AWA hosts annual banquet, awards scholarships

AWA President Eileen Kuo, at left, and AWA honoree Claudia Haltom celebrate at the organization’s annual banquet. Photo by Nate Till.

AWA President Eileen Kuo, at left, and AWA honoree Claudia Haltom celebrate at the organization’s annual banquet. Photo by Nate Till.

A change of venue was a popular decision for about 150 legal professionals who attended the Association for Women Attorneys (AWA) annual banquet Feb. 7. The event was moved to a downtown address this year, 409 S. Main St., Memphis.

The new space, with an eclectic mix of exposed brick and contemporary, multi-level design, provided a fresh perspective on an event with a 38-year history. AWA banquet co-chairs were attorneys Megan E. Warden of Memphis (Shea Moskovitz & McGhee) and Jenna Hoffman McDonald of Memphis (Hoffman Law and Mediation Office).

The incoming president’s platform, “Power is Female,” set the tone for an evening of empowerment.

“I think good things happen when we all feel empowered to advocate for ourselves and each other with the same vigor and confidence with which we advocate for our clients,” said 2018 AWA President Eileen Kuo of Cordova, a management-side labor and employment attorney at Jackson Lewis P.C.

“The opposite of courage is not fear – it’s silence. My wish for us all this coming year is that we will have the courage to call out injustice when we see it and advocate for those who need a voice, and to persist in speaking our mind even when we are being silenced.”

2017 AWA President Diana Comes of Memphis reported on the progress made during her tenure, which included a 23 percent increase in membership. During her administration, the organization offered five Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminars, paired 20 law students with mentors as part of a student mentorship program with the University of Memphis and raised funds during the organization’s annual Mary Wolff Memorial Golf Tournament, which enabled donations of $1,000 each to the Universal Parenting Place and the Forrest Spence Fund, as well as $3,000 in contributions toward law student scholarships.

Claudia Haltom, a former Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court judicial magistrate and the current CEO of A Step Ahead Foundation, was this year’s Marion Griffin-Frances Loring honoree. She echoed the evening’s theme by championing her organization’s motto, “Graduate First.” A Step Ahead seeks to open doors to a brighter future for young women through effective methods of long-acting, reversible birth control.

She outlined how prevention can heal social ills by lowering rates of abortion, teen pregnancy, delinquency, poverty and crime. And, in turn, pregnancy prevention increases income and improves educational outcome.

“Young women who are pregnant in high school have a 2 percent chance of obtaining a college degree by the age of 30,” Haltom said, quoting statistics from the Brookings Institute.

Huge strides have already been made, as teen pregnancy has dropped 38.8 percent in Shelby County since 2011, she said.

She closed by noting that women move toward prosperity through family planning and education. She also thanked AWA for its network of support and formally inducted the AWA 2018 board members and committee chairpersons.

Board members and committee chairs include:

  • President: Eileen Kuo of Cordova
  • Immediate Past President: Diana Comes of Memphis
  • President-Elect: Laura Deakins of Memphis
  • Vice-President: Megan E. Warden of Memphis
  • Treasurer: Anita Lotz of Memphis
  • Secretary: Taylor Oyaas of Memphis
  • Historian: The Hon. Karen Williams of Memphis
  • Board Member At-Large: Laurie Christensen of Drummonds (Atoka-Tipton County)
  • Annual Banquet Co-Chairs: Megan E. Warden and Jenna Hoffman McDonald, both of Memphis
  • Marketing/Social Media Chair: Abbey Hall of Brentwood
  • Scholarship Committee Chair: Frances M. Riley of Memphis
  • Membership Co-Chairs: Amy Strickland and Kirkland Bible, both of Memphis
  • Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Co-Chairs: Amy Mulroy and Jodi Runger, both of Memphis
  • Professional Mentoring Program Chair: Stephanie Tasch of Memphis
  • Judicial Reception Chair: Ami Dave of Memphis
  • Golf Tournament Co-Chairs: Mary Morgan Whitfield of Memphis and Jessica Thomas of Germantown
  • Community Outreach Chair: The Hon. Claudia Haltom of Memphis
  • TBA Young Lawyer’s Division Representative: Holly Stanford of Memphis
  • MBA Representative: LaQuita Stokes of Memphis
  • Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women (TLAW) Representative: Olivia Garber of Memphis
  • Community Legal Center (CLC) Representative: April Bostick of Memphis
  • Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. (MALS) Representative: Keating Lowery of Memphis
  • Judicial Liaison: The Hon. Valerie Smith of Memphis
  • AWA Professional Liaison to the Law School Chapter: Elizabeth Rudolph of Memphis
  • AWA Student Chapter Liaisons: Noor Obaji of Germantown, president of the student chapter, and Kara Bidstrup of Memphis, student liaison
  • AWA Executive Director: Linda Schultz of Bartlett

Also during the evening, the AWA awarded $6,000 in total scholarships to deserving University of Memphis law students, all of Memphis. Recipients included Karlyn C. Washington, the Judge Rita Stotts Memorial Scholarship of $2,000; Whitney Snow, the Susan Clark Scholarship of $2,000; Tiffany “Page” Smith, the AWA Scholarship of $1,000; and Victoria D. Cooper, the AWA Scholarship of $1,000. Washington is a returning recipient. The AWA scholarship chair is attorney Frances M. Riley.

For more information about the AWA, visit facebook.com/MemphisAWA.