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Six to be honored as Women of Influence

influenceSeveral women will be honored at the Third Annual Women of Influence recognition reception Wednesday, Aug. 24, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Emerald Room, Capitol Plaza Hotel. The event, sponsored by GO Topeka’s Entrepreneurial & Minority Business Development, will honor the following women:

  • Carol Bradbury, Community Service
  • Pam McComas, Education
  • Angel Zimmerman, Mentorship
  • Barbara Ebert, Outstanding Entrepreneur
  • Christie Appelhanz, Rising Star
  • Joan Wagnon, Woman of Achievement

Priti Lakhani, a Topeka native, will be the keynote speaker. There is no cost to attend the event, but attendees are asked to register at http://www.gotopeka.com/events/third-annual-women-influence-awards/ by Aug. 19.

A Shawnee Heights graduate, Lakhani earned an undergraduate degree in biology from Washburn University before becoming a podiatrist and completing a residency at New York University. She earned a master’s degree in health care management from Harvard. While in Boston, she served as a clinical adviser to a medical start up at MIT, worked with NFL quarterbacks, wrote an award-winning paper on the virtues of pizza and began a maternal fetal mortality decrease project in East Africa. She left private practice to work for Cerner, where she advises major worldwide hospital corporations on strategy, financials, governance and patient experience and safety.

Carol Bradbury, Community Service

A social entrepreneur, multi-disciplinary artist, brand strategist and community activist, Bradbury focuses her creative practice on neighborhoods and communities, engaging unique and disenfranchised voices to reveal what’s often hidden to others. Bradbury studied and worked in Denmark, Switzerland, and across the United States. She has degrees from the Kansas City Art Institute and the University of Kansas. In 2008, she created the P.E.A.R.L. Project, working with women at the Topeka Correctional Facility using performance art to help participants develop self-awareness, expression and empowerment skills. The project culminated in performances in the prison and at the Lawrence Arts Center. Participants at a 2010 YWCA Summer Diversity Camp created “Bridges,” a colorful diptych rented by local businesses to fund the following year’s camp. In 2011, she created Bloomerang, a collaborative art experience designed to unify, transform and rebrand the community using color and crowd-sourced energy. Her art projects have had a creative impact on the NOTO Arts District, Brewster Place, Brookwood Shopping Center and more, reflecting unique qualities of both the individual and collective voice.

Pam McComas, Retired, Education

McComas taught at Topeka High School for 35 years, serving as director of forensics the entire time. The school has had six national championships, a record no other Kansas high school can match, and McComas personally coached five of them. Her ability to pair students with partners and help them select the best events to highlight their abilities encouraged a sense of team and led to the program’s national recognition. For six years, she engaged students in project-based learning using the “You Are There” format, through which students researched, analyzed and collaborated to present a multi-media project focusing on specific topics of a larger problem. Topics included race riots, the Holocaust, genocide, civil rights, the Vietnam War and the Harlem Renaissance. The project was selected by the College Board in 2011 for the National Forum and was showcased at the 2014 Kansas State Department of Education convention. Throughout her career, she served in leadership positions for professional organizations at local, state and national levels. She was named National Coach of the Year in 1999 by the National Speech and Debate Association for which she now serves as a board member.

Angel Zimmerman, Mentorship

Zimmerman, managing partner of Zimmerman & Zimmerman, PA, has served as president of the Association of Women Entrepreneurs, Women Attorney Association of Topeka and Kansas Women Attorney Association. She served as the inaugural chair of KBA LPM, as the first female chair of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Kansas City, Missouri, chapter, as vice chair for the international JRCLS Women in Law section, as a board member for the National Conference of Women Bar Associations and as chair of Entrepreneurial & Minority Business Development. For 17 years, she has taught an early morning seminary class for high school students and served as a mentor for Highland Park Elementary School students as PTO president and a Brownie leader. In 2011, she was chosen as Boss of the Year by the Topeka Legal Professionals. An adjunct professor at Washburn University School of Law, Zimmerman frequently presents continuing legal education classes on law practice management issues.

Barbara Ebert, Outstanding Entrepreneur

A Topeka native, Ebert has taught dance for 50 years and directed Ballet Midwest, Inc., for 40 years, providing students the opportunity to learn proper dance technique, discipline of mind and body, self-confidence and aesthetic values while giving audiences the chance to experience full-length classical ballet performances. During her career, she has provided free, full-length performances of “The Nutcracker” for area fourth grade students, nursing home residents and special needs groups. She pioneered community outreach through performances at more than 26 different elementary schools and more than 725 community demonstrations. Ballet Midwest, the first civic ballet company in Topeka, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The company employs 12 instructors, a business manager and an office assistant and serves more than 500 students. Ebert earned a BFA in ballet from the University of Utah and has attended teaching seminars in Aspen, Colorado, and Jackson, Mississippi, to bring innovative methods to Topeka.

Christie Appelhanz, Rising Star

Appelhanz drives system-level change to improve the safety and success of children and families as executive director of the Children’s Alliance of Kansas. Since joining the association in June 2015, she has led efforts to amplify the voice of private child welfare agencies at the Capitol and in the communities the organization serves. As the owner of the Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting, the organization works in Kansas and across the country to train child welfare professionals and birth, foster and adoptive parents to work as a team. Appelhanz oversaw the launch of the Alliance’s first direct service initiative, a workforce program to provide education, training and employment to youth transitioning out of the child welfare system. She previously managed government affairs and communications as vice president of public affairs at Kansas Action for Children. Previously, she served as director of external relations for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas and as communications director for former Congressman Dennis Moore. Appelhanz taught economics to high school students as a Peace Corps volunteer in Poltava, Ukraine and began her career as a Topeka Capital-Journal reporter. She was named to the 2013 class of Topeka’s “Top 20 Under 40,” received a Sunflower Foundation Advocacy Fellowship and was selected for the inaugural class of the Annie E. Casey Leadership Institute for State-Based Advocates. Appelhanz serves as a member of the USD 345 Seaman Board of Education and earned a bachelor’s degree in business communication and a master’s degree in global and international studies from the University of Kansas.

Joan Wagnon, Woman of Achievement

Wagnon recently served for eight months as the interim chief executive officer of the YWCA of Northeast Kansas, the agency for which she served as executive director from 1977-1993. She later became executive director of Kansas Families for KIDS, a Kellogg Foundation project to privatize adoptions. She served as mayor of Topeka from 1997-2001 and was elected to the Kansas Legislature in 1982, serving for 12 years concurrently with her service at the YWCA. She authored many pieces of legislation in the areas of domestic violence, child care and education. She served as president of Central National Bank for two years, remaining on the board of directors for six years. Wagnon served as secretary of revenue for the State of Kansas 2003-2011 and on several national boards, including chairing the Multistate Tax Commission and the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board. A lifetime Girl Scout, she served as president of Kaw Valley Girl Scout Council and became treasurer of the National Board of the Girl Scouts of the USA. She chaired the Kansas Democratic Party from 2001-2005. Wagnon has a biology degree from Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas, and an M.Ed. in guidance and counseling from the University of Missouri.


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