Awards to honor women


Annie Goodman/The Lion's Roar

The Greater Hammond Chamber of Commerce seeks to recognize and distinguish women in the community for their achievements through the annual Annie Awards.

The awards luncheon is scheduled for Friday, June 14 in the Student Union Ballroom.

Dr. Kay Maurin, committee chairman of the Annie Awards, explained the purpose of the luncheon.

Maurin said, “The Annie Awards, named in honor of Dr. Ann Ferguson, who was a longtime member of Southeastern’s faculty and very involved in the Hammond community, recognizes women from the greater Hammond region who exhibit excellence in their careers and community.”

The Annie Awards were established in 1998 to honor the late Ferguson. Her 24 years at the university began in 1977. She served in leadership roles such as president of the Louisiana Association of Developmental Education, vice president of the National Association of Developmental Education, head of the College of Basic Studies’ Developmental Education Department and head of the Junior Division for all entering freshman and transfer students. Ferguson continued working up to two months before her passing. Beyond memories, her name lives on in an endowed scholarship and awards.

Past recipients include Grace Bennett Gasaway, a judge on the City Court of Hammond, in 1999, Bernadette Kemp, vice president in community relations for First Guaranty Bank, in 2016, and Karen Pfeifer, co-owner of the seafood restaurant Middendorf’s, in 2017 among others.

Erin Cowser, executive director of public and governmental affairs at the university, received the award in 2018. She shared what it felt like to be a recipient.

“It is truly an honor to be listed among so many accomplished and honorable women – some vibrant leaders and others quiet heroes,” expressed Cowser. “To be recognized for doing what comes naturally – giving back to the community and career that have given me so much – is remarkable.”

Maurin discussed the significance of recognizing women like Cowser in leadership.

“These women are certainly making significant positive marks in our community,” stated Maurin. “It’s important to recognize them as role models and to also make sure that the faces that represent leadership are diverse.”

At this year’s luncheon, Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, will serve as the featured speaker.

“She is a physician, a public health policy expert, an involved community member, a wife and a mother of five children,” shared Maurin. “She works daily to improve the lives of Louisianans through better health and health care. She exemplifies all aspects of the Annie Awards, and we are thrilled to have her as our keynote speaker.”

According to Cowser, the awards luncheon serves to highlight women’s achievements.

“Oftentimes, women are apt to heap praise on others, but rarely do they shine the spotlight on their own accomplishments,” said Cowser. “The Annie Awards is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions made by so many deserving women.”

The deadline for nominations is April 5. The nomination form can be found on the Greater Hammond Chamber of Commerce’s website.

When looking at applicants, three primary qualifications are examined.

“The ideal candidates are residents of the greater Hammond area, have made significant contributions in their career fields, actively participate and contribute in community events and initiatives, and overall display a servant’s heart,” explained Maurin. “The ideal applicant strives every day to give their best to their career and their community and is a role model to others.”