelight Foundation. She has served as national president of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and on the boards of the Cranbrook Educational Community, the Council of Michigan Foundations, the Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan, Rollins College in Orlando and the Community Foundation for Palm Beach & Martin Counties. She is a founding member of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Palm Beaches. She served four years as board member of the United Way of Martin County. She attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Lore Moran Dodge
Lore Moran Dodge began her call to community service as a junior chairman for events supporting the American Cancer Society. In 1994, she was co-chairman of "The Night of Stars," a benefit for the Raymond F. Kravis Center for Performing Arts, and in 1995, she co-chaired the gala for the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties. In addition, she has been co-chair for the American Red Cross Auction and twice co-chaired the Palm Beach Tropical Flower and Garden Show luncheon. Mrs. Dodge serves as secretary for the Hospice Foundation of Palm Beach County. She also serves on the board of directors for the American Ireland Fund in Boston.
Barbara Nicklaus has helped raise more than $10 million for a myriad of charities. Among those efforts are the Barbara and Jack Nicklaus Junior Golf Endowment Fund. She is deeply involved with the Memorial Tournament, the event founded and hosted the last 28 years by Jack Nicklaus. Off the course, her interests range from cancer research to children in need through being a board member of Stop! Children’s Cancer of Palm Beach and the Center for Family Services. She played a role in the construction of the Nicklaus Children's Hospital at St. Mary's Medical Center.
Maura Benjamin is a graduate of Vassar College, and former assistant editor of Better Homes & Gardens Magazine. She is a representative of Christie's in Palm Beach, and has served on the committee for the Susan G. Komen Foundation's "Race for the Cure." Mrs. Benjamin is the honorary founder and former board member of Wayside House, and received its highest volunteer honor, the Butterfly Award. For many years, she served on the advisory board of the Hanley-Hazeldon Foundation. She was a member of the health grants committee of the Community Foundation of Palm Beach & Martin Counties, and established a scholarship fund through the foundation. Mrs. Benjamin is an advisory trustee of the Society of the Four Arts.
Sydelle Meyer has been involved in the infrastructure of Palm Beach for over 30 years. She and her late husband are benefactors of the Interfaith Pavilion at St. Mary's Medical Center as well as Jewish Community Centers in Harrison, N.Y. and West Palm Beach. They are the builders of the Arthur I. Meyer Jewish Academy in West Palm Beach as well as the religious school of Temple Judea. They gave the City of West Palm Beach the Meyer Amphitheater and the Meyer Auditorium at the Dreyfoos School of the Arts. Mrs. Meyers serves on the board of the Norton Museum of Art, and the board of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach, the development board of the Kravis Center for Performing Arts as well as the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, United Way/Community Chest and Ballet Florida. She is a graduate of Ohio State University.
Susan Keenan is president and co-owner with her husband, Jim, of Ice Breakers Arena in Pompano Beach. A Palm Beach resident, Mrs. Keenan is the former owner of The Snooty Leopard, a gift store in Palm Beach, and for 13 years, worked as a TV news reporter and anchorwoman for NBC, CBS and ABC. She serves on the boards of Ballet Florida, Palm Beach Day School, and the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and founding chairman of the National Committee for the Performing Arts at Kennedy Center. She is a graduate of Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Edie Schur has been active as a volunteer leader of healthcare organizations in Palm Beach and New York City. She has held a variety of leadership posts with Intracoastal Health Systems and the Intracoastal Health Foundation, and serves as a board member for the Palm Healthcare Foundation. Mrs. Schur has chaired the Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure, and is the chairman of the Committee for Academic Excellence for the Palm Beach Public School and tutor at Palm Beach Public School. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.
Pat Johnson is a member of the Intracoastal Health Foundation Trustees' Board of Advisors. She was a longtime volunteer in the physical therapy department at St. Mary's Hospital, where she and her husband served on committees and contributed financially to the hospital's growth. Mrs. Johnson was chairwoman of the 1999 Renaissance Ball and the Lord & Taylor opening to benefit St. Mary's. She has served on the Women of Distinction Committee at Palm Beach Atlantic University since its inception.
Jean Tailer is a trustee of the Hospice Guild of Palm Beach. She is a board member of the Preservation Foundation, and has chaired the gala for three years. Mrs. Tailer has also chaired the Red Cross Gala, and the Norton Museum of Art's Bal des Arts. She was presented the Charitable Achievement Award by the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce. She is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Civic Association, the Republican Club and the Everglades Club.
A breast cancer survivor, Nancy Brinker is the founder of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and Race for the Cure. Established in 1982, the Komen Foundation has raised more than $200 million for breast cancer research, education and screening treatment programs nationwide. Mrs. Brinker served on the National Cancer Panel under Presidents Reagan and Bush. She is a national spokesperson for AstraZenca Pharmaceuticals and sits on the board for the Komen Foundation and U.S. Oncology, Inc.
Kit Pannill is a founding member and director of the Horticulture Society of South Florida, which presents the annual Palm Beach Tropical Flower Show. Mrs. Pannill is a member of the Garden Club of America/The Garden Club of Palm Beach and has been a horticulture GCA judge since 1997. She has served on the boards of and chaired galas for the Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin Counties, the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, The Hospice Guild and Intracoastal Health Systems.
Patricia Cook is an accomplished vocalist, who sang at President Clinton's inaugural dinner, and is especially active in arts-related charities. Mrs. Cook sits on the board of directors for the Kravis Center, and was honorary chairwoman for WXEL's Palm Beach fund raiser in 1992. She also contributes her time to the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, the Intracoastal Health Foundation, the Community Foundation, the Community Chest/United Way, the William Holden Wildlife Foundation and Hospice of Palm Beach County.
Kathryn C. Vecelio
Kathryn C. Vecelio, is a full-time community volunteer. She serves as trustee for Intracoastal Health Systems, Inc., The Palm Beach Literary Society and the Leukemia Society. Mrs. Vecelio has also served on the boards of The Benjamin School, the Center for Children in Crisis and Junior Achievement. A member and past regent of the Palm Beach Chapter DAR, and a past president of the Junior League of the Palm Beaches, She has chaired the Salvation Army's Christmas Gala, and the Schepens Eye Research Institute's Palm Beach Gala.
Nicki Harris sits on the boards of the Civic Association of Palm Beach, the Norton Museum of Art and the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach. Mrs. Harris has co-chaired, with Hillie Mahoney, the annual Night of Stars" gala at the Kravis Center, to raise money for the Children's Education Fund. She has a degree in fashion merchandising, marketing and management.
Hillie Mahoney is cofounder of The Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and The Mahoney Institute for Health Maintenance in New York. Mrs. Mahoney is a director of The Mahoney Institute of Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and former director of The Neurosciences Institute of New York (now located in La Jolla, Calif.). She serves on the boards of The Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Hospice Guild. For two years, she co-chaired the "Night of Stars" gala at the Kravis Center.
Anita Hamilton Michaels
Anita Hamilton Michaels devotes her time to helping others by raising funds to support the organizations that can make a difference in people's lives. The Palm Beach Chapter of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives honored her in 1995 as "Outstanding Volunteer Fund Raiser." She is a member of the Palm Beach Civic Association, and divides her time among several concerns including Hospice Guild of Palm Beach, Hospice of Palm Beach County, Hanley-Hazelden and the Palm Beach Community Chest/United Way.
Dorothy Schulman cares about kids. She has worked tirelessly for St. Mary's Hospital, serving as honorary chairwoman for the Chanel fashion show for St. Mary's Children's Hospital, and as both chairwoman and advisory chairwoman for St. Mary's Hospital Ball. Mrs. Schulman devoted time to the Henry Street Youth Rehabilitation facility in New York City. She also supports the Norton Museum of Art, Operation Headstart program, and serves on the Women's Board of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Helen Cluett is the recipient of the 1994 One and Only award from the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce. She sits on the Board of Trustees of the Norton Museum of Art, is active in the Republican party, and has been employed by Christies for many years. Mrs. Cluett has held many leadership positions at the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, including service as a licensed lay reader and a chalice bearer. She is a member of the Altar Guild, and a former vestryperson.
*Helen K. Persson
Helen K. Persson has made a career of caring. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. She was a pediatric nurse until she joined the U.S. Navy, from which she eventually retired with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. She sang opera professionally with the San Francisco Opera. She received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Colgate University in 1984. Mrs. Persson's philanthropic interests in the Palm Beaches include the Kravis Center for Performing Arts, where she established the Helen Persson Opera Enhancement program. She serves on the boards of the Kravis Center and the Palm Beach Opera.
Long-time general manager of Saks Fifth Avenue in Palm Beach, Jean Feather has also served on several boards including, the Palm Beach Community Chest/United Way, Chamber of Commerce, Adopt-a-Family of Palm Beach County, Palm Beach Fellowship of Christians and Jews and the Arthritis Foundation, Florida Mideast Branch. She has also coordinated fundraising events for Hospice Guild of Palm Beach, Cystic Fibrosis, Kravis Center and the Alzheimer Association. She is a graduate of Indiana University.
Mary Schott spent a decade as a top model with the Eileen Ford Modeling Agency in New York City, appearing on the covers of Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Harper's and Town & Country magazines. In Palm Beach she has devoted much time to the YWCA's Mary Rubloff Harmony House, which offers shelter to women in danger of domestic violence. Schott's other charitable and philanthropic efforts include the International Piano Competition, Kravis Center, American Ireland Fund, Palm Beach Opera and Palm Beach Pops.
Carolyn Buckley graduated from Vanderbilt University, and became associate beauty editor for Town & Country magazine in New York, while being active in the Junior League. In Palm Beach she obtained her realtor associate license and joined Sotheby's International Realty. She worked tirelessly to build support for the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. She chaired annual fashion shows and organized receptions, luncheons and parties honoring individuals and committees involved with the center. These benefits provided substantial support.
In her 21 year career as North New Jersey area manager for the Development Corporation for Israel, Anita Dubnoff was for a time the only female manager. She was responsible for creating major fundraising events featuring world-renowned people such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Golda Meir. In Palm Beach, she serves on the board of the Norton Gallery of Art Auxiliary and was past president. She has also devoted herself to the Mary Rubloff Harmony House of the YWCA of Palm Beach County. Mrs. Dubnoff was also a founding officer of the Jewish Arts Foundation.
Helen C. Ross
Helen C. Ross' most rewarding mission has been Hospice of Palm Beach County. The fledgling organization needed both community recognition and funding, and Mrs. Ross focused her efforts in those directions, making Hospice a full-time unpaid job for eight years. In 1988, the $4.5 million Gerstenberg Hospice Center opened debt-free; it was the first free-standing hospice facility in the Southeast. She serves as chairman of the board of the Hospice Guild of Palm Beach, and vice chairman and secretary of Hospice of Palm Beach County. Mrs. Ross attended Oklahoma University.
Rose Sachs and her husband, *Mortimer, were once the largest property owners on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. She played an integral role in building an outstanding Palm Beach real estate firm. Working with designer Theodore Metzger, Mrs. Sachs searches for and purchases high-quality antiques, which Mertzger integrates into his interior designs. She has also given generously to many charitable organizations. Sachs Hall at Palm Beach Atlantic's administrative complex is named in honor of Rose and Mortimer Sachs.
Patricia Supper is an accomplished artist and equestrian. She and her husband Fred Supper established the Frederick and Patricia Supper Center of Achieving Excellence in Business and the Supper Honors Program at Palm Beach Atlantic University. The Suppers established the Patricia and Frederick Supper Galleries at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Conn., The Frederick and Patricia Supper Central Sculpture Garden at the Norton Gallery in Palm Beach, the Supper Club at the National Croquet Center in West Palm Beach and the Supper Library at the Long Ridge School in Stamford, Connecticut. Distinctions and honors include, United States Croquet Hall of Fame, and the 1991 Hermes Philanthropist of the Year award. She was a graduate of The University of Oregon.
The information on each recipient was obtained the year the award was received.