History of The Lucy Gibson Notable Women Award

The purpose of the KAWE Notable Woman Award is to recognize someone in the greater Knoxville area who has achieved prominence in her field, contributed to the community at large, and maintained a life balance. The following honorees have received this award.

2019 - Chief of Police - City of Knoxville Eve Thomas

Knoxville Police Department Chief of Police Eve Thomas received the 2019 Lucy Webb Gibson Notable Woman Award. Regarding Chief Thomas’ selection, KAWE stated, “Your acts and boldness are changing lives around you and affect the destiny of our nation. You are a brilliant mother, professional, and great servant leader, inspiring many, including us. Thank you for being an active community leader and serving on different boards, including the Board of the Knoxville Public Safety Foundation to whom the check was written per your request.”

2018 - Wanda Sobieski

2018 – Wanda Sobieski

The founder of Sobieski, Messer & Associates in 1993, Wanda Sobieski forged a reputation as a prominent legal advocate for families throughout East Tennessee. For almost three decades, she served clients facing complex divorce and child custody cases. She also took civil rights cases and appellate work.

Before creating her current firm, Wanda served as the first female partner in the 100-year history of Baker Worthington Crossley Stansberry & Woolf (now Baker Donelson).

She is also familiar to many as a vital part of the Knoxville legal, business, and philanthropic community—most notably known for her advocacy to memorialize East Tennessee’s special role in the history of the movement for women’s suffrage in America. As founder of the Woman Suffrage Coalition, she is responsible for the women’s suffrage memorial statue that is featured prominently in downtown Knoxville’s Market Square and recognizes the women from Tennessee who played vital roles in securing the passage of the 19thAmendment to the United States Constitution giving women the right to vote. The Suffrage Coalition for the Burn Memorial shows Febb Burn standing behind and to the side of her son seated in his legislative chair. One of her hands is on one of Harry’s shoulders. As Wanda pointed out, Mrs. Burn’s hand is cast as more of a “nudge than a pat.”

Wanda is a founding member and past-president of the East Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women (ETLAW) and the Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women (TLAW). She received her bachelor’s degree from Wichita State University in 1969, master’s degree from the University of Tennessee in 1974, and J.D. from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1982.

She is married to University of Tennessee law professor John Sobieski and has three children, Daran, Alana, and Elise, and four grandchildren, Andrew, Bella, Lexi, and Chloe.

2017 - Patricia Robledo
Patricia Robledo, the City’s Business Liaison, was honored by KAWE as our Lucy Gibson Notable Woman for 2017.

Patricia, a native of Colombia, joined the City as Business Liaison in 2011, heading up the then-new Office of Business Support created by Mayor Madeline Rogero. She works with businesses across Knoxville to help them navigate City permits and processes. Among many other things, she was instrumental in creating the City’s pilot food truck program.

She is also the owner of Robledo Translations, LLC, and serves on the board of Project GRAD, the Community Coalition against Human Trafficking, Community Health Council and East Tennessee Quality Growth. She is a member of the Executive Women’s Association, and she is active in Centro Hispano de East Tennessee, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee, HoLa-Hora Latina and the East Tennessee Civil Rights Working Group. She has served on the board of directors of various nonprofits, including the YWCA of Knoxville and the East Tennessee Foundation. She is the proxy for Mayor Rogero on the board of the Family Justice Center.

Patricia is also the devoted leader of a Girl Scout troop at Lonsdale Elementary School. In addition, she has volunteered for 11 years with the Knoxville Medical Mission during their annual week-long trip to provide medical services in Antigua, Guatemala, to those who could not otherwise afford services.

In 2007, she received the FBI Community Leadership Award for her involvement in and dedication to multiple community service organizations, the 2009 HoLa-Hora Latina’s Unity in the Community Award and the 2015 Lonsdale Community School Volunteer Hall of Fame.

2016 - Elaine Streno
Elaine Streno has served as Executive Director of the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee from 1994 to present. The food bank serves 18 counties in East Tennessee. Elaine has managed and developed its many programs designed to bring food to people in hard-to-reach areas: Summer Food for Kids; Food for Kids in their backpacks for the weekends; Food Sourcing, a partnership with other agencies; The Senior Outreach Program; Food Rescue; Rural Route; and Mobile Pantry. Her life story is from one of need to one of giving to the needy. She has brought an immediate awareness to the greater Knoxville community of concrete, local ways to support and use the food bank.
2015 - Missy Wallen
As Pinnacle’s Knoxville chairman, Missy Wallen leads the market’s client services group and oversees the Knoxville-area offices. Before joining Pinnacle in 2014, Wallen served with BB&T in Knoxville for 12 years and from 2007 to 2013 was its Tennessee president. Her financial services career spans 40 years and includes leadership positions at Valley Fidelity Bank and Trust Co., Bank of East Tennessee and BankFirst, which was acquired by BB&T in 2000. Wallen began her career at First National Bank as a teller. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee and holds a graduate degree from Louisiana State University – School of Banking of the South. Active in the Knoxville community, Wallen is a member of the UT College of Communication and Information board of visitors and serves on the board of the University of Tennessee Knoxville Alumni Association. She also serves as vice chair of The Development Corporation of Knox County and is on the board of directors of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
2014 - Liane Russell, PhD
American geneticist and conservationist. Her studies in mammalian genetics provided the basis for understanding the chromosomic basis for sex determination in mammals and the effects occasioned by radiation, drugs, fuels and waste on mice. Her research allowed better understanding of genetic processes in mammals, mutagenesis, and teratogenesis effects on mammals, and knowledge of how these processes can be prevented and avoided. Russell completed her secondary schooling in England. After the family moved to the United States, she earned an A.B. from Hunter College in New York and her PhD in Zoology in 1945 at the University of Chicago. Russell began her career as a research assistant at Jackson Memorial Laboratory from 1943 to 1947, and worked as a fellow at the University of Chicago. In 1947, she moved to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where she eventually became a Senior Corporate Fellow and Section Head. She retired in 2002, but continues on guest assignment. Russell conducted genetics research focused on radiation-induced mutations. Liane served as head of the Mammalian Genetics & Development Section Between 1975 and 1995. They expanded their research, studying the genetic effects of chemicals from drugs, fuels and waste on mice. Her studies allowed her to move from classic genetics to molecular analysis. Russell is also a conservationist working for protection of wilderness and national lands and rivers. In 1966 she helped to organize the Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning (TCWP). In 1976, after 10 years of activity they helped to obtain protection of the 125,000-acre Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and obtain National Wild and Scenic River designation for the Obed River. We mourn her passing on July 20, 2019.
2013 - Madeline Anne Rogero
Mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee, 2011 to present. She is the first female to hold the office and the first female to be elected mayor in any of the Big Four cities (Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga) in Tennessee. Before entering politics, Rogero worked as a community development director, non-profit executive, urban and regional planner, and community volunteer. She served on the Knox County Commission from 1990 to 1998, and first ran for mayor in 2003, losing to the current Governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam. Rogero’s administration has a four-level platform: Strong, safe neighborhoods; Living Green and Working Green; an energized downtown; and job creation and retention. Her first budget included initiatives in each of these areas. In 2013, Mayor Rogero accepted honorary membership in KAWE.
2012 - Pat Summitt
The University of Tennessee Knoxville Coach Emeritus, Women’s Basketball. As head coach of the Lady Vols basketball from 1974–2012, Pat Summitt won eight NCAA national championships, second only to the record 10 titles won by UCLA men’s coach John Wooden. She won more basketball games in NCAA history in any division—men’s or women’s. She is the only coach in NCAA history, and one of three college coaches overall, with at least 1,000 victories. She now serves as the head coach emeritus of the Lady Vols basketball. She was born in Clarksville, TN, one of five children. Her family moved to Henrietta so she could play basketball in Cheatham County. She played basketball at UT Martin and later co-captained the first US women’s national basketball team in 1976, winning a silver medal. Eight years later, she coached the US woman’s team to an Olympic gold medal, becoming the first US Olympian to win a basketball medal and to coach a medal-winning team. In 1974, Summitt became an graduate assistant at UT Knoxville and was named head coach after the previous coach suddenly quit.
2011 - Ginny Weatherstone
CEO, Volunteer Ministry Center of Knoxville, 1997–present. Ginny Weatherstone worked for several years as a Court Services Officer (Probation Officer) for the Circuit Court system in South Dakota before her family’s move to Knoxville in 1981. She completed a course in Clinical Pastoral Education at Baptist Hospital in Knoxville and worked for five years at the Patricia Neal Center, helping adults with traumatic brain injuries to return to work. She worked with the juvenile courts in the counties surrounding Knox County in 1995 and 1996. In 1997, she assumed the duties of Chief Executive Officer of the Volunteer Ministry Center. Ginny served as the President of the East Tennessee Coalition to End Homelessness for three years. She was appointed by the Knoxville City Mayor and the Knox County Mayor to serve on the Task Force that developed the Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. Following the implementation of that Plan, she served on the Advisory Board. Ginny also sits on the Executive Committee of the Community Coalition on Family Violence. Ginny does training for the Knoxville Police Department on issues of homelessness.
2010 - Dr. Kamilia F. Koslowski
Founder of the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center, 1983–present. As a practicing physician, Kamilia Kozlowski, M.D. had long been concerned about the delivery of breast health care. She founded the Knoxville Breast Center in 1983 to attend to all the needs of women facing breast cancer while reducing cost and patient anxiety. Her innovations in quick test response and comprehensive care made the Center a model for delivering breast care. women can receive all their breast health care in one location, from the imaging to diagnosis to surgery consultation to recovery. In addition, every week the multi-disciplinary team meets to discuss patients diagnosed with cancer and plans for their treatment.
2009 - Chancellor Sharon J. Bell
Chancery Court Part III, 1986–2006. Judge Bell became the first woman judge in Knox County when elected judge of the General Sessions Court in 1982. Previously, she served two terms in the state legislature.