GRAND RAPIDS — The Michigan Women’s Foundation will honor two Grand Rapids community leaders at its 16th annual Women of Achievement and Courage awards ceremony today at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
Jeanne Englehart, president of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, and Barbara Mieras, Ph.D., president of Davenport University Foundation and executive vice president for advancement, are among five female leaders on both sides of the state who are being recognized for their achievements.
In addition today’s award ceremony, another will be held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in
The award is designed to salute “individuals whose accomplishments, dedication and vision have significantly improved the lives of women and girls in the state,” according to the Michigan Women’s Foundation.
Englehart oversees day-to-day management of the local chamber, which has 2,900 members that represent more than 170,000 employees in Kent and eastern Ottawa counties. She has served as chamber president since December 2003.
Prior to that, Englehart worked five years as community services director for U.S. Congressman Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids.
She may be best known as the founder and owner of Productivity Point International, a computer training company that garnered a national reputation for high-quality training. She sold the company to Knowledge Universe in 1997.
Her experience includes serving as a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business and to the People’s Republic of China Women in Computer and Data Processing Delegation.
Her background includes extensive community service. She currently serves on the boards of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, the Right Place Inc. and the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Englehart has received numerous accolades for taking on community leadership roles including the YWCA Tribute award, Greater Grand Rapids Entrepreneur of the Year, Woman of “E” Quality award, Career Woman of the Year, and the 12 Outstanding Women in West Michigan History award.
Englehart said she wasn’t aware she had been nominated for the Women of Achievement and Courage award but was “extremely honored” to receive it. She credits her accomplishments to perseverance and tenacity and said she wants young women to understand that they can be or do anything.
“No. 1, I never take ‘no’ for an answer,” she said. “Tenacity ought to be my middle name. I’ve always tried to look at the glass as half full and say, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ Which then allows me to move forward.”
The fact that the award comes from the Michigan Women’s Foundation is especially meaningful to Englehart. She places a high value on women’s friendship and support. She had a strong role model in her grandmother, she said, and when she was a little older, she made friends with Jeanette Youngman, who has “been there” for her throughout life.
“In the early years women many times don’t see other women as mentors. They see them as competition. I think as we get older and wiser, we recognize and appreciate more the value of the support women friends give us during the good times and the bad times to help us through life’s journey. I’m incredibly blessed by a group of very strong women who are just fabulous friends. When I need something, they’re there.”
Mieras has advocated for women throughout her 33-year career in higher education. She has held positions from business teacher to president of Davenport College–Western Region. While president, she received the Breaking the Glass Ceiling award from the Grand Rapids Women’s Resource Center for the college’s commitment to hiring and promoting women to leadership positions.
Mieras said she is “truly honored” to be receiving the award.
“When I review the list of women who have received it previously, I’m extremely grateful and feel very privileged to be in their company,” she remarked. “I’m just so supportive of the Michigan Women’s Foundation. It’s the only organization in Michigan solely focused on providing opportunities for women and girls, and they’ve been doing that for 19 years.”
Mieras helped orchestrate the 2001 merger of Davenport’s three regional colleges into one university. As part of that effort, she consolidated development staffs, merged five separate alumni associations and combined three foundation boards into what is now known as the Davenport University Foundation. Under her guidance as foundation president, Mieras has expanded its donor base and increased assets to $14 million.
She is both a philanthropist and community volunteer and has served on the boards of a variety of organizations, such as the Grand Rapids Ballet, United Way of West Michigan, Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Girl Scouts of Michigan Trails, the Michigan Non-Profit Association and the Metropolitan Hospital Foundation, to name a few.
Her past awards have included the Crystal Apple award from Michigan State University, the Distinguished Alumni award from Western Michigan University, and the Woman of Distinction in Higher Education award by the Michigan American Council on Education.
“I’ve had an educational career that has spanned many years,” Mieras noted. “I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to accomplish a number of things and people that have wanted to recognize my contributions by nominating me for different awards. I’m appreciative of each one of those awards.”
Three others being recognized as Women of Achievement and Courage at the Michigan Women’s Foundation awards ceremony are Grand Rapids native Mary Kramer, vice president and associate publisher of Crain’s Detroit Business; Nancy M. Schlichting, CEO of Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System; and Grace Lee Boggs, activist, writer and speaker, who is being honored with a Lifetime Achievement award.