The Colorado Woman

Colorado has the most confident, intelligent, thoughtful, inspiring, dedicated, joyful, influential, resilient, adventurous, independent, gutsy, innovative, groundbreaking women in America. Meet them.

December 2013

Who Inspires You? 

Successful people rarely get to where they are without support from someone. We asked some of Colorado’s most noteworthy women to tell us about the influential people in their lives.

Tami Door
President & CEO, Downtown Denver Partnership 

"An old boss of mine, Dick Blouse, the former CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, always said, 'You can make widgets or you can make a difference—or you can do both.' What he meant was so many people think they have to choose a specific job or role to be able to make a difference in the world, that their normal jobs don’t rise to that level. But he felt that you can do any kind of job and make a difference so long as you do your best and make a difference to those around you."

Theresa Peña
Educational Activist

Most influential role model? "My mother, Annabelle Peña-Wickard."

What did you learn from her? "I learned assertiveness, laughter, love, independence, confidence, and kindness. Her mother was a food-service worker; her father was a mine worker and then a barber. All of their kids graduated from college. My mother was one of the first generation of minority women who had the opportunity to attend college, so it was important to her that my brother and I achieved not only their levels of opportunity and ambition but also exceeded them. My mom was also the only girl in her family, so she was very assertive. She set ambitious goals and would reach them. She instilled that principle of dreaming big and going after big goals in me, but she also taught me to use those gifts to give back to the community."

Joan Slaughter
Executive Director, Morgan Adams Foundation

“I love Rosie the Riveter. She stands for all women who aren’t afraid to step into roles they didn’t have before, take charge, be bossy when they need to be, learn new skills in order to kick some butt in whatever setting they’re in, and create something powerful in the process.” 

Karen Sugar
Founder & Director, Women's Global Empowerment Fund

"There is a group of women in northern Uganda, who were my first clients, who have been influential in my life. These are women who, when I first met them, were fresh from conflict, violence, and poverty. They taught me grace, courage, sisterhood, how to care for one another as part of a community, and the resilience of the human spirit."

Cary Kennedy
Chief Financial Officer & Deputy Mayor, City of Denvery

"Gail Schoettler, the former lieutenant governor and state treasurer, has been an adviser to me on public finance and leadership throughout my career. She’s a great leader and always pushed me forward. She taught me to appreciate the importance of serving in a leadership position."

Maria Belew Wheatley
Former Executive Director, Colorado Ballet 

“My high school homeroom teacher encouraged me to go to college. I grew up in a poor farm family, so none of my siblings had gone to college. It wasn’t in my family’s expectations. She is the reason I realized that I could.” 

Frances Koncilja
President & Shareholder, Koncilja and Associates

"The one person who continues to be a great inspiration to me is my grandmother, Lucia DiTella. She came to this country when she was 14 years old to an arranged marriage. She came from Italy and didn’t speak English. She was incredibly smart, and although she had limited opportunities, it never made her bitter. She had a great zest for life."

Happy Haynes
Vice President, Denver Board of Education; Director of Civic and Community Engagement, CRL Associates

"Rachel Noel, a former board of education member and CU Regent—the first African-American woman elected to both of those positions—embodied two values: using education to reach high for your goals and a commitment to giving back to the community. Those two values, which she taught me, are the reasons I am where I am, and they continue to drive me."

Jennifer Jasinski
Chef-Owner, Rioja; Owner, Euclid Hall, and Bistro Vendôme

"I have two distinct role models. In my personal life, my mom. My mom is a brilliant businesswoman, and she taught me how, in the restaurant industry, one must look at the guest perspective first. Professionally, Wolfgang Puck. Wolfgang taught me to be detail-oriented and to be the best at whatever it is that you happen to be doing, no matter how menial the task may be." 

Jeanne Robb
City Council Representative, District 10

"Federico Peña inspired me. He was mayor of Denver shortly after I moved to the city. I felt he was very good about representing all the people of the city. He had a great model of inclusivity, and he really appreciated all of Denver’s neighborhoods. He started a kind of renaissance in Denver of urban  development."

Diana DeGette
U.S. Congresswoman, Colorado’s First District 

"I have had three major inspirations in my life: my grandfather, Alex Rose, who had an eighth-grade education but urged me to follow my dream of going to law school. The second is Pat Schroeder, who taught me to stand up strongly for what I believe in and be a leader on those issues. The third is John Dingell, the senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives, who took me under his wing when I came to Congress and really taught me to be a legislator." 

Kelly Brough
President & CEO, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce 

“I believe everybody has strengths and that we can learn from those strengths. Often we think role models are going to be at a high level or in a leadership role, but for me some of the most powerful lessons have come from people who don’t have positional power but have used their strengths to accomplish something great.” 

Alison E. Zinn
Senior Associate Attorney, Wade Ash; President-Elect, Colorado Women’s Bar Association

Who has been your most influential role model? "My high school English teacher, Michael Mariani."

What did you learn from him? "When I was in ninth grade, Mr. Mariani pulled me aside and told me that I had exceptional leadership skills and that he wanted me to make the most of those skills. This was something that had never occurred to me. He followed this compliment with advice as to what I should do with these skills in terms of leadership opportunities for students, but he also offered valuable advice about life that has stayed with me for 20 years. Mr. Mariani taught me never to ask why, but instead, why not? Also, he taught me that a person’s only limitations are the ones she places upon herself." 

Valencia Faye Tate
Director for Global Diversity, Equality and Inclusion, CH2M Hill

Who has been your most influential role model? "My parents, Irene and Henry Wilson."

What did you learn from them? "They were both amazing people; not college-educated, but they had incredible wisdom. From my father, I learned the importance of an education and giving back to others. He also taught me tremendous love of family. From my wonderful mother, I learned patience, kindness, style, and grace."