2013 Athena Award nominees named

The 19th annual Northeast Michigan Athena Award Program announces its nominees for the 2013 Athena Award. The award is presented annually to an individual who is recognized for professional excellence, for providing valuable service to their community, and for actively assisting women in attainment of their professional goals and leadership skills.

The program is sponsored by the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, First Federal of Northern Michigan, Lafarge Cement-Alpena Plant and Zonta Club of Alpena.

The award is not intended to be a contest or competition. Instead, it is a celebration of excellence. The award was first presented in Lansing in 1982, and since that time has been awarded in hundreds of cities in the United States and Canada.

The award recipient is chosen each year by a committee of business and community leaders who evaluate the nominees on the basis of their business and professional accomplishments as well as community service and support for other professional women.

A Greek-style luncheon to recognize the nominees will be held Nov. 6 at 11:30 a.m. at the Sanctuary Inn. Tickets are $20 per person and a limited number are available at the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, 354-4181. The 2013 nominees are as follows:

Elaine Orr has an impressive combination of professional credentials and community service recognition. She is well known and highly respected in Alpena as a businesswoman who prepared herself for every step of her career through a series of positions with increasingly greater levels of responsibility.

After graduating from Michigan State University she launched her career as assistant project manager in the Economic Development Department for the City of St. Paul, Minn. Following this she settled in Alpena working with two local companies before joining the staff at Alpena Power in 1985, where she remains today.

Orr has had a number of positions as she advanced through the ranks at the power company leading to her current title of executive vice president. She is credited with a critical role in the company’s planning, construction and migration to its new headquarters on Ninth Street six years ago.

She has been described as excelling in a traditionally tough, male-dominated environment. She has been instrumental in long range succession planning as a staff of baby-boomer leadership heads for retirement.

Orr is a recognized figure in the community service arena. She has been a member of Kiwanis since 1993 and has been both a participant and a leader in youth services, the scholarship program, highway clean-ups and the law academy. She is known for getting things done with determination and a smile.

Orr has served on the ACC Foundation Board of Trustees since 2002 and has taken on special assignments such as the Endowed Teaching Chair Committee and fundraising for both scholarships and capital improvements.

Blending her professional and service roles, she has been the treasurer for Target Alpena for several years and produces timely, accurate and comprehensive reports for the board and has kept them apprised of the financial situation of the mostly volunteer organization. She is credited with keeping the organization alive for over a year during a staff leadership turnover and a time of transition.

She also was instrumental in blending Target Alpena into the Community Development Building in association with the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Wherever she serves, she has a reputation for pitching in to perform whatever duties are needed, even on the spur of the moment and she does so with a good heart, a pleasant demeanor and great determination to get the job done. She is described as having a commitment not only to the Target organization but toward the overall betterment of the community.

Orr has contributed to the advancement of young women through her service with the Miss Sunrise Side pageants. As a judge she has guided and modeled the very behaviors that lead to successful candidates for the honor of representing this area across Michigan.

She is married to Michael Orr and has one step-son, John. She is a wonderful grandmother to Gabrielle and Hunter.

Nancy Montie has been working in the financial arena for the past 40 years. In her early years, she was a high school co-op student with the Alpena Alcona Area Credit Union. Her first full time job was with NBD Bank where she worked as a teller for four years.

She began her 36-year career with Besser Credit Union in 1977. Holding a variety of positions through the years, in good times and bad, Montie has been instrumental in the growth and development of the institution from a small company with $5 million in assets, 3,500 members and limited services to a leading financial company in the Alpena area with assets of $64 million, 8,500 members and two locations.

The current new facility employs 20 persons. Montie has been proud to lead this financial institution as chief executive officer since 1992. As CEO, she works to preserve good benefits, decent wages and a wellness program for employees such as health club membership, exercise and swimming classes, smoking cessation, and other opportunities for which the company pays a part of the expense.

Not only Montie, but Besser Credit Union under her leadership, is community minded and supports events and fundraisers under the slogan “Community Minded Just Like You.”

Montie is also an industry leader with the Blue Ox Chapter of credit unions, where she has been chapter treasurer for over 15 years and was instrumental in putting together the first-ever weekend conference for non-management employees which drew participants from 13 credit unions across the state.

Community service has been an important aspect of Montie’s life. She is currently a member of the United Way Board of Directors, where she is a past president. With United Way she participates in Project Connect, Concerts for a Cause and other fund raising events. She is also a committee member for Good Morning Alpena.

In the past, Montie served on the Board of Directors for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, was a member of the Zonta Club of Alpena and was on the Citizens Review Committee.

As a mentor of credit union employees, Montie puts on an education and training day each year on Presidents’ Day. She has expanded this opportunity to other local credit union employees as well so that they might hear speakers on motivation, personal growth and information as well as work related topics. The Besser Credit Union encourages community involvement for its employees and allows attendance at community service organization functions and covers the cost of attendance to keep it affordable for all.

Montie has been married to her husband Floyd for 34 years and they raised three children on the family’s hobby farm. All of the children, Nick, 31; Heather, 30; and Angela, 28, live in Alpena. Montie was active as a booster mom and volunteer for the activities of her children including wrestling, basketball and 4-H. She considers her family as her most important accomplishment.

As a member of the press, Diane Speer is familiar to many and seems to be everywhere. She is known for her work ethic, professionalism and friendliness, both at The Alpena News, where she is the Lifestyles editor, and in the community.

Her interest in journalism began in high school where she worked on the yearbook staff and later in college at West Liberty University in West Virginia where she was the college newspaper’s editor. After obtaining her degree, she began work as a reporter at the Democrat-Messenger in Waynesburg, Pa, and then at The Intelligencer in Wheeling, W.Va.

Speer and her husband, Bill, moved to Alpena in 1988 and a year later she began her role in Lifestyles. She heads the Newspaper in Education (NIE) Book Sale each February. Through this program newspapers are put into the region’s schools as a supplemental educational tool for teachers. Thanks to her efforts thousands of students have benefited from classroom newspapers.

As Lifestyles editor, Speer oversees the daily Lifestyles section of the paper, is in charge of the newspaper’s bi-annual cookbook, produces the annual Wedding Edition of the paper and prepares the popular Tuesday feature, Community Calendar of Events.

For her church, First Baptist, Speer is the deacon of Children’s Ministries. She works in the Wednesday night children’s program, assists with summer Vacation Bible School, and is a volunteer in the church’s nursery.

Speer was one of the very first supporters of the Women’s Giving Circle at the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan and now serves on its Grant Advisory Board. She helped establish the Richard Wertz Scholarship at Alpena Community College and served on the Zonta Club of Alpena’s Board of Directors where she was recording secretary and chaired the publicity committee.

In addition to these accomplishments, Speer has been part of Friends of the Library, Passport to the Arts, Alpena Regional Medical Center’s Community Development Council and the Founders Society of the Besser Museum. She served on the Authors in the Fall Promotion Committee of the Alpena County Library and is a founding member of the Cottage Book Club.

As a mentor Speer is the “mother hen” of the newspaper who offers encouragement and advice, especially to new staff. She also guides students in “job shadow” experiences. She mentors young girls through her church affiliation in both their spiritual growth and personal relationships.

Speer was recognized by ACC, along with her husband, as Fellows of the Year in 2011. She is an avid supporter of the arts and enjoys her role as drama critic and reviewer for Alpena’s two live theaters, Alpena Civic Theatre and Thunder Bay Theatre.

Speer has been married to her husband for 34 years and they have two married sons, Jeremy (Betsy) and Andrew (Sarah). She was involved as a supporter of her son’s sports endeavors and was a Junior Knowledge Bowl Coach. A great joy is granddaughter Isabelle. Speer enjoys traveling, reading, gardening and scrapbooking.