Schacht receives 2014 ATHENA Award for career, service

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Linda Peek Schacht, founding director of Lipscomb University’s Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership, has received the 2014 ATHENA Award, an annual prestigious award for career accomplishment and community service presented by the CABLE Foundation. All the ATHENA Awards recipients were announced on March 27 at an event at Nashville’s War Memorial Buildings.

The ATHENA Award honors outstanding women leaders for their career successes, service to community and encouragement of women, and seeks to inspire others to achieve excellence in their professional and personal lives.

Schacht was selected as the nominee for CABLE, Tennessee's largest and most established network of diverse professionals committed to connecting women and opportunity. Twenty-eight other women were nominated by community organizations throughout Nashville.

“Schacht has been instrumental in advancing the organization and its mission over the past few years by enhancing its efforts in leadership education and in promoting awareness of the value of having women on corporate boards,” said Susan Allen Huggins, executive director of CABLE.

“We strive to nominate people who have made a special effort to live out our mission – connecting women and opportunity,” said Huggins. “Besides her great accomplishments in her career, Linda has really helped catapult many of CABLE’s programs to the next level.”

Schacht returned to her college town of Nashville in 2009 after a career spanning from the White House to Coca-Cola. For more than 30 years, Schacht advised government, business and non-profit leaders on communication and strategy.

“Linda Schacht was the first role model I identified with when I arrived on Capitol Hill in the late 1980s,” said Lisa Quigley, Congressman Jim Cooper’s chief of staff. “I was surprised to see just how dominated Congress was by men, but there always seemed to be one woman quoted in the press and one woman in the room when important decisions were being made -- Linda.”

Photos: (top) Linda Schacht with two of her students from the institute's master's program; (middle) Schacht with CABLE executive director Susan Huggins (far left), Pat Price, CABLE director (left), and Margaret Behm, of Dodson Parker Behm & Capparella (right); (bottom) Schacht with Martha Mertz, the founder of ATHENA International.

At Lipscomb, she founded the Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership in 2011, coordinated a restructuring of the department of communication and journalism in 2010 and serves as an associate professor of communication and political science.

“Linda has been a pioneer of leadership during her entire career," said Trish Holliday, the State of Tennessee's Chief Learning Officer who has worked often with the institutes to conduct state programs. "One of her extraordinary strengths is connecting executives, entrepreneurs, innovators and government leaders to establish great partnerships that create the opportunity for women to be strategically positioned in business, education, and government leadership roles.”   

Huggins was a graduate student in the institute’s Master of Civic Leadership program and focused her academic project on enhancing CABLE’s programs. Schacht provided continuous support and resources for her efforts, and in 2012, the Andrews Institute and CABLE launched the first CABLE Leadership Academy to provide leadership training for individuals at many stages of their careers.

Schacht has also been involved in enhancing CABLE’s Board Walk of Fame, an annual luncheon designed to recognize women who serve on corporate boards and the companies who have women on their boards, Huggins said.

“The ATHENA Award program is meant to inspire and to encourage our future leaders in the Nashville community,” Huggins said. “We are holding up these 29 nominees to show all the good works they have done in the community and in their professions.”

“I've known Linda Schacht for more than three decades and have seen her constant commitment to promoting the development of women in leadership roles, especially when we both served on the Board of the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF), where she worked tirelessly here in the United States and overseas, to promote leadership training for young women journalists from around the globe,” said Judy Woodruff, anchor for the PBS News Hour, in supporting Schacht’s nomination for the award.

Susan King, dean of the University of North Carolina's School of Journalism and Mass Communication,and a of IWMF, said, "Many people can talk about their commitment to an idea, a philosophy or a cause, but few actually act on their passions. Linda Schacht is different. She is passionate about advancing women and she has made a difference in the lives of many women, and in the organizations that support them. 

"When Linda worked on Capitol Hill she made sure that women reporters were heard. When she went to the top of the corporate ladder she supported organizations like the IWMF to advance women journalists worldwide with financial and corporate support. When she entered academia she offered her considerable strategic communication skills to young women. Her name might not be as well known as the leaders of the modern women's movement – but her impact is as wide if not wider,” King said.

Schacht is a veteran of President Jimmy Carter’s White House press office and has held the top communication positions for the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate and the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. In addition, Schacht served as the first public affairs director of USA Today and spent over a decade at The Coca-Cola Company, retiring as vice president, global communications and public affairs strategy.

In 2002, she returned to higher education as a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where she was affiliated with both the Center for Public Leadership and the Center for Business and Government. She has also served on the board of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

In 2012, after founding the Andrews Institute, she was named the Nashville Business Journal’s 2012 Woman of Influence “Trailblazer.”

“Linda became more than an advisor to me but took a personal interest in seeing me expand and grow as a woman,” said Dorinda Carter, a member of the institute’s master’s program cohort and communications director of the Tennessee Department of Corrections. “Even as I veered off track, she urged me on to dare greatly to become more than I thought I could be and to pursue my bold idea to bring the Magdalene program to the Tennessee Prison for Women. I can only imagine the great things more women could achieve with mentors like Linda Schacht leading by positive example.”

“She has spanned the gamut in terms of what she has done to live out our mission of connecting women and opportunity,” said Huggins. “She has lived and breathed that mission throughout her career. For her to land back in Nashville and for us to have the benefit of that experience is a gift beyond belief.”