Woman of the Year in Philanthropy Award

In 2006, WFA presented its first Woman of the Year in Philanthropy award. WFA established the award to celebrate and acknowledge a woman who is committed to empowering and inspiring women and girls. The award is presented at the Power of the Purse Luncheon. Nominees are welcomed from across the state.

2022 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy Award Honoree

Heather Larkin

Heather Larkin joined the Arkansas Community Foundation in 1998 and became its President and CEO in January 2008. She is committed to engaging people and connecting resources to build stronger communities in Arkansas. Since coming to the Community Foundation, she has overseen its growth from $19 million in assets and $1.4 million in annual grants to over $600 million in assets and $35 million in annual grants. 

Heather has been named one of Arkansas’ top influencers by both Arkansas Money & Politics and by Arkansas Business. She has served as a “Scholar in Residence” at the Clinton School of Public Service for exemplary contributions in the field of community philanthropy. In 2022, she was appointed by Governor Asa Hutchinson to serve on the Arkansas Commission on the Status of Women. 

In the past, she was selected as one of five Americans to be a Transatlantic Community Foundation Fellow. The Fellowship enabled her to spend three weeks in Europe exploring issues of nonprofit governance, strategic planning, grantmaking, investments and public/private partnerships. 

Heather is a native of Charleston, Arkansas. She attended Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, and while at Hendrix, she competed in several sports including cross-country, track, and basketball. Upon graduating with distinction in Economics and Business, she went to work for Ernst and Young, LLP and became a Certified Public Accountant. She later returned to the academic arena and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law where she served as Survey/Comments Editor for the UALR Law Journal

Heather is a member of the Hendrix Athletic Hall of Honor, Arkansas Women’s Leadership Forum, International Women’s Leadership Forum, Arkansas Executive Forum, and Rotary Club 99.  She is a past board member of ACANSA Arts Festival and Just Communities of Arkansas. Heather is a graduate of Leadership Greater Little Rock class 19 and of Leadership Arkansas Class 1. Heather is a native of Charleston, Arkansas and lives in both Pulaski and Pope Counties.

Previous Woman of the Year in Philanthropy Award Honorees

Beverly Morrow – 2021 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

Beverly Morrow was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York by two loving parents, Eugene and Rebecca Dalrymple. Beverly attended Erasmus Hall High School where she fell in love with math and science. After graduating in the top 5% of her class, she attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Beverly met her future husband, Curtis, at MIT. In 1973, she graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering and married Curtis. Beverly worked in the oil industry for several years until she and Curtis had their first two children, Achilia and Kiisha. While pregnant with her third child, Chane, Beverly completed her Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Rutgers University. 

In 1987, Beverly and Curtis’s fourth child, Asha, arrived and they purchased their first McDonald’s in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Having never lived in the south, Beverly was a little apprehensive but felt that God was sending her there as a way to serve. As the owner/operator of multiple McDonald’s for 30+ years, Beverly was hands-on and continued to be so until she retired in 2016. She cared deeply for her employees and encouraged and motivated them to do their best. Beverly attended weddings and funerals, and stepped in as a babysitter on many occasions. As a member of the McDonald’s Women Owner Network, she served as the profit lead for women operators.

Beverly has served on and chaired both local and state boards including: United Way of Southeast Arkansas, Simmons First National Bank, Jefferson Regional Medical Center, Arkansas Community Foundation, The Committee of Professional Conduct, Women’s Foundation of Arkansas (a WFA Founder), and Boys and Girls Clubs of Bryant. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Arkansas Regional Hub and The Reynolds Institute on Aging, as well as the boards of Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Arkansas Children’s Foundation. 

In 2021, Beverly became the chair of Arkansas Children’s Hospital Board of Directors, becoming the first African American person to serve in that role.  

She enjoys interacting with and mentoring young people, as it keeps her on her toes, keeps her growing and helps her stay young. Beverly’s children are her delight, as well as all the young people with whom she interacts. Beverly and Curtis are both Christians and active members of Saint Mark Baptist Church.

Sissy Jones – 2020 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

“When you’re here, everyone’s family,” isn’t just the tagline for one of the largest fine jewelry retailers in the Mid-South, it’s the mantra for the founder herself, Sissy Jones. Sissy started Sissy’s Log Cabin in 1970 with nothing more than a handful of estate jewelry and antique wares she sold in a literal log cabin she rented for $50 per month. Her eternal optimism has turned Sissy’s Log Cabin into Arkansas’ largest independently owned jewelry store with 12,000 square feet of showroom filled with diamonds, jewelry, estate jewelry, fine gifts and fabulous antiques with five locations in Pine Bluff, Little Rock, Jonesboro, Conway, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee. It’s not the business, but the woman behind it who makes it so unique: Sissy’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to create a name for herself. However, if you asked for her claim to fame, Sissy would not name the awards or cite the store’s growth. She would instead want to recognize her family for their love and support as the cornerstone of her business, and her faith in the Lord. From her business’ humble beginning through its continued growth, Sissy and her family have always looked to Proverbs 20:24 in any and all decision making. Her husband, Murphy, helped her start the original store, and she currently employs three generations and more than 20 family members, including her son, Bill, who now serves as the CEO, his wife, Sharri, executive secretary, and their sons William and Wyatt, both graduate gemologists; all integral pieces of the business’s unique story and monumental success.

Alisha Curtis – 2019 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

Alisha Curtis works to enrich the lives of Arkansans every day through her role in the Arkansas Governor’s office. She’s the Executive Assistant to the Governor, Director of Special Projects and Economic Development Liaison. Governor Asa Hutchinson selected Alisha to join his team when he took office in January of 2015.

Alisha organized Governor Hutchinson’s 2015 inaugural celebration and served on the planning committee for “A New Day in Arkansas” Inaugural Ball. For his second term, she served as the 2019 Inaugural Events Coordinator for the “Together For Success” Inauguration.

Prior to working in Governor Hutchinson’s administration, Alisha began her career in banking where she worked in marketing and training for Summit Bank. She then worked four years at the Arkansas Republican Party serving as the Finance Director. While there, she oversaw fundraising for the non-profit, managing a $500,000 annual budget and a $1.2M budget on election years. She also contributed to the Party’s major event planning and worked to bring high-profile political leaders to the state. Alisha also helped coordinate the Arkansas delegation as they headed to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

During her tenure with Governor Hutchinson, Alisha has served as Director of Operations and Office Manager where she oversaw the operational budget for the Governor’s office. Currently serving as Director of Special Projects, she coordinates and executes cabinet-level meetings and events, town halls, and special events for the Governor. She is a graduate of the 2018 Leadership Arkansas Class XII through the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

Alisha’s work in government isn’t the only way she’s engaged in helping Arkansas residents. She was the Co-Chair of the 2017 Woman of Inspiration event benefitting the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas. In 2015 and 2016 she served as the Corporate Co-Chair of Woman of Inspiration and raised funds for the organization. Alisha also serves on the Children Advocacy Center’s Advisory Council. In August of 2018, she was honored at the Taste Of The Finest event benefitting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Arkansas and won the Todd Miles Award by raising $33,000 for the charity. She most recently judged Youth Of The Year for the Boys and Girls Club of Arkansas. In September of this year she will compete at local charity event “Dancing With Our Stars” for the Children’s Tumor Foundation of Arkansas.

An Arkansas native, Alisha is proud to have attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. She is a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication with an emphasis in Broadcast Journalism/TV News from the University of Arkansas Little Rock.

Ellon Cockrill – 2018 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

Ellon Cockrill, a WFA original founder, has dedicated her life to philanthropy in Central Arkansas. Ellon has been a founding member of several organizations, served on over 10 boards of directors, and has received several awards recognizing her service. Ellon has been involved in several organizations including: United Way, St. Vincent’s Foundation, Centers for Youth and Families, American Heart Association, and ACANSA. She was previously honored by The Centers for Youth & Families as a 2017 Hero of Hope.

In her free time she enjoys walking, playing golf, and being a grandmother to her three grandchildren.

Shayla Copas – 2017 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

Shayla Copas has worked extensively with Arkansas non-profit organizations for the past twenty years; including co-chairing the Heart Ball for the American Heart Association, co-chairing the Opus Ball for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and she founded and served as past co-chair of the Arkansas Woman of Inspiration for Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas, two years in a row.

She has also served on numerous boards in the central Arkansas area including; Easter Seals of Arkansas, UAMS Psychiatric Institute Advisory Board member, and is currently appointed by Governor Asa Hutchinson as a commissioner for the Arkansas Governors Mansion. Past awards and accomplishments include the 2017 Heart Ball Jerry Davis Award, Arkansas Business 40 under 40, and the 2015 KARK Distinguished Service Award by DHS Division of Community Service.

She is also a national award-winning interior designer with her firm Shayla Copas Interiors. Shayla’s firm has been nationally published and recognized for their work, as well as continually named by regional publications as a top design firm in the state of Arkansas. The award for Woman of the Year in Philanthropy acknowledges a woman who is committed to empowering and inspiring women and girls.

Angela Moody – 2016 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

Angela Moody has played an integral role in the Central Arkansas philanthropic community for the past 15 years. Originally from Fayetteville, she made her home here in Central Arkansas in 2003.

Angela was included in Soiree Magazine’s 2010 Class of Women to Watch, and in 2011 she co-chaired former Governor Mike Beebe’s inauguration. Some standouts in her community vitea include Women’s Foundation of Arkansas and its Designing Women initiative, 20th Century Club, Women and Children First, UAMS Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute and Our House, to name a few. In 2016 she is not only being honored by the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, but she also served as honorary chair for Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind “Bingo for Bags” event.

In addition to her community work, Angela is most proud of her role as a mother and of her homeroom mom work for her daughter’s class.

Denise Garner – 2015 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy
Denise Garner was honored as the 2015 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy at the 17th annual Power of the Purse luncheon on Wednesday, September 30.

In 2011, Denise founded FeedFayetteville.org, whose mission is to feed a largely invisible population of hungry people by teaching them how to cook nutritious meals from locally grown produce. Then in 2012, she started FeedCommunities.org as the parent organization for Feed Fayetteville. Feed Communities seeks to duplicate the successful Fayetteville program in other cities.

Her past and present nonprofit board positions are too numerous to mention, although they run from the northwest corner of the state to Little Rock and beyond. Social justice, health care, education, political and arts-related causes are her focus.

Catherine Hughes – 2014 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

Catherine Hughes received the Woman of the Year in Philanthropy award in 2014 for her outstanding philanthropic efforts in Arkansas.

Dorothy Morris – 2013 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

Dorothy Morris has been involved in philanthropy and community affairs in Arkansas for decades. She is a founding member of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas and is president of The Morris Foundation.

Johnelle Hunt – 2012 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

Johnelle Hunt is the founding Chairman of the United Way Alexis de Tocqueville Society for Washington County as well as a founding Executive Board Member of the Ozark Affiliate of Susan G. Komen.

Judy Tenenbaum – 2011 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

Judy Tenenbaum has been involved in philanthropy and community affairs in Arkansas for decades. Her community work has included the arts, politics and an uncommon passion for cancer research.

Cathy Cunningham – 2010 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

Cathy Cunningham has a history of professional success and of helping girls and women in Arkansas, is a leader in her community and state in the area of educational opportunities, and has a passion for providing innovative opportunities in educational experiences for children in the Delta region.

Alice Mahony – 2009 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

Alice Mahony from El Dorado Arkansas, long-time community philanthropist and Vice President and Co-Founder of the El Dorado Education Foundation.

Sharon Allen – 2008 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

Sharon Allen, long-time community philanthropist and retired President and CEO of Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Pat Lile – 2007 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

Pat Lile, a renowned leader in the non-profit sector, past CEO of Arkansas Community Foundation and co-founder of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas.

Jo Luck – 2006 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy

Jo Luck, president and CEO of Heifer International, internationally recognized advocate for promoting the advancement of women and girls as a key strategy towards ending hunger and poverty both throughout the world and in Arkansas.

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