From left, Lillian Mashburn, Pat Ball, Ginny Morrow, Renda Burkhart and Sharon Miller Pryse were among the earliest members of the Executive Women’s Association and still are active in the group today. Mashburn is retired from the University of Tennessee, where she was director of federal relations; Ball is a senior vice president at TeamHealth; Morrow is retired as senior vice president of Covenant Health; Burkhart is president of Burkhart & Company, a downtown CPA firm; Pryse is president of The Trust Company of Knoxville.
Thirty-five years ago, I hate to say, women were almost invisible in the power structure of Knoxville. That’s when a handful of local professional women got together and formed a support group, of sorts, to share information and brainstorm ideas. They called the group the Executive Women’s Association (EWA), and it included fewer than 20 members.
Susan Richardson Williams, left, and Carol Evans enjoying the incomparable Blackberry Farm appetizers.
Today, EWA has more than 170 members. Ninety of those members got together this week to treat themselves to dinner at Blackberry Farm and to celebrate the group’s 35th anniversary.
“We felt there needed to be a forum for women leaders and executives to come together to support each other and network,” said Pat Ball, senior vice president of TeamHealth, talking about the days when EWA was founded.
“For the most part, it was a good networking group who didn’t carry grudges against men,” Pryse agreed. “It wasn’t a bitch session, but was really a way to network in a positive way.”
Ellen Adcock, left, and Lucille Griffo.
Today, EWA meets monthly and serves basically the same purposes. The luncheon meetings generally feature a guest speaker. During the year, there also are several evening social activities. I have been a member of EWA for more than 20 years, and I like it because it really is just about networking and friendship. We don’t have service projects (we have our churches and service clubs for that), and we don’t raise money (we all are on numerous nonprofit boards where we have to do that.) It truly has stayed true to its mission.
Every now and then someone asks if EWA still is needed today when women have ascended to leadership roles throughout our community. Pryse says yes. “I think it is just as relevant today,” she said. “It is the only ‘women’s only’ thing I do. There are women in EWA I would never meet otherwise. It is a nice cross-section of our community by age, race, occupation and other attributes.”
And Ball says that, although women definitely have made strides, there still is room for advocacy on their behalf. “You only have to look at what is going on with the Lady Vols to see that, sadly, there are still some areas in our community that are going backwards as far as women’s issues,” she noted.
EWA admits only 10 new members every year. The nomination process is from November through January. New members must be nominated by current members in good standing.
Now, here’s a look at that celebration.
Click here for a look at issues discussed upon EWA’s 30th anniversary in 2010. Click here for a quiz about women’s leadership in Knoxville.
Cocktails were on the lawn outside the main house at Blackberry Farm.
Kreis Beall, the founder and design director at Blackberry Farm, welcomed her EWA colleagues.
Beth Hamil, left, and Jeannie Dulaney helped distribute name tags.
From left, EWA President Celeste Herbert, Kim Bumpas, Lisa New, Christi Branscom and Cheryl Light.
From left, Ruth Ellis, Regina Dean, Gwen Brown, Katie Bell Kline and Phyllis Nichols.
From left, Dr. Margo Uri Simmons, Sheena McCall, Susan Brown, Ellen Fowler, Mary Bogert and Jennie Hitchcock.
From left, Annette Winston, Maureen Dunn McBride, Judge Pam Reeves and Pat Conry Taylor.
From left, Monique Anderson, Dr. Laura Barnes and new EWA member Beth Ford.
Dane Ratliff was passing out some of the best pimento cheese on the planet.
From left, Dr. Jan Henley, Karen Swander, Dr. Linda Green and Sheila Webster.
From left, Michelle Henry, the executive director of EWA, Pat Medley, Renda Burkhart and Katharine Pearson Criss.
Jordana Nelson, left, with new EWA member Tracey Axtell.
My all-time favorite Blackberry bite: homemade potato chips with creme fraiche and caviar.
Another one of Blackberry’s most popular appetizers, tiny pork belly biscuits with homemade pickles.
MacKenzie Hagy had no trouble at all giving those away!
From left, Pat Beasley, Dr. Margo Uri Simmons and Jennifer Holder.
Janet Hickman, left, and Avice Reid grabbed a spot to relax.
As did Tasha Blakney.
You should have heard the noise level!
From left, Linda Davidson, Andrea White, Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee and Ruth Ellis.
From left, Sara Hedstrom Pinnell, Kathy Hamilton and Beth Hamil.
Beautiful touch on an outdoor table.
From left, Sara Fortune Rose, Dr. Martha Buchanan and Rosa Mar.
Pat Ball, left, with Pat Medley.
It was hard to get everyone to move inside!
But when they did come into the dining room, they were bowled over by the first course. Blackberry’s take on chicken and dumplings, it was guinea hen confit, potato gnocchi and oyster mushrooms. And it was delicious.
The inside setting was as lovely as the outdoor one.
It’s a close-knit and fun group of women.
Second course was brown butter basted Atlantic turbot with cauliflower, forest mushrooms, sauteed greens and ramp Bearnaise sauce.
Pat Conry Taylor, left, with Jenny Hines.
From left, Renda Burkhart, LInda Underwood, Celeste Herbert, Avice Reid and Janet Hickman.
From left, Dr. Martha Buchanan, Susan Brown, Katie Bell Kline and Sara Fortune Rose.
From left, Tommie Rush, Missy Wallen, Gwen Brown, Mary Ellen Brewington and Janet Testerman Creswell.
From left, Amy Nolan, Tammy White, Rhonda Rice, Annette Winston, Carol Evans and Susan Richardson Williams.
OMG! Milk chocolate hazelnut crunch with vanilla caramel and candied cocoa nibs.
I think we should make this an annual outing! All in favor?