Rutherford ATHENA

2021 ATHENA International Award ceremony set for June 2021

The 2021 ATHENA international Awards season is underway. Thank you to the nominating organizations who nominated an outstanding leader and are helping us honor some amazing women in our community. We look forward to introducing you to our nominees in 2021.


About the ATHENA Award

The ATHENA Award®, named for the strong, enlightened goddess, goes to individuals who excel in their professions, give back to their communities and help develop other leaders, especially women.

ATHENA – Leadership ModelToday, ATHENA International is a global program. Since the program’s inception, more than 7,000 awards have been presented in over 500 communities in the United States, Canada, China, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

The ATHENA Leadership Model® was developed through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and identifies eight distinct attributes that are reflective of women’s contributions to leadership.

Nominees for the Rutherford ATHENA and Young Professional Awards must live or work in Rutherford County. If the nominee lives outside of Rutherford County, she must work in Rutherford County.

ATHENA International Award Recipients Honored September 16, 2020

The 2020 ATHENA Award recipient is Diane Cummings Turnham, who was nominated by The United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties.

Turnham serves as senior associate athletic director and as senior women’s administrator with MTSU Blue Raider Athletics. She currently chairs the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. Turnham earned a B.S. in elementary education from Lipscomb University and an M.S. in public health from Austin Peay State University.

The ATHENA Award recognizes an individual who excels in her profession, gives back to the community, and helps develop other leaders, especially women. Throughout her career, Turnham has advocated for scholarships, access, and parity in women’s sports. She began her 38-year career at MTSU as an assistant basketball coach.  Although she had never played or coached volleyball, she added the role of  head women’s volleyball coach to her basketball coaching duties in the early years to provide greater opportunities for women to play sports at MTSU.

Turnham quickly recognized a disparity in funding and facilities between men’s sports and women’s sports. “I never dreamed that there would be issues with these necessary elements to support a college athletic team. I was one of two female coaches at the time, and if I did not fight for these ladies, who would? I developed a fierce desire to fight for everything our women’s programs needed to succeed. That’s when I realized I would become an athletic administrator and change opportunities for our female athletes at MTSU,” she said.

Turnham fought for additional scholarships, better travel conditions, more operating funds, and better sports equipment. In addition, she fought for better practice, locker room and game facilities, as well as greater access to academic tutors, athletic trainers, and additional assistant coaches for each sport. She was an integral part of adding the women’s soccer and women’s golf programs at MTSU, which were accompanied by the NCAA full allotment of scholarships for these programs. She has also advocated for equal salaries for coaches as well as new or improved facilities for the women’s sports programs.

If you walk into my office you see a wall filled with pictures of former athletes. Why? Because they tell the story of my life. If you invest in people, they will invest in you and themselves. They have all shaped my life and my profession in some wonderful ways. Athletes’ dedication, commitment to excellence and desire to excel have changed my life for the better. I do not see myself as a leader but as a servant, a person committed to making this world better for those around me,” she said. 

2020 ATHENA Nominees

Dr. Yuan-ling Chao, American Association of University Women of Murfreesboro
Leslie Anne Collum, League of Women Voters of Murfreesboro/Rutherford County
Kristin Coile Demos, Saint Thomas Rutherford Foundation Ambassadors
Judge Lynn England Alexander, MTLAW
Dr. Linda Gilbert, United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties
Cherillyn A. Maddox, Cherillyn A. Maddox
Betsy Maples Taylor, Jones College of Business
Elizabeth McPhee, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated® Pi Nu Omega Chapter
Celeste Middleton, Boys & Girls Clubs of Rutherford County
Dr. Mary T. Moss, Charity Circle of Murfreesboro
Judge Donna Scott Davenport, Junior League of Murfreesboro
Sharon Seibert, Murfreesboro Breakfast Rotary Club
Nancy Skinner, Guaranty Trust Company
Dr. Barbara F Turnage, MTSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women and the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students
Gina W. Urban, RUTHERFORD Cable
Mary M. Wade, Murfreesboro Branch of the NAACP

Nominate an Outstanding Leader Today!

Have questions about nominating a local leader? Join us for a Zoom Conference on Wednesday October 21, 8:30 – 9:30 am

ATHENA Awards Ceremony

When: Nominees & Guests in Person
Virtual option – 
Virtual guests will watch the event LIVE on YouTube.
September 16, 11 am registration,
11:30 program begins

Where: Embassy Suites Murfreesboro, 1200 Conference Center Blvd, Murfreesboro, TN  37129  

Diane Cummings Turnham

2020 ATHENA Award Recipient



ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award

The Young Professional Leadership Award recognizes an emerging leader under age 40 who demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in her profession, gives back to the community and serves as a role model for young women.

ATHENA Patrons Society

The ATHENA Patrons Society provides an ongoing foundation of sustainability to the Rutherford ATHENA Award Program. Contributions to this annual fund support the Program and its ATHENA Nontraditional Scholarship.

ATHENA Nontraditional Scholarship

The Rutherford ATHENA Award Program bestows a scholarship annually to women who have embodied ATHENA’s characteristics of wisdom, strength, and justice in their own life and endeavors.

ATHENA Leadership Forum


2020 ATHENA Sponsors

For more information about the Rutherford ATHENA Award® Program, please contact Tosha Price, 2021 ATHENA Sponsorship Chair, at
For more information on the ATHENA International Leadership Award, please visit