Keynote speaker for this year’s ATHENA Leadership Award® announced

Keynote speaker for this year’s ATHENA Leadership Award® announced

Karen Freeman-Wilson

This year’s speaker for the ATHENA Leadership Award® Dinner will be Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor of the City of Gary.

Wayne Bank and Indiana University East will host the dinner at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 22, at Forest Hills Country Club, located at 2169 South 23rd St. in Richmond, Ind. The event recognizes women leaders who motivate, inspire and create positive change in the community.

Freeman-Wilson became the first woman to lead the steel city of Gary and the first African-American female mayor in Indiana in December 2011.

Previously she  served as the CEO of The National Association of Drug Court Professionals and Executive Director of The National Drug Court Institute based in Alexandria, Virginia. With Freeman-Wilson at the helm, the number of drug courts in the U.S. doubled and NADCP became the premier organizational advocate for drug treatment in the judicial arena.

Freeman-Wilson has consulted with the Office of White House Drug Control Policy, the Department of Justice and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the creation and implementation of drug policy. As the twice-elected Gary City Judge, she helped pioneer the drug court movement in Indiana.

Freeman-Wilson has also demonstrated public service and leadership in state government serving as Indiana Attorney General and Executive Director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. She serves on the National League of Cities’ Board Executive Committee, Co-Chair of the Presidential Task Force and the REAL (Race Equity and Leadership) Council. In November 2016, she was elected second Vice President (VP) of the organization’s Leadership and Board of Directors. She previously chaired NLC’s Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee.

She also chairs the Crime and Social Justice Committee for the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Mayors/Police Chiefs Working Group on Police Community Relations and is also a member of the USCM Advisory Board.

Along with her husband, Carmen Wilson, and their daughter Jordan, Freeman-Wilson resides in the historic Horace Mann neighborhood of Gary, Indiana. She was valedictorian of her graduating class at Roosevelt High School and went on to graduate from Harvard College (cum laude) and from Harvard Law School.

Nominees for the ATHENA award are exemplary leaders who have achieved excellence in their business or profession, served the community in a meaningful way and, most importantly, actively assisted women to achieve their full leadership potential. The award is presented to a recipient at the dinner.

This year’s nominees are Richmond residents Angie Dickman, vice president at Reid Health; Pat Heiny, co-owner of Contemporary Consulting; and Bonita Washington-Lacey, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and director of Accreditation Activities at Earlham College.

ATHENA Leadership Award® recipients hail from all professional sectors. The award’s rich history, international scope and emphasis on mentorship make this award unique and among the most prestigious leadership awards one can receive.

ATHENA International is nationally underwritten by KMPG. Local sponsorship is provided by Wayne Bank and IU East. Event proceeds will equally benefit the IU East Center for Service Learning and the Wayne County Boys & Girls Club.

The cost for the dinner is $75. Tickets can be purchased online at or by contacting JoAnn Spurlock, assistant vice president at Wayne Bank, at (765) 259-0209 or


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