Once again, SJ Magazine gathered 13 prominent women at The Capital Grille in Cherry Hill for an evening of warm conversation and friendly exchange. It’s always fascinating to hear accomplished women share their personal insights and hard-earned wisdom. Take a look at some parts of the evening’s conversations. To watch video clips from the night and read more quotes, visit sjmagazine.net.

Marianne Aleardi
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, SJ?Magazine

Chickie Holcombe
President/CEO, Moorestown Visiting Nurses & Hospice

Tricia Pilone
President, CPI Companies

Michelle Gentek
Camden County Freeholder

Tina Wells
CEO/Founder, Buzz Marketing Group

Rhonda Costello
Executive VP/Chief Retail Officer, Republic Bank

Ginny Marino
CEO, Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey

Lita Abele
President/CEO, U.S. Lumber

Amy Smith
Co-founding Partner, Weinberg, Kaplan & Smith

Phoebe Haddon
Chancellor, Rutgers University-Camden

Colonel Linda Stokes-Crowe
Commander, 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst

Dr. Catherine Piccoli
Breast Imaging Specialist, South Jersey Radiology Associates

Vicki Zell
Board President, Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey

On getting where they are today…


Opening my own practice was a huge leap for me. I was nervous. But our practice has grown; we’re adding people constantly. I’m looking for people like me – a little timid, but go-getters. During my day-to-day life, I’m very quiet, but get me in that courtroom, and all bets are off. One of the judges nicknamed me “The Bitch.” It’s a passion I have. If I don’t fight, then this person isn’t going to get what they need to get.  –  Amy Smith

I am divorced, and I was very young when I got married. I felt I was a nobody. I was a constant volunteer, and I guess people considered me a community activist. So a political group came to me and said, “We would like to talk to you.” The first thing I said was “I’m a nobody. I am not educated, and I don’t speak correctly.” And this man said, “If you were a nobody, you wouldn’t be sitting across from me.” I thought that was the nicest thing anybody could say. It’s two years later, and now I’m going to marry that man who was so kind.  –  Michelle Gentek

I never dreamt I was going to be in the lumber business. My dream was to come to this country, because it’s the land of opportunity. When I got here, I worked hard, and then I met my husband. He is the one who gave me the opportunity to be where I am now. When I got that opportunity I grabbed it and never let go.  –  Lita Abele


I’ve come from a long line of lawyers and educators. Lawyering has been a road for many people – people of color in particular – to social justice. So it was logical for me.  –  Phoebe Haddon

On raising sons…

When my son was 6 years old, I baked cupcakes for his birthday. He walked in and said, “What’s that smell?” I realized that all these years I had been buying him Entenmann’s, so he didn’t know what homemade cupcakes smelled like!  –  Chickie Holcombe


It was really important that I went back to work. I didn’t realize my boys thought moms stayed home and didn’t work. Now they see that women can do anything.  –  Michelle Gentek

I tell my sons they’ve got to encourage girls; it’s their responsibility as their peer to be their champion when they aren’t their own champion. We have to make sure girls know they don’t have to be wallflowers because they suddenly realize there are boys in the room.  –  Ginny Marino

On facing a difficult decision…

_MRP1171About six years ago, I had been working with a bank for about 23 years when we were acquired. One of the great perks the company provided was stock options. I made the decision to leave three-quarters of my retirement on the table to go to what was, in essence, a startup company, which is where I am today. I kept saying, “I can’t do it, I can’t do it,” and finally my husband said, “What’s your happiness worth?” (He’s a fabulous husband.) About three weeks into the job where I am today, he said, “I have to tell you, honey, I haven’t seen you this happy in more than a year.” It was wonderful.  –  Rhonda Costello

I decided to go to graduate school when I had small children. My kids were 3, 5 and 12. I was in graduate school for a long time – 10 years – and my kids did not see me a lot. It was a real challenge, but it was better for us in the end.  –  Linda Stokes-Crowe

My mother had several chronic illnesses, and I decided to support her wish to not seek treatment. One day I went to visit her, and when I walked into the bedroom, I realized she had died. I knew when I made the decision I eventually was going to face losing my mother. I didn’t realize how soon it was going to be.  –  Chickie Holcombe

My mother had Alzheimer’s and lung cancer at the same time when we decided to put her in a transition home. She spent one week in that place and died in her sleep. But two things made me feel better about that decision: One was she spent the week playing Christmas carols on the piano for the people in the home. The second is, I found a notebook at her home, and in that notebook she had written, “My name is Ida Haddon, I live at 18…” She had filled out an entire history, and I realized for the first time how much she struggled to hold on to a semblance of her former self. I’m glad it was a peaceful death.  –  Phoebe Haddon

On their mothers…

_MRP1105In 1996, I worked full-time as the director of a research center in Maryland. My brother was very politically active, someone who made a difference in the world. He died from cancer, and the next year, my mom died. They were the two people in our family who made a difference. My husband wanted to move here for business reasons, so I said to him, “I’ll give up my job, I’ll uproot our kids, but I’m going to volunteer full-time. Because I need to now take on that role.” And that’s what we did. We downsized our lifestyle, so I could give back and carry on my brother’s and mother’s legacy.  –  Vickie Zell

My mother taught me to pay my own way. She said it gives you many more choices in life. She said always keep your own books and have your own opinion.  –  Rhonda Costello

My mom was a housewife, but she wasn’t just an ordinary housewife; she made our clothes, she cooked from scratch, she took care of the house. We had a two-acre garden, and we had chickens, a goat and a horse, and she took care of all this. She was one of nine, and she quit school in seventh grade to become a tailor so she could support her family. From my mother, I learned strength.  –  Tricia Pilone

My mother is 82, and I am nothing like her. For most of my adult life, I really struggled with that – thinking, who am I really? Every day, I felt I wasn’t quite where I was supposed to be. It wasn’t until I got centered in a relationship that I realized it was OK to be me. It took me a long time to do that.  –  Ginny Marino

When my mother married my father, she really met the love of her life, and he left her after 12 years of marriage. So my mother was thrust into the work world. I watched her get up when she had been knocked down, hold her head high and set lofty goals. She managed to keep all these balls up in the air: a house, three children, a job, two master’s degrees. She was always saying, “You make the decision as to what you want to do. I’ll be there to help you, but you need to figure out how to get there. When you set a goal, my expectation is that you will reach it.” After seeing what my mother achieved, there was no way I was going to set a goal and not achieve that goal.  –  Chickie Holcombe

I’m probably just like my mom. My mom is very enterprising. My dad is very encouraging; I joke he’s like living with a life coach. I always say, “If I have a problem, I call Dad to be encouraged and Mom to know what to do.”  –  Tina Wells

On sexism…

I once worked in a very small bank. There was a corporate director who came in every day and walked the entire length of the facility to get his hugs and kisses from all the women. I was the new vice president of retail services, and there he is in my doorway, and he starts to come in for a move, and I stepped back. He got the hint and walked away. This was 1999. They hired a new CFO, and she got in his face, like, “Do not come anywhere near my personal space!” I wasn’t quite that assertive, but he started to back down a little bit.  –  Ginny Marino

Years and years ago, I worked at a bank as a head teller, coming up in my career, and I was supposed to go into the management development program. Then all of a sudden Black Friday hit. We had layoffs, and the program was canceled. About a month later, my boss said, “Rhonda, you’re really interested in getting into the management development program, aren’t you? Well, I’d like to introduce you to our new CEO. I know a way to get you in – it’s only one night out of your life.” It was probably in the early ’80s. The next day I started looking for another job. I was out of there in a month.  –  Rhonda Costello

Going back to 1985, I was in one of my first jobs, and we were determining salary increases. At the meeting, one of the men said, “Well, she doesn’t need an increase because her husband has a great job.” I said, “You need to stop there; that’s not appropriate. You reward her based on her own performance.” He responded appropriately from that point on, but nobody had ever called him out on it before. There hadn’t been a woman’s voice in the room to say that’s not right.  –  Vicki Zell

There’s a man at my club who will come around and put his arm around you and sometimes really around you. The first time it happened to me, it was like, “Oh my God, what is this guy doing here?” And everybody says, “Oh, he’s harmless.” But he’s not really. He’s making me uncomfortable.  –  Catherine Piccoli

I always go to the job site, because I’m in a man’s world. Once I got to the job site, and the manager came down and suddenly he hugged me. I backed off. Wait a minute, this is the first time I experienced this. This was a different kind of hug. I got scared. So after that, when he called me, I gave the call to my salesman. I don’t talk to him and I don’t go to that particular job site anymore.  –  Lita Abele

I came to the military very early on, and much has changed for women. It’s very important for young women to hear about that. We supported the Women Air Service Pilots – we used to help with their reunions, so the young women heard their stories: if they died during service, they paid their own funerals. They paid for their way home, they paid for all of their own things. They were not included in any of the benefits that service members got because they were women. It took a long time for that to change.  –  Linda Stokes-Crowe

On technology…

When I’m with my family, I disconnect. I will not touch my phone. After they go to bed, I’ll look at it again. But I always say to my clients, “I’m not a surgeon, I’m not a doctor, there’s nothing I’m going to be able to fix. If there’s an emergency, call the police.” Once I’ve put my kids to bed, I’ll plug in again. But I need a little time for me to disconnect.  –  Amy Smith

_MRP1088I wrote a marketing book called “Chasing Youth Culture and Getting It Right,” and I had this idea that younger millennials were texting too much. What I actually found was we have a problem with technology – older people, because we haven’t had it our entire life. Think about – do I overindulge in TV? No, because it’s been there my whole life. Younger people know when and how to be present. We take our ability of not being able to disconnect to say they don’t either. But I think they get it. We could learn a lot from them about how to have that balance.  –  Tina Wells

I try on weekends not to pay much attention to technology. I try to cook and do things that are a little more freeing. I don’t get why we have to be so 24/7 – I don’t necessarily think that that’s good for us as humans. I like it better when I connect to someone face-to-face or personally as opposed to an email or the internet. I think you need to balance your life and have time when you can rejuvenate your mind, your brain, your energy.  –  Tricia Pilone

I am somebody whose phone is by my bed at night. It does ping in the middle of the night – I don’t answer it. But if it starts pinging incessantly, then I will look at it. I have found that for me, it’s now part of the rhythm of my day. I don’t find it distracting, I don’t find it energizing, I don’t feel like it’s infringing on anything; it’s just part of how I roll.  –  Ginny Marino

About our location…

Every year, we choose to host our Roundtable at The Capital Grille in Cherry Hill. The first-class restaurant has four private rooms that can hold up to 24 people (and there is no room reservation fee). On weekends, the restaurant is closed to the public for lunch, so you can book a room or the entire restaurant for 30 to 125 people. It’s a great choice for an event or party like a shower, family reunion or business gathering. And as the staff at Capital Grille is quick to point out, you can get the Capital style for lunch pricing when you book a daytime special event. (Lunch prices start at $18 per person.) For SJ Magazine, The Capital Grille has been the perfect choice for our special events – as you can see from the smiling faces in our photos.

May 2015
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2023 Women of Excellence Awards Reception

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