Courier celebrates Women of Excellence luncheon

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At the 2011 Women of Excellence awards luncheon, the New Pittsburgh Courier “raised the bar” for Black women everywhere when they recognized Patricia Prattis Jennings as their Legacy Award honoree.

“I feel humbled because there’s so many people being honored who have done so much more than I have,” Jennings said. “You have all these women being role models to show we can succeed in professions where our numbers are very small.”

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Jennings was the first Black woman to be awarded a contract by a major American symphony orchestra when she joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as their principal keyboardist in 1966.

She said the Courier’s 50 Women of Excellence is a testament to the progress made by women and African-Americans.

“If nothing else, it makes you realize how far we’ve come and how fortunate I am to have been born when I was. I’m grateful that I’m still here and that what I’ve done has made a difference,” Jennings said. “I’m often surprised when I see people in the community about how much I mean to them. We all contribute in our own way.”

Every year, the Courier recognizes 50 women who have been nominated for their professional accomplishments and commitment to Pittsburgh. The annual luncheon was held at the Westin Convention Center Hotel on Aug. 11, drawing a group of nearly 600 guests.

“It’s a great honor, totally unexpected,” said Lisa Minor, senior communication specialist for Duquesne Light. “My manager nominated me. Based on my job I’m out in the community. I think all of that culminated into the reason I was nominated.”

Ever the humble recipients, the women at the luncheon expressed admiration for the work of their fellow honorees. Many said they often don’t realize their own significance because they enjoy the work they do.

“I’m honored just to be in the same category as all of these African-American women,” said Jennifer Bruce Scott, a registered nurse with the Allegheny Center for Digestive Health and assistant coach for the Plum High School girls basketball team. “It all comes back to community. You always look for people who go above and beyond. For us it’s just our day to day activities, but there are people who notice.”

“As I looked at the list, I know many of the women and it’s just an opportunity to say wow at the caliber of these women,” said Colleen McMullen, executive director of diversity strategies and programs for Carnegie Mellon University. “I work in education. I enjoy doing what I do. I don’t see it as work.”

The luncheon drew friends, family and colleagues of this year’s honorees, as well as several honorees from past years. Many of the guests congratulated one another on their achievements and encouraged their peers to continue serving as positive role models for the African-American community.

“This is a great honor. It’s humbling to know I was nominated,” said Jacqueline Wilson, CEO of the Three Rivers Adoption Council. “In the African-American community our kids need someone to look up to and I think this provides that.”

“Knowing Ms. Jackie’s work with Three River’s Adoption Council I think this honor is well deserved,” said Oronde Sharif a former Fab 40 honoree who works with Wilson. “I don’t think people recognize the work that needs to be done. When we talk about underserved populations, that is the area that needs attention.”

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