More than 300 guests attended the celebration on Tuesday, Feb. 21. The event was chaired by Frances Fisher.
The Women of Distinction luncheon continues the rich tradition of honouring women in leadership who cherish community and family and want to preserve these ideals for others. This year’s luncheon was among the highest-grossing events in Palm Beach Atlantic University history. Proceeds raise scholarship funds for female students who demonstrate outstanding academics, service and leadership. This year, recipients represented four states and five majors:
- Faith Bebber, a freshman from Vero Beach, Florida, studying nursing
- Claire Creecy, a junior from Denton, Texas, studying cinema arts
- Mariyah Fletcher, a junior from McDonough, Georgia, studying pre-law
- Katherine Lopez, a senior from Miami, Florida, studying exercise science
- Faith McNally, a freshman from Taylor, Michigan, studying nursing
- Gabriela Portillo, a senior from Houston Texas, studying psychology
2023 Women of Distinction Luncheon
“At PBA, we cherish the tradition of celebrating women who have impacted Palm Beach County and beyond,” said President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn. “Monika and Mary have pursued excellence, exemplified service and demonstrated integrity throughout their careers and civic responsibilities—reflecting the same values that PBA holds dear. Their actions also inspire and help create opportunities for future women leaders, including our scholarship recipients. Each woman at the 2023 Women of Distinction Luncheon is instrumental in a brighter future.”
Mary Fairbanks Freitas holds a bachelor’s degree in media communication from Florida State University. She worked in radio and television for WPTV and radio stations WRMF and WJNO during and after completing her studies. Through the Mark and Mary Freitas Foundation, she supports many causes affecting those in need—including Boys and Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County, Town of Palm Beach United Way, Nat King Cole Generation Hope and Best Buddies International.
During the 2023 Women of Distinction Luncheon, Fairbanks Freitas talked about giving back to the community and serving those less fortunate.
“It’s rewarding to be part of such a generous community, which you all play such a big role in,” she said. “I have found great joy in giving back… Thanks to generous neighbours and all of you here today, we’re able to offer a helping hand and better the lives of those in need.”
Fairbanks Freitas is also a trustee of the Town of Palm Beach United Way, Cox Science Center and Aquarium, Rosarian Academy and Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, a board member of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County and Boys & Girls Clubs, and a founding member of the Palm Beach Police Foundation’s Council of 100 and the Kravis Center.
Monika Preston was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and grew up in Ontario, Canada. She met her husband at the University of Guelph and moved to Palm Beach County in 1991. Preston chaired the American Heart Association Ball in 2019 and has been a co-chair for several years. She also co-chaired the Palm Beach Police & Fire Foundation Ball with her husband.
“I quickly realized that giving back to this welcoming community was beyond special,” Preston said while sharing her story, including how she became an equestrian. “Almost 30 years ago, I found myself on a horse. Horses teach you a lot about yourself: You practice being accepting, patient, disciplined, compassionate and competitive—all character-building qualities. The art of giving back and finding a personal passion are two things that have made my life so meaningful.”
Preston is vice chair of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts board of directors. She co-chaired the Kravis Center’s annual gala for a number of years and previously served on the boards of The Benjamin School, Town of Palm Beach United Way, Center for Children in Crises and Stop Children’s Cancer.
About Palm Beach Atlantic University
Palm Beach Atlantic University, founded in 1968, is a private, Christian university, offering 70 unique undergraduate programs, numerous graduate degrees and professional degrees in nursing and pharmacy, with campuses in West Palm Beach and Orlando. The University is dedicated to the integration of Christian principles to prepare students for learning, leadership and service. Sailfish athletes compete in 18 NCAA Division II and Sunshine State Conference varsity sports. The 78-acre Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Athletic Campus provides facilities for training and hosting intercollegiate sports. As a Christ-first university, PBA affirms the values that have built American society, including religious liberty and the free enterprise system.