Four individuals will be honored at the 17th Annual Winners’ Circle Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, May 16, for their commitment in advocating for women, women-owned businesses and the community at large. Supported by Seton Hill University’s E-Magnify women’s business center, this awards program and event seeks to recognize community leaders who inspire others. These awards include the prestigious ATHENA Award®, the Seton Hill University Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, the Award for Community Service and the YWCA Rising Star Award.
This year, Susan L. Nelson, CFTA, is the recipient of the ATHENA Award®. As senior vice president and senior trust executive at First Commonwealth Advisors, Nelson oversees 112 branch offices throughout 15 counties in western and central Pennsylvania. In that leadership position, she is a coach and mentor in helping employees develop customer relations and management skills.
In addition to managing the day-to-day operations for a comprehensive line of trust and investment products and services as well as managing the professionals in the field, she is also responsible for the strategic development and execution of corporate-wide Trust strategies.
Nelson gained a unique insight into customer relations from her first job in the marketing department at the former Greengate Mall. Her career path has taken her to New York, Indianapolis and Illinois. She eventually returned to Greensburg where she has worked at First Commonwealth Bank and First Commonwealth Advisors for 29 years.
Nelson holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business management with emphasis on finance and accounting from the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg where she has been honored as an alumna of distinction. She continued her education and earned a certification in trust administration from the Pennsylvania Bankers Association Central Atlantic Trust School at Bucknell University and the American Bankers Association National Graduate Trust School at Northwestern University. She earned her Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA) designation through the American Institute of Banking.
Nelson currently serves on the board of the Greensburg Community Development Corporation and the American Red Cross. In the past, she was chair of the Salvation Army Red Shield Campaign. The Salvation Army honored Susan with the “Doing the Most Good Award” and she was also a recipient of the Golden Tower Award from First Commonwealth Financial Corporation in Appreciation for Excellence in Community Involvement.
Steven Gifford is this year’s recipient of the Seton Hill University Entrepreneurial Excellence Award. One might say that the perfect package includes someone who excels in the following skill areas: fundraising, leadership, communication and organizational management. That perfect package in Gifford is the life and blood of the business district of downtown Greensburg.
Gifford’s passion to make a difference began while attending Gannon University where he held leadership positions on campus and volunteered in the Erie community. Currently, he serves as the executive director for the Greensburg Community Development Corporation. In this role, Gifford is in charge of assisting businesses and organizations with finding retail space to lease while promoting the cultural and shopping experiences of the City of Greensburg. With 15 years of experience in business and community development, he is a notable and well-respected community leader and volunteer.
Gifford’s experience with the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce and the Central Westmoreland Development Corporation has provided him with the skills necessary to make a positive contribution to the City of Greensburg. He is the co-founder of SummerSounds at the Robertshaw Amphitheatre in St. Clair Park. This free series of exciting and interesting concerts began in 2000 by showcasing western Pennsylvania talent and quickly evolved into a successful community event featuring national and international touring bands with an eclectic mix of styles. Twelve years later, SummerSounds is an integral part of the City’s vibrant Cultural District.
Gifford received his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Gannon University in 1995. He continued his education at the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned a Master of Science degree in public policy management in 2004.
The Award for Community Service will be given to Jane Murtland. It’s no surprise that Murtland considers her mentor the American Red Cross founder Clara Barton. As a pioneer, Clara Barton led a life of contrasts. She began teaching school at a time when most teachers were men. She was among the first women to gain employment in the federal government working in the US Patent Office; when she was nearly 40 years old she risked her life to bring supplies and support to soldiers in the field during the Civil War. Then, at age 60, she founded the American Red Cross and led it for the next 23 years.
Murtland is a similar study in career contrasts. She had an equally trailblazing career working with a team of engineers in product design and development. Her focus now is what she can do to help others.
Murtland has been a tireless volunteer for the American Red Cross for the past six years. As a national disaster responder, she has been deployed 12 times across the country to help with countless hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and winter storms. She traveled to New Orleans twice to help with Hurricanes Irene and Gustav. She also helped during the New Jersey hurricanes and West Virginia floods. Each time she is deployed, she spends three weeks away from home in the barest of accommodations. Over the years, she has prepared herself for such events by taking 16 disaster courses.
Often referred to as “a light in a time of darkness,” Murtland’s local disaster responder responsibilities include assisting families in the unfortunate event of a house fire. She takes care of the immediate needs of the families and works towards finding them shelter.
In addition to her duties as a responder, Murtland works with new volunteers to train and mentor them and also assists at blood drives and in educating donors of the services that the American Red Cross provides to the community. Her kind-hearted compassion and caring ways were recognized in 2011 when she was awarded the highest honor an American Red Cross volunteer can receive, the Clara Barton Red Cross award. In 2011 alone, Murtland spent over 2,500 hours assisting the community through her volunteer efforts with the American Red Cross.
For the second year, the Award for Community Service winner will be given a $1,000 check by the Winners’ Circle which she in turn can donate to a favorite charity.
The YWCA Rising Star Award will be presented this year to Hayley Chemski-Horwat. In 2008, Chemski-Horwat and her husband, Shawn, identified a need for a fitness center in their hometown of Derry, Pa. Having done their due diligence, they opened Building Bodeez Fitness. Currently, Chemski-Horwat serves as co-owner, assistant manager, group fitness coordinator and special events coordinator. As a community philanthropist, she spends her time as a coordinator for Relay for Life and the Building Bodeez annual FitnessATHON. Additionally, she serves as a director for the annual tri-state triathlon. When she isn’t at the gym or serving the community, she can be found in the operating room. She is also a nurse anesthetist, Level 2, at UPMC St. Margaret’s in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Chemski-Horwat earned her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at Duquesne University. In 2008, she earned her Master of Science degree in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing.
She is a member of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and the Golden Key National Honors Society. Chemski-Horwat is a past member of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists and the Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists.
The YWCA Rising Star Award winner will also receive a $2,000 scholarship to be used to further her career.
The Westmoreland County Winners’ Circle Awards program is part of the International ATHENA recognition program with a global reach of 200 host organizations within seven different countries. To date, 54 individuals have been honored as part of the local program for their advocacy on behalf of women in Westmoreland County.
This year’s event will be held on Wednesday, May 16, at the Ramada Greensburg Hotel and Conference Center (formerly Four Points by Sheraton). Networking and registration will start at 11:30 a.m. with lunch and the awards program to follow at 12.