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Powerful Women 2012

Photography by Chach Bursey, Beth Hall, Ashlee Nobel and Janet Warlick

Each March to commemorate Women’s History Month, we honor a group of Arkansas women who excel in their respective fields. From art to business, philanthropy, medical and more, women frequently lead the way and set the example of what true “power” is. It is bravery, determination, compassion and caring for others and the community. 

Here are 12 women — nominated by their peers — who exemplify this and so much more.




Sandra “Sandy” K. Edwards

Deputy Director Museum Relations | Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art


Edwards’ career and personal interests have focused on educational and creative enterprises. Early in her career, she was a major concert promoter, a performing arts presenter and an arts administrator. 

She transitioned to higher education development and became known in northwest Arkansas for her involvement in the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. 

Edwards is part of the team that recently opened Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and serves as deputy director, museum relations. She has a bachelor’s degree from Lenoir Rhyne College in Hickory, N.C., and master’s degree in college student personnel/concert management from Western Illinois University, where she has been honored as a Distinguished Alumni and serves on the College of Fine Arts Advisory Board. She received the 2010 TheatreSquared Arts Advocate Award and has been named an honorary alumna of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Q & A

One Word That Describes You: Grateful. Hobby: Listening to music and attending concerts. Volunteer Work: Promoting equity and education for women and girls through the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Childhood Nickname: Sandy. Hometown: Augusta County, Virginia (Shenandoah Valley). First Job: Producing and promoting rock concerts while attending graduate school. First Big Break: Rather than a big break, I took advantage of serendipity. Who Is Your “SHEro?” I am fortunate to have many, but my late mother, Ruth Evans Keiser, is firmly placed at the top of the list; the way in which she led her life continues to inspire and guide me. What You Love About What You Do: Being a part of the dynamic team that is defining the Crystal Bridges experience. What’s One Fact About You That Others Would Be Surprised To Know? I promoted one of Elvis’ last concerts. As A Child, I Spent Hours … riding horses, camping with the Scouts and reading. Personal Motto: The Golden Rule works every time. What’s Left On Your “Bucket List?” Camping in the National Parks west of the Mississippi; hearing every major American orchestra; and going to the Final Four. 





Beverly Nix

CEO | St. Bernards Healthcare Associated Regional Providers, Inc. (SHARP)


Nix is responsible for the oversight of the day-to-day operations of SHARP; the network provides healthcare for 230,000 people in northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri and has more than 300 physicians and providers. Prior to joining this organization, she served as the first female partner to be named to Stuck Associates, an architectural firm in Jonesboro. 

Nix has a bachelor’s degree in accounting; a master’s degree in healthcare administration and completed the Kellogg Executive Development Program. She has received a number of awards, including the Women Mean Business Management Award and an American Red Cross Service Award. She is a member of the Arkansas State University Legacy Society; served as chairman for the American Cancer Society’s Daffodil Ball; and has been named the Jonesboro Business and Professional Woman of the Year twice.

Q & A

One Word That Describes You: Strong. Hobby: Horseback riding. Volunteer Work: St. Bernards Healthcare; Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce; American Red Cross; Arkansas State University (ASU) — Chancellors Cabinet; the Bill and Alice Nix Petting Zoo; Foundation of Arts; Jonesboro Vision 2030; Metropolitan Area Planning Commission; and Jonesboro Auditorium Commission. Childhood Nickname: Bev. Hometown: Ash Flat, Arkansas. First Job: Carrying tickets at our livestock auction in Ash Flat. First Big Break: Upon graduation from ASU, I was hired at the Stuck Associates, an architectural firm. Who Is Your “SHEro?” My mother, of course, Alice Nix and two mentors: Nancy Orr and Nancy Chrisman. All three are women who provided inspiration, help whenever asked and set the example that you can do anything you set your mind to do. What You Love About What You Do: We help people. Our role is to assist those who are providing healthcare and wellness to our community in a Christ-like manner. Very few things are more important than that. What’s One Fact About You That Others Would Be Surprised To Know? I am a past Miss Arkansas 4-H Horse Show Queen. As A Child, I Spent Hours … riding horses and playing basketball. Personal Motto: Take great care of what you are responsible for, and always be friendly. What’s Left On Your “Bucket List?” Visit Alaska and Paris and to go to the World Cutting Horse Finals. 




Marta Gwyn CollierEducation

Marta Gwyn Collier

Education Outreach Coordinator | Arkansas ASSET Initiative


Collier serves with the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority (ASTA) in Little Rock, Ark., and is a Workforce Development Education doctoral candidate at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (UAF). She is researching core competencies for 21st-century STEM workers. Collier also earned a bachelor’s degree from Tougaloo College and a master’s degree from Ohio State University. 

Prior to joining ASTA, Collier held several positions at UAF including program administrator for the National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transition; program coordinator for Undergraduate Human Resource Development Center; and training coordinator and fundraising specialist for University Development Information Services. 

She is a member of a number of organizations including the Business and Professional Women of Arkansas; Fayetteville Forward Economic Accountability Council; and the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts.

Q & A

One Word That Describes You: GetErDone! Hobby: Social networking and writing poetry and prose. Volunteer Work: Community empowerment; economic development; education/fundraising; alumni relations and whatever else seems interesting. Childhood Nickname: Winnie the Pooh Bear. Hometown: Fayetteville, Ark., but I was born in Savannah, Georgia. First Job: Entrepreneur (crazy story attached to that one but simply put, I was in sales). First Big Break: Dave Gearhart and Sandy Edwards gave me a chance to work in various aspects of Alumni Relations and University Advancement during my summers home from college. I loved working with that amazing group of passionate fundraisers who were determined to prove the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville could raise a billion dollars to support education in our state. Who Is Your “SHEro?” My mom, hands down. She is the single most amazing woman who walks planet Earth! What You Love About What You Do: I love figuring out how to do new things and help people, the more challenging an issue the more fun it is for me. What’s One Fact About You That Others Would Be Surprised To Know? I LOVE hard rock. As A Child, I Spent Hours …reading everything I could get my hands on from Jane Austen to abnormal obstetrics journal articles. Personal Motto: 3LH — Learn, laugh and live hard.




Tobi Wells FairleyEntrepreneur

Tobi Wells Fairley

Interior Designer / Owner | Tobi Fairley Interior Design


Fairley earned degrees in interior design and accounting and a master’s degree from the Sam M. Walton College of Business. She established her interior design firm 10 years ago and has won awards for her designs for high-profile individuals and celebrity clients. Her work has been featured on HGTV and in local and national publications, such as House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Better Homes and Gardens and Southern Living. 

Fairley’s blog is read by design enthusiasts in 124 countries and was named a favorite on HGTV.com. She is a featured columnist in this magazine and is a regular contributor to William Sonoma’s Designer Marketplace.

In 2010, Fairley, a sought-after speaker and owner of a new consulting group for design businesses, launched a do-it-yourself design service called InBox Interior and began conducting her popular design camps. Last year, she also debuted her collection of home furnishings, Tobi Fairley Home, as a part of Hickory Chair’s Centennial Furniture Collection; the collection includes fabrics, pillows and lighting.

Q & A

One Word That Describes You: Driven. Hobby: My job is my hobby, the two are hard to separate. Though I went on my first flyfishing excursion, and am sort of hooked! Volunteer Work:  Charities including Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation; Arkansas Repertory Theater; St. Vincent Hospital’s IV party; and am a sustainer of the Junior League of Little Rock. Right now, focusing my volunteering at my daughter’s school, Pulaski Academy. Hometown: Sheridan, Arkansas. First Job: Teaching aerobics at the rec center in Sheridan and babysitting. First Big Break: Being featured in Traditional Home Magazine, my first major national exposure. Who Is Your “SHEro?” Definitely my mom! She is my hero, best friend and still keeps me in line on occasion when needed! What You Love About What You Do: I love solving people’s problems and improving clients’ quality of life. What’s One Fact About You That Others Would Be Surprised To Know? I know almost every single line from “Steel Magnolias.” As A Child, I Spent Hours …writing. I filled many notebooks writing and practicing my penmanship. Personal Motto: One favorite is from Oprah Winfrey: “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” What’s Left On Your “Bucket List?” Owning an apartment in New York City as a second home. Arkansas will always be my first!





Adjoa A. Aiyetoro

Director / Associate Professor of Law | University of Arkansas at Little Rock Institute on Race and Ethnicity / University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law


Aiyetoro launched her legal career as an attorney with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division in the Special Litigation Section; she later joined the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project. She is a lifetime member of the National Conference of Black Lawyers and as a part of her work with the organization served as attorney for several high-profile activists including Geronimo Jija (Pratt). 

Aiyetoro also represented the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom at the World Conference Against Racism; at the Hague Appeal for Peace; and coordinated the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s delegation to the United Nations’ Conference on Women in Beijing. 

She is a member of the Arkansas Civil Liberties Union Legal Committee and serves as a board member for the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Q & A

One Word That Describes You: Authentic. Hobby: Reading. Volunteer Work: Working with students interested in law school. Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri. First Job: After M.S.W., Malcolm Bliss Community Mental Health Center; After J.D., United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section. First Big Break: After M.S.W., getting assigned to community based program; after J.D., obtaining job with the U.S. Department of Justice. Who Is Your “SHEro?” Harriet Tubman and Ida B. Wells-Barnett. What You Love About What You Do: At the Institute, I love creating projects and working with others in the university and the community for racial and ethnic justice. In the law school, I love working with students who are willing to embrace ideas that may be foreign to them about race, ethnicity and the law’s effect on race and ethnicity. What’s One Fact About You That Others Would Be Surprised To Know? During college, students insistent on everyone having a nickname,  gave me the nickname “Candy.” As A Child, I Spent Hours …reading. Personal Motto: Strive for excellence. What’s Left On Your “Bucket List?”   Trip to West Africa, particularly Ghana and Senegal and a trip around the world by ship.




Martine Downs PollardMedia

Martine Downs Pollard

Executive Director of Communications and Community Integration | Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas


Pollard earned a degree in English from the University of Central Arkansas. Prior to joining Mercy, she served as senior vice president of Government Affairs for the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce, when she lobbied and advocated for the chamber and the northwest Arkansas area. 

Pollard previously worked in sales for Marriott Hotels and was director of corporate sales for the Arkansas Trucking Association. She later transitioned into government affairs by serving in the Mayor’s Office in Conway, Arkansas. Before moving to northwest Arkansas, she worked for U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor as a congressional staffer, overseeing special projects and appropriations for the state. 

Pollard is an alumna of the Leadership Arkansas, Class II and is part of the Leadership Benton County Class 10. She was named to the “40 Under 40” listing by the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal in 2010 and a “Young Gun” by Talk Business Quarterly.

Q & A

One Word That Describes You: Advocate. Hobby: As a mother, wife and community advocate there isn’t a lot of time for hobbies, but when I have time, we love to travel, enjoy local art and music. Volunteer Work: Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families; Northwest Arkansas Emerging Leaders Advisory Board; and Team Mercy Outreach. Hometown: Little Rock by way of the “big pond’; Born in Germany and spent childhood in Southampton England. First Job: I was a server at TCBY. First Big Break: Working for U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor is an opportunity I will forever be thankful for. The experience I gained, meeting so many wonderful Arkansans and traveling the state was unbelievably enriching and offered a unique perspective that gave me a new level of insight and confidence. Who Is Your “SHEro?” I have several women who have been great influences and mentors in my life, but I have two: my mother Norma Downs and my Gran Denise Boyd. What You Love About What You Do: I have the opportunity to represent an organization that not only provides healthcare to our community but is a partner within our region in continuing to improve the quality of life for all who live here. What’s One Fact About You That Others Would Be Surprised To Know? I danced on stage with Prince at one of his concerts in Little Rock. As A Child, I Spent Hours …playing outside.




Melody Trimble


Melody Trimble

CEO | Sparks Health System


Trimble joined Sparks Health System in December 2009 as chief executive officer. Prior to taking her position at Sparks, she had served as CEO at Venice Regional Medical Center in Venice, Fla., for nearly five years. She has been with Health Management since June of 1991, serving at multiple hospitals in roles from clinical director of emergency services to chief nursing officer to chief operating officer.

In 2010, she was awarded CEO of the Year by Health Management Associates. In 2011, she received Health Management’s prestigious President’s Leadership Award.

Trimble currently represents the Arkansas Valley District for the Arkansas Hospital Association Board of Directors. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Donald W. Reynolds Cancer Support House. She and her husband, Mike, have two daughters Mary, an emergency room nurse at Sparks, and Michaela, a student at the University of Florida.

Q & A

One Word That Describes You: Passionate. Hobby: Sewing/quilting, reading and playing with grandchildren. Volunteer Work: Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; my church; Noble Cause Board of Executives; American Hospital Association Board of Directors; and Reynolds Cancer Support House Board of Directors. Childhood Nickname: Kate and Sugar Babe. Hometown: Radcliff, Kentucky. First Job: McDonalds, customer service — I cleaned the lobby. First Big Break: I was afforded a college education … it all started there. Who Is Your “SHEro?” My mom — she exhibits perseverance, love and commitment. What You Love About What You Do: I make a difference every day. What’s One Fact About You That Others Would Be Surprised To Know? My four brothers and I had an odd-job service — we worked on cars, mowed lawns, babysat and planted gardens. As A Child, I Spent Hours …working and playing with my brothers, running around the countryside. Personal Motto: Give God all the glory — and never forget your family. What’s Left On Your “Bucket List?” Go to Alaska. 





Marge Wolf

President / CEO | Northwest Arkansas Food Bank


Marge Wolf has been serving the people of northwest Arkansas her entire professional career. She began in 1988 as president/CEO of the Rogers-Lowell United Way, where she served for 13 years. Her next endeavor landed her as president/CEO of Main Street Rogers where she stayed more than seven years, before taking up her current position in 2008 as president/CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank. 

In addition to her professional achievements, Wolf also served as a justice of the peace on the Quorum Court for five terms. Her passion has always lied in promoting her community. Wolf currently serves on the Rogers City Council; as president of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance; and is a member of the Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce Government Relations Board. She has served on many national, state and non-profit boards, and in 2006, she served as president of the Rogers Noon Rotary Club. She has a son Eric Wolf, a daughter Nanette Barnes and son-in-law William Barnes. After 38 years of marriage, her husband Russ passed away in 2001.

Q & A

One Word That Describes You: Determined. Hobby: Golf, reading and politics. Childhood Nickname: Margie.  Hometown: Rogers, Ark., but I grew up in Bettendorf, Iowa. First Job: Ice cream parlor in high school, but my first fulltime position was with the Rock Island Arsenal Procurement Division, U.S. Government. First Big Break: I don’t think there was any one thing, it is all of the wonderful things that continue to come to me in life. Who Is Your “SHEro?” My daughter Nanette — no one has to remind her of who she is or what she stands for … she knows. What You Love About What You Do: Improving the lives of people in need; knowing no matter what else may have happened in my day that I’ve helped someone! What’s One Fact About You That Others Would Be Surprised To Know? I ran track in high school. As A Child, I Spent Hours …watching baseball. Personal Motto: Stay true to yourself! What’s Left On Your “Bucket List?” Too many things to mention … it’s a deep bucket!




Judy Kohn Tenenbaum


Judy Kohn Tenenbaum

Co-founder | Argenta Community Theater


Judy Kohn Tenenbaum has been raising the bar for philanthropy in central Arkansas for decades. She has served on the boards of many organizations including: Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute (CARTI); the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute; the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Department of Psychiatry Advisory Board; Breast Cancer Advisory Board; City Year Little Rock/North Little Rock; Women and Children First; Temple B’nai Israel; THEA Foundation; Butterfly Community Ministries; Susan G. Komen Foundation; and the Little Rock Film Festival. She and her family have also given generously to community organizations, such as Riverfest, and made significant financial contributions to numerous medical institutions and universities. 

In 2008, she and friend Vincent Insalaco founded ITE Family Entertainment to help the many causes they support. She has been active in nurturing the film industry in Arkansas, and aided the redevelopment of historic Argenta Arts District as co-founder of Argenta Community Theater. The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas named Tenenbaum Woman of the Year in Philanthropy last year. She has a son Jerald, daughter Cori McGrath and three grandchildren: Daniel and Caroline McGrath and Julius Tenenbaum. 

Q & A

One Word That Describes You: One word cannot describe me! I’m too complicated! Hobby: I love to travel, and I do like a good ol’ Arkansas football game! Volunteer Work: Currently Argenta Community Theater; Winthrop Rockefeller Cancer Institute; CARTI; City Year, THEA Foundation and Butterfly Community. Hometown: I was born in New York; Little Rock is my hometown. First Job: Babysitting for 50 cents an hour. First Big Break: Life in general is a continuous process. But I do remember how proud I was when I went back to school at age 44, and received my bachelor’s degree. Who Is Your “SHEro?” Two have greatly influenced me: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a leader for women nationally, and my friend former treasurer Jimmie Lou Fisher, who did the same in Arkansas. What You Love About What You Do: Meeting people and having opportunities to make an impact on the lives of others in our community, central Arkansas and our state. What’s One Fact About You That Others Would Be Surprised To Know? I keep my house cold to save money on my heating bill, but will write a check to support my causes. How crazy is that! Personal Motto: I think it was Oscar Wilde who said, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”





Ginger Beebe

First Lady | State of Arkansas


As first lady of Arkansas, Ginger Beebe’s presence in Arkansas politics is much like the woman herself — classy, sophisticated and straightforward — but don’t be misled by her petite frame, this first lady packs quite a political punch. Some of her favorite causes include: literacy; mental health issues; advocating for people with special needs; supporting the arts; and all causes that are important to the people of Arkansas. 

She is involved with numerous organizations, including: the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Arkansas; the Art Advisory Committee for the Psychiatric Research Institute; Women’s Foundation of Arkansas; Arkansas Discovery Network; Creative Economy Advisory Panel; and more. Beebe is a huge advocate for growing and supporting the arts in Arkansas. She is currently involved with groups that share her goal of reducing childhood obesity, has served as honorary chair of the Natural Wonders Partnership Council, and is working to promote First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative.   

Previous honors include being named Women and Children First’s Woman of the Year; Hospital Auxiliary Volunteer of the Year; Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute (CARTI) Champion Award; receiving the Arkansas Respiratory Health Association’s Lung Health Advancement Award; the Paragon Award for volunteerism; and recipient of the Interfaith Hospitality Network Homeless Advocate of the Year.

Q & A

One Word That Describes You: Passionate. Hobby: Working in the garden. Volunteer Work: Hospital Auxiliary, CARTI, Junior Auxiliary and church. Hometown: Searcy. First Job: Answering phones for Judge Frank Holt during his gubernatorial campaign. First Big Break: Still waiting… Who Is Your “SHEro?” Any woman who volunteers her time to serve others. What You Love About What You Do: Helping to raise awareness about causes that are important to me and the people of Arkansas, and making sure people feel welcome when they visit the Governor’s Mansion. What’s One Fact About You That Others Would Be Surprised To Know? I get extremely nervous when I speak in public. As A Child, I Spent Hours …hula hooping. Personal Motto: This is the prayer that I pray every morning: “Lord, help me to keep my mouth closed and my eyes and ears opened to the needs of others.”





Gretchen Hall

President / CEO | Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau


Hall joined the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2001. She has served the LRCVB in the Operations department; as the first director of Merchandising and Communications; has managed the public relations, communications and marketing initiatives for the bureau; and was named the bureau’s president and CEO in May 2011. 

She extends her service to the city as president of the Heart of Arkansas Tourism Association; an executive committee member of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership; and serves on the board of directors for the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas River Cities Sports Commission. She also serves on a number of statewide and national tourism organizations.

Q & A

One Word That Describes You: Driven. Hobby: Being an aunt, watching basketball, traveling and cooking.Volunteer Work: Funeral ministry at church and coaching basketball. Hometown: Sheridan, Arkansas. First Job: Managing a fireworks tent. First Big Break: Each day presents another opportunity. Who Is Your “SHEro?” My mother. What You Love About What You Do: Watching the development in a city I have grown to love, and helping people. What’s One Fact About You That Others Would Be Surprised To Know? My mother and I share a real passion for girl’s basketball and continue to run a college showcase event each fall. As A Child, I Spent Hours … playing basketball and occasionally practicing to be the next Mary Lou Retton. Personal Motto: Make a difference every day. What’s Left On Your “Bucket List?” Learning to play golf and a lot of traveling … like visiting every continent, Europe, Spain, African Safari, Nine Beaches Bermuda, Australia, additional areas of Canada, I could keep going …




Melissa ThomaVolunteerism

Melissa Thoma

Principal | Thoma Thoma


Since co-founding Thoma Thoma — one of the state’s leading marketing firms — in 1988, Melissa Thoma has not only led the way for women in the advertising industry, but has also been known for her great work in the community. 

Thoma serves as the firm’s marketing lead, providing research analysis, creative direction and strategic development, and with 25 years experience under her belt, she is a go-to in all disciplines of marketing. She co-created Thoma Thoma’s brand development process, The Brand Navigator System™, and invented The Creativity Catalyst™ Workshop to help clients view their businesses in new ways. 

Thoma has a special interest in promoting women in business — as she leads a special practice area focused on marketing to women, and writes regular columns focused on women in the workplace. She has been a long-time supporter of the arts, as she has donated both time and resources to multiple arts organizations and events, and currently serves as president of the Board of Trustees at Wildwood Park for the Arts. She has given her time and energy to many other notable organizations including: Museum of Discovery; University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) Friends for the Arts; co-chairing Metropolitan Opera Auditions; Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; and Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Design House.

Q & A

One Word That Describes You: Enthusiastic. Hobby: Singer, distance runner, host of Uncorked! Live, a cooking and wine tasting class. Childhood Nickname: Shirley “Temper.” Hometown: Fayetteville, Arkansas. First Job: Gift-wrapper at the Square Peg Gift Shop on the Fayetteville Square. First Big Break: I received two offers of work in one week that allowed me to launch the business that became Thoma Thoma. Who Is Your “SHEro?” Joan of Arc — I agree with Mark Twain that this young woman is one of the few individuals worthy of praise and adoration. What You Love About What You Do: My work is highly creative, highly collaborative and absolutely NO day is the same. What’s One Fact About You That Others Would Be Surprised To Know? I have a tattoo! As A Child, I Spent Hours … creating sand pies and cakes in my sandbox “bakery.” I’m still famous for my cookies. Personal Motto: Make like a Nike and JUST DO IT. What’s Left On Your “Bucket List?” I often say that I plan to live to be 126, so needless to say the list keeps getting longer. However in the short term I’d like to knock off The Disney Marathon.



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