TRAVERSE CITY — Roberta Teahen didn't see her family sneak into the back of the ballroom at the Great Wolf Lodge Thursday night. Her attention was on Cathie Martin, who was about to begin her speech that would reveal the 2014 recipient of the Athena award.
Athena Grand Traverse, part of a larger international awards program, bestows one Athena award each spring to someone in the region who has worked to create leadership opportunities for women.
The recipients hail from many vocations, but all must meet three requirements: demonstrate excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession; provide valuable service to improve the quality of life for others in their community; and assist women in reaching their full leadership potential.
Martin, the 2013 Athena award recipient, made it more than a third of the way through her speech before Teahen realized Martin was talking about her. Her family members made their way to the front of the room, and Martin announced Teahen as the 20th Athena recipient.
"I am shocked. And I'm grateful, humbled and appreciative," Teahen, 69, said, holding her bronze Athena statue and waving to her family.
"She's an extremely hardworking lady," husband Jim Teahen said. "She's very sharp, very smart. She raised a family, completed her master's and doctorate and worked full time. It's pretty telling of her intensity to get things done."
Her friend and former coworker, Karen Sabin, said the recognition is overdue.
"I was sitting there reading through the past recipients and I thought, someone is missing in this. I was thinking about you, and I had no clue," Sabin told her friend. "You've inspired so many people. You'll never know how many."
Teahen is associate provost for academic affairs at Ferris State University. She spent 25 years before that at Northwestern Michigan College — first as a business instructor, then as co-founder and director of the Center for Business and Industry, and finally as dean of workforce development.