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Women of Excellence
Honoring the passion, dedication and action of six South Jersey women
By Kate Morgan

Game Changer
Kimberly Reed
Founder, Reed Development Group  

When Kimberly Reed started her first job right out of college, she quickly noticed something was missing. 

“I looked around the PricewaterhouseCoopers office and thought, ‘Wow, there’s not a lot of people who look like me. Why?’” She came up with a plan to increase diversity in the company’s tech division. Soon Reed was being noticed, and other Fortune 500 companies – Campbell’s Soup, Merrill Lynch, and Deloitte – were calling. 

Though Reed had planned to become an international corporate attorney – “I thought I’d utilize my language skills, change the world and be an advocate for people,” she says – she went on to do precisely that, just not in the legal field. 

Today, Reed is the managing partner of the Reed Development Group. She’s a regular lecturer at The Wharton School, Villanova, Temple and Howard Universities, thanks to her unmatched experience working with major companies to understand how important diversity is to their success. 

Reed calls what she does to ensure women and people of color have seats at the corporate table and in the C- and E-suites at influential companies nothing short of revolutionary.  

“Diversity is not about gender and race,” she says. “It’s not about hiring a person. This is about transforming a culture. It’s ensuring that companies create new services, new products and new innovations through diversity to stay relevant and stay competitive.”  

Reed faced her biggest hurdle in 2012, when her mother and grandmother died within three months of each other. Soon after, Reed herself was diagnosed with cancer. A survivor of more than five years, she’s carrying on her mother’s legacy of mentorship by mentoring more than 100 young people.  

“Sometimes you have to go through the unthinkable to make you unstoppable,” Reed says. “And that’s how I feel right now.” 

 

Lifetime Legacy
Anne Sceia Klein
Founder, Anne Klein Communications Group  

It took Anne Sceia Klein nearly 50 years to realize she’d made history. 

“I was one of 12 women admitted to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in 1960,” says Klein.  

“Unbeknownst to us, we were part of what became one of the largest cultural and economic revolutions in American history.” 

Klein recently published a book, “On the Cusp: The Women of Penn 64,” featuring the stories of the alumnae in their own words, including her experience as a trailblazer.  

“I wanted to major in corporate finance. The head of the department said, ‘No woman will ever major in corporate finance as long as I’m the department chair.’ I knew what I wanted to do, but the world was not ready for women yet.” 

After earning her degree in marketing that year, she had trouble finding a job. Recruiters came to campus, she remembers, distributing flyers that said, “Men Only.” Never one to be discouraged, she enrolled at UPenn’s Annenberg School for Communication and completed a master’s degree.  

Klein was introduced to the type of public relations work that would shape her career on her first day at Sun Oil Company, when she had to deal with a crisis involving gas explosions.  

“I think I probably invented crisis communications planning,” she says. “That first day, none of the suits knew what they should be doing or saying. Later, after the Three Mile Island event occurred, I went to a crisis communications seminar taught by an attorney.  

I came back and wrote a plan, considering every possibility and planning everything down to the vehicles we’d use and who would be speaking.”  

Since founding Anne Klein Communications Group in 1982, Klein and her firm have received numerous awards and honors, including induction into both the Philadelphia Public Relations Association Hall of Fame and the Rowan University PR Hall of Fame.  

Klein’s legacy, she says, lives in the dozens of young people whose educations and careers she was able to propel over the years.  

“I never said no to anybody who asked me for help,” she says. “That, to me, is my greatest achievement.” 

 

Inspiration
Melinda Kane
Cherry Hill Councilwoman/Gold Star Mother  

Melinda Kane still hesitates when she hears a knock at her door. 

In 2010, Kane opened her front door to discover her 22-year-old son, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jeremy Kane, had been killed in Afghanistan while preventing a suicide bomber from entering the place where the men in his unit were eating.  

Just 18 months prior, Kane had lost her husband and Jeremy’s father, Bruce, to cancer. 

“I can’t even describe the feelings of that time,” says Kane. “Society makes you put on a mask of pretending everything will be ok, but I was not ok.”  

Kane found solace at Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), and soon became a peer mentor, providing support and hope to those whose losses are more recent.   

Kane also became a Cherry Hill Councilwoman and began working with state legislators to give Gold Star families more access to a range of services, from behavioral health and healthcare to employment and education. Her work has changed the law in New Jersey to provide educational benefits to the siblings of fallen service members and to give them recognition as surviving family. 

“There are wonderful scholarships available for spouses and children of the fallen, but there was nothing for siblings. My sons [Daniel, 28 and Benjamin, 25] were out of college, but there was nothing that acknowledged the loss they had experienced.”  

“The fact that I can go to work on a daily basis and talk freely about my husband and son, that I can just be myself, is incredibly rewarding,” she says. “I feel very fulfilled and very lucky to have my sons to keep me balanced, enjoying my life and feeling very blessed. I’m the luckiest unlucky person in the world.”  

 

Business Excellence 
Brenda Bacon
President/CEO, Brandywine Living  

Where some people see obstacles, Brenda Bacon only sees opportunities. 

“If there was a door closed, I kicked it open,” says Bacon. “I’ve always been a big believer that you can do amazing things to change people’s lives when you take control of the agenda, plan and creativity.”  

When Bacon founded Brandywine Living more than two decades ago, she harnessed that energy and created a business that would transform families and the entire senior living industry. Today, the company is more than 2,500 people strong, with 29 communities in six states. 

“I wanted to build a company where I could surround myself with smart, compassionate, driven people. We raised $65 million of private equity money,” says Bacon.  

“My eye is always on what I ultimately want to get to, and I get a great deal of pleasure out of new ideas. It’s not a job for me – it’s a passion and a calling.” 

That business acumen has earned Bacon a seat on a number of high-profile boards of directors, including FTI Consulting, Argentum, Rowan University and Hilton Grand Vacations. 

In the 1990s, Bacon served as the chief of management and planning under Gov. Jim Florio, where she used her role to champion healthcare and welfare reform in New Jersey. She was then tapped to join the Department of Health and Human Services transition team for then-incoming President Bill Clinton, where her reform at the state level became the model for future national reform. 

“I desperately believe that access to quality education and healthcare is the key to the quality of one’s life,” says Bacon. “They define every person’s ability to take advantage of opportunities.” 

 

Women to Watch 
Jinhee Lee
Founder, Our Fairy Godmother 

Jinhee Lee’s prom dress collection has steadily taken over her mother’s house – at last count, there were 764 dresses filling the entire basement and two rooms upstairs. 

The dresses are the inventory of “Our Fairy Godmother,” the nonprofit Lee founded in 2012, when she was a senior at Cinnaminson High School. That year, she couldn’t afford to buy a prom dress. 

“I didn’t want another girl to feel like she couldn’t go to prom because of her financial circumstances. At that age, what can you do? Work two jobs just so you can go to prom? Not really,” she says. “By collecting dresses, I knew I could provide opportunities for others.” 

Lee wrote to 25 South Jersey high schools, asking students to donate lightly used prom dresses, which she then sold for $10-$20 each during an event at her former high school.  

“By my sophomore year at Rutgers University, I was emailing and calling 100 schools and 50 different fraternities and sororities,” she says. “We had events all over the state.” 

The girls browsing through racks of dresses at the annual shopping event are treated like customers at an upscale boutique, says Lee. “We also have music playing, food, perfume and makeup that’s been donated.” 

Lee spends her workdays raising funds for life-saving cancer research as the assistant director of development at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health, but she’s still managed to take her organization global, and she’s helping other girls start their own dress drives.  

“I created an umbrella organization called Post Script – I picked that name because I thought youth are often forgotten as people who can make a big impact – to empower other girls to start their own dress drives,” she says. “I hope that somebody younger can come in and spearhead this and be excited and feel empowered to make it better and bigger. Then I’ll get to sit back and be like, ‘My work here is done.’” 

 

Leadership
Kristi Howell
President/CEO, Burlington County Regional Chamber of Commerce  

Kristi Howell has done her job so well that it spurred a name change.  

Four years ago, the Burlington County Chamber of Commerce rebranded – adding “Regional” to its name – to better reflect how the organization has thrived under Howell’s leadership. 

“We had to look beyond our borders and make it known that the chamber was open to any business in the region,” says Howell, who is the second president and CEO in the history of the chamber. 

She’s spent the last 16 years promoting a healthy economic climate in South Jersey by connecting thousands of businesses and employees with opportunities to network, learn and grow. She’s also driven the development of more than 60 annual events and innovative programming, like the Women’s Business Conference and South Jersey’s Healthcare Forum. 

Howell got a crash course in leadership in the office of former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, where she learned to roll with the punches and think on her feet before taking the reins at the chamber. 

“I knew the chamber hired me because they wanted change,” Howell says. “They wanted something new and different and fresh.” 

She’s more than delivered on that mission by establishing a partnership with Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and building bridges between the BCRCC and the public school system. 

“We’re the first organization I know of in our region to really open the door between business and K-12 education,” says Howell. “It’s an important part of shaping the future of business.” 

Howell’s work is focused not just on the businesses of the region, but also on the people she impacts and serves every day. 

“People like to do business with people they trust,” she says. “I’ve worked to build events and opportunities for people to get to know each other on a different, deeper level. You could go to any bank on the corner to get a loan, but what you really want is someone who’s going to have your back. That’s why I make those business connections for our members that really matter, that really make a difference.”

 


Special Thanks to Our Women of Excellence Selection Committee 

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 or workplace. Seven prestigious judges reviewed the nominations and selected six women who exemplify what it means to be excellent. 

Photography by David Michael Howarth 

Shot on location at Lucien’s Manor in Berlin 

Evening gowns provided by Jan’s Boutique in Cherry Hill 

Styling by Sarah Gleeson 

Hair for Jinhee Lee by Tiffany Doughtery, for Melinda Kane by Robert Wilgus and for Kristi Howell by Christian Kim, all of (thriv.) salon and spa in Cherry Hill 

Makeup for Jinhee Lee, Melinda Kane, Kimberly Reed and Kristi Howell by Jacky Mamie of (thriv.) salon and spa in Cherry Hill

May 2018
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