Six hundred people packed a room at the new Boise Centre East March 10 to see – and hear about – 50 women leaders as Idaho Business Review paid them homage. It was a glitzy evening for the 2017 Women of the Year as family, friends and co-workers joined in honoring them. There was champagne, a step-and-repeat “red carpet” photo op, many dressed to the nines, and the mood was electric.
“The feeling I had while attending this impressive event was complete awe and yes, it was electric,” said Catherine Riddle, radiochemistry research scientist at Idaho National Laboratory and one of this year’s honorees. “It was also tender, funny, inspiring, full of joy and exuberance,” she added, referring to the women’s stories, which served as their introductions when receiving their awards.
Sue Paul, executive director at the Warhawk Air Museum, agreed. She said the evening was “exciting, electric, and very loving … so much support and encouragement from all the women toward each other … the whole evening felt this way to me.”
A highlight of the evening came early when Paula Kluksdal, an attorney with presenting sponsor Hawley Troxell, introduced a video of soccer team girls, from elementary to high school age.
Riddle said it was a moving moment. “The best part was the young women and girls who lit up the room with their wide-eyed wonderful and thoughtful answers to what it means to be a woman leader.” Riddle said she had the opportunity to meet the young women and girls in the video before they went on stage and “it reminded me of why we mentor young women,” she said. “They were excited and inquisitive, brilliant young women and it was one of many wonderful moments I had during the gala.”
Overall, Riddle gave the evening a thumbs-up. “The entire evening will stay with me in my memory as the night I found out how many incredible women are leading Idaho. … As a first-time honoree, I was absolutely stunned by the number and caliber of these incredible women in the room with me and I am humbled and honored to be counted among them.”
After listening to all of the women’s stories, said Jackie Flowers, general manager for Idaho Falls Power, “I’m inspired to do even more and give back even more.”
At evening’s end, the Woman of the Year was announced by Nora Carpenter, president and CEO of United Way of Treasure Valley. Carpenter was named Woman of the Year in 2016 and so passed the torch to this year’s – three-time Olympic Gold Medalist and the director of community health at St. Luke’s Health System, Kristin Armstrong Savola.
In her acceptance speech, Armstrong Savola said she was practically speechless. “My heart is racing twice as fast as it was in Rio,” she said, referring to her recent Olympic Gold Medal win.
In tears, she talked about the honor and dignity of the award and how much she loves children and being a positive role model for them. At one point, she referred to the soccer team girls’ video. As the girls lined up onstage after the video played, Armstrong Savola said she had turned to the people at her table and said, “We could just leave right now,” meaning, “how could you top that?”
“The kids alone made my evening,” she said.
Armstrong Savola congratulated the other honorees and thanked the community at large for helping her to contribute as an employee and volunteer.
“You have been an influence in my life in Idaho,” she said to the audience. “We cross paths every day. We are all here working together for a better state.”