Six Quad-City women who have excelled in their careers while making a difference in their communities have been selected as the recipients of the 2011 Athena Awards.

This year’s recipients are Julie Bechtel, publisher of the Quad-City Times; Denise Bulat, executive director of Bi-State Regional Commission; Sister Joan Lescinski, president of St. Ambrose University; Caroline Ruhl, president of Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors; Jackie Staron, president of River City Tire Co.; and Ginny Wilson-Peters, president of Integrity Integrated.

The Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce and The Women’s Connection jointly announced the 2011 recipients Thursday.

The winners will be honored at a noon luncheon March 22 at Jumer’s Casino and Hotel, Rock Island. The awards are presented by Missman Stanley & Associates with sponsor support from MediaWork Productions, Venus Envy, IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union and Ashford University.

Colleen Rafferty, the executive director of The Women’s Connection, said the local event has made a significant change this year, affiliating with Athena International to now present the Athena Leadership Awards. Local organizers aligned their event with the international organization after learning of the two group’s similar missions. Athena International works “to support, develop and honor women leaders; to inspire women to achieve their full potential; and to create balance in leadership worldwide.”

In the past, the Quad-City event presented the Athena Business Women Awards each year to several women. Under the new format modeled after the international, Rafferty said one Athena recipient will be selected from the six honorees.

Dianne Dinkel, president of Athena International, is expected to attend the Quad-City luncheon.

All past local Athena honorees will be retroactively inducted as Athena Award recipients. They will join the more than 6,000 Athena and Global Athena Leadership winners selected since 1982 in more than 500 communities in the United States, Canada, Russia, China, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

This year’s Quad-City honorees were selected from more than 30 nominations by a committee made up of last year’s Athenas. The Athena recipient is being chosen by a selection committee made up of chamber and Women’s Connection representatives.

Honorees were selected on the following criteria: demonstrating excellence, creativity and initiative in her business or 

profession; providing valuable service to improve the quality of life for others; and actively assisting other women to realize their full leadership potential.

Here is a closer look at the 2011 honorees:

Julie Bechtel: The publisher of the Quad-City Times since 2005, she began her newspaper career in 1987 at the Des Moines Register. Her career has included management positions with the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal World, the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star, and The Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune.

She is responsible for management of the Times, the Quad-City Business Journal, the commercial print operations — Trico and Hawkeye Printing, and several niche publications. Publishers from three other Lee Enterprises properties also report to Bechtel, including Muscatine (Iowa) Journal, Maysville (Ky.) Ledger Independent and Orangeburg (S.C.) Times and Democrat. 

Her community involvement includes serving on the boards of Quad-Cities Chamber, United Way (2009 chairperson), YMCA, Quad-City Arts and Student Hunger Drive. She also is a Big Sister for a teenage girl through the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program; a member of the Women’s Leadership Council; and volunteered to assist the Girl Scouts’ Night on Broadway event.

Tragedy struck Bechtel’s family in 2009 when her infant granddaughter, Kennedi, died of SIDS. In memory of Kennedi, Bechtel started a non-profit called Kennedi’s Kisses to help young couples suffering the loss of their baby with the financial burden of burying their child.

Julie and her husband, Rick, have two sons, Matt and Nate, and two grandchildren, Cole and Coy.

Denise Bulat: In a community the size and complexity of the Quad-Cities, it is a challenge to ensure all the parts operate in unison. That is what Bulat has strived to do for the past decade as executive director of the Bi-State Regional Commission.

In her role, she oversees 26 staff members and guides a 36-member commission that facilitates intergovernmental programs and supports the work of five counties and 43 municipalities in the bi-state region. Her work includes keeping current on legislation affecting local governments; organizing major transportation projects such as the I-74 bridge overhaul; promoting community economic development, environmental and health improvements; and facilitating communications and emergency management systems.

Her community involvement includes United Way — board member, campaign cabinet member and Women’s Leadership Council steering committee and co-chair of the Advocacy Committee; and Quad-City Health Initiative, of which she is board chair). In addition, Bulat has volunteered with Junior Achievement, American Red Cross and Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.

She and her husband, Carl, have two children, Kelsey and Corinne.

Sister Joan Lescinski: In 2007, she was selected as the 13th president of St. Ambrose University becoming the first woman to lead the university in its 125-year history.

She has taught and administered at the college level since 1974, including at the College of St. Rose in Albany, N.Y., Avila University in Kansas City, Mo., and Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Mo. Before coming to St. Ambrose, she was president and professor of English at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana.

While at St. Ambrose, Lescinski led the groundbreaking of the new health sciences building, and has introduced several new undergraduate and graduate academic programs. She regularly hosts student groups at her home, cooking for them and engaging them in making St. Ambrose better.

Her other community involvement includes: Putnam Museum board of directors; Quad-Cities Chamber; and Quad-City First board of directors. In addition, she serves on the boards of the College of St. Rose in New York and and Marymount College in California, the Council of Independent Colleges President’s Association; the Midwest Modern Language Association; and the Association for Religion and Intellectual Life.

She has been a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Louis, Mo., since 1965.

Caroline Ruhl: Since 1997, Ruhl has served as president of Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors, one of the largest women-owned businesses in Iowa. Under her leadership, the company has more than doubled revenues and expanded its market reach in eastern Iowa including in Cedar Rapids, Muscatine, Dubuque, Clinton and DeWitt.

Ruhl began her career at Rockwell International, serving in a variety of management and human resources positions. She joined Ruhl & Ruhl in 1980, eventually serving as the head of the relocation department, manager of the Quad-Cities Real Estate Relocation Center, and the company’s Bettendorf office manager. She is the fourth generation of Ruhls to lead the company and one of only a handful of women chief executive officers at the top 150 real estate companies.

Under her leadership, the firm ranks 102nd of more than 8,000 real estate companies in the U.S. and ranks first among large brokers in per agent productivity. Her other community involvement includes: Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Women’s Leadership Council steering committee; and the Realty Alliance board of directors. Previously, she served as the first female chair of the DavenportOne board and on the Scott County Family Y and Junior Achievement boards of directors. Ruhl was the first woman member of the Davenport Club board of directors.

She is married to John Thompsons, and has two sons, Chris and John.

Jackie Staron: A leader in historically male-dominated fields of automotive and manufacturing, Staron began her career at Chicago Tube and Iron in Milan, serving as tubular product manager. In 1987, she joined River City Tire Co., Davenport, working in office management and sales. In 1989, she became co-owner and president. Under her leadership, it has grown from a struggling business to the thriving, full-service tire and automotive company.

Many regional women have benefited from Staron’s free, female-focused car care clinics. She also devoted countless hours to volunteer causes that support women. She is chairwomen of Family Resource’s DOVE (Domestic Violence Ended) “Fill the Truck” event, which supports mothers and their children in shelters. Staron also serves on the DOVE Golf Outing Planning Committee, which raises funds to support awareness of domestic violence.

Her other community involvement includes: Fellowship of Christian Athletes board of directors; Our Lady of Victory Church; and North High School’s music and athletic booster programs.

She and her husband, Gene, have two children, Sarah and Shaun.

Ginny Wilson-Peters: With a career that began as a CPA at McGladrey and Pullen, Wilson-Peters moved on to be chief financial officer and then president of Midland Press Corp. While there, she was honored as one of the top 40 presidents of U.S. printing companies under the age of 40.

She left the corporate world to pursue her dream — ownership of Integrity Integrated, a leadership development company with national and international clients. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member for the University of Iowa’s Evening MBA Program and International Executive MBA Program in Hong Kong.

Her community involvement includes: Child Abuse Council, Family Resources Iowa, Women’s Leadership Steering Committee and the Quad-Cities American Heart Association Go Red for Women movement. In 2010, she served as executive chair of the Go Red for Women Luncheon, which raised nearly $100,000 for research and heart health education. She previously served on the Quad-Cities Health Initiative board and United Way Women’s Leadership Council.

She is married to Greg Peters and has two stepchildren, Makaila and Brice Peters.