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2016 Recipient

Phyllis-Y-NicholsPhyllis Nichols, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Knoxville Area Urban League. Nichols is a powerhouse in the East Tennessee nonprofit world and a recognized leader in civil rights and social justice. When notified that she would be this year’s recipient, Nichols said she was “humbled and honored to be considered for the Lizzie Crozier French Award.”

In her more than 15 years as the KAUL chief executive, Nichols has not only shaped the Urban League into one of Knoxville’s premier organizations, she is also recognized throughout the Knoxville community for her volunteer service. She has been recognized for her service to women and girls in Knoxville by numerous organizations, including receiving a Women of Achievement Award from the Tanasi Girl Scout Council as well as the Humanitarian Award from the YWCA as part of their annual “Tribute to Women.” In 2013, the YWCA also recognized Nichols as one of the 30 most remarkable women who have impacted our community in the last 30 years. Also in 2013, Nichols was recognized by the TN Human Rights Commission for her advocacy for civil rights and social justice and she was recognized with the “Women of Power” Award by the National Urban League.

Nichols serves as a Senior Fellow of the National Urban League, is past president of the Executive Women’s Association, and is the Immediate past Chair and founding trustee of the Great Schools Partnership. She is a member of the board of the East TN Foundation, Knoxville Symphony, SunTrust Bank, and Tennova Hospital Metro Board.

2015 Recipient

unnamedOn June 12, 2015 Wanda Sobieski received the fifth annual Lizzie Crozier French Women’s Leadership Award. Wanda is the President of Sobieski, Messer & Associates.

After graduating law school in 1982, Wanda began working at Baker, Worthington, Crossley, Stansberry & Woolf where she was the first woman to become a partner. In January of 1993, Wanda founded her own firm which focuses primarily on divorce and child custody cases.

An expert on the women’s suffrage movement and women’s history, Wanda was instrumental in creating and funding the Tennessee Woman’s Suffrage Memorial on Market Square, which features Lizzie Crozier French, Anne Dallas Dudley, and Elizabeth Avery Meriweather. Wanda has been or is currently involved in many women’s organizations, including the League of Women Voters, East Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women, Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women, National Conference of Women’s Bar Association, Woman Suffrage Coalition, American Association of University Women, National Women’s History Museum, and Executive Women’s Association.

2014 Recipient

Cynthia Gibson received the third annual Lizzie Crozier French Women’s Leadership Award on June 13, 2014. Cynthia Gibson Gibson,  who is executive vice president, chief legal officer, and corporate secretary at Scripps Networks Interactive, leads the way in professional circles and nonprofit realms promoting women.  During the course of her career, Gibson has experienced many “firsts.” Prior to coming to Knoxville, shewas the first female attorney and eventually the first woman managing partner in a Cincinnati, Ohio, law firm. She’s now the first female chief legal officer at Scripps Networks.

She is involved with Women in Cable Telecommunications and the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications. She recently participated in the Women in Cable Telecommunications Senior Executive Summit. Gibson is a member of the Legacy Society of the Women’s Fund of East Tennessee and she chairs the board of directors of United Way Worldwide’s National Women’s Leadership Council and is a founding member and past chairperson of Knoxville’s Women of Tocqueville for United Way.

2013 Recipient

On June 14, 2013, Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon G. Lee received the second annual Lizzie Crozier French justice_lee_-__new_hi_res_croppedWomen’s Leadership Award.  Justice Lee was the first woman to serve as judge on the Eastern Section of the Tennessee Court of Appeals in its 79-year history.  She has worked diligently to advance women within her profession, having served as president of the East Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women, and as a board member of the Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women. 

Having risen from the halls of the county courthouse to the halls of the state supreme court, Justice Lee is a woman who has repeatedly broken new ground for women in her profession.  Her work in the community has also been recognized by YWCA of Knoxville with their Tribute to Women Award and by the Woman of Achievement Award from the Girls Scouts of the Appalachian Council.

2012 Recipient

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero received the very first Lizzie Crozier French Women’s Leadership Award.  As the madelinerogerophotofirst woman to be elected mayor in any of Tennessee four major cities.  Rogero has dedicated her career to creating positive and lasting change, from her early days with Ceasar Chavez, to her work with Knoxville’s Promise and ultimately with the City of Knoxville creating sustainable change in local neighborhoods.  She has served as a role model for women as an outspoken and thoughtful leader during her time as a county commissioner and now as mayor of Knoxville.  Just as  Lizzie Crozier French made history for women in East Tennessee, Madeline Rogero has continued that tradition by making history herself.