Follow the Leaders

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

From a museum director to an advocate for abused women, this year's Women of Achievement have made significant marks on Columbus. Today, they are being honored at the annual YWCA Women of Achievement luncheon. Here is an introduction to the honorees in their own words.

Almeta E. Cooper

Associate General Counsel for Health Sciences, The Ohio State University Medical Center

I am inspired by: Children.I am intrigued and amazed by their freshness, innocence and enthusiasm. One of the most rewarding activities I do is to volunteer at Highland Elementary School with kindergarten children. They provide with me hope and the promise of a bright future.

I am most proud of: Beinga mother to my daughter Elise, who has brought me so much joy.

The three women I most admire: Effie O'Neal Ellis, MD.Dr. Ellis was one of my mentors. She exuded warmth and caring. She was a pioneer as an African American woman physician. My beloved"Aunt Nell."Mrs. Nell Hunter loved football, politics and was deeply religious. Most amazing of all, until her death one month before her 103rd birthday, she was loving, supportive and completely tolerant of divergent ideas and philosophies. Last but not least, I greatly admiremy mother, Patricia Carter Cooper. My motherwas generous, caring, loving, accepting and inclusive. With my mother, you didn't have to be perfect, you could be yourself-and she made you want to be best you could be.

The best advice I've ever received: Some advice (from my father) that made a tremendous impact on me was that if you make a commitment, you should honor it. If you discover that it wasn't a great idea or that you would rather be somewhere else doing something else, instead of complaining or begrudgingly fulfilling the commitment, fulfill it with grace and happily. But resolve to learn from the experience, and don't allow yourself to make that mistake again.

Ida Copenhaver

Director, Editorial Coordination at Chemical Abstract Services

I am inspired by: Beautiful sunsets, beautiful sunrises, interesting people-particularly those who have overcome some great challenges in their lives.

I am most proud of: My wonderful relationship with my husband of many years and our life together. My career at Chemical Abstract Services. Some of the volunteering I've done in the community.

The three women I most admire: My mother, certainly, because she was an inspiration to me. A number of people I've volunteered with or I've worked with in the community for many years. I admire women who have made it into a senior leadership position in a business or organization. To see women who have made it to that CEO level, that's great.

The best advice I've ever received: Try to be on the half-full side of life, and try to look for the good in other people and be optimistic and forge ahead. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and say, "There's going to be a positive outcome." And you yourself are the one who can influence that the most.

Karen Days

President, Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence

I am inspired by: Joy.

I am most proud of: My family and friends.

The three women I most admire: My mom. My mother had only a 10th-grade education but she loved her six kids. I lost my mother when I was 17. And at that age, my father was a really bad alcoholic, and he had no clue what I was doing. We had no supervision at all. I remember going to Indianapolis with my girlfriends one weekend, and my dad didn't ever know I was gone, and it scared the daylights out of me, because my mother would have had a fit. The things she taught me-it just stuck with me even though she wasn't there. I also am inspired by my leader Abigail Wexner. She does so much-so much that people don't even know she does. When she was asked why she took on this issue of family violence, she said, "If there are women and children in my backyard being abused, that is not acceptable," and that is such an inspiration for me. And Julie Bailey, my dear friend who passed away. She was a Dispatch reporter. I admired the way she took care of her father. She lost her mother, and it was right when her dad had a stroke. He was her life, and I know she would not have regretted one day taking care of him.

The best advice I've ever received: The first one is from Abigail. She says to always take the high road in any and all situations. And the other, it was kind of a statement but it was advice. One time, when I was feeling really insecure about me as a woman, (a woman) said to me, "Your mother would not want you to carry on that part of her legacy." My mother was pretty insecure. Every time I think about that, and anytime I get to the point I'm feeling that way, I recall that, because I know that my mother-no matter what she had, she wanted better and different for us.

Elfi Di Bella

Senior Vice President, Huntington Bancshares Inc.

I am inspired by: People who selflessly go above and beyond the call of duty to make a difference in the life of someone else.

I am most proud of: The ability to work for an organization that provides me with the opportunity to do something I love-to give back-to reach out to the needs in the community and to make a difference.

The three women I most admire: My mother, a woman who was raised in the heart of World War II, who married and-giving up her dreams and aspirations-raised a family, installing her values of giving back and being the best you can be. Mother Teresa-a woman whose ability to walk with and devote her life to the truly needy in the world. My friend Becky, an elementary art teacher, whose passion, creativity and giving personality make a lasting impact in the lives of her students, her friends and all those she touches.

The best advice I've ever received: The Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Judith Fisher

Private practice counselor and community volunteer

I am inspired by: Nature. And children. And loving acts.

I am most proud of: My professional stature and my service to the community. The YWCA for sure-that's the organization I've worked the hardest at for many, many years, and I'm most proud of the work I've done for the Y.

The three women I most admire: I'd have to say my mother. My mother came over to this country in 1939; they were fleeing the Nazis. She came from Hungary with my father, and she was pregnant and had to leave her entire family behind. She and my father started a life just by themselves with a new baby, and it's just so amazing what she was able to accomplish-not even speaking English or anything. I just can't imagine being in that situation and coming through it as wonderfully as she did. I think Eleanor Roosevelt has always been a role model for me. She practically started social work in our country. And I think right now, Michelle Obama.

The best advice I've ever received: To live in the now, not to worry about the past. Too often people miss today because they're thinking about tomorrow or yesterday, and their today just passes them by.

Nannette V. Maciejunes

Executive Director, Columbus Museum of Art

I am inspired by: Art and seeing people connect with art.

I am most proud of: The museum's new mission statement-creating great experiences with great art for everyone-and the fact that the museum family is committed to living that mission every day.

The three women I most admire: Georgia O'Keeffe, because she succeeded in breaking through barriers in the male art world. The women who had the vision and tenacity to found the Columbus Museum of Art in 1878. My 25-year-old daughter, Heather, who represents the next generation and their hope for the future.

The best advice I've ever received: Choose to live your passion.

Kristy Eckert is editor of Capital Style.