Two Area Women Receive ATHENA Leadership Awards

Athena AwardsAustin College | May 5, 2017

Sherman, Texas

Austin College recognized two exemplary leaders from the region on May 3, awarding the prestigious ATHENA Leadership Award® to Michelle Castle, branch manager at Guild Mortgage Company, and the ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award to Trish Bridges, director of critical care services at Wilson N. Jones Regional Medical Center. The event was presented by the College’s Center for Community and Regional Development and its Texoma Women Get Connected program. At the luncheon, Kourtny Garrett, president and CEO of Downtown Dallas, Inc., spoke about her work with nonprofit agencies.

ATHENA Leadership Award Nominees

The ATHENA Leadership Award® is presented to individuals who have attained and embody the highest level of professional excellence in their business or profession, devote time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community, and actively assist women in realizing their full leadership potential.

Michelle CastleCastle, the region’s 2017 honoree, opened the Sherman branch of Guild Mortgage in 2011 with three employees, and since has added four locations and increased the support staff to almost 30. She is recognized for creating an office culture and processes that serve as a role model for Guild Mortgage branches across the country, and often presents at the company’s national summit to share her marketing expertise. Castle also is known for mentorship and strong support of career advancement for women working in the mortgage banking business. A generous sponsor of local charity events, including the Guild Breakfast with Santa at Sherman’s Snowflake Festival, she serves as board president of the Child & Family Guidance Center of Texoma.

Other nominee honorees for the ATHENA Leadership Award were Janis Fletcher, City of Sherman certified court clerk in the Municipal Court; and Leigh Ann Sims, commercial loan officer at Legends Bank.

ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award Nominees

ATHENA Young Professional Leadership nominees are emerging women leaders who demonstrate excellence, creativity, and initiative in their business or profession; provide valuable service to improve the quality of life for others in their community; and clearly serve as role models for young women both personally and professionally.

ATHENA Young Professional recipient for 2017, Bridges was recognized for her leadership skills and heart for service early in her career as a nurse. Today, she is the director of critical care services at WNJ Regional Medical Center, which encompasses several departments in the hospital including the Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Room. Beyond the hospital’s walls, Trish has been described as an “invaluable” member of the North Texas Young Professionals, first as a volunteer and then on the board of directors. She currently services as NTYP president

The other nominee for the 2017 Young Professional Leadership Award was Mikayla Stocks, volunteer coordinator, case worker, and grant writer at Grayson County Shelter.  

Sponsors for the 2017 event included Texoma Health Foundation, United Way of Grayson County, Austin College Institutional Advancement staff in honor of Jill Joiner Roberts, Kristine McKinney in memory of Clara Blackford Smith, and Wilson N. Jones Regional Medical Center. Event sponsorships benefit the College’s Social Entrepreneurship for Poverty Alleviation (SEPA) summer intern program.

 Austin College reinstated the local awards three years ago, with nominations open to leaders in Cooke, Fannin, and Grayson counties. Nomination information for 2018 honorees can be found at