116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Each year, The Gazette is proud to recognize a select group of Eastern Iowa women for their amazing leadership, drive and dedication. Each honoree has made sizable contributions in their workplaces, community organizations and in our communities as a whole. This year, dozens of women were nominated and a final group of 13 women was selected to be honored. These 13 extraordinary women not only inspire and motivate change and action but also serve as role models for future leaders.
You can see a quick bio of each honoree on the following pages. Go online to HER.today to learn more about each honoree and see an inspiring HER keynote from Patti Seda of Seda Consulting. The presenting sponsor of the 2021 Women of Achievement Awards was Farmers State Bank, and we thank them for their support.
Hats off to these female leaders who are making incredible contributions in the Corridor. We at The Gazette are confident that their stories and insight will inspire you as much as they inspired us.
Jennifer Banta is vice president of advocacy and community development at the Iowa City Area Business Partnership. In 2019 she was named to the Governor’s Child Care Task Force. During the pandemic Jennifer helped launch the Neighborhood NESTS (Nurturing Every Student Together Safely) to help Iowa City’s underserved students learn in a safe space with adult supervision and internet access during the shutdown.
As executive director of the African American Museum of Iowa, LaNisha Cassell is charged with overseeing operations, developing fundraising initiatives, expanding the Museum’s presence, cultivating partnerships, increasing visibility, and advancing programming. She currently serves on boards for the Cedar Rapids Metro YMCA, the Cedar Rapids Community School District Foundation, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economics Innovation Council, the Iowa Cultural Coalition, and the Iowa Women’s Foundation.
Maria A. Dean
Maria Dean has served as a professor of chemistry with biochemical research at Coe College for 27 years. She has presented at the Science Station, National Chemistry Week demonstration, Coe’s Playground of Science, elementary school science visits, and served as a judge for the Eastern Iowa Science Fair. She founded Open Minds, Open Doors, an annual conference designed to encourage girls to explore STEM career pathways and engage in STEM-related curriculum.
Sofia DeMartino is an advocate, activist, and community servant. Originally from Queens, New York, she spent her formative years becoming a mother of two by age 17. Sofia advocates for people in need at Horizons, A Family Service Alliance. She is a founding member of the Black Maternal Health Collective, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of maternal healthcare inequity and saving the lives of Black mothers.
Dr. Anne Langguth is the first board-certified pediatric ophthalmologist to serve the Cedar Rapids community. At Wolfe Eye Clinic, she promotes access to care for patients and advancing the profession of medicine. She has twice been elected to the Iowa Medical Society Board of Directors and is a member of Iowa’s delegation to the American Medical Association.
As the HR Business Partner for Collins Aerospace, Abbie Otten played a critical role in the launch of the Coralville chapter of Women’s Forum, an employee resource group designed to inform and engage employees through networking, monthly speakers and career pathways. Otten currently serves as the Women’s Forum president. She is a coach for FIRST Robotics as well as a Girl Scout troop leader, council trainer and neighborhood manager.
Julie Parisi is executive director of Cedar Rapids’ NewBo City Market and serves on the board of directors for New Pioneer Food Cooperative and CSPS Hall. Previously Parisi was the market’s director of business development and chief operating officer. She has developed several initiatives to improve the Market’s Business Incubator Program as well as diversity and inclusion among small businesses in Cedar Rapids.
Casey Peck is CFO and general manager of the Kalona Cooperative Technology Company. She started the first Golden Hawk Archery team in 2019 and is involved in the Mid-Prairie Student Boosters, Kalona Economic Development Group, Iowa Communications Alliance Board of Directors, Iowa Utilities Board Dual Party Relay Committee and several other local and state committees.
Deb Ralston is a family physician for the Peoples Community Health Clinic in Waterloo and a lead organizer and volunteer for several community initiatives and programs, including Cedar Rapids RISE (Reintegration Initiative for Safety and Empowerment). Ralston has devoted over four years as a volunteer physician for the Community Health Free Clinic, which seeks to meet the health needs of the uninsured or underinsured in the community.
Rachel L. Rockwell
Rachel Rockwell is the program officer for Creating Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities Fund at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. She is also the founder of Culture Incorporated, a nonprofit community center focused on engaging and supporting at-risk youth and families through the celebration of cultural diversity and artistic expression, and responsible for the launch and co-lead of THRIVE Cohort, a project in partnership and in support of emerging Black and Brown leaders.
Denine Rushing is the shelter services director for Willis Dady Homeless Services in Cedar Rapids. She began her career at Willis Dady as a resident attendant, then transitioned to volunteer coordinator, veteran case manager and shelter manager. Rushing uses her personal journey to connect with clients and their unique challenges, raising the voices of those who are rarely heard as clients find their way to permanent housing, employment and stability.
Kathy Waychoff is district volunteer coordinator for College Community Schools and the lead adviser for Prairie High School Key Club. She established a chapter of Key Club International at Prairie High School and has led student volunteers in giving back to their school and community for the past 10 years. Her volunteer service includes the America Reads Metro Committee, Leaders in Volunteerism, Collins Retired Volunteers of Iowa and the Governor’s Awards for Volunteer Service ceremony for Eastern Iowa.
Jen Winter is public works director for the City of Cedar Rapids. She currently serves on the Iowa Chapter Executive Board of the American Public Works Association (AWPA). Previously she was a regional director for HR Green, an engineering consulting firm in Cedar Rapids, where she led a team of engineers focused primarily on transportation planning and design. She has also served as the chair of the APWA Center for Sustainability.