Outstanding leadership in the community by Carol Svihl and Emily Welker have earned them this year's Athena awards, the Barry County Chamber of Commerce announced.
Svihl, who was chosen for the 2019 Athena Leadership Award, is trust officer and registered investment representative with Highpoint Community Bank Wealth Management.
Welker, the recipient of the Athena Young Professional Award, is director of operations for Spectrum Health Medical Group – Pennock, Southeast Market.
“The Barry County Chamber of Commerce is thrilled to have them as a part of this prestigious group,” chamber business manager Kim Martin said. “They are both very deserving of this honor.”
The Athena Leadership Model, developed in Michigan through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, identifies eight attributes as contributing to leadership: Living authentically, learning constantly, advocating fiercely, acting courageously, fostering collaboration, building relationships, giving back and celebrating.
Svihl, a Gladstone native, received a bachelor of arts and a masters of business administration degrees from Davenport University and has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry.
“Carol Svihl is a person who brings out the best in others,” said Norma Jean Acker, president of the Thornapple Players, where Svihl is the youth theater coordinator.
Svihl also serves on the Thornapple Players board.
She “educates and encourages employees in her work life to develop both strong work ethics and financial stability while planning for their future,” Acker said. “She is often working with young women training in new positions, and I know her to be supportive and positive. She can tell you the name of every person who works for Highpoint Community Bank and what they do if they have met.
“Carol listens like a good leader should and remembers personal details that help her to build relationships and trust. This is true in all aspects of her life.”
Janie Bergeron, executive director of Green Gables Haven, called Svhil “a class act.”
“She is always putting others before her needs. ... I can tell you that, upon meeting Carol for the first time, I knew I wanted to grow up to be just like her.
“She truly is one of the best people I know.”
Svihl serves on the board of the Algonquin Lake Community Association and is a board member of the St. Rose of Lima Education Trust. She volunteers regularly for Spectrum Pennock Hospice and helps raise funds for Barry County Relay for Life.
She also volunteers with Spectrum Hospice flower project, MSU Extension Master Gardener program, and the St. Rose of Lima Church Ladies Association. She plays tenor sax in the Thornapple Jazz Orchestra and annually assists the Thornapple Arts Council with the jazz festival and Auction for the Arts.
She is a graduate of the Leadership Barry County Class of 2015.
Svihl and her husband of 33 years, Dale, have lived in Hastings for 20 years.
“I am thrilled to be selected as this year’s Athena Leadership Award recipient,” she said. “It is amazing to be included in this group of community-focused women who work endlessly to create positive impact and opportunities for residents of Barry County.”
Welker, a native of Lake Odessa, graduated from Lakewood High School in 2006.
“I am honored and humbled to be part of a group of amazing women,” Welker said in response to the news. “I am extremely grateful to be awarded this prestigious award and am excited to be connected in this new peer group and utilize these relationships to serve our community.
“It feels surreal that I am now part of this group of Athena women who I look up to and strive to be.”
Welker attended Grand Valley State University where she discovered a passion for health care and started working at Butterworth Hospital as a unit secretary.
In addition to college degrees in health care administration, she holds a certification from the National Association of Rural Health Clinics as a certified rural health clinic professional and has completed Barry County Leadership in 2019. She also served on the Thornapple Area Enrichment Foundation.
While attending GVSU, she met her husband Layn Welker, who had grown up in Middleville. After they married, they moved back to his hometown. Upon completion of her graduate degree in health administration services at Central Michigan University, Welker was hired at Pennock Hospital where she met her mentor, Bob Davis. Under his direction, she said she learned the nuts and bolts of serving a community with health care and began to develop her leadership style.
“During these past seven years, I've had the opportunity to help lead Pennock Hospital through many changes and have spearheaded change management techniques, such as the integration with Spectrum Health,” Welker said. “I've also met amazing individuals who have helped with my success and have encouraged my servant leadership style.
“I would not be where I am today personally or professionally without the amazing support team in my life.”
She and her husband live in Middleville with their two children, Logan and Larsen.
Svihl and Welker will be honored at the chamber annual dinner and awards celebration on Jan. 18 at Bay Pointe Woods.