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24th Annual Tribute to Women

Women Making a Difference

(page 4 of 7)




Honoree - Freddie Gray

Passion, focus, experience and energy are all words used to describe Omaha School Board Member, Freddie Gray. She is also the Operations Director for Project Impact, a video production company she owns and operates with her husband and an independent consultant in business management.

Gray is a founding member of the Affinity Council, a citywide coalition of African American, Latino, Caucasian and Native Americans addressing the issue of equitable education for students.

As a member of the Learning Community Coordinating Council, she has addressed barriers to student achievement. As Executive Director of the African American Achievement Council of Omaha, she works strategically to promote programs designed to respond to achievement disparity in standardized test scores by engaging students, parents, educators and employers in the community.

Long-recognized for her involvement in the community, she has served or currently serves on an extensive list of key organizational boards including the Omaha Public School Board, Nebraska Association of School Boards Director-Region 3 and is the co-chair for the National School Boards Association/Council of Urban Boards of Education Racial Isolation Task Force.

Gray is the leading advocate for the Career for Kids Consortium comprised of OPS and post-secondary public officials and senior executives. In partnership with Omaha employers and community-based organizations, the OPS initiative has a 14-year strategy taking the student from middle school to a post-secondary experience to employment.

Gray is a Great Plains Public Health Leadership Institute scholar. She has received numerous awards including the Urban League of Nebraska’s African- American Leadership Award for Education in 2010 as well as recognition from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln for promoting higher education in 2009.

Gray brings her time, talents and determination to the community she grew up in. A supporter of education and committed to life-long learning, she has a passion to see children succeed.


Honoree - Mary Hawkins

A collaborative team builder, focused on ways to make meaningful education opportunities available to adults. That’s Dr. Mary Hawkins, President of Bellevue University.

Since Dr. Hawkins arrival in 2000, Bellevue University has grown an average 12 percent each year and has been consistently ranked as one of the fastest growing nonprofit universities in the country.

Dr. Hawkins led the development and implementation of Bellevue University’s Cyber-Active Learning model, one of the first and most effective online learning systems in the U.S.

From assessing a market need to developing curriculum, to piloting and marketing the programs through enrollment of students – Dr. Hawkins is instrumental in developing new programs. She established partnerships between the University, corporations and community colleges throughout the Midwest.

Strongly focused on non-traditional students, supporting class schedule flexibility and open enrollment, Dr. Hawkins has been keenly supportive of working mothers, military spouses and other adult learners to continue their education while juggling their careers and families.

Dr. Hawkins established the South Omaha Outreach project and scholarship program which currently serves 96 (64 female) residents of South Omaha.

She is a member of a number of associations including the Council of Independent Colleges, American Association of Community Colleges and the Oracle Education and Research Industry Strategy Council.

Hawkins serves on numerous local and national boards including the Boy Scouts of America, United Way of the Midlands, Greater Omaha Chamber and the Omaha Business Ethics Alliance.

Dr. Hawkins, is described as always looking for ways to better her community and is not afraid to “put the gloves on” to help get the job done. In her private life, she is an avid runner requiring a great deal of energy and determination.

Putting that same kind of energy and determination into everything that she does, Hawkins greatly benefits the entire community.


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