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Women of Excellence
Honoring the passion, dedication and action of six South Jersey women.

69

GAME CHANGER

Kriste Lindenmeyer

Dean of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers-Camden

Responding to a fast-changing culture, Kriste Lindenmeyer is laying the groundwork for Rutgers students to make their mark in a new digital and global world.

WOE-Kriste-LindenmeyerIn only five years as Rutgers’ dean of arts and sciences, Lindenmeyer has established a Digital Studies Center, as well as designing a new certificate program in the emerging field. But most exciting, she says, is a new dual degree planned for next fall, where students can add a Digital Studies major to their traditional course of study.

“Just because people have a small computer in their hand 24/7 doesn’t mean they know the best way to use it in their careers or life. They need help knowing how to do that,” she says. “In higher education, the 21st century is a different place than any time in the past 100 years. We believe in addition to learning ‘reading, writing and ’rithmetic,’ students now must also have digital literacy. We can’t stand still.”

Lindenmeyer also helped develop Rutgers’ civic scholars program, where emphasis has evolved from community service to community engagement. “It can’t just be about volunteerism anymore. Employers want people who have gotten their hands dirty trying to solve a problem. Our civic scholars can actually minor in civic engagement and work to solve a problem here on campus, in the community or on a national level.”

The dean says being flexible is the key to achieving success. “It’s always a work in progress – whether it’s yourself or your organization. You’re never finished, and it’s OK to not be finished. There’s always room to grow. That’s how you get to the next level.”

 

 

 

Lifetime Legacy

WOE-Riletta-CreamRiletta Cream

Retired Camden County Freeholder

Riletta Cream was 9 years old and the oldest of four siblings when her mother died. She says she was then raised by her father – who passed to her a strong work ethic – and the vast Camden community: the people who lived on her street, the grocery store clerk, her minister and fellow church members, and most of all, her teachers. The lasting impact of that surrounding village influenced every aspect of Cream’s life, which is easy to see was dedicated to two areas: education and service.

Cream worked as an elementary school teacher for the Camden School District before becoming principal of Camden High School in the early ’70s, a job she was recruited for and held for 15 years. (“When they first asked me, I said, ‘Why aren’t you asking a man?’ Only men were principals at that time,” Cream says.) She was also recruited to run for Camden County Freeholder, a position she held for five consecutive, three-year terms. (“When they asked me about that, I had to go ask friends what a freeholder was.”)

In the city of Camden today, you’ll find the Riletta Twyne Cream Family School and the Riletta L. Cream Library, which she helped establish as freeholder in a section of Camden that hadn’t seen a library in more than 100 years.

She has established two annual scholarships: one for Camden students studying at Rowan University’s College of Education and another for four students attending Camden County College.

“I think and I hope I am a role model for women. I would love to be. I tried throughout my life to exemplify those things that make a woman great.”

 

 

 

WOE-Kate-GibbsWoman to Watch

Kate Gibbs

Burlington County Freeholder Deputy Director

For Kate Gibbs, holding political office as a young Republican female isn’t all that unusual.

“People hear the word Republican and they think of old white men, but we have a proud tradition in Burlington County of promoting women and minorities – candidates that people might think don’t look like a typical candidate. Dawn Addiego and Diane Allen are both State Senators in Burlington County, and we have the only female sheriff in the state. These are my personal heroes. These are strong, brilliant females, and now I am able to call them my colleagues in addition to looking up to them as role models.”

Gibbs began her term as freeholder deputy director in January 2016 at the age of 29, after working for the Burlington County Republican Party and serving on the Rowan College at Burlington County Board of Trustees. (She was active on the board when the college transitioned from Burlington County College to its present name.)

The young leader has two bachelor’s degrees from American University – one in public communications and one in political science – plus a master’s degree in business administration from Drexel University. As freeholder, she is especially focused on education and workforce development, she says.

“I talk fast. I move fast. I’ve always been a person who likes to put a lot on my plate. It’s because I always want to achieve and succeed and do well. Whoever I’m serving, I want to be sure I am serving them well.”

 

 

 

WOE-Adrienne-KirbyLeadership

Adrienne Kirby, PhD

President/CEO, Cooper University Health Care

As the leader of Cooper University Health Care, Adrienne Kirby oversees the 600-bed hospital, 100 outpatient locations and 500-member physician organization that serves more than half a million patients a year. It’s an enormous job packed with responsibility and power. But for Kirby, who started her career as a nurse, it is an opportunity to do good, impactful work.

“I always connect back to my career as a nurse. I know what it feels like to take care of patients, to be a patient and to be a family member of a patient,” she says. “I see my job as an obligation to help others who are doing this important work. With that comes great fulfillment knowing how our work affects others.”

Kirby joined Cooper in 2012 as COO and became president/CEO the next year. During her tenure, she has built an executive leadership team, overseen the opening of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper and led a reorganization of the hospital’s model of care.

“You could say I’m ambitious, but I’m ambitious for the people who work here and the people who seek care here.”

“To be successful, you must have a desire to be the best, to be first, to excel and surpass expectations,” Kirby says. “But you also have to be true to who you are. You can’t pretend to be something you’re not – people sniff that right out. You want to be able to make everything better simply because you touched it.”

 

 

 

WOE-Kasey-Hall-MassaInspiration

Kasey Hall-Massa

Founder, Camp No Worries

When Kasey Hall-Massa was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 11, it was May, and she had just started dreaming about what she’d be doing on summer vacation. But suddenly all her plans were turned upside down, and her summer was filled with doctor appointments, surgery and losing her hair. That feeling of a lost childhood summer has always stayed with her.

“It all changed so very quickly. I remember being told everything I couldn’t do,” she says. “I remember feeling angry, scared and very isolated from my friends as they began looking forward to their summer.”

So as a freshman in college – long after surviving her cancer – Hall-Massa decided to start a summer camp for kids with cancer. She spoke to rotaries and churches and anyone she could find to raise money to start her camp. She teamed with the YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties, and in its first year, Camp No Worries hosted 14 children diagnosed with cancer for four nights of summer fun. Now in its 22nd year, Camp No Worries brings 100 children with cancer, their siblings and also bereaved siblings to Tabernacle for one full week. There is no charge to campers, and all staff are volunteers.

“Some of our volunteers are adults who are former campers, and when parents of our campers now see that, you can see the weight lifted off their shoulders. They see adults who have lived through everything they are going through. It’s just a good thing for them to see.”

“Camp is a place for kids to come and be kids,” adds Hall-Massa, “and really have a week of no worries.”

 

 

 

 

WOE-Eileen-UngerBusiness Excellence

Eileen Unger

President, Emergency Preparedness Partnerships

Unlike many people facing a layoff, Eileen Unger saw an opportunity. Working as an engineer who was about to be phased out of a position at a utility subsidiary, Unger realized what she needed to do: Start her own company.

That was 15 years ago, and since then, Unger has established herself as a leader in emergency preparedness. Her business works with utility companies across the country to prepare strategies for emergency management. She’s clearly broken a glass ceiling, coming out on top of a male-dominated industry.

“Honestly, that isn’t something I normally think about,” she says. “I’ve always worked in a male-dominated industry, and sometimes people would try to push your buttons, but I’ve always tried to use humor to deal with that or just ignore it. I don’t let it bother me.”

Unger takes special pride in the relationships she has formed with her clients, saying one key to her success is her company’s knowledge of the industry it advises. Many of Unger’s employees have had long careers in the utility industry. “When we started the business, we wanted a name that reflected what we did. We picked ‘partnerships’ very purposefully. We want our clients to know we are an extension of them. We’ve always tried to help them do their job better.”

The company president says it’s essential to be “comfortable in your own skin” to reach any level of success. “No matter what’s going on – and there will always be ups and downs – know who you are and push through.”

 

 

 


 

How honorees were selected: Over the past few months, hundreds of readers nominated women they knew who were making a remarkable difference in their community, workplace or family. Seven prestigious judges reviewed the nominations and selected six women who exemplify just what it means to be excellent.

 

Photography by David Michael Howarth • Shot on location at Collingswood Grand Ballroom

Evening Gowns provided by Jan’s Boutique in Cherry Hill • Styling by Sarah Gleeson

 

Hair for Adrienne Kirby by Tiffani Dougherty, for Eileen Unger by Stephanie Luciotti, both of (thriv.) salon and spa in Cherry Hill

Hair for Kriste Lindenmeyer by Amanda Faia, for Kasey Hall-Massa by Frank Senteneri, both of Rizzieri Salon and Spa in Moorestown

Makeup for Eileen Unger, Adrienne Kirby and Riletta Cream by Dana DeMarco of (thriv.) salon and spa in Cherry Hill

Makeup for Kate Gibbs, Kriste Lindenmeyer and Kasey Hall-Massa by Maria Rich of Rizzieri Salon and Spa in Moorestown

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