Our signature annual luncheon honors women of exceptional achievement who embody the mission of Girls Inc. by inspiring girls to be strong, smart, and bold, while also raising the funds that are vital to providing hands-on programming to thousands of girls in our community.
Read below to get to know this year’s honorees and visit the Touchstone Awards Luncheon page to learn more about the event.
President, Duke Energy Indiana, LLC
Melody Birmingham-Byrd is president of Duke Energy’s Indiana operations, the state’s largest electric utility, serving approximately 820,000 customers in 69 of Indiana’s 92 counties. She is responsible for the financial performance of Duke Energy’s regulated utilities in Indiana, in addition to managing regulatory affairs, government relations and community affairs. She also has responsibility for advancing the company’s legislative and regulatory strategies and integrated resource planning.
Previously, Byrd served as senior vice president of Midwest delivery operations, overseeing the company’s electric distribution system in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. This included construction, maintenance, operations, engineering, and resource and project management.
Prior to the merger between Duke Energy and Progress Energy in July 2012, Byrd served as vice president of the Southern Region for Progress Energy Carolinas. With more than 23 years of leadership and managerial experience in the electric and automotive manufacturing industries, she has served in roles within distribution, transmission and fossil generation.
Byrd holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Purdue University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Strayer University. She attended the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. She is also a licensed project management professional through the Project Management Institute. In 2016, Byrd was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Terre Haute, Ind.
Byrd currently serves on the boards of directors of the Indiana Electric Association, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Special Olympics Indiana, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, American Association of Blacks in Energy and United Way of Central Indiana.
Vice President & General Counsel, Indiana University
Jackie Simmons became Indiana University’s Vice President and General Counsel on July 1, 2012. She serves as chief legal officer, representing and directing representation of IU in all legal matters. She is legal advisor to the President, The Board of Trustees, and senior university administrators, as well as primary resource person on legal matters of institutional procedure and governance.
Jackie directs the University’s in-house counsels and outside counsel retained to represent the university’s interests, and she supervises other offices as assigned by the President, including Internal Audit and Affirmative Action.
Prior to coming to Indiana University, Jackie practiced law with Faegre Baker Daniels where she became managing partner of the Indianapolis office after having served as practice group leader of the firm’s international practice area. She worked closely with numerous universities and for-profit educational institutions regarding establishment of global alliances, contracts, environmental matters, international employment and technology licensing issues.
Joining Reilly Industries, Inc. in 1994, Jackie served as General Counsel, providing legal counsel to the corporation and its Board of Directors and managing all legal matters for the corporation. Subsequently, she became Vice President and General Manager in 2001, administering all aspects of sales, manufacturing, commercial negotiations and global profits and losses for three strategic business units.
Jackie has been an adjunct faculty member in the Maurer School of Law since 1991, teaching a variety of environmental-related courses. She has also taught at the Lex Mundi Institute in California. Additionally, Jackie currently serves on the Board of Visitors of the IU Maurer School of Law, is a Board Member of the American Law Institute, and the IU Foundation Women’s Philanthropy Council, of which she is a founding member.
Deborah Hearn Smith
Retired President & CEO, Girl Scouts of Central Indiana
Deborah Hearn Smith has dedicated her life to encouraging youth to become leaders with courage, confidence and character. Smith has helped to ensure that generations of Hoosier girls enter the next stage of their lives as well educated, civically engaged and philanthropic women.
In 1970, Smith earned a Bachelor of Science in political science from Kentucky State University, after which she became a field executive with the Girl Scouts organization. Two years later she was promoted to director of camping services and remained in that role until 1991, when she was named director of facilities and technology. In 2001, she rose to office of CEO of the Girl Scouts Hoosier Capital Council, and in 2007 when five of the Scouts councils merged, she was named CEO of Girl Scouts of Central Indiana.
While serving in her position, Smith grew the local programs in the Hispanic community to one of the largest and most successful in the country. Latinas Taking the Lead reaches out to Hispanic women and offers them the opportunity to gain leadership skills and further their personal growth. As of 2011, in Indiana, one of every eight African American girls and one of every six Hispanic girls is a Girl Scout. Girls Scouts of Central Indiana also has a working relationship with low-income and public housing communities. With the support of Lilly Endowment they have an initiative to establish a sustainable Girl Scout presence in every public housing community across the region over the next three years.
In 2017, Smith retired from her position as CEO. Through her work with Girl Scouts, she is estimated to have impacted the lives of more than 1 million girls across the state. As CEO of the largest girl-serving non-profit in the state, she created paths for inclusiveness, established partnerships and attracted diverse leadership.
Retired President & CEO, Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis
Born and raised in Hammond, Pat Wachtel came to Indianapolis to attend the Business School at Butler University. After graduating with a degree in Business Administration, Pat began a 28-year career in banking and finance that included work in retail branch management at AFNB, middle market commercial lending, with Merchants and Huntington National banks, social investment banking with Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and mortgage banking with Irwin Mortgage.
The positions with LISC and especially Irwin, where Pat was primarily engaged in corporate philanthropy and public policy work, stirred a passion that led to a new career in the non-profit sector. Pat served as the interim president of Indiana Landmarks for one year in 2005-06. After helping to complete the search for Landmark’s new CEO, Pat found her next challenge at Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis in January of 2007 when she became the president & CEO.
The Girls Inc. board had already made the bold decision to close both of their former clubs in favor of serving girls through an outreach method of program delivery. Working closely with a dedicated board and a small group of very talented staff members, Pat had the privilege of leading the transformation of an organization that needed to reach significant numbers of Indianapolis area girls with empowering information before they need it.
For the past six years, Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis has been one of the top 5 affiliates of the Girls Inc. national organization by serving about 4000 girls every year. The organization survived and thrived despite the big economic recession by shifting to a leverage model that depends on free program space from more than 100 community partners including schools, community centers, Boys & Girls Clubs, and many others. Hundreds of carefully recruited and trained women and some men also donate their precious time to facilitate programs for girls. Because of their generosity, local girls are learning about healthy relationships, financial literacy, STEM careers, healthy body image, self-defense, and so much more. The building of this solid new base for girl services has been a labor of love for 11 years. In January, Pat announced her retirement from Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis and has begun her pursuit of new adventures.
Along the way, Girls Inc. collected two Indiana Achievement awards in 2008 and 2011 for efficiency and effectiveness. Pat has been named a Woman of Influence by IBJ and a Torch Bearer by the Indiana Women’s Commission. She was also recognized by IACED with a 1999 Michael Carroll Advocate of the Year Award and by The Indiana Association of Realtists with a 2014 Above and Beyond Award for her earlier work in Community Development.