PIQUA — The 23rd annual Women of Excellence awards luncheon, presented by the YWCA of Piqua, was held on Thursday at the Piqua Country Club, during which Deb Oexmann, Lorna Swisher, and Cassidy Hemm were honored.
Both Oexmann and Swisher were named 2019 Women of Excellence, and Cassidy Hemm was named the 2019 Young Woman of Tomorrow.
The awards were presented by Women of Excellence Committee member Terry Naas, who shared details about each woman’s life and dedication to their work.
“(Oexmann’s) advice to women today is to do things their own way,” Naas said. “Quoting her: ‘You will get a lot of advice, but you don’t have to take it all; trust yourself and stay true to the path you want to take.’”
Naas said Oexmann childhood days spent at the Smithsonian and spending time with her father in woodlands and waters helped shaped what would become a dedication to the outdoors and wildlife.
Oexmann graduated from Fairmont East High School in Kettering and studied zoology and environmental science at Miami University in Oxford.
After graduating with a master of Biology, Oexmann was hired as a teacher naturalist at Brukner Nature Center in Troy, eventually being appointed director of the center when co-founder and long-time director Joan Heidelberg retired in 1997. In 2006, Oexmann was named executive director.
“Life in the nature center filled with teachable moments with kids, amazing wildlife encounters, and opportunities to travel; I can’t imagine doing anything else, even after 30 years,” Oexmann said.
Oexmann is active in Troy Rotary and volunteers at St. Patrick Soup Kitchen, while also being active in Partners for the Environment. A graduate of Leadership Troy in 1997, she was one of the creators of the Troy Teen Leadership program.
Swisher, originally of Zimbabwe, came to Piqua in 1985 as a Rotary exchange student living with host family Del and Dorie Perry. She attended Edison State Community College and Grove City College in Pennsylvania, earning a degree in communication arts in 1990.
Swisher worked in the public relations department of Upper Valley Medical Center after graduating, followed by five years at WPTW Radio in Piqua. She was hired part-time by Mainstreet Piqua in 1997, eventually going full-time.
“(Swisher) never dreamed a part-time, short-term job with Mainstreet Piqua Organization would become a career she’s loved for more than 20 years,” Naas said.
Swisher was appointed executive director of Mainstreet Piqua and has twice been chosen as Mainstreet Manager of the Year for the state of Ohio. She is the longest standing executive director of a Mainstreet program in Ohio.
“I appreciate being honored for the work I love to do in the community that I love,” Swisher said. “I show up for downtown Piqua every day, whether it’s a day in the office, a special event day, or even the day that we had a tornado warning during the Duck Drop.”
Swisher thanked her husband, daughters, and her mom, Dorie Perry, saying, “(she) knew that I needed to be an American even before I did.”
In her free time, Swisher mentors and volunteers in various capacities.
Hemm, a native of Piqua, attended Piqua Catholic School and Lehman Catholic High School in Sidney. She is currently a senior at Miami University, majoring in strategic communications and public health.
Hemm serves as leadership student coordinator for the Wilks Leadership Institute, developing programming for underclassmen; executive chair of the Miami University Student Foundation, which is the Alumni Association’s student arm; chair of the CASE ASAP district cabinet; serves on the Miami University Honors Student Advisory Board and the Student Faculty Relations Committee; is a member of Alpha Omicron Pi; and served as the logistics chair for the 2018 Charter Day Ball
“Cassidy isn’t afraid to share her leadership skills,” Naas said. “That willingness is evident in her activities as a student at Miami University.”
Hemm is a volunteer for Hospice of Miami County, and completed an internship with CareSource in Dayton, all in addition to her college studies.
“I’m honored today to be considered part of a group of successful women recognized. It is challenging for me to fully express my gratitude for this recognition today because I have had so much support in many aspects of my life,” Hemm said. “Growing up in a close-knit community, it was easy for me to learn from individuals from across the community and find role models in each of my involvements.”
Hemm attributes her drive to “take risks” in getting involved in various ways at Miami University to community, school, and opportunities growing up.
“(One) of the things that has the most impact on me is the value of finding a community and getting yourself involved,” Hemm said. “I’m thankful for my family, and all the friends who are more like family to me, who have really helped me in all aspects of my life to grow as a young leader, and also by supporting me throughout my time at college and as I go forward in my professional career.”
Keynote speaker Jenny Lewis, president and CEO of Miami Valley Hospital Foundation and Good Samaritan Foundation, spoke about the power of “knowing your story” and being vulnerable enough to share it, along with the value of decisions and the effect that each decision has on our lives and the lives of others.
“We all have a story to share,” Lewis said. “And, I promise you, each and every one of us has the opportunity to make an impact.”
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