Diamonds of Distinction

Diamonds of Distinction

April 1st, 2013 in Chatter

Standing (left to right): Maxine Alper and Jo Ann Yates; Seated (left to right): Mary Barker and Nell Mohney

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Inspired by Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee, the American Lung Association in Tennessee will host their own special Diamond Celebration honoring four women whose lives exemplify the spirit and intent of volunteerism.

Just as Queen Elizabeth II has led her country for decades and continues to rule her country, these women have been leaders in their community for decades and continue to be leaders and pillars of the community. They inspire us by their example; they do not rest on their laurels or "hang up their gloves." They continue to volunteer, to lead and to be present in support of their community. They set the bar very high for all of us.

There is an old saying: "You cannot do a good deed too soon; you never know how soon it will be too late." Similarly, you cannot honor a good person too soon or too often; you never know how soon it will be too late.

And so, for this once-in-a-lifetime of the Women of Distinction event, we are honoring these women who have spent decades doing good deeds, serving their community and their fellow men and women. They have a broad spectrum of service among them, covering many causes and many areas of the community, all in the spirit of volunteerism. The women we honor today for their "decades of doing" are our Diamonds of Distinction:

Maxine Alper

Maxine Block Alper has been a vital, caring, giving part of our community and state for many years. She has done so many good deeds for family, friends and community that it is almost impossible to recognize all of them. More importantly, however, she remains an active force and doer of good deeds in our community to this very day.

Maxine was married for 63 years to Dr. Charles Harold Alper, and the couple had three children: Jeff, married to Donna; Ches, married to Carol; daughter Debby and grandson Justin. She is a member of two congregations, B'Nai Zion and Mizpah; a life member and past president of Hadassah; a past chair and co-chair of numerous fundraisers for the Jewish Community Center; and a past co-chair of the women's division of the Jewish Federation of Chattanooga for several years.

Her community involvement has covered a broad spectrum, from being a member of the first Human Relations Commission for the City of Chattanooga under Mayor Chuck Bender to serving as past board member and hospitality chairman of the GPS Alumnae Association to being president of the Valleybrook Women's Golf Association and serving in a number of capacities for various medical and medically-related organizations.

She has been a member of the Lung Association and one of the first Women of Distinction, working every year on the WOD planning committee. Maxine has raised funds for the American Cancer Society, been a fundraiser and charter member of the Medical Alliance, a board member of the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary and an original board member of the original Siskin Auxiliary, for which she volunteered countless hours. She has worked in many capacities for the Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation where she continues her almost daily workout routine.

Her love for children, especially special needs children, is apparent in so many of her volunteer activities. She was involved with White Oak School for the Deaf until its closing, was involved with Camp Spectrum at Warner Park, a summer camp for children with physical disabilities, raised funds for the Signal Centers at the Princess Ball, and in more recent years she helped found and is a charter member of the "Friends of Special Children," working closely with this group whose mission is to "seek out and provide assistance in the betterment of the lives of special children in our community."

Maxine Alper has always worked for and supported in some way almost every major fundraiser in our city. She loved golf and still loves knitting but loves helping others most of all. She was a devoted wife, still a devoted mother and grandmother and a dear friend. This beautiful, perfectly coifed dynamo of good deeds is a true jewel in our community's crown.

Mary Barker

Mary Barker excelled in the world of academics, receiving her Ph.D from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in English literature with a minor in philosophy. Previously she had received her master's degree in English literature and her bachelor's degree from the University of Chattanooga in education. She also graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music with honors in voice pedagogy and a minor in piano.

She has taught throughout her career as an English teacher and class sponsor at Chattanooga High School, an English professor and Dean of Academic Affairs at Cleveland State Community College, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Chattanooga State Community College, and most recently, as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The Humanities Building at Cleveland State Community College is named in her honor as the Mary T. Barker Humanities Building. She has also received the Evans Award as Outstanding Teacher at Chattanooga High School and has been inducted into the Alpha Society at the University of Chattanooga for Academic Achievement.

Mary is also known for her community service to Chattanooga's musical culture. From 1970-1986 she served as the writer of program notes for the Chattanooga Symphony Concerts. From 1981 to 1986, Mary was a member of the Board for the Tennessee Humanities Council, serving as chair from 1985-1986. She was also member and chair of the Board of Choral Arts Society. She is a part of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera Association and even worked to revive the Chattanooga Youth Orchestra. She had a part on the search committee to find and hire current Music Director Kayoko Dan.

Mary is an active member of First Christian Church Disciples of Christ and continues to mentor students in their pursuit of higher education.

Nell Mohney

Dr. Nell Mohney is a native of Shelby, North Carolina and a magna cum laude graduate of Greensboro College, where she was named a Distinguished Alumnus. The Doctor of Humane Letters degree was awarded by Tennessee Wesleyan College.

Nell is a writer, lecturer, motivational speaker and Sunday school teacher. Her column appears weekly in the Chattanooga Times Free Press. She is the author of 13 books including Don't Put A Period Where God Put A Comma, How to be Up on Down Days, Don't Stop Kicking As Long As You Are Ticking, Get a Faith Lift, Develop Your Bounce Back Ability, You Can Soar Like an Eagle, Running the Marathon of Life, Slay Your Giants and Just Choose Happiness.

She speaks throughout the state and nation and leads seminars for business, professional and church organizations. Twice she has spoken at the International Women's Conference at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Ca. and the Pampered Chef national conventions in Chicago and Toronto, Canada.

In 1993 she was named to the Chattanooga Women of Distinction Hall of Fame, in 1998 she was named a biographee in Marquis' Who's Who in America and in 1999 was named Tennessee Woman of Distinction.

Nell feels her most important roles, however, are as mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

Jo Ann Yates

Jo Ann Yates, Tennessee Woman of Distinction, is living the legacy of passion and commitment to service in her community.

Her work with children and families is broad and diverse with roots coming from her hands-on volunteerism. Her strong commitment to children of all abilities and from various backgrounds began at an early age. Jo Ann went with her mother to visit the homeless families who lived under the Market Street Bridge to offer food and clothing. Each Christmas Jo Ann gave one of her Christmas present to a homeless child living there under the bridge.

Over 40 years ago she was volunteering in a local center that provided support for babies and young children with cerebral palsy. She developed a special bond with a girl whose family did not realize what disease their child had. The children attending the center were picked up and taken home daily by a bus driver. When the driver had surgery, Jo Ann volunteered to drive the bus herself to be sure the children did not miss their time at the center. She drove the route daily for four weeks with her pet poodle in tow, to the delight of those special children.

Those early days of volunteerism led to her involvement with the Siskin Children's Institute, Children's Advocacy Center, Foster Care and Review Board, the Hamilton County Community Service Agency and the Creative Discovery Museum. As they say, "all roads lead home" and Jo Ann is never far from her first love - children with needs.

This local commitment with the Children's Advocacy Center got the attention of Governor Phil Bredesen who recently appointed Jo Ann to the 21-member state-wide Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth which educates, evaluates, advocates and makes recommendations on the needs and problems of children and youth.

After her late husband Walter Cline died in 1984, Jo Ann began to consider ways to honor his memory. Walter's father W.M. Cline had established the W.M. Cline Co., a photo finishing business with a reputation throughout the south and Midwest, and Walter continued that success as a second-generation entrepreneur.

She became interested in Siskin Rehabilitation Hospital through the Pregulman family and pursued the idea of the Walter Cline Chair of Excellence in Rehabilitation Technology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Jo Ann's determination with setting up this chair has led to a doctoral program offered in physical therapy at the University.

This association with UTC continued as Jo Ann served as a Trustee of the UC Foundation, the UC Endowment Committee, and the UT Alliance of Women Philanthropists. She was tapped by Governor Don Sundquist who appointed her to the Tennessee Blue Ribbon Commission for Higher Education. As one of the only two women among CEOs and academics, Jo Ann's advocacy for doctoral programs at UTC laid the groundwork for future Ph.D programs. The fact that she spoke so eloquently and answered all questions regarding such a program prompted a prominent Knoxville businessman serving on the commission to ask, "Who is that woman?"

That woman is truly a Tennessee Woman of Distinction who got her pilot's license at age 17, who began and led the first Winged Girl Scout Troop in Tennessee which helped the Civil Air patrol keep records during searches. She is a woman who has done her share of mountain climbing both literally, at Matterhorn in Switzerland and Everest Base Camp in Nepal, and figuratively in the board room fighting for her causes. Always the adventurous one, Jo Ann and her husband Pierce enjoy traveling and fishing in Montana, Wyoming, Argentina and Iceland.

But the true love of her life is spending time with the children and adorable grandchildren she shares with Pierce.

Though her climbing days are over, she continues the never-ending climb to help her community and her state. A woman of versatile talents, Jo Ann is as comfortable cuddling children with special needs as she is taking her case for children to Nashville.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said in a speech after World War II, "Where, after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhoods (s)he lives in; the school or college (s)he attends; the factory, farm or office where (s)he works... Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."