Chamber Staff Recognize Influential Women in their Lives
As the staff discussed International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, stories about women who influenced us filled our thoughts. These women may have had a direct impact on our lives, they may be people we aspired to emulate, or they may have shaped the way we look at the world and the good we hope to do in it.
We are pleased to share some of our personal stories as we honor women and their contributions.
Tony Sheridan, President and CEO
I write to celebrate Mona Sheridan. Mona started her working life as a maid in the household of a local wealthy family. She was age 14. She worked seven days a week and was expected to be there late in the evenings to cater to party goers with no extra pay. She was a pretty and petite woman with a fierce determination to be respected. She met and married her husband whose previous wife had died in childbirth birth leaving a baby boy. Her instant family was followed by 8 additional children, five boys and three girls.
Mona deserves celebration because of her exceptional willpower and her single-handed approach in raising her children. She managed her family and her household with little support, no electricity or running water. She displayed enormous pride in her children and, in spite of her deep sadness, she supported each of her children as they left in search for a better life for themselves. In her later life she took great pleasure traveling to other countries to visit her children and grandchildren. I am sure it would have been easy for Mona to settle in and make the best of a life of drudgery, but she didn’t. She left this earth in peace knowing that her contributions were rewarded through the successes of her children and grandchildren.
Lori Thompson, Office Manager
When I was 22, I found myself in Groton, CT far from my Iowa home, divorced, and starting a new life and a new job. I was fortunate to find a position as a telemarketer where I quickly found inside sales was not for me. My sales were not bad, I just didn’t like it. My boss Elizabeth Mawhiney threw some administrative tasks my way to help the department out and keep me employed. Apparently, I was good at figures and administrative tasks, so my role evolved to a sales and marketing support position. Through her mentorship, she encouraged me, challenged me, and guided me in the administrative world. She believed in me and was the one that encouraged me to go to college. She was a single mother of two in a management position and working two jobs. I looked up to her and wanted to be like her someday. While I have moved on to several other positions within my lifetime and have worked with some amazing women, she is the one that I will never forget and one that I admire dearly. We still keep in touch to this day.
Gary Rogers, Membership Manager
For International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month, I would like to recognize Sister Ruth Dowd, who established and was dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Manhattanville College, where I earned my master’s degree. She also created the Sports Business Management degree program in 2007 when she was 88 years old. In 1999, Manhattanville honored Ruth with the Women of Spirit award. In her acceptance remarks, she stated that “Lifelong learning, the conscious pursuit of new knowledge and skills, is the essential component of lifelong living.”
Sister Ruth was a dog lover, had a sharp and quick wit, and led all in her presence with innovative leadership, personal warmth and a fresh spirit. Sadly Ruth passed away in 2019 at the age of 100! But her passion to help all of us grow at all times of our lives will live with me forever.
Jane Davis, Membership Manager
There have been many influential women over the course of my career and in my life, but one stands out not only as an early influencer, but one that remains the most solid of role models even today.
This person is my grandmother, Margaret Heggie Tyler. Margaret married my grandfather, a well to do Bostonian in the 1920’s shortly after meeting on a Transatlantic Ocean Liner to London. Just a few years later, Margaret suffered the indignity of a divorce in an era where that was almost unheard of. As a result, she returned to her hometown of Lorain, OH with my dad and aunt to start her life over and raise her children on her own. Gram returned to college at Case Western Reserve and earned a master’s degree in Speech and Hearing. This in itself was quite a feat as she did this during the Great Depression. She then embarked on a long career in the school system as the Speech and Hearing Therapist. She ended up blazing a trail for us as she modeled not only the figure of a strong matriarch and single mother, but someone who made a career for herself when life wasn’t too kind.
Seeing her strength and her grace in action as she maintained a career and her home made an indelible mark on myself, my two sisters and my cousins as we embarked on our own paths and careers and yes, even divorce. I am thankful for the memories and examples of her strength as she forged ahead where not too many women had at the time and in turn, gave us the power to do the same.
Tracy Tremblay, Business Services Representative
My mother Lorraine Tremblay is the embodiment of strength and perseverance. She was forced to leave high school to help support her family when her mother was ill. At the age of 20, Lorraine lost her mother and cared for her 10-year-old sister. Fast forward a few years and she had the good fortune of meeting and marrying the love of her life Richard and having two children. Lorraine worked full-time, helped her husband start a business and raised her children almost single-handedly as her husband worked tirelessly at two jobs – one during the day, every evening and every Saturday. She never complained and handled it all. It always bothered Lorraine that she didn’t have her high school diploma, so on top of all of these responsibilities, she went back and got her GED.
When her children were grown and life became a little easier, she developed sight deterioration. She continued to work, but when she and her husband took early retirements, they traveled throughout the country, sightseeing before her progressive blindness made it difficult to do so. Later she suffered a debilitating stroke, but she has continued to show the will power and grace that make her such an inspiration to me during these difficult days of the pandemic.
Stacy Herr, Program and Event Manager
I am lucky to have a tribe of wonderful, strong and influential women in my life including my mother, colleagues, friends and teammates. One woman who has truly inspired me in both my personal and professional life is my aunt, Carol Cowan. Affectionately known as Auntie, she has been a fierce yet compassionate mentor and friend for my cousins and me. Professionally, she recently retired after a long career as a highly respected VP of Fiserv. She has always inspired me to set big goals and to chase them without fear of failure, but rather excitement towards the lessons that come with both failure and success.
In her personal life, she is a force to be reckoned with. She has travelled to six of the seven continents, immersing herself in culture, food, stories, and music. She is philanthropic and generous, though smart and careful. She is loyal and has been known to travel from her home in Florida to her hometown in Rhode Island to support friends and family, even for a one-day visit. She wakes up early to exercise, her hair is always done, and she has a great sense of style. She has personalized stationery featuring a photo of her and her best friend doing yoga at Stonehenge. She is a great cook, a great storyteller, and laughs and loves easily. In my life, Auntie has mastered the art of work life balance, and somehow makes it look easy!
Emily Brannigan, Web and Graphic Designer
It is not always typical to work on a staff that is 81% women (It’s true, I did the math!), and it has been a privilege to do so at the Chamber. In my time here I have seen my female coworkers grow, personally and professionally, and I’ve learned something different from watching each one of them work. I am so very grateful that I was given the opportunity to work with multiple women that can each teach me something different, even if they don’t know it. This is my thanks to the women on the Chamber staff for being strong, always teaching me something new, giving me room to grow, and keeping me driven every day.