2017 Trailblazers celebration focuses on leaders in labor and business

by | Mar 26, 2017

Six remarkable women were honored at this year's event coinciding with National Women's History Month.
Trailblazers Awardees 2017

This year’s Trailblazers ceremony at the University of Missouri–St. Louis focused on the theme “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.” The honorees (from left) were Ann Ross, Lois Pierce, Audrey Katcher, Julie Hiblovic, Linda Brown Reed and Ellen Vehige. (Photo by August Jennewein)

For more than two decades, the University of Missouri–St. Louis Trailblazers ceremony has honored, celebrated and uplifted the achievements of exceptional women who have paved the way for others both on campus and throughout the entire St. Louis region.

Working under the theme “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business” and coinciding with National Women’s History Month, this year’s ceremony was no exception.

The event took place on March 22 in the Millennium Student Center and featured six remarkable awardees, along with an inspiring address from special guest speaker Joan Suarez.

Suarez, who is currently board chair and co-founder of Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates as well as the executive director for Bread and Roses Missouri, has worked steadfastly as a labor and community organizer in both Texas and Missouri since the early ’60s.  She was introduced by Mistress of Ceremonies and Clayco Senior Vice President Sandra Marks.

This year’s list of honorees included three outstanding alumni, one exceptionally devoted faculty member, a pioneering local business woman and one trailblazing current UMSL student.

Linda Brown Reed

A practicing attorney in the St. Louis area for more than 30 years, alumna Brown Reed was one of the earliest female UMSL undergrads to earn a law degree. Among many other accomplishments, she is currently the president of the African American Chapter of the Alumni Association and a member of the Alumni Association Governing Board, UMSL’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration committee and the Chancellor’s Cultural Diversity Council. Reed was also appointed to the Missouri State Council on the Arts where she serves on the board of directors and the Trust Council. She is an active member of the board of St. Louis Cinema and serves on the Parish Council at her church.

Julie Hiblovic

Hiblovic, who graduated summa cum laude with her BSBA in accounting from UMSL in 1995, is a CPA and Audit Partner at Anders CPAs + Advisors. Recognized with UMSL’s Salute to Business Achievement Award for her outstanding volunteerism in 2016, Hiblovic also serves on the UMSL Accounting Advisory Board. Small Business Monthly named Hiblovic one of the “Top 100 St. Louisans to Know to Succeed in Business” in 2013 and a “Top Accountant” in 2015. She is an active member of the Professional Women’s Alliance and is also one of the leaders of the Anders Women’s Initiative.

Audrey Katcher

UMSL accounting alumna Katcher is a partner in RubinBrown’s Business Advisory Services Group and a leading national contributor on national cybersecurity risk management and internal controls. Katcher is a certified public accountant, certified information systems auditor and certified information technology professional. She currently serves on the AICPA Board of Examiners, the Missouri Society of CPAs Board, the AICPA Trust Information Integrity Task Force, the St. Louis Symphony Corporate Partners Steering Committee and the St. Louis Club House Committee.

Lois Pierce

Pierce joined the Department of Social Work at UMSL in 1980. Since then, she has been instrumental in helping transform the department into a full-fledged School of Social Work complete with a master’s degree option. She became director of the school and, more recently, the founding dean of a free-standing School of Social Work. Active on the UMSL campus as well at the UM System level in countless ways throughout the years, Pierce was recently one of the recipients of the UM System President’s Award for Inter-Campus Collaboration for her work with the MU social work program. She has published more than 30 academic articles and book chapters over the span of her career and has been awarded more than $7 million in grants and contracts used to support programs and research related to social work and social work education.

Ann Ross

Ross started and ran three Paper Warehouse party supply stores for 21 years as well as her own namesake company – Ann’s Business Consulting. During that time, she says she had a house full of dogs and kids and lived to tell about it. She previously ran for Missouri state representative, has worked on various volunteer boards, works regularly at a local food pantry, works hard to get “good women” elected and adds that she “hasn’t let the grass grow under her feet since retirement.” She also helps entrepreneurial startups for free and says that she “will help you if you ask.”

Ellen Vehige

Current Pierre Laclede Honors College student Vehige will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a minor in math. A multiple scholarship winner during her time in the UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program, Vehige has participated in several leadership roles throughout her college career. She has served as a civil engineering student representative on the Student Advisory Board, a mentor on the Student Mentor Advisory and Recruitment Team, a peer mentor for the Opportunity Scholars Program and an engineering tutor for the Office of Multicultural Student Services. She’s also a member of the Regional Business Council. Currently, Vehige works as an engineer co-op at Ameren and will become a full-time associate engineer there upon her graduation.

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Jami Hirsch

Jami Hirsch

Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming
Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming

Senior business major Jalen Walker-Wright gets a cup of southwest chili from Vanessa Loyd and Erin Schaeffer during last Thursday’s homecoming Chili Feed.

Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming

Senior business major Jalen Walker-Wright gets a cup of southwest chili from Vanessa Loyd and Erin Schaeffer during last Thursday’s homecoming Chili Feed.

Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming

Senior business major Jalen Walker-Wright gets a cup of southwest chili from Vanessa Loyd and Erin Schaeffer during last Thursday’s homecoming Chili Feed.