The PBA Difference

Women of Distinction Past Honorees

The information on each recipient was obtained the year the award was received.


Emilia May Fanjul

Emilia May Fanjul, 2017 Women of Distinction Honoree for Palm Beach Atlantic University

Emilia May Fanjul is a founding and board member of Fundacion MIR and is active in the Central Romana Hospital in La Romana, Dominican Republic. She is the board chair and founder of Everglades Preparatory Academy charter high school and Glades Academy elementary and middle charter schools in Pahokee, Florida. She serves on the board of trustees of the Animal Medical Center in New York City; is an associate trustee of Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts; and is a former member of the board of trustees of the Palm Beach Day School in Palm Beach, Florida. She is also a board member of the Florida Charter School Alliance and a Dame of Malta – American Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Darlene Luccio Jordan

Jane Grace, 2016 Women of Distinction Honoree for Palm Beach Atlantic University

Darlene Luccio Jordan is the executive director of the Gerald R. Jordan Foundation, a nonprofit organization named for her husband that supports education, health and youth services, as well as the arts. In 2012, she was awarded the Fordham Founder’s Award, honoring her outstanding philanthropic commitment to her alma mater, Fordham University. She is a member of Fordham’s Board of Directors and co-chair of Fordham’s successful $500 million campaign. She currently serves on Fordham’s executive committee and is chair of the Development and University Relations Committee and co-chair of the Financial Aid Campaign.


Cathy Flagg

Kathy Flagg, 2016 Women of Distinction Honoree for Palm Beach Atlantic University

Born and raised in West Palm Beach, Catharine (Cathy) Johnson Flagg has deep roots in Palm Beach County that strengthen her commitment to serve the community. Since 2002, Flagg has dedicated her time to serving on the board of the Hospice of Palm Beach County Foundation where she was co-chair of Hospice Evening in 2000 and 2012, and board president from 2005-2007. In addition, Flagg was a board member for the Lourdes Noreen McKeen residence from 2010-2014. Currently, Flagg serves as chair of the capital campaign for the Quantum House. Flagg has owned and operated Signature Collection, a stationery/gift store in West Palm Beach, since 1997.

Jane Ewing Rovensky Grace

Jane Grace, 2016 Women of Distinction Honoree for Palm Beach Atlantic University

Jane Ewing Rovensky Grace was born in New York City to John and Madjesa Ewing Rovensky. Jane Grace became a devoted volunteer to a number of community organizations. In Newport, Rhode Island, she was a member of the English Speaking Union. In Palm Beach, she was appointed by the Town of Palm Beach to serve on the Architectural Commission (ARCOM) and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. She proudly served as a board member of the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, the Society of the Four Arts, the Garden Club of Palm Beach, the Palm Beach Zoo and the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League


Sheila Reicher Fine

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Sheila Reicher Fine has been a community volunteer and activist since her teen years. In 2003, Fine founded LEAD Pittsburgh (Leading Education and Awareness for Depression). In Palm Beach where she maintains a home, she is a board member of the Town of Palm Beach United Way and co-chair of 2015 Alexis de Tocqueville Society. In addition, she is a supporter of The Friedman Commission for Jewish Education, Norton Museum of Art and the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation, among other organizations.

Joan R. Van der Grift

Joan R. Van der Grift was born in Philadelphia but spent her early childhood living with her family in Guatemala due to her father’s agricultural business interests. Van der Grift is president of the board of the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League and a co-chairman of their “Off the Leash” fundraiser in 2015. She is a member of the board of governors of the Rehabilitation Center for Children and Adults in Palm Beach and the Garden Club of Palm Beach, where she chairs the Photography Committee and started the production of a yearbook documenting the club’s annual events.


Susie Elson

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.

Nancy Murray

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.


Gail Coniglio

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

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

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.


Vicki Halmos

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

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

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.


Diana Ecclestone

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.

Frances Fisher

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).


Alicia Blodgett

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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 Publi