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GAWL Awards

In recognition of the incredible leadership, vision and achievements of its members, GAWL gives seven awards each year at its Annual Dinner. Criteria for six of those awards are listed below. Recipients of the first six awards are nominated by GAWL members and selected by the GAWL Board. The seventh award, the President’s Award, is determined in the discretion of the outgoing GAWL President. In addition, the GAWL Foundation presents an annual award to a community volunteer who personifies the GAWL Foundation's mission. 

The Kathleen Kessler Award

The Kathleen Kessler Award is GAWL’s most important award, and it is given annually to a female attorney who exhibits the highest degree of professionalism and dedication to service in the legal community.

The criteria for this award include a long term commitment to the practice of law and to the legal community by someone who is held in high esteem by subordinates, peers and superiors. The GAWL Board gives this award in honor of attorney Kathleen Kessler who was killed in the 1996 Valujet Airline crash. She was considered a pioneer for women as a trial attorney and an unselfish mentor to young lawyers.

Past Recipients of the Kathleen Kessler Award are Elizabeth Appley (1997); Mary Ann Oakley (1998); Judge Dorothy Beasley (1999); Hon. Cathy Cox (2000); Judge Phyllis A. Kravitch (2001); Paula Frederick (2002); Phyllis J. Holmen (2003); Lynn Adam (2004); Jill Pryor (2005); Ruby Crawford (2006); Justice Carol Hunstein (2007); Shayna Steinfeld (2008); Sara Turnipseed (2009); Rebecca Godbey Cummings (2010); Rita Sheffey (2011); Jessica Wood (2012); Judge Susan Edlein (2013); Elaine Levine (2014); Lynn M. Roberson (2015); Laurie Speed (2016); Robin Sangston (2017); Avarita L. Hanson (2018); Honorable Catherine Salinas (2019); and Justice Leah Ward Sears (2021)..


The Visionary Award

The Visionary Award is presented to a GAWL member who has shown the characteristics of being forward thinking, creative and working for the best interest of GAWL. The Visionary Award was given for the first time in 2004.

Past recipients of the Visionary Award are Rebecca Godbey (2004); Annette Idalski (2005); Lee Wallace (2006); Jessica Wood (2007); and Angel Jacobs (2008); Toni Castel and Heather Wright (2009); Susan Campbell and Cristina León (2010); Lindsay Verity (2011); Cynthia Burnside (2012); Rachel Platt (2013); Alicia Grahn Jones (2014); Michelle West (2015); Laura Rashidi-Yazd (2016); Megan Hodgkiss (2017); Karyl Davis (2018); Erin Gerstenzang (2019); and Nazish Ahmed (2021).

The Volunteer Award

The Volunteer Award is presented to the member who has been the most helpful, available and willing to achieve the goals of GAWL. The Volunteer Award was given for the first time in 2004. In 2005 this award was named in memory of attorney Betty Leonard.

Past recipients of the Volunteer Award are Jessica Wood (2004); Shelley Welch Cox (2005 "Betty Leonard Volunteer Award"); Toni Castel (2006); Deborah Winegard (2007); Kathy Harrington (2008); Cristina León and Dotty Pritchett (2009); Lindsay Verity and Hon. Carol Hunstein (2010); Michelle West (2011); Janie Hagood (2012); Heather Brown and Heather Wright (2013); Kat Schuller (2014); Kristy Zimmerman (2015); Elaine Levine (2016); Valentia Alleyne (2017); Ansley Evans Sluss (2017); Valentia Alleyne (2018); Alyssa Peters (2019); and Aimee Clark and Judge Tabitha Ponder (2021).

The Spotlight Award

The Spotlight Award is presented to the member or committee who has achieved general publicity for GAWL, including in the Fulton County Daily Report. The Spotlight Award was given for the first time in 2004.

Past recipients of the Spotlight Award are Stacy Edelstein Hyken (2004); Christian Torgrimson (2005); Kelly Wilcove (2006); Toni Castel (2007); The Communications Committee and It's About Time Committee (2008); Susan Campbell and Tuwanda Williams (2009); Amy Kolczak and Nancy Whaley (2010); Public Affairs Committee (Alicia Grahn Jones and Jenny Lambert) (2011); Douglas/Paulding Chapter (2012); Laurie Vickery Benesh (2013); Cheryl Legare and Heather Wright (2014); Strategic Partnerships Committee (2015);  Megan Hodgkiss (2016); Veronica Higgs Cope (2017); Morgan Bembry (2018); Kasey Chow (2019); and Kareemah Lewis (2021).

The Committee of the Year Award

This award is presented to the Committee which had outstanding involvement and provided exemplary support to the development, growth and success of GAWL.  The Committee of the Year Award was given for the first time in 2004.

Past recipients of the Committee of the Year award are Programs Committee (2004); Special Events Committee (2005); Special Events Committee (2006); Programs Committee (2007); Leadership Committee (2008); Programs Committee and Special Events Committee (2009); Membership Committee (2010); Strategic Partnership Committee (2011); Public Affairs Committee (2012); Special Events Committee (2013); Membership Committee (2014); Mentoring Committee (2015); Leadership Committee (2016); Mentoring Committee (2017); Membership Committee (2018); The GAWL Foundation (2019); and the Communications Committee (2021).

The President’s Award

This recognition is determined in the discretion of the GAWL President for the current year. The President’s Award was given for the first time in 2004.

Past recipients of the President's Award are Cindy Spindler Manning (2004); Joy A. Gorney (2005); Pilar Prinz (2006); Lindsay Verity (2007); Toni Castel (2008); Jessica Wood and Kelly Wilcove (2009); Cynthia Burnside (2010); Rachel Platt (2011); Cristina León (2012); Karyl Davis (2013); Lindsey Hobbs (2014); Laura Rashidi-Yazd (2015); Annie Jordan (2016); The Honorable Dorothy Toth Beasley (2017); Valentia Alleyne, Melissa Capotosto and Courtney Valentine (2018); Nicole Pope/Savannah Chapter, Gwyn Newsom/Columbus Chapter, Tuwanda Williams/Gwinnett Chapter, Christy Crowe Childers/Middle Georgia Chapter, Virginia Hall/Tifton Chapter, Jessica Young/Valdosta Chapter, Nicola Robinson/Douglas-Paulding Chapter (2019); and Lori Gelchion, Judge Angela Brown, Judge Catherine Salinas, Karyl Davis, Columbus Chapter – Anne Kamosso, President, Douglas-Paulding Chapter – Ebony Phillips, President, Georgia State College of Law Chapter – Mary Claire Rizzardi, President, Gwinnett Chapter – Andrea Alabi, President, John Marshall Law School Chapter – Kristian Postma, President, Middle Georgia Chapter – Leslie Cadle, President, Tifton Chapter – Jennifer Herzog, President, Savannah Chapter – Mary Bostwick, President, and Valdosta Chapter – Kari Anne Bowden, President (2021).

The Leading Lady Award

The Leading Lady Award (established in 2018) recognizes a member who is championed as a whole leader.  One who not only demonstrates great leadership within the legal profession, but who is a trailblazer in the community, while also being cognizant of the importance of wellness and self-care.  The whole leader has integrated and exemplifies these attributes in her life, as well as promotes and encourages them to other members of GAWL and the profession. 

Past recipients of The Leading Lady Award are Honorable Paige R. Whitaker (2018); Christina Baugh (2021).



The Honorable Debra Bernes Community Volunteer Award

The late Honorable Debra Bernes, formerly a member of the Court of Appeals’ bench, was an active member of her community and gave back in many ways. The Foundation’s Community Service Award was renamed in her honor following her death in 2010 after a long battle with cancer. The Honorable Debra Bernes Community Volunteer Award recognizes a GAWL member who has a track record of exceptional service to the greater community through pro bono work and community service. Award recipients personify the GAWL Foundation’s mission to encourage philanthropy by women lawyers in Georgia for the benefit of the greater community. Judge Bernes set an example for what it means to be a community volunteer, and the GAWL Foundation seeks to honor GAWL members who follow in her footsteps. 

Past recipients of The Honorable Debra Bernes Community Volunteer Award are Amy Kolczak (2010); Amanda Wick (2011); Katie Salinas Acree (2012); Christian F. Torgrimson (2013); Adele P. Grubbs (2014)Stacey K. Hydrick (2015); Laura Rashidi-Yazd (2016); The Honorable Susan Edlein (2017); Melinda Pillow (2018); Veronica Higgs Cope (2019); and Judge Verda Colvin (2021).