Asima Vezina, president and vice-chancellor of Algoma University, was rendered speechless after being announced this year’s ATHENA Leadership Award recipient.
“There are so many incredible women in our community. I’ve seen the nominees and those that have received this award in the past and I’m just in awe of these women and to join them today is such an honour,” she said while holding back tears. “Leaders are not successful alone. They have incredible people around them.”
“One of the things that I thought about if I were to win this award was the importance of making further commitments. My commitment to you today is to continue as a leader,” Vezina said to the virtual attendees of this year’s Women In Business Celebration held by the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce on Mar. 8.
The ATHENA Leadership Award - inspired by Athena, the goddess of Greek mythology known for strength, courage and wisdom - is presented each year to a woman or man who has shown professional excellence and leadership in the community.
“I want to acknowledge all of the nominees. You are all incredible women and it’s an honour to share this moment with you. I know these are never easy decisions for the selection committee. Thank you for your belief in me,” she said.
“Who we are as women is shaped and influenced from the time we’re born. I’ve had incredible women in my life. My great grandparents, my grandmother, and a very special woman, my mother. I encourage each of you to think about those women in your life that are helping you and to spend some time today just acknowledging your gratitude,” Vezina said to the audience.
“Asima has been described as always engaging and encouraging, as someone who leads with integrity and and honesty, and as someone who communicates in a way that makes you feel included and valued, a skill many work a lifetime to develop, yet she does so with ease,” said Carolyn Hepburn, Sault College Dean of Indigenous Studies and Academic Upgrading, in her introduction.
In addition, Vezina has been the recipient of the Chamber of Commerce President’s Award, the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre Women in Leadership Award, the Canadian Education Association (CEA) Ken Spencer Award , the Tourism Sault Ste. Marie Tourism Ambassador Award, the Reader’s Digest National Leadership in Education Award, and The Centre for Addiction & Mental Health Community Achievement Award.
As an ATHENA Leadership Award winner, Vezina is now part of an elite group of names which include Debbie Amaroso, Donna Hilsinger, Doris Anne Ray, Susan Milne, Linda Ryan, Monica Dale, Karen Bird, La-Na Fragomeni and more.
The 2021 Women In Business Celebration was held in conjunction with International Women’s Day. The event was moderated by Village Media and SooToday’s Jasmyn Rowley and featured a panel discussion including Dr. Laura Stone, Gail O’Connor, Erica Hogan, and Asima Vezina.
Despite being held virtually via Zoom, the event ran smoothly as if it were in person. The celebration was attended by approximately 100 people. Each speaker shared their personal stories of overcoming and coping with challenges due to COVID-19, staying strong while taking care of loved ones, and overall knowledge and wisdom.