Girls Inc. is pleased to announce 2016 Touchstone Awards honoree, Rev. Jean Smith, who is both a community leader and retired priest in the Episcopal Church. Jane Fortune, Sally Herrholz, and Dr. Ora Pescovitz will also be honored during the awards luncheon and have been featured in the April, May, and June enewsletters leading up to the event.
A native and long-time resident of Indiana, Jean has been named a Sagamore of the Wabash by two Indiana governors. The Sagamore award is a personal tribute usually given to those who have rendered a distinguished service to the state or to the governor. Both Governor Roger Branigin in 1969 and Governor Robert Orr in 1987 thought Jean was deserving of the award. Between these two honors, Jean was also the first woman to receive the Madame C.J. Walker Award from the Center for Leadership Development in 1981.
However, out of all her awards and accomplishments Jean is most proud of her decision to go to graduate school later in life. At the age of 50, she pursued her master of divinity degree at Christian Theological Seminary, graduating magna cum laude. In 1998, Jean was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church.
As Jean was finishing her masters, the Lilly Endowment asked her to join their team. During Jean’s 16 years at the Lilly Endowment, she served as program director of the Religion Division and handled more than 2,400 grants totaling $155 million. She guided grants that advanced African American church life, including the establishment of the first African American Lectionary and the Congress of National Black Churches project for rebuilding churches destroyed by arson.
Jean was also responsible for several grants to help chronicle the contributions of African American religious leaders, including the African American Documentary History Project and efforts to collect and edit the official papers of Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King Jr. A grant to the Smithsonian Institution for the National Museum of African American History and Culture earned Jean a much-prized kiss of gratitude from President Barack Obama when she was greeted by the President at a White House reception celebrating the museum’s groundbreaking ceremony.
Before returning to graduate school and joining the Lilly Endowment, Jean had served as press secretary to Indiana Gov. Roger Branigin, as a reporter for both the Indianapolis Star and WISH-TV News, as director of communications at the Indianapolis Urban League, and as first vice president and director of public relations and corporate giving at NBD Bank (formerly the Indiana National Bank). Jean is trustee emerita of her alma mater, Butler University. She also served on the boards of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and St. Richard’s School.
We are so excited to honor Jean and three other incredible women at this event! They live out the Girls Inc. mission in their everyday lives by acting as powerful role models to girls.
The Touchstone Awards Luncheon takes place July 7th at the JW Marriott. Find out more about the event!