My mother has been a working professional for as long as I can remember.

I often think of one specific morning in my childhood when I had to stay home from school because I had a fever. I had the house to myself and was a little lonely, and my mom decided to break away from her work and stop in to check on me.

I was so excited to see her, and I remember how proud I was to see her walk in the house in her corporate get-up. She was back in the workforce after taking time off to raise my brother and me, and she was full of confidence. She still works today, and I think that being part of a business has always been a major inspiration to her.

This memory, a tribute to my mom, comes to mind as I seek to identify with the unique challenges that women professionals, such as my wife and many of our readers, face.

We launched the ATHENA® Award program because we saw a need in the Tristate to recognize exceptional businesswomen and those who make a special effort to help women succeed. Each year, we have an accompanying lunch program that continues to beat attendance expectations, booming last year to more than 300 attendees. Obviously, we feel that this program should continue to grow.

The ATHENA finalists recognized this year, like those before them, are at the top of their fields and truly embody the values of the ATHENA Foundation. The finalists were selected from among a very strong pool of nominations. All those who participated in the nomination process this year — our third — agreed that it continues to be very challenging. The quality of the nominees has stretched beyond our imagination.

I would like to formally thank all those who gave their time to serve on our nomination and event committees:

La Donna Altman

Brittany Ballard

Emily Carpenter-Pulskamp

Emily Hamilton

Sue LaChapelle

Diane Planck

Kathy Rambo

Shantel Thomas

Gerry Waits

Jennifer Wolfe

Through my work with this event and my reading of the extraordinary efforts of these women, I feel the same admiration I had when I saw my mother that day many years ago.

As we read and hear about the finalists’ abilities, trials and hard work, we share pride in their accomplishments and, just as we would our family members, root for their future success.