Each year at Salute to Women of Achievement, YWCA of Greater Atlanta celebrates dynamic women leaders throughout Georgia whose professional and civic lives embody our mission to eliminate racism and empower women.
2016 Woman of Achievement
Billye Suber Aaron
An educator at heart, Mrs. Aaron began her 11-year teaching career in 1960, which included gratifying stints at Spelman, Morehouse, and South Carolina State Colleges. Following the death of her first husband, Rev. Dr. Samuel W. Williams, a distinguished civil rights leader, she returned to Morehouse as director of community relations.
Mrs. Aaron’s remarkable 14-year career at the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) began with her overseeing the production and promotion of the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon.
As a passionate advocate and premiere fundraiser for UNCF, she founded the Mayor’s MASKED Ball (Mankind Assisting Students Kindle Educational Dreams), one of UNCF’s longest-running and highest grossing special projects. At UNCF, named in her honor, is a $1 million endowed Billye Suber Aaron Legacy Scholarship. Her commitment to higher education opportunities for African Americans continues to be evident through her service on the board of trustees to Morehouse College and her alma mater, Texas College.
Mrs. Aaron and her husband, Hank Aaron, have an abiding commitment to share their blessings. Toward that end, they have founded the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation, a philanthropic trust which provides funds to children between the ages of 9 – 12 years to help them develop their special talents and chase their dreams. They have made well over 755 grants, and the program will continue into perpetuity through a partnership between Major League Baseball and the Boys and Girls Club of America.
In 2015, the Morehouse School of Medicine broke ground for the Billye Suber Aaron Pavilion.
2016 Academy of Women Achievers
Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim is Chief Executive Officer of Future Foundation, an organization serving the same community where she was raised. She is not only fulfilling the Foundation’s mission of leveling the playing field for metro Atlanta youth by providing quality education, health, and life skills programs.
She is undertaking a herculean effort to expand the organization’s work on a state and national scale.
An expert on youth development, social services and nonprofit management, Future Foundation has significantly enhanced its programs and services during Ms. Abdur-Rahim’s tenure as CEO.
Her leadership fueled the organization’s growth from one program serving a dozen children to three programs reaching more than 4,000 children. Utilizing a proven model to identify program participants and community partners, the Future Foundation has achieved unprecedented community impact where program participants graduate from high school at a rate of 100%, which far exceeds the average graduation rate for the community.
Ms. Abdur-Rahim has earned numerous awards for her leadership in the non-profit industry. She was named to the Leadership Atlanta Class of 2016; received the Atlanta Business Chronicle 40 Under 40 Award; she is a Georgia Education Policy Fellow, named one of Georgia’s most influential Muslims and has been identified as one of America’s Leaders of Change through the National Urban Fellows Program. She serves on the School Governance Council for Sandtown Middle School; is on the leadership team for the Georgia Afterschool Network; and assists various non-profits with organizational development.
Ms. Abdur-Rahim’s values based leadership goes beyond her role at the Future Foundation. She served eight years as an U.S. Air Force Reservist and received several meritorious service awards for her non-combat duties during the September 11 attacks.
Ms. Abdur-Rahim is from Atlanta, Georgia and earned a B.A. in social work from the University of California, Berkley; a Masters from the University of San Francisco; and an MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.
Habitat for Humanity International
Elizabeth “Liz” Blake served as Habitat for Humanity’s Senior Vice President — Advocacy, Government Affairs & General Counsel for eight years.
Upon retiring in late 2014, Ms. Blake has continued as a volunteer with a focus on secure tenure, land rights and gender issues impacting development in the third world; representing Habitat at conferences and world forums.
Ms. Blake serves as an advisor to C432 on job creation projects in the apparel, social services and tourism sectors in Haiti. Prior to 2006, Ms. Blake was Executive Vice President and General Counsel for US Airways, Senior VP and General Counsel of Trizec Properties, VP and General Counsel of GE Power Systems and Vice President and Chief of Staff of Cinergy Corp., now part of Duke Energy. Prior to that she was a partner with the Frost & Jacobs law firm in Cincinnati, Ohio and associated with Davis Polk and Wardell in New York.
Additionally, Ms. Blake currently is a Director of Green Brick Partners, Inc. (NASDAQ) and of the Westside Future Fund, an Atlanta public-private partnership. Ms. Blake serves on the boards of social enterprise VisionSpring Inc., the International Women’s Forum – Atlanta, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and is a past Chair of the Ohio Board of Regents. This January, Ms. Blake was appointed Chair of the Carter Center’s Board of Councilors for 2016.
Blake is a graduate of Smith College and Columbia University School of Law.
my family’s life.”
Shan Cooper is chief supply chain and technology officer of WestRock and is responsible for procurement, logistics, information technology and recycling.
Prior to joining WestRock, Ms. Cooper served as vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company. As general manager, she was responsible for the 6,000 employee operations in Marietta, Ga.; Meridian, Miss.; and Clarksburg, W. Va., which design, produce, modify and maintain military aircraft for the U.S. and countries around the world.
Ms. Cooper was named Georgia Trend Magazine’s 2015 Most Respected Business Leader; one of the Women of the Year 2015 by American Association of University Women; and as one of Georgia Trend Magazine’s Most Influential Georgians in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. She also received the 2013 Pioneer Award from U.S. Black Engineer & Information Technology Magazine.
She serves on the executive boards of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce and the Metro Atlanta Chamber; is on the Board of Councilors for The Carter Center and the Board of Trustees of both Emory University and the Woodruff Arts Center; and is a member of the Atlanta Rotary Club.
Ms. Cooper earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and religion from Emory University and a master’s of business administration from the Roberto Goizueta Business School of Emory University. She is also a graduate of the Rutgers Global Executive Masters in Human Resource Leadership Program.
is open to them.”
First Lady Sandra Deal, the daughter of educators, has dedicated her life to encouraging childhood education. As a Georgia public school teacher, she taught for more than 15 years and retired as a sixth-grade middle school teacher in Hall County.
She has furthered those efforts in her role as Georgia’s First Lady, and promoting literacy has been one of her top priorities.
As part of her “Read Across Georgia” tour, Mrs. Deal has visited and read to all 159 counties and 181 school districts to encourage student reading.To date, she has visited over 500 schools in Georgia, encouraging students to love reading and to become “life-long learners.” Like her husband, the First Lady believes a good education is the key to future success. Community service and volunteering is also a top focus of the First Lady’s. To that end, Mrs. Deal launched “With a Servant’s Heart” in 2011. What began as a statewide day of service quickly grew into regular participation in community service programs and volunteer events across Georgia.
The First Lady serves as Chair of the Governor’s Office for Children and Family, where she promotes a statewide effort to strengthen and support families and communities. She also serves as Co-Chair of the Georgia Children’s Cabinet, which coordinates policies and resources to improve outcomes for children and families. Among other issues, the First Lady provides leadership on child welfare and juvenile justice issues in Georgia.
Mrs. Deal grew up in Gainesville and graduated from Georgia College & State University. The Deals have been married for 49 years and have four children and six grandchildren. They are members of First Baptist Church in Gainesville.
Francesca Gary is president of Amerigroup Georgia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Anthem, Inc. In this role, Ms. Gary is responsible for all aspects of Amerigroup health plan operations in Georgia, ensuring that members receive access to high quality care and strengthening relationships in the community, with the state and among providers.
Ms. Gary is an experienced health care executive with more than 19 years of leadership and industry experience in Medicaid, Medicare, and commercial products and operations.
Under her tenure Amerigroup Georgia has grown to more than 375,000 members across the state. In 2014, Georgia was awarded the sole contract to provide healthcare services for the state Foster Care program, Georgia 360°. She previously served as chief operating officer of Amerigroup Georgia. Prior to joining Amerigroup, she served as vice president of National Contracting and Provider Network Management with Health Net. Ms. Gary also has experience in market operations, utilization and quality management, marketing, and financial performance.
Ms. Gary was recently selected by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of 20 “Women Who Mean Business.” She serves on Goodwill Georgia, Community Foundation Board and Children’s School boards. Ms. Gary is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy.
Lila Hertz’s long history of volunteerism and leadership has benefited numerous organizations and causes in the Atlanta community, particularly in the areas of health care and child welfare.
From 2001 – 2009 and 2015 – 2016, Ms. Hertz served as board president of Susan G. Komen Greater Atlanta, which was established as a resource for those fighting and seeking to prevent breast cancer.
Ms. Hertz’s involvement with the Affiliate has a special connection to another of her longtime commitments: the Jeffrey Fashion Cares fundraiser. Other activities include board service to Piedmont Healthcare (for which she was recognized by the Georgia Hospital Association with their 2013 Distinguished Service Award) and the Alliance Theatre. The American Jewish Committee, Prevent Child Abuse Georgia, the Anti Defamation League and the National Council of Jewish Women also have benefited from Hertz’s service, and for that, each has presented Hertz with awards in recognition of her accomplishments.
Ms. Hertz lives in Atlanta with her husband, Doug, and they have two married children, Emily and Michael Hertz, Amy and Ronnie Agami and 4 grandchildren. Aside from her family and community, Ms. Hertz enjoys many forms of exercise–cycling, walking, Pilates and yoga.
and hire other women.”
Persistence, hard work, communication skills, and authenticity are just a few of the characteristics that have propelled Meredith Leapley into the top ranks of the fastest-growing women-owned companies.
In 1999, at the age of 26, Ms. Leapley moved to Atlanta from Washington D.C., and founded a commercial interior general contracting firm in a city where she had minimal connections in the commercial real estate industry.
Fifteen years later, Leapley Construction has become one of the premier commercial interior general contractors, consistently ranked in the Top 10 Atlanta’s Top 25 Interior Construction Firms and in Women-Owned Firms by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Today, Leapley Construction generates over $66 million in revenue, with top corporate clients such as The Coca-Cola Company, Norfolk Southern, Kaiser Permanente, and Turner Properties.
Ms. Leapley has received numerous accolades throughout her career. Most recently, she was recognized as a Power Woman in Atlanta Commercial Real Estate by Bisnow and designated as one of the “Women Who Mean Business”, an award from the Atlanta Business Chronicle that recognizes Atlanta’s most influential business women. The Women Presidents’ Organization ranked Meredith Leapley 41st on their 7th Annual List of the 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies around the globe.
While her success is directly correlated to her business acumen, Ms. Leapley is devoted to the betterment of human welfare through education and direct action. She was the Board Chair at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta for two years and served on their board for seven years. She has mentored her Little Brother, Andrew, for twelve years and continues to champion his success by sponsoring his education at Darlington School. Ms. Leapley has been a Board Member of the Emory University Board of Visitors, and is an active member of the United Way Tocqueville Society and Leadership Atlanta Class of 2014.
Ms. Leapley received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Maryland. She enjoys traveling and scuba diving, and possesses a deep passion for health and wellness. Meredith is a Board Certified Health Coach and inspires everyone around her to pursue a healthy lifestyle.
Julie Miller-Phipps is president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia.
She is responsible for ensuring that the health care needs of nearly 280,000 Kaiser Permanente members in Georgia are met through a network of 26 medical offices and specialty centers, as well as at four contracted hospitals — Piedmont Hospital, Northside Hospital, Gwinnett Medical Center and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Additionally, she is responsible for 2,600 employees and works closely with the 480 physicians of the Southeast Permanente Medical Group to strengthen the medical-management partnership for which Kaiser Permanente has become a model.
She has over 30 years of health care leadership experience. Prior to joining Kaiser Permanente Georgia, Ms. Miller-Phipps served as senior vice president and executive director for Kaiser Permanente Hospital and Health Plan operations in Orange County, Calif., where she was responsible for the care of over 489,000 members supported by 6,973 staff and 758 Permanente physicians.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Fullerton and a Master of Science degree in Health Care Administration from the University of LaVerne (Calif.). In addition, she completed the Executive Advanced Leadership Program at the University of North Carolina and the University of Southern California Advanced Leadership Program.
An active member of the community, Ms. Miller-Phipps currently serves on the board of trustees of the Woodruff Arts Center, the board of the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, the board of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and on the Board of Councilors of the Carter Center. Additionally, she has been honored with several awards and recognitions. She was named one of the Orange County Business Journal’s “Top 50 Most Influential Business Leaders” for three years in a row, one of 14 “Game Changers” by the Orange County Register for her significant contributions to the Orange County business landscape, and one of the “Hot 25 Women in Business” awarded by the Orange County Business Journal for her outstanding leadership and business acumen.
Ms. Miller-Phipps and her husband, Michael, reside in the metro Atlanta area. They have one daughter, Ashley, and a son-in-law, Andy.
Sarah-Elizabeth Reed is the First Lady of the City of Atlanta and wife of Mayor Kasim Reed.
An Atlanta native, she is a graduate of Pace Academy, then the University of Michigan with a degree in French and next received her J.D. from Howard University School of Law.
The daughter of two strong public servants, her late father Senator Arthur Langford Jr. was a minister and a Georgia State Senator and her mother Susan Pease Langford is an attorney and prominent community leader. Mrs. Reed currently consults with real estate developers on affordable and supportive housing projects.
She has worked for United States Congressman John Lewis and in Paris, France at the law firm of Baker & McKenzie. She also worked for the D.C. Office of General Counsel for five years and later as an affordable housing developer for National Church Residences for almost ten years. As First Lady, she champions early childhood education initiatives and family and youth empowerment and mentoring programs. As a result of her work in affordable housing, she is also interested in addressing the challenges and need for housing and essential services for the homeless.
Mrs. Reed campaigned with her husband as early as 1998 when he was elected to the Georgia State House of Representatives. Shortly thereafter, he was elected to the Senate where he held the same seat (35th district) previously held by her late father. As a fluent french speaker, Mrs. Reed has spent time traveling Europe, Asia and Africa and lived and worked in France. She has competed in the Miss USA pageant and is a member of the Atlanta Junior League. She is an advocate for the arts, a member of Leadership Georgia and serves on several boards including the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS), the nonprofit BiH, the Motherless Daughters Foundation and the City of Atlanta Mayoral Service Board.
She and her husband live in the Cascade area and have one daughter Maria Kristan Reed. As the wife of the mayor and the daughter of a politician and a community leader, she has become a role model for women, and an advocate of early childhood education, family programs and poverty awareness.
The Coca-Cola Company
As Global Director, Workplace Strategy and Operations, Julie Seitz is changing long held ideas about the role of the workplace at Coca-Cola offices around the world.
Leading a 130-year-old company into the future of work is a challenge Ms. Seitz signed up for in 2010. Tasked with the physical renovation of the Company’s flagship Atlanta campus, she recognized a unique opportunity to leverage the workplace as a catalyst to achieve the Company’s ambitious business goals.
While she lacked real estate industry experience, the 20-year Coca-Cola veteran knew the Company well. She knew that the revitalization of the campus needed to be as unique as the formula for Coca-Cola itself.
As Director, Workplace 2020, Ms. Seitz built her team, collaborated with key strategic partners to steadily make the case for her vision and ultimately achieve consensus through the highest levels of the C-suite. Today, the modernized common spaces are bright and open, encouraging physical movement and the exchange of ideas. Thoughtfully planned dining, conferencing, amenities and technology are designed to support a diverse and multigenerational workforce. The Company’s rich history and effervescent energy are evidenced in large installations and small details alike.
The project has been described as “industry-changing” in corporate real estate circles, and numerous companies and professional organizations have begun to use it as a model. It has attracted the attention of Coca-Cola offices around the world and set the stage for a new organization to manage workplace operations globally, under Ms. Seitz’s leadership.
Prior roles at the Company honed Ms. Seitz’s skill at leading highly complex and challenging initiatives, and include national foodservice and retail sales, franchise leadership, Olympics general management, marketing commercialization, customer care and building supply chains for new brands.
Ms. Seitz’s community outreach attests to her passion for her native Atlanta and her commitment to the community. She serves on the board of the Atlanta Beltline Partnership, is the chair of the Georgia board of Youth Villages, is active with the Girl Scouts of Metro Atlanta, and is a graduate of the 2013 class of Leadership Atlanta. She was recently recognized among the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2015 “Women Who Mean Business” and the Atlanta Chapter of CoreNet awarded her their Corporate Real Estate Executive of the Year” honor in 2015. A graduate of Clemson University, she oversees leadership initiatives in the Student Affairs’ department.
Ms. Seitz and her husband, Jay, live in Alpharetta, GA. She enjoys driving and owning sports cars, traveling, college football, public speaking and spending time with friends and family. Committed to well-being (and avoiding Atlanta’s famous traffic), she can be found at the renovated on-campus gym before work each day.