GAWL Awards

In recognition of the incredible leadership, vision and achievements of its members, GAWL gives six awards each year at its Annual Dinner. Criteria for five of those awards are listed below. Recipients of the first five awards are nominated by GAWL members and selected by the GAWL Board. The sixth 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); and Laurie Speed (2016).


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); and Laura Rashidi-Yazd (2016).


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); and Elaine Levine (2016).


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); and Megan Hodgkiss (2016).


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); and Leadership Committee (2016).


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); and Annie Jordan (2016).


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); and Laura Rashidi-Yazd (2016).