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Talk about an impressive event! If you want to know who the powerhouse women are in Orange County, attend the Orange County Business Journal’s Women in Business Awards. The 18th annual luncheon, held at the Hyatt Regency Irvine, drew a packed ballroom of 919 guests, 229 of them nominees, for the awards presentation, which honored six amazing women. Before I name them, I did want to mention the keynote speaker, Kimberly Cripe, who is President & CEO of CHOC Children’s and a former WIB winner herself. Cripe said she learned her core values as a teenager through her horse “Chewy.” She related some hilarious and even dangerous times with her horse, saying she learned how important it was to do your research and know what you’re getting into. “Spirit is the most important thing in a horse,” she said, “and so it is with my team at CHOC, who have gone so far beyond my expectations.” Cripe was referring to the hospital’s building project, a seven-story world-class pediatric tower, which will be the centerpiece of its $562 expansion. With CHOC Children’s ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country, Cripe already has a lot to be proud of. Her advice to the rapt assemblage was, “It’s important to have a passion for what you do. It should not be about the work. It should be about making a difference.”

The women honored were really remarkable and included Nancy Nygren, CEO of Girl Scouts of Orange County; Laila Pence, President of Pence Wealth Management. “Principles are non-negotiable,” Pence said. Real estate professional Lee Ann Canaday of Canaday Group RE advised, “Ignore the naysayers and never, never, never, never give up – and give back,” she finished. Corporate attorney extraordinaire Ellen Bancroft, who heads Dorsey & Whitney LLP, exclaimed, “As a single mom, this is a validation!” Kay Napier’s story as “turnaround CEO” for Arbonne International LLC was quite compelling, with her guiding the company out of bankruptcy in 37 days and into a growth cycle.  The final recognition, a Lifetime Achievement Award – the first given at the prestigious event – was presented to 81-year-old dynamo Dr. Judy Rosener. Don’t be deceived by her age. I’ve known Judy for years, and she is still going strong. She received her Ph.D at 50 and was a full-time professor at UC Irvine’s Graduate School of Management for 30 years. Along the way, her “Ways Women Lead” article ended up in the Harvard Business Review in the ’90s, which launched her career as book author, columnist, PBS commentator, and conference and corporate speaker, with awards galore along the way. Ever the pragmatist, her favorite saying is, “If you are not on the edge, you are taking up too much room!” Ah, Judy, I love ya!!

Congratulations to the Orange County Business Journal – especially luncheon chair Laura Garrett, who is Vice President and Associate Publisher, and Publisher/CEO Richard Reisman, for orchestrating such an uplifting and warmhearted affair.

Photos by Laurel Hungerford Photography