2013 Award Winners
Virginia (“GiGi”) Benjamin is the first woman Partner at Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP. She was selected as “Lawyer of the Year” in Public Finances for the Cleveland area in 2012-2013 and named a 2012 “Woman of Note” by Crain’s Cleveland Business. At Calfee she established a Woman’s Leadership group which provides networking opportunities to women attorneys. She participated on the Board of the Cleveland Zoological Society for 14 years, serving as the Society’s first female president in 2011. A 10-year United Way volunteer, Ms. Benjamin serves as Co-Chair of the Program Committee for Women’s Leadership Council and organized two programs which explore the mentor-mentee relationship for women in the workplace. She was named a finalist for the 2012 Athena Award presented by Inside Business.
Kim Bixenstine is Vice President & Deputy General Counsel for University Hospitals. Her Claims & Litigation Team won the UH Team Achievement Award in 2007 for demonstrating the greatest measurable impact and best exemplifying UH values—an accomplishment which she considers her greatest career achievement. A tireless advocate for the underserved, Ms. Bixenstine is active on multiple boards, including the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Great Lakes Theatre and Shaker Heights Development Corp. As President of the Board of the Rape Crisis Center, she has helped improve the standard of care for survivors seeking medical treatment at University Hospitals. She received YWCA’s Women of Professional Excellence Award in 2001 and 2006, was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business as a “40 under 40” nominee, and was awarded the “Medical Malpractice Defense’s Ohio Super Lawyer” from 2006-2009.
Lauren Rich Fine is currently an Executive Search Consultant for Howard & O’Brien Associates. Previously, she distinguished herself from her peers in the male dominated environment of Wall Street as Managing Director/Equity Research at Merrill Lynch; she was a ranked member of the Institutional Investor magazine All-American Research Team for Publishing & Advertising sector for 14 years. Ms. Fine founded the Mentoring Committee at College Now, which matches students—more than half of whom are female and minorities—with accomplished mentors. She was a founding member of In Counsel with Women, has served as an executive mentor in YWCA Wisdom Circles, and founded a mentoring program at Merrill Lynch. Recently Ms. Fine was a keynote speaker at Faces & Places, an event for professional women in Cleveland, sharing the importance of networking and getting out of your comfort zone.
Constance (“Connie”) Harper is the Associate Publisher and Editor of the Call & Post newspaper, the most influential voice for African-Americans in Cleveland. As a highly visible advocate for the disenfranchised in greater Cleveland, she brings awareness about community issues to the forefront. In response to the horrific Imperial Avenue tragedy, Ms. Harper began a call to action against unacceptable behavior that disregards the value of women based on their lifestyles. She was formerly a Public Affairs Officer for the Leadership Institute for Community Development in Washington, D.C. She has been recognized by Kaleidoscope Magazine as “One of the Women Who Give Back” and was recently named one of the “Most Influential Women in Northeast Ohio” by Northern Ohio Live Magazine.
Lisa Oliver is the first woman President of KeyBank’s Greater Cleveland District, the bank’s largest district in the national footprint. She oversees the bank’s $5 billion, 700-employee Community Bank franchises throughout a five-county area. Her deep commitment to empowering women and underserved populations is evident in her support of programs such as Go Red for Women, for which she served as the 2006 Chairperson, Junior Achievement, the Rape Crisis Center and the Green Corp program of the Botanical Garden. Ms. Oliver demonstrates exemplary leadership through an expectation of respect and an ability to interact in a personal and caring way with everyone she meets. She was named to the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council within Key and serves as a mentor and executive speaker for the Key Executive Women’s Network and the YWCA Wisdom Circles. Ms. Oliver has been named a 2008 Crain’s Woman of Note and a 2004 YWCA Woman of Professional Excellence.
Clara Taplin Rankin is the founder of Hopewell, Ohio’s only therapeutic farming community for adults with severe mental illnesses. She started this community in her late 70s—an age when most people are winding down. Hopewell was the first U.S. mental health provider to be certified by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities as a therapeutic community. Mrs. Rankin is active with the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the Cleveland Orchestra, who presented her with the Distinguished Service Award in 2010 in recognition of her activism. She established the Early Childhood Endowment Fund at the Cleveland Foundation in 2000; she was also an early supporter of Invest in Children, who honored her as a mentor and role model in 2010. Mrs. Rankin has been saluted by the Golden Age Centers of Greater Cleveland with a Golden Achievement Award.