11th Annual Rutherford Cable ATHENA Awards Set for May


Rutherford Cable is the founding sponsor of the local ATHENA International Leadership Award program. Cable is excited to announce the 2024 nominees for this year’s award.

This year 10 area women are nominated as the Traditional ATHENA, and 8 are nominated as the Young Professional ATHENA. These ladies are representing 12 Rutherford County organizations.

The community-wide celebration of this year’s nominees is open to the public and will be held May 17th at the MTSU Ballroom in the Student Union Building, located 1768 MTSU Boulevard, Murfreesboro. Tickets are $65 per person or $600 for a table of 10. To reserve a seat at the luncheon, visit rutherfordcable.org/Athena.

In addition to honoring the accomplishments and contributions of Rutherford County women, the Rutherford ATHENA Awards also provides up to $5,000 educational scholarships to a Rutherford County non-traditional female student, who have been out of high school for at least five years. The local program is part of ATHENA International, a nonprofit organization that seeks to support, develop, and honor women leaders.

2024 ATHENA Award Nominees and Bios

Renee Barker

As Community Impact Director at First Baptist Church Murfreesboro, Renee’ Barker has profoundly influenced local and global communities through adept leadership and team development. Managing over a million dollars in donations across eleven years, she fosters growth and generosity while spearheading successful international collaborations in Jamaica and Ghana. Renee excels in enhancing community relations and operational efficiency, possessing strong organizational and communication skills that inspire others. Her unwavering dedication and remarkable impact make her a compelling candidate for the 2024 Athena Award. 


April Booten

April became the Outreach Manager for the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee in 2022 after serving nearly 4-years on the board of directors. She also worked for 16 years as a physical therapist at Ascension Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital. In 2004, April earned her BS from Middle Tennessee State University, graduating cum laude. She earned her Master of Physical Therapy from The University of Tennessee Health Science Center in 2006 where she graduated with high honors. April is a founder and alumna of Alpha Chi Omega sorority at MTSU and active member of the Blackman Elementary PTO.


Dr. Lucy Langworthy

Dr. Lucy Langworthy is Assistant to the Dean, College of Liberal Arts, at MTSU, where she uses her resources and collaborations to solve community/campus problems. She collaborates with Rutherford County Schools to administer the Siegel High School Humanities Academy and coordinates the Healthy Mondays wellness program at MTSU to support students’ mental health. She has taught technical writing at MTSU, Cumberland University, and Vanderbilt University, and was a technical writer for Tanner Corporate Services, McRae’s, and Southern Farm Bureau. She holds a Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University in Technical Writing and an M.A. and B.A. in English from Mississippi College.


Racquel Peebles

Racquel Peebles is a native of Smyrna, TN, and mother of 2. She has practiced law for 27 years and owns a law office in Smyrna. She serves as a council member for the Town of Smyrna and is the first person of color to serve. She co-founded the Juneteenth Celebration in Smyrna, serves on boards, provides nonprofits pro bono services, and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. She taught at the University of Phoenix- Atlanta and Nashville campuses. Peebles earned her bachelor’s degree from Memphis State University and Juris Doctor from Emory University School of Law.


Mary Catherine Sevier

Mary Catherine Sevier is a life-long resident of Rutherford County. After a career teaching kindergarten through graduate school, she now serves as the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee, where she finds joy in connectional service to 80 area churches. Deeply invested in her community, she currently serves as co-president of the League of Women Voters of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County, on the board of The Journey Home, on the Special Projects Committee of the Charity Circle, and as a member and ruling elder at First Presbyterian Church, Murfreesboro. She and her husband have one adult daughter.


Angel Skinner

Angel Hamlin Skinner is a multiple-award-winning Platinum Partner at Reliant Realty ERA. A REALTOR since 2003, she is passionate about giving back to her Middle Tennessee community by serving both homeowners and the homeless population. As Director of Operations at Amelia’s Closet, a faith-based nonprofit, Angel leads a team that helps women overcome substantial life challenges by providing professional apparel, interview coaching, and the encouragement they need to secure sustainable employment. Angel also mentored hundreds of women business owners during her 23 years’ tenure with Premier Designs Jewelry. She holds a B.A. in Mass Communications from Oklahoma Baptist University.


Deborah Thompson

Deborah Thompson is an Executive Leadership Coach and sole proprietor of Connect Leadership Coaching. Deborah retired from her position as Vice President for State Farm Insurance and Financial Services in 2020. She held numerous leadership positions with State Farm, including Agency Field Consultant, Agency Field Executive, Development Agency Field Executive, and Executive Assistant to the Chairman’s Council at corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois. She currently serves on the board of directors for United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties, Rutherford Cable, Nourish Food Bank, the Executive Advisory Council for Jones College of Business, and the Global Advisory Board, Women United.


Dr. Sarah Murfree

Sarah Murfree, PhD, is the Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Prevention Coalition for Success (PC4S). Dr. Murfree leads PC4S in its mission to prevent substance abuse and violent crime. Experience in the MTSU Public Health program and clinical research industry led to her career in substance abuse prevention. Supporting healthy choices for youth, young adults, and families and providing peer support is the heart of PC4S and Dr. Murfree’s commitment to this important work. As a longtime resident of Murfreesboro, along with her husband and 11-year-old daughter, Dr. Murfree is invested in the health and prosperity of our community.


Meg Van Patten

Meg Van Patton has lived in Murfreesboro for 12 years. She relocated with her husband and three grown children. As a realtor, she leverages her B.S. in Finance from the University of Virginia, her diverse professional background in Project Administration and Higher Ed Admin, and her deep understanding of the challenges and stresses associated with relocation to serve her clients’ needs. Meg is active in several community organizations with her primary focus being Rutherford Cable and Breakfast Rotary Club. In her spare time, Meg enjoys country music, competitive swimming, and traveling with her family.


Dr. Sam Zaza

Dr. Sam Zaza, associate professor at MTSU, is renowned for her published research on workers’ issues and careers. She serves at the non-profit Association for Information Systems (AIS) as SIG Social Inclusion president, SIG Leadership in Information Technology president, and chair of the AIS Women’s Network College, where she champions the advancement of women in leadership roles and careers. Her efforts are acknowledged by accolades such as the Diversity & Inclusion Advocate of the Year 2023, the Sandra Slaughter Award 2023, and the Leadership Excellence Awards, underscoring her commitment to professional excellence and women’s empowerment for a better society.


ATHENA Young Professional Nominees

Casey Burks

Casey Burks is an Online Sales Manager for Ryan Homes. She focuses on impacting sales results and successful community launch execution. Burks is the Vice President of Community and President-Elect for the Junior League of Murfreesboro. She serves Alpha Delta Pi as Executive Advisor for the Theta Iota chapter and the President of the Murfreesboro Alumnae Association. She is a member of the 2024 class of Leadership Rutherford. Burks earned a bachelor’s degree of Science in Mass Communication from Middle Tennessee State University. Her greatest joy is being Tony’s wife and mama to their two children, Austin, and Kaytlynn Grace.


Veronica M. Clark

Veronica, with a BBA from the University of Kentucky and a Masters in Organizational Leadership from Trevecca University, embodies a commitment to community and service. Actively engaged in board service and leadership, and has assumed multiple mentorship roles. As a Procurement Consultant at the TN APEX Accelerator, Veronica and her team assisted 1,222 Tennessee small businesses, contributing to $629 million in contract award dollars in 2021. Her visionary approach prioritizes inclusion and equity over profit. Recognized in the 2021 Nashville Business Journal’s 40 under 40, Veronica stands as a beacon of leadership, fostering community and propelling business success.


Dr. Christina M. Cobb

Dr. Cobb is an Associate Professor at Middle Tennessee State University and CEO of her non-profit organization, EducatHer. Dr. Cobb is the national Co-chair of the NOSS Mathematics Network; the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee chair with TASSR; the Membership VP with AAUW; and a committee member for the Tennessee Girls in STEM (TGIS) program at MTSU. Dr. Cobb’s awards are the Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award, MTSU’s National Women’s History Month Trailblazers, MTSU Outstanding Teacher Award in General Education, the MTSU Outstanding Teacher Award, and the Outstanding Faculty in Learning Support Award from TASSR.


Delaney Moor

Delaney Moor is an Occupational Therapy Assistant at Liberty’s Station, a local Faith-based nonprofit, where she provides job training to individuals with employment obstacles and facilitates their community-based employment. She also provides pediatric occupational therapy for children in home/daycare through Tennessee Early Intervention Services. Delaney graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Middle Tennessee State University in 2019. She proceeded to obtain an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Occupational Therapy Assistant in 2022, Summa Cum Laude from South College, Nashville.


Whitney Raque

Whitney Raque is an attorney at Henderson, Raque, and Cain, an association of attorneys practicing in general practice. She is the immediate past-President of the Rutherford/Cannon County Bar Association, Communications Director of MTLAW, and a Trustee at First United Methodist Church. She is a Murfreesboro native and 3rd generation attorney.


Ashley D. Stearns

Ashley Stearns is an experienced attorney who has built a law practice in Murfreesboro and broader Middle Tennessee that is uniquely focused on all facets of estate planning. She is a leader in her profession, recently chairing a state-wide executive council in her practice area. Outside of practicing law, Stearns loves serving others, and has volunteered many hours with The United Way, Charity Circle, Special Kids, and her children’s school. She is a Murfreesboro native and a proud MTSU graduate, and she considers her most noble calling to be raising her three wonderful children.


Cassandra Taylor

A devoted library professional and native Middle Tennessean, Cassandra Taylor has served the Rutherford County Library System since 2018 and was the Regional Librarian for Daymar College from 2019-2022. She is a board member of the League of Women Voters of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County and serves on the Read to Succeed’s One Book committee. She is also the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee Chair for the Tennessee Library Association. She is proud to be the Adult Literacy Program Specialist at Nashville Public Library where she enriches the lives of adult learners by promoting library resources for lifelong learning.


Sonya Turner

Sonya Turner serves as a Property Manager with MMC Properties. With over fifteen years of experience, she is passionate about people and building a community. As the President of Murfreesboro Young Professionals and Mechanics on a Mission, Sonya is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others. Additionally, she contributes as a Diplomat for the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce. Sonya is happily married to her college sweetheart Chris; they have two wonderful children, Jack and Leah.

The ATHENA Award recipient is someone who:

  • Achieves the highest level of professional excellence
  • Contributes time and energy to improve the quality of life for those in the community
  • Actively assists others, particularly women, in realizing their full leadership potential

The ATHENA YP recipient is an emerging leader under age 40 who:

  • Demonstrates excellence, creativity, and initiative in her profession
  • Contributes time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community
  • Serves as a role model for young women personally and professionally.

Nominees for the Rutherford ATHENA and Young Professional Awards must live or work in Rutherford County. If the nominee lives outside of Rutherford County, she must work in Rutherford County.


Now in its eleventh year, the 2022 Rutherford ATHENA Award ceremony will be held as a luncheon on Friday, May 17, 2024, at the MTSU Student Union Building Ballroom. The ATHENA 2024 Awards Ceremony will feature inspiring video conversations with nominees as well as with representatives from their respective nominating organizations.

The ATHENA Leadership Model was developed through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and identifies eight distinct attributes that are reflective of women’s contributions to leadership. The tenets of an ATHENA woman include authentic self, growing relationships, giving back, collaboration, courageous acts, learning, fierce advocacy, celebration, and joy.

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