EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article appeared in the Aug. 17, 2017, edition of The Review.
As they do each August, past recipients of the Athena/Woman of the Year award reunited to catch up Aug. 9 at Alliance Woman’s Club. Each year, one new member of the exclusive club is added — this year being 2017 recipient Nancy Castellucci.
Ten past award recipients were on hand this year during the gathering hosted by 2016 Athena recipient Sue Grove, who was also in the midst of serving as president of the Greater Alliance Carnation Festival.
"It is such an honor to be in the presence of all of you," Grove said in her welcome. "I want you to know that it is — and I’m sure all of us have felt this way — so overwhelming and humbling to be the recipient of the Athena and the Woman of the Year award in our city. It’s fabulous."
Grove shared with them what she had discovered after being name Athena in 2016 — that a number appears on each sculpture — hers being 7,035 – which represents how it fell amongst the awards given out all over the world.
"It’s been a pleasure to work on this all year and I have," she said. "I felt the details were very important to honor all of you."
Grove gave an update on those who weren’t able to be there, some of whom sent their regards. While some familiar faces were missing, the ladies in attendance enjoyed their time as they chatted and dined on puff pastry with hot chicken salad, fresh fruit and cherry cobbler provided by chef Frank Minear.
Following the meal, Castellucci, the newest member of the group, shared her thoughts.
"I do have to honestly say, never did I think that I’d be amongst this group of Women of the Year/Athena winners," she admitted.
Castellucci said she was surprised to get honored for just doing what she does. "To be singled out; to be a recipient of something that’s as prestigious as what we’ve all been a recipient have is quite overwhelming," she said.
She recalled the shock she felt as Melissa Gardner read the nomination about her during the Alliance Area Chamber of Commerce annual dinner, which left her at a rare loss for words. "I am really humbled to be here with all of you," she added.
Castellucci gave more background about herself to the group — from being a lifelong Alliance resident and making tissue paper carnations as a child to being an involved PTA mom and later being encouraged to go back to school to be a funeral director. Along the way, she got involved in different organizations like the YWCA, Kiwanis, YMCA and Chamber of Commerce Women’s Division. "It’s just what you do. It just becomes part of who we are," she said.
The latest Athena said things happen for a reason and having met certain people along the way shaped her life and where she is now.
"I think we’re all put in a certain place at a certain time for a reason that we may not know at the time," she said. "If anybody would have told me in 1994 that I would be standing before you not only in this but in the professional aspect that I am now, I would have said there’s no way. I’m just a little hometown Alliance girl doing what she does. But I am very blessed at what I do."
"It’s all about living and working in Alliance and volunteering in Alliance and just being the best role model that we can be for women in our community," she added.
In closing, Castellucci shared what she learned about the meaning of the Athena sculpture when she did some research on it. She explained the marble base symbolizes a strong foundation; the bronze symbolizes the reinforcing and interdependent relationship to the practice of leadership; the outstretched arms represent inclusiveness; and the globe-like prism represents the multifaceted qualities of women leaders.