Greater Hammond Chamber honors six Tangipahoa women at 2019 Annie Awards

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June 17, 2019
The Greater Hammond Chamber celebrated the life and legacy of the late Dr. Anne Ferguson by honoring six exceptional women who work in excellence and have a true servants heart for Tangipahoa Parish during the 2019 Annie Awards luncheon. Sponsored by Northshore Media/Tangi Lifestyles and North Oaks Health System, the luncheon was held Friday, June 14, at the Southeastern Louisiana University Student Union Grand Ballroom. 

“We were so pleased to have 180 business leaders from across Tangipahoa Parish celebrate our new Annie honorees with us,” said Greater Hammond Chamber President and CEO Melissa Bordelon. “Their career and service accomplishments are amazing and the words they shared with our guests were simply inspiring.”  

Playwright Donna Gay Anderson, Ponchatoula Junior High School Principal Mary Beth Crovetto, historian Antoinette Harrell and Southeastern Louisiana University’s Technology and Recruiting Manager Sandy Armstead Summers were the recipients of this year’s Annie Awards. In addition, the Chamber also recognized Dot Lavigne and Betty Stewart as the 2019 Legacy Award winners. 

“Dr. Ferguson’s reach of influence was vast and her impact is lasting. Her legacy continues today with the honor bestowed on remarkable women in the community through the Annie Awards,” said Dr. Kay Maurin, Greater Hammond Chamber Board Member and Annie Awards Committee Chairman. “From the arts to business, to culture, to education, their impact is evident and enduring. Our community is blessed each day because of the passionate manner in which they approach each opportunity to make a difference.” 

The Annie Award honorees shared words of wisdom and anecdotes from their lives, one even rhyming in the style of Lin Manuel Miranda in Hamilton. 

In her lyrical comments, Donna Gay Anderson extolled her love of the arts, praised her husband, and thanked the Neighborhood Book Club girls, who helped her transform from a solitary lover of books to “the readers’ ring leader!”

“So every time you hear a song, a rhyme or a tune, keep in mind that a creative person brought that to the room,” Anderson said. “Read a book. Hum a tune. Write a line. Sing a song. All that artsy stuff is here because writers drove it home. So for this recognition, I’ll just leave you with this thought – it’s the arts that bring civility to this world that we bit off. That’s true.”

A third-generation educator, Mary Beth Crovetto thanked her family, including her husband who inspires her to serve, her mother who modeled excellence in education, her kids for their endurance, her brother and sister-in-law for always being a listening ear, and her dad for believing in her and for modeling the conviction that every student can learn. 

“It is indeed a tremendous honor for me to be included in such a select group of past and present Annie Award recipients, including many who are seated here today who are former colleagues and friends,” Crovetto said. 

Historian Antoinette Harrell said passion is what drives her, thanking her family and her husband for their patience when she finds an issue she has to take on. 

“If we want to make this world a better place, we have to look within. We have to find something that really means something to us to be that change, and to be that change to make this community a better community for everyone and to make this state a great state,” Harrell said. “Regardless to what obstacles we may face in our everyday life, when we die, we want people to remember us by the things that we did to make this world a better place for all humanity.”

Sandy A. Summers dedicated her Annie Award to all of the behind-the-scenes volunteers who may never receive public recognition for their service. 

“I know different folks have different opinions about what service means to them. And service is going to mean different things to different people. We all different skills, different abilities, different availabilities. But we shouldn’t let those things stop us from serving,” Summers said. “I think a lot of folks look at their neighbor and say, ‘Oh gosh, she’s chairing this committee. She’s doing this, she’s doing that.’ But you can’t really look at your neighbor, you need to do what you’re able to do – whatever your reasonable portion of service is.

The Legacy Award recognizes that the women previously honored over the years never stopped making an impact in their field and on the individuals around them. 

Dot Lavigne was first honored with an Annie Award in 2002. She has been an active volunteer serving through organizations such as the Southeastern Alumni Association, the Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce and her church, Wesley United Methodist Church, where she has been a member for 50 years. In her professional life, she retired from the Louisiana Workforce Commission after 42 years, going on to retire a second time after an additional 7 years with the Tangipahoa Economic Development Foundation. 

“When I received the Annie Award in 2002, it was a great honor,” Lavigne said. “And I looked at the names of the people that have received all of these and I felt so humbled because it’s like I don’t deserve this. So I am certainly surprised about this one.”

Betty Stewart was first honored with an Annie Award in 2004. Currently serving as the legislative aide to Louisiana Rep. Nicholas Muscarello Jr., Stewart has been active leader through tourism in Tangipahoa Parish for the past 32 years. She began directing tourism efforts in March 1982 as the Executive Director of the Tangipahoa Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau, and was the driving force in the creation and construction of the 6,000 square foot Visitor Center and Tourism office completed in 2007. The building was recently named in her honor as the Betty C. Stewart Visitor Center. 

“When I received the Annie Award, I thought that was just the highlight of my career. But this is very, very special. I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate this,” Stewart said.

Special guest speaker at the event was Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah E. Gee. She talked about the strides that women have made from being told they only had handful of career options, to being encouraged that they can be anything they desire, to the ways they can continue to make strides and influence the next generation of young women. 

“Sometimes you have to bend the rules to make the rules work for you. Instead of getting out of the workforce because you want to balance family, how about changing the workforce because you want to balance family,” Gee said, referencing the ways she has balanced leading health for the state and raising five children. 

Gee cited her mother’s influence on her life, stating that she got into women’s health because of losing her mother to breast cancer. She encouraged attendees to use the tools they have been given to achieve their dreams, lean into the table and keep on striving toward their goals. 

“If you can assume you can achieve anything, you will,” Gee said. 

Check out the June edition of the Tangi Lifestyles magazine for a special feature on the 2019 Annie Award winners. 

Follow the Greater Hammond Chamber’s Facebook page for more pictures from the event, and to hear the honorees’ acceptance remarks. 

Above: The Greater Hammond Chamber and 2019 Annie Award honorees! Pictured are Greater Hammond Chamber President and CEO Melissa Bordelon, North Oaks Health System President/CEO Michele Kidd Sutton, Chamber Chairman Ginger Cangelosi, 2019 Annie Award honorees Donna Gay Anderson, Antoinette Harrell, Mary Beth Crovetto and Sandy A. Summers, Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah E. Gee, Northshore Media Manager Brian Shirey and Chamber Board Member and Annie Awards Committee Chairman Dr. Kay Maurin. 

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