Women’s Leadership Conference: Fall 2020
Thursdays at 11:00 am
Register Now | Schedule & Speakers | Dorothy J. Payne | 2019 Conference Photos | Sponsors
Resilience is a measure of how much you want something and how much you are willing, and able,
to overcome obstacles to get it. 2020 has forced us to become resilient in ways we
could have never imagined. When we selected the theme for this year’s conference
we were living in a pre-COVID world, little did we know the theme would be so relevant
and fitting. While it is obvious we have all become more resilient, let us now make
an Investment in ourselves and the next generation of women leaders.
Our 2020 Women’s Leadership Conference is a virtual event featuring a series of six
visionary, talented, and accomplished women leaders from the courtroom to the boardroom
who we know will inspire and motivate you to become the best version of yourself.
Make the most of your lunch break on six Thursdays this fall, from 11:00-11:50am
CST, by joining us for the conference.
When registering for the conference you are not only making an investment in yourself,
you are investing in the lives of two students who will receive the opportunity to
attend the conference completely free of charge. This year your registration will
also include two complimentary books from our speaker line-up: Women with Money by Jean Chatzky, and Cowgirl Power: How to Kick Ass in Business and Life by Gay Gaddis.
Register for the entire conference ($100), or a single event ($55), by clicking the
yellow Register bar below. If your organization is interested in becoming a conference
sponsor please contact Cheryl Montgomery at email@example.com or 931-267-1099.
2020 marks the third year we have hosted the Women’s Leadership Conference. Past attendees
have heard Dean Tom Payne talk about the inspiration for holding the conference, his
mother Dorothy. To read her inspirational story and to catch a few photos from our
2019 conference scroll to the bottom of the page.
Stay well, remain resilient, and invest in yourself and the future by joining us for
the 2020 virtual event.
Schedule of Speakers
September 10: Jean Chatzky — Today Show contributor, podcast host, and author
September 24: Justice Janice Holder — First woman to be appointed Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court
October 8: Katelyn Steakley — Community influencer and founder of Cookeville Strong
October 22: Stephanie Dedmon — Chief Information Officer of the State of Tennessee
November 5: Leah Denley — Teacher, coach, volunteer, and consultant
November 19: Gay Gaddis — Entrepreneur, spokesperson, artist, and author
For conference updates, follow the College of Business on Social Media!
Jean Chatzky is the CEO of HerMoney.com and host of the podcast HerMoney With Jean Chatzky. The financial editor of NBC Today
for 25 years and the Financial Ambassador for AARP, she appears frequently on CNN,
MSNBC and was a recurring guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She is a New York Times
and Wall Street Journal best-selling author. Her latest book is Women with Money: The Judgment-Free Guide to Creating the Joyful, Less Stressed, Purposeful
(and Yes, Rich) Life You Deserve. An in-demand motivational speaker and fierce advocate for financial literacy, in
2015, she partnered with the PwC Charitable Foundation and Time for Kids to launch
Your $, an in-school magazine that reaches 2 million school children each month. Learn more
at JeanChatzky.com and @JeanChatzky.
Justice Janice Holder
Janice Holder served as the first female chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court
and retired from the bench in September 2014. Prior to her appointment to the state’s
highest court, she served as a circuit court judge in Memphis, Tennessee. She currently
serves as a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 listed mediator and is on Roster of Mediators
and Arbitrators of the American Arbitration Association.
- » More on Justice Holder
She led the Court through its innovative Access to Justice initiative and has presented
Tennessee’s model to national and state conferences. In connection with her work in
the access to justice arena, Memphis Area Legal Services awarded her the W. J. Michael
Cody Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award, and the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services
announced the creation of its Janice M. Holder Award to be conferred annually upon
an individual who has made significant contributions to expanding access to justice
in Tennessee. The Tennessee Bar Association awarded her its Frank F. Drowota III Outstanding
Judicial Service Award for her work with Tennessee’s Lawyers Assistance Program and
Access to Justice Commission and its William M. Leech Jr. Public Service Award for
her strong commitment to access to justice issues, civics education, and programs
that help lawyers. She received the Jurist of the Year Award from the Southeastern
Region of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and in 2015, the University of the
South awarded her an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws.
Justice Holder is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and a
graduate of the Duquesne University School of Law where she was Recent Decisions Editor
of the Duquesne Law Review. She served as a law clerk for Judge Herbert P. Sorg of
the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. In 2010,
she was named a Legacy Laureate by the University of Pittsburgh and in 2012 received
its 225th Anniversary Medallion. She received the 2015 University of Pittsburgh Kenneth
P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award. In 2015, she was
inducted into the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame by the Tennessee Economic Council
on Women. She is a member of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals.
Janice is active in the community, serving on the Metal Museum Board of Trustees and
on the Board of Commissioners of Memphis Area Transit Authority. She holds a sixth
degree Black Belt in the American Combative Arts System.
Katelyn Steakley is a native of Cookeville, TN and a graduate of Belmont University,
where she majored in liberal studies. Katelyn is an active member of the Cookeville
community participating in multiple philanthropies. She enjoys spending her time advocating
for those in poverty and ensuring that the citizens of the Upper Cumberland have access
to basic needs.
- » More on Katelyn Steakley
Katelyn spent the beginning of her career as an entrepreneur and business owner. After
several successful years, she decided to close her business and focus on being a momma
to her two beautiful children.
It was during this time that Katelyn felt called to become more active in her philanthropic
efforts. This decision led her to become a key facilitator for the non-profit, Food to the Rescue, an organization that focuses on feeding needy children during seasonal school breaks.
This organization allowed Katelyn to advocate for her strong belief that there are
two foundational needs for success- food and shelter. In addition to her work with Food to the Rescue, Katelyn also serves as a board member for the Putnam Education Partnership (P.E.P.
Foundation), has a photography business, and has recently accepted a position as the
Directory of Development and Communications for the Upper Cumberland Habitat for Humanity.
Katelyn’s love for her community and desire to give back can best be seen in her leadership
with the Cookeville Strong movement. When Cookeville was hit with a devastating tornado on March 3, 2020, Katelyn
found herself feeling helpless and it was this overwhelming feeling that moved her
to create a resource where the community could share news, find lost items, identify
community needs, and organize volunteers to help victims and clean-up neighborhoods.
Katelyn was single handedly responsible for getting all these needs and calls to
action centered in one place. Since that tragic day, the Cookeville Strong Facebook group has grown to over 26,000 members and continues as a voice of hope
and light as the community works to recover.
While Cookeville Strong began as a tornado relief effort, it has since grown into a platform that supports
local non-profit efforts and identifies previously unknown needs in the community.
Katelyn brings this type of effort and care to all aspects of her life. She is constantly
seeking meaningful solutions to help others and pairs it with an uncanny ability to
get things done—through her philanthropic work she changes the Upper Cumberland every
Stephanie E. Dedmon
Stephanie Dedmon was named CIO for the State of Tennessee in October 2018. In this
role she is responsible for all operational areas of the state’s central IT organization,
Strategic Technology Solutions. This includes managing the team’s IT service delivery,
technical infrastructure development and support and customer service management and
a workforce of almost 1300 IT professionals.
- » More on Stephanie Dedmon
As Deputy CIO, Dedmon was previously responsible for the Enterprise IT Transformation
(EIT) initiative that furthered the State’s enterprise IT organization by transitioning
over 800 Executive Branch Department IT employees to STS. Prior to being named Deputy
CIO in November of 2015, Dedmon served as the Director of Business Solutions Delivery
(BSD), also within the Department of Finance & Administration. BSD was created in
late 2011 to build a team of experienced senior project directors, project managers
and business analysts to help lead the state’s most complex IT/business solution implementations
and improve project delivery success rates.
Prior to joining the State in 2005, Dedmon was an Associate Partner with Accenture
in Nashville and served as project director on many public sector software implementations.
She holds a Master of Business Administration from Tennessee Technological University
(TTU) in Cookeville, Tennessee and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration,
also from TTU. She also received her Project Management Professional certification
in August of 2012.
Dedmon is a member of the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) where she serves
as a Director on the Executive Board and as Co-Chair of the Innovation Committee.
She is also a member of the Nashville Technology Council, Women in IT Tennessee and
the Nashville Project Management Institute (PMI) chapter. In March 2018, she was named
one of Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers for her work on
the State’s IT transformation. Stephanie Dedmon was also the recent recipient of the
George H. Bass award for Leadership in Tennessee State Government in October of 2019.
Born and raised on the Southside of Minneapolis, MN, Leah Denley was a 3-sport (volleyball,
basketball, and track) all-conference athlete named to the USA Today Top 50 in high
school. She led her basketball team, the Washburn Lady Millers, to three consecutive
trips to the state high school basketball championships. An alumnus of TN Tech, Leah
played basketball for the legendary Marynell Meadors.
- » More on Leah Denley
Under the direction of Meadors, the nationally ranked Golden Eaglettes with Leah on
the team earned a trip to the second round of NCAA Tournament where they lost to the
eventual national champion, Tennessee Lady Vols in 1987.
Leah has spent her career dedicated to improving the lives of children and teens,
especially teen athletes. As a teacher, coach, volunteer and consultant Leah has influenced
and changed lives in the inner city and beyond. From 1995-2006 she helped guide 92%
of the students participating in the Frazier Foundation’s Diamonds in Rough program
to college. She has worked for the National Football Foundation’s Play It Smart program,
serving as an academic coach and more recently with the World Youth Foundation in
Houston. Leah’s current focus is AALAX, an organization founded by her to create
academic and economic opportunities for inner-city young women athletes.
A life-long learner, Leah holds multiple degrees, a bachelor’s degree from TN Tech
in speech communications and broadcast journalism, a graduate teaching certification
and education leadership certification from the University of St. Thomas, MN and an
Executive MBA from Texas Southern University. In 2019, she was selected to participate
in the American Express Leadership Academy sponsored by the Center for Creative Leadership.
In 1989, Gay cashed in a $16,000 IRA to create a new breed of agency, T3 (The Think
Tank), that rose to national prominence for innovation under her leadership for more
than 30 years. Today, Gay is focusing her always-on energy to empower entrepreneurs
and the next generation of business leaders to take big leaps in their careers and
lives. She is an active speaker on women’s leadership, company culture and entrepreneurship.
- » More on Gay Gaddis
Her book, Cowgirl Power, released in January 2018, shares insights and examples for women to develop personal
power and lead like fearless cowgirls.
Gay is the first female Chairman of the Texas Business Leadership Council and is former
Chairman of The Committee of 200 (C200), a top women’s business organization that
advances women’s leadership in business, and is on the Board of Directors of the Texas
Cultural Trust. She was also an immediate past board member for Monotype Imaging Holdings,
Gay is deeply involved with The University of Texas. She is on the board of Texas
Exes, the official alumni association of the University of Texas, is part of the Dean’s
Advisory Council to The University of Texas McCombs School of Business, and is an
advisor for both the College of Fine Arts and the Moody College of Communication.
Gay and her husband, Lee, own the historic Double Heart Ranch in the Texas Hill Country,
home of Fossil Ridge Creative Center, a retreat venue for thinking, creativity and collaboration. Fossil Ridge blends
Hill Country nature with inspiring architecture and state-of-the-art facilities to
spark imagination, serving as a venue for non-profit events, corporate retreats and
Fossil Ridge is also the home of Gay’s private art studio. Her bold and vibrant paintings
have been shown in several prestigious galleries around the country including the
gallery at Fossil Ridge and New York City, earning her a distinction by Texas Monthly magazine as one of the “Top Ten Artists to Collect Now.”
An active spokesperson, artist and writer, Gaddis is the celebrated author of Cowgirl Power: How to Kick Ass in Business & Life and is a regular contributor to Forbes and part of Fortune’s Powerful Women Insider Network. She is an active speaker with corporate and student
groups. Over her career, Gaddis has received numerous awards and honors including
Fast Company’s “Top 25 Women Business Builders,” Inc. Magazine’s “Top 10 Entrepreneurs of the Year” and C200’s Luminary Award for Entrepreneurial
The Inspiration Behind the Conference: Dorothy J. Payne
Dorothy J. Payne
Arkansas Tech University, BS
Pepperdine University, MBA
As a single head of house-hold with sole financial responsibilities, I maintained
a life-long desire for learning. Education is the key to professional advancement
and personal growth. — Dorothy Jean Payne
Dorothy Payne began her professional career as a school teacher after going back to
college in her 20’s with two young children. She recalls that “we had just returned
from Italy where my husband was stationed with the Army. The kids and I moved to
a one-bedroom campus apartment while he was in Vietnam. I arranged classes around
my children’s school schedules and did my homework after putting them to bed.” After
completing her undergraduate degree, Payne did some of her practice teaching at Tucker
Prison as part of the reform movement later made famous by the movie “Brubaker” starring
Robert Redford. After teaching for a short time in the public school system and following
her divorce, Payne went to work for the State of Arkansas as a health facility inspector.
The job involved auditing nursing homes, hospitals, and other organizations to assure
compliance with civil rights laws and ensure that minority citizens had access to
healthcare. She later worked in child support enforcement for the state. “The work
was not easy and the new laws and regulations were openly resisted; however, I always
found the courage to do the work,” said Payne.
During the late 70’s, Payne and her two children moved to Dallas, Texas where she
worked in human resources training for two corporations. During that time, she earned
her MBA from Pepperdine University as part of a new executive program. She was the
only woman in her MBA cohort. Payne recalls that “those days were filled with opportunity,
challenge, and change for women in the professional workforce.” After raising her
family, she returned to Little Rock and another position with the state during the
Clinton Administration. She ended her career with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare where
she developed and delivered drug and alcohol prevention and treatment programs.
Payne is grateful for the opportunities she has had and the meaningful work she has
been able to do. When asked whether she had any words of wisdom for today’s working
women, she said “to remember that your greatest power is the power to choose your
own path.” She also encouraged women to “be thankful for their blessings and seek
opportunities to love and support people with special needs.” Today, Dorothy enjoys
spending time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in Nashville
and visiting with her son Tom and daughter-in-law Amy who live just two miles away