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.
2021 -Tamika Harper, Founder/CEO, Shora Foundation, Roots Collective
Tanika Harper is the founder and president of two nonprofit organizations that address key issues facing marginalized communities in Knoxville. The Women Foundation provides microloans, training, and other resources for small business expansions and start-ups. Tanika knows firsthand how difficult it is for young women of color to advance as business owners in the Knoxville area. As the owner of multiple small businesses, including Elite Facility Maintenance and Harper’s Naturals, Tanika has experienced difficulty in securing the bank loans and connections needed for start-up and maintenance. This difficulty was exacerbated by her status as an African American woman. She and a group of other Black women formed The Women Foundation to help other marginalized small business owners get the connections, resources, and training they need to make their businesses successful. The second nonprofit, Shora Foundation, provides extracurricular youth programs for children of color, as well as business development programs for adults. As a single mother of an eleven-year-old daughter, Tanika saw a lack of resources available for after-school programs for children. She founded Shora to help fill that gap, with youth programs that provide academic activities, meals, creative projects, and family nights to children in under-resourced areas. Shora also provides training, classes, and webinars to adults endeavoring to develop their businesses.
2020 - Dr. Carole R. Myers, PhD, RN, Associate Professor in the UT College of Nursing Professor and Public Health
Carole R. Myers PhD, RN, an Associate Professor in the College of Nursing and Department of Public Health at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, coordinates interdisciplinary graduate health policy courses and a certificate program in health policy.
Myers uses of policy, advocacy, and media to promote population health, focusing on healthcare access, rural health and healthcare disparities, Medicaid, and the value of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses. Myers frequently contributes to discussions on national health reform, the transformation of healthcare, full practice authority, and grassroots advocacy. She is the creator and host of HealthConnections, a radio show on the Knoxville NPR-affiliate. Myers and her cohost were recently awarded a first-place 2018 Golden Press Award for Radio-Documentary Public Affairs Programming. Myers blogs, is an avid Tweeter, and author of OpEds and other commentaries. She conducts research that centers on policymaking and health services with an emphasis on access to care, TennCare, public health programs, and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses.
Myers is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and a Faculty Policy Fellow with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. She was previously appointed to the Tennessee Scope of Practice Legislative Task Force and elected co-chair; selected as a Southeastern Conference Academic Leadership Fellow and American Advocacy Institute Fellow; and awarded the TN-PAC Advocacy Award, American Association of Nurse Practitioners Nurse Practitioner Advocate State Award for Excellence, and the Tennessee Nurses Association Louise Browning Political Nurse 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
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, 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.