SAU president to be honored with award

Startled. Humbled. Stunned. That is how St. Ambrose President Sister Joan Lescinski, PhD, describes her reaction after being honored with a 2011 Athena Award.
“I was in Washington, D.C. at a meeting,” Sister Lescinski said. “I called Jan [Stafford, administrative assistant] and she said ‘We have big news for you. You’re being named a 2011 Athena Award nominee.’ I said ‘You can’t be serious.'”
Sister Lescinski, along with five other honorees, will be presented with the Athena Award on March 22 at a luncheon. This year, one of the honorees will also be awarded with an Athena Leadership Award. This marks the first year that Athena International has partnered with the local Athena Awards.
Kristin Glass, vice president, membership, of The Women’s Connection, said that the nomination Sister Lescinski received came from her peers and fellow community members.
“The Athena partnership is between the Quad Cities Chamber and The Women’s Connection,” Glass said. “Community members could make their nominations for who they thought were deserving of an Athena Award.”
Over 30 nominations were received for this year’s Athena Awards. Sister Lescinski was chosen for the award alongside Julie Bechtel, Denise Bulat, Caroline Ruhl, Jackie Staron, and Ginny Wilson-Peters.
“After the nominations are completed by the community, last year’s Athena Award winners choose the winners of the Athena Awards for this year,” Glass said.
Sister Lescinski considers herself to be in good company with her fellow nominees.
“It doesn’t matter who they choose,” Sister Lescinski said. “Any one of them would be an excellent representative.”
Being selected as a local Athena Award recipient was meaningful to Sister Lescinski, who has a preexisting relationship with The Women’s Connection.
“The Women’s Connection was the very first group I talked to when I came to the Quad Cities in 2007,” she said. “I arrived here at the beginning of August and my very first speaking engagement was a noontime speaking engagement to The Women’s Connection. There was a lot of fanfare that I was selected as president of St. Ambrose.”
While Sister Lescinski is flattered to be an award recipient, she recognizes that the honor would not have been possible without fellow administrators and staff members.
“There are no accomplishments the university has that aren’t the hard work of many, many people,” she said. “Often it’s the president who gets the public credit, but you’re a symbol for all the other people at the university.”
Another fact Sister Lescinski acknowledges is that she has only been in the Quad Cities for three and a half years, making her somewhat of a newcomer compared to her fellow award recipients.
“I’m relatively new here,” she said. “Some of these women have been here much longer than I have and have much more service. I’m stunned and honored to be among them.”
The Athena Awards strive to honor local women who set the standard of leadership. Sister Lescinski said that she has had many mentors over the years, and they all shared a similar view of leadership.
“I have had in my life some outstanding mentors, both men and women, who have helped me tap the leadership potential in myself that I didn’t know was there,” Sister Lescinski said. “When I try to say ‘thank you’ to these people, they say to me universally, ‘you can’t thank me, you can do something more important and do likewise.'”
Sister Lescinski saw this advice come to life in the form of Jamie Loftus, who will be sharing his leadership talent with Cardinal Stritch University.
“We’re sending away a wonderful vice president from our university, and one of the reasons he’s going is to exercise the tremendous leadership gifts he has,” she said. “Although we’re sorry he won’t be here, we’re pleased another institution has recognized him as having presidential leadership potential.”
Being an Athena Award recipient has motivated Sister Lescinski to continue making great strides at St. Ambrose. There is no single accomplishment that she identifies as being better than the others, and it is evident that this positive attitude is what led to Sister Lescinski’s nomination for the award.
“This is an encouragement to continue doing work at St. Ambrose and in the wider community and to continue to model for people the kind of leadership that The Women’s Connection and the Chamber want to honor,” she said.

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