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Women of Excellence Winners Announced

2016 SME Women of Excellence Recognized

The awards celebrate women in the Sioux Falls area who influence the lives of other women. This year’s winners are:

Mandy Bell

Mandy Bell, who received the ‘Young Women of Excellence’ Award.

 As a teen, Mandy started working at Avera McKennan in the cafeteria. In college she interned with Avera Health as a grant writing assistant. After demonstrating an excellent work ethic, she was offered a paid grant-writing position– two years before graduating with her bachelor’s degree from Augustana University. She later went on to receive a master’s degree in health care administration from the University of Minnesota.

Mandy became involved with eCARE through writing grant applications. She progressed from quality manager to development director to her current position in which she oversees innovation, public policy, quality, compliance and research programs.

Mandy has authored grant proposals totaling over $49 million in awards. She has co-authored two published research papers, and developed a public policy platform for Avera’s telehealth services.

Mandy leads a five-member innovation team that studies the feasibility of new ideas through a process that goes from brainstorming, to putting ideas to work “on paper,” to an actual pilot.

Outside of work, Mandy has served as a Junior Achievement classroom volunteer, a fundraising volunteer for Southeast CASA, and for Lifelight, she directed recruitment, registration and hospitality for 2,000 volunteers as Leader of Operations Assessment Team in 2006 and 2007.

Sharon Haselhoff, who received the ‘Women Mentoring Women’ Award

Sharon Hasselhoff

Sharon Haselhoff is the General Manager of Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort; a resort that employs approximately 500 employees.   She has 110 Managers and Supervisors and 50% are women.

In an Industry where Women are typically the minority, she is working every day to break the glass ceiling. She will be the first to tell you she wants everyone to succeed.

Sharon began her passion for being a Leader and Mentoring Women at a very young age.  While at Iowa State University she was the first recipient of the Political Science Legacy of Heroines Scholarship at the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women in Politics.  

She was recognized by the Corridor Business Journal as one of the 40 under 40 making a difference in community when she lived in Cedar Rapids. 

Sharon knows how to work and lead people to make them their best.  Whether it be the girls’ basketball teams she coaches or in the office. She wants everyone to succeed and makes sure they have the tools to do so.

Sharon is involved in the Iowa Gaming Association and sits on their board as their Secretary.  She is a member of the Iowa Women Leaders in Gaming.  Sharon has been a key component in helping mentor women in gaming the last 2 years.

In 2015, Sharon took an important step in paying it forward and continues to empower women by establishing two new Legacy of Heroines Scholarships at Iowa State University and funding the remainder of the Political Science Scholarship she once received.

Sharon Haselhoff is truly a legacy of her own and making a difference in women’s lives every day.

Viona Ranney, who received the ‘Women Working Through The Decades’ Award

Vi Ranney

Viona Ranney of Yankton grew up picking eggs and milking cows, but 'she has come a long way- She has worked thru six decades, and now at almost 80 years of still working!

Vi was born near Scotland, SD. and graduated from Scotland High School in 1953.  At age 18 she married and began working at a local bank. She served four years as president for the VFW Auxiliary and received her 60-year membership pin this year.

In 1961 Vi had of a son born with Smith, Lemli, Opitz syndrome.    Her search to find help for her son, Mark, inspired Behavioral Health Hospital in Sioux Falls.  

In 1963 she joined the staff at First Dakota National Bank in Yankton and began attending Mount Marty College. She graduated earning a degree in Business Administration/Marketing and a minor in music. She eventually became a Vice President at the bank.

Her personal passion and experience led her to take a position in the late 1980s as a professional fund raiser for the March of Dimes in their fight against birth defects. She was recognized for many accomplishments while working at March of Dimes.

In 1987 she designed a tour which allowed WWII veterans to return to the battlefields of Europe where they had fought. It has become a best-seller for the travel agency.

Today, at age almost 80, Vi still serves 14 communities in a four-state area for Allied Concert Services of Minneapolis as a sale representative.

Vi is an active member of the United Church of Christ in Yankton.

The Ranneys were elected Citizens of the Year in 2013 for their exemplary dedication and contribution to their community.

The SME Women of Excellence Awards was sponsored by Training Solutions Institute.


2015 SME Women of Excellence Recognized

Bobbi Thuri

The Young Women of Excellence was awarded to Bobbi Thury, a partner and lawyer at Cutler Law Firm. Licensed to practice law in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, she is passionate about serving her community with care and true excellence. Bobbi continues to learn and grow as a  member of Sales Marketing Executives, the SF Estate Planning Council, the Second Circuit Women in Law and Business and Professional Women. Bobbi, along with her estate-planning partner, started “Plans for Heroes” which offers first responders who are actively serving, a discount on customized estate planning services to thank them and protect them and their families. Her philanthropy is reflected in her willingness to volunteer for groups such as Make-A-Wish Foundation and LifeScape, while also serving on their boards. Not only is she a great role model and friend, but she is also a loving wife and mother of three children under the age of four.

Lori Popkes

The winner of Women Mentoring Women is Lori Popkes, the Associate Chief Nursing Officer and the Assistant Vice President of Women and Children’s Services at Avera McKennan Hospital. Lori has worked in healthcare in the community for more than 26 years, primarily in leadership positions. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and a Master of BA with a health care emphasis. At Avera McKennan Lori is responsible for strategic operations, budgeting, and program development along with outcomes of multiple different areas. What Lori is most passionate about in her position is mentoring others and leading by example, especially the new nurses at Avera. She encourages others to be the best person they can be while developing their talents. She is a very compassionate leader and her personal motto is to be a blessing to everyone she meets. Lori has also been mentoring a young girl through United Way, starting with her in 5th grade through her current status in high school. Lori credits her own mentors for helping her accept challenging new positions early in her career. Lori encourages other women to be proactive in their careers and to seek new opportunities while staying true to their values and beliefs. She is passionate about making sure woman make decisions that align with their personal mission statements.

Mary Jo Leedom

The Women Working through the Decades Award goes to Mary Jo Leedom, Assistant Vice President of Perioperative Services at Avera McKennan. Mary began her career as a nurse and, over the years has developed a broad range of health care knowledge and experience. Through Mary’s support for excellence and quality improvement, Avera has consistently scored in the top 10 percent of all hospitals in quality and safety, resulting in national awards and recognitions. She has dedicated her time and talent to the community by serving on numerous organizations boards, including the American Red Cross and the Minnehaha County Detox Center. Her leadership motto is to be “out and visible.” Most often, you’ll find Mary in her blue surgical scrubs, eagerly awaiting the needs of her staff, physicians, patients and families. Mary’s compassion and support for others sparks a special interest to everyone she encounters. About a year ago Mary collapsed while giving a presentation at a leadership retreat. She suffered a life-threatening aneurysm, reducing her chances of recovery without severe deficits. However, Mary’s motivation to excel and her perseverance for life were strong, as she completed her master’s degree in Health Care Administration a month later. After returning to work, she had a substantial commitment to quality care with a special understanding of the “patient” side of health care. 

2014 SME Women of Excellence Recognized

For their dedication to the community, service to others and commitment to helping women achieve their goals, three women were honored as the Women of Excellence at the annual Sales and Marketing Executives Women in Business event.  In the three categories, the 2014 winners are:

Annie Mello

Annie Mello, co-owner and operator of CPMFITness, was awarded the Young Women of Excellence.  In the health and fitness industry, she possesses an internal drive to learn, grow and become better.  She is determined in her pursuit to make health reasonable, effective, fun and a lifestyle.  When you first meet her you will notice right away how dedicated she is to her personal fitness.  After a few minutes of talking with her you will understand how passionate she is for helping others, especially women in achieving their fitness and wellness goals.  She has developed special programs and classes in the gym, some of which cater to women and girls.  Annie has a growing online community through her personal brand and website, Fitchic LA, which empowers women in all aspects of health, fitness, nutrition, motivation and accountability AND she has recently published her first of many cookbooks, Cooking FIT.  Annie sets extremely high standards for her personal health and it positively affects the interests and lives of those she associates with. 

Mary Sand

Mary Sand, the winner of Women Mentoring Women, is Vice President of Leadership & Organizational Development at Avera Health.  For fourteen years, she worked in physical therapy as a physical therapist, director, consultant and associate professor.  Her passion for encouraging women to pursue their educational goals is demonstrated by her doctoral degree, a goal she calls a "personal challenge".  Mary fosters potential by leading a group of 24 individuals who work in leadership development, staff development, education events and service excellence.  Mary says "to me, the best part is tapping into the potential of every employee and giving them the tools to go forward and be successful".  She is also a mentor to her team of four female directors and one administrative assistant, to grow their leadership potential.  In the community, Mary serves on the Board of the Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Society and on the USD Health Sciences Advisory Board, AND she is a volunteer for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Make-A-Wish Foundation as well as facilitates a leadership book club. 

Betty Ordal

Betty Ordal, Member Services Director of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, received the Women Working through the Decades Award.  She has been very instrumental in the business community and the City of Sioux Falls.  Betty began her career at an entry level position when women weren't really even expected to work outside of the home; especially moving into management positions and through to division leadership.  She has given her time and talent to the community by serving in leadership roles for numerous organizations, including the SME Inc., Board of Directors and the National Association for Membership Development for the American Chamber of Commerce Executives. Betty encourages women in the Chamber to get involved in other areas of the community and supports their professional and personal development.  Her approach to management is identifying the best attributes of her employees and quietly challenging them to become the best they can be, both professionally and personally.  She has been able to bring all parties to the table to collaborate for the goo of Sioux Falls, AND she was skilled at social networking long before it became a trendy thing to do; you can find her on FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  She will be entering into a well deserved retirement this summer, but people will continue to rely on Betty to help them find their way. 

2013 Women of Excellence Winners

For their dedication to the community, service to others and commitments to helping women achieve their goals, three women were honored as Women of Excellence at the annual SME Women in Business® event.  The 2013 winners are:

Kris Frerk

Kris Frerk – Human Resources Supervisor at Alliance Communications, received the Women of Excellence Award in Women Working through the Decades category.  Frerk joined Alliance Communications in 1982 as a customer service representative, she advanced to her current supervisory position. In addition to her success at work, she founded the Garretson food pantry, Garretson’s Back Pack Program, opened the Treasure Chest, a nonprofit business that uses its profits to help others. She also has done many fundraising events, served on the Garretson School Board, Commercial Club and coordinates many other local events. She is a valued colleague, communitymember, wife and mother.

Linda Hagedorn

Linda Hagedorn, received the Women of Excellence Award in the Women Mentoring Women category. Hagedorn has been a mentor to many. She started her career with Tupperware in  1960, she was asked in 1976 to take a Distributorship and mentored sales people  in South Dakota, Iowa, North Dakota and Minnesota. She also was asked in 1997 to continue her mentorship in India. She selected recruited, trained and set up Tupperware Dealerships in India for ten months. In addition to these accomplishments, Hagedorn began the “Journey to Bethlehem, participated as a Sunday school teacher, La Sertoma Club President, Sertoma Club President, Sertoma Duck Race Committee, Sioux Empire Character Counts board, many speech engagements and for several years coordinated the SME Style Show.  Hagedorn is married with five children, two step children, sixteen grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren.

Kayla Nielsen

Kayla Nielsen – Certified Nurse Practitioner at Viborg Medical Clinic, received the Women of Excellence Award in Young Women of Excellence category.  Nielsen has developed a strong practice in Viborg. She has mentored graduate nurses in the emergency department, and medical surgical departments. She has been instrumental in implementing education and validation systems for the nursing department. She acts as the Viborg Ambulance medical liaison, furthers her education and skills through Advanced Trauma Life, Advanced Cardiac Life Support and other CPN classes. She volunteers in her community raising money for Toys for Tots, school supplies, served on the committee for Wakonda’s anniversary planning as co-editor for a remembrance book and Children’s Carnival committee. She is a respected young professional in her community and among her peers.

A complete afternoon of seminars, trade fair and demonstrations was conducted before the evening dinner and awards show which featured Keynote Speaker, Elizabeth Smart.  The SME Women of Excellence is sponsored by Verizon Wireless World.

2012 Women of Excellence Winners

For their dedication to the community, service to others and commitments to helping women achieve their goals, four women were honored as Women of Excellence at the 30th
Annual Sales and Marketing Executives, Inc. women in Business event.  The 2012 winners are:

Brenda Kibbie, (Photo not Available), Senior Director at Citibank, received the Women of Excellence Award in Women Breaking Barriers category.  Kibbie started her carrier as a staff level data entry person and has advanced to Senior Director responsible for multiple groups across multiple states.  She has won various awards at Citibank over the years as her advancement took her to her current position. Outside of work her volunteerism includes Habitat for Humanity, United Way, acting as a board member of Volunteers of America and a mentor at Hawthorne Elementary. Brenda is also married to Andy Kibbie and has two grown children.

Jackie Haggar-Tuschen

Jackie Haggar-Tuschen, Director at Avera McKennan Fitness Center, received the Women of Excellence Award in the Women Mentoring Women category.  Haggar-Tuschen is a mentor for the 160 employees of the fitness center, and works with managers, personal trainers and group exercise instructors to educate and motivate fitness center members. She feels it is her responsibility to motivate people toward a healthy lifestyle to impact and enhance the quality of life for others. Haggar-Tuschen has been involved at the leadership level for the Avera Race Against Cancer since 1989, she serves on the Convention and Visitor Bureau Advisory Council, participates with the USD Booster Club, and has helped many non-profit organizations.

Helen Paetow

Helen Paetow, Nursing Services Manager for Avera Medical Group McGreevy, received the Women of Excellence Award in Women Working Through the Decades category. Paetow joined McGreevy Clinic 43 years ago as a clinic nurse. She loved caring for patients and getting to know entire families. As her career progressed she proved to be a good administrator and became the nurse manager 20 years ago.  Her career has allowed her to see tremendous growth – from four doctors and one location to a dozen locations with over 50 doctors. During this growth her position changed also. Through all of the increased workload, responsibilities - she met each new challenge with strength and dignity.  Helen is married,
and has three children and a stepson.

Jolene Loetscher

Jolene Loetscher, small business owner, received the Women of Excellence Award in Young Women of Excellence category.  Loetscher owns Mud Mile Communications and DooGooders.  She had used her skills as a story-teller and survivor to be a voice of hope for victims of sexual abuse.  Working with legislators, Loetscher helped to pass the Senate Bill 68 which eliminates the statue of limitations in most cases of rape. This bill will become law July of this year. She plans to launch Selfspiration later this year, a non-profit that will bring survivors of sexual abuse together to heal. Loetscher strives to assist others by setting the example, her company DooGooders gives 7% of its sales to local causes.

A complete afternoon of seminars, trade fair, and demonstrations was conducted before the evening dinner and awards show which featured the Keynote Speaker, Lee Woodruff. The SME Women of Excellence is sponsored by Verizon Wireless World.

2011 Women of Excellence Winners Announced

The Sales and Marketing Executives awarded its Women of Excellence Awards at the recent SME Women in Business event held at the Sioux Falls Convention Center

The awards celebrate women in the Sioux Falls area who influence the lives of other women.

This year's winners are: 

Rosalie Ryan who received the Women Working Through The Decades award.  Ryan is retired but was the driector of the Pediatric and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Sanford Health. 

Lisa Uhlir was the winner of the Women Mentoring Women Award.  Uhlir once co-owed Wings Studio.  She is self-employed and does private business consulting, sales training and recruiting.

Leslie Cooper, a labratory stem cell technical specialist at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center, received the Young Women of Excellence Award.

Cheri Kraemer received the Women Breaking Barriers award.  She is the owner of Clinic Pharmacy, Pharmacy Specialties and Parker Pharmacy. 

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