The 2018 Athena Awards will honor 10 area women and men who are leaders in their careers and are promoting leadership opportunities for other women.

Hosted by Iowa Women Lead Change, or IWLC, this year's award event will mark a change, switching from a luncheon to an evening celebration at the Waterfront Convention Center, Bettendorf. The Athena Awards and Male Champion of Change Awards are sponsored by Bank of America.

The awards begin with a cocktail hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by a program and keynote speaker Robyn Benincasa, the founder of World Class Teams, a world champion adventure racer, a CNN Hero and full-time firefighter.

This year's Athena honorees are: Monica Forret, St. Ambrose University; LuAnn Haydon, retired John Deere; Lisa Killinger, Palmer College of Chiropractic; Chris McCormick Pries, Vera French; and Amy Nimmer, retired John Deere. The 2018 Male Champion of Change honorees are: Brian Hollenback, Economic Growth Corp.; Daniel Huber, Frontier Hospitality Group; Christopher Hunter, Genesis Health Systems; A J Loss, Bush Construction; and Joe Moreno, Quad-City Marathon.

The awards event also caps off a day-long IWLC Women's Leadership Conference hosted for the first time in the Quad-Cities.

Deanna Woodall, IWLC Quad-Cities regional manager, said the format change was driven, in part, by IWLC's local launch of its statewide conference, but also to raise the event's profile. She said the evening format allows for a longer program, dinner, a keynote speaker and a more relaxed atmosphere to celebrate those being honored. 

"The highlight is honoring these 10 individuals and the announcement of both the Athena and Male Champion of Change," she said. "This is a very notable recognition and it needs to be treated as such."

Introduced in 2006 with a partnership between the then Women's Connection and the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, the awards event merged in 2011 with Athena International. hat affiliation lead the program to adopt the international organization's standards, including the selection of a single Athena recipient.

In the past 36 years, more than 7,000 Athena International awards have been presented. It is affiliated with more than 500 program communities worldwide and is active in eight countries.

Beginning this year, IWLC also will select a single man as the Male Champion of Change. Women's Connection merged with IWLC in 2017.

Woodall said the Athena's five honorees were selected from 17 nominees submitted by the public and narrowed to five honorees by the previous year's honorees. The Athena winner was selected by another committee, which includes last year's Athena recipient. 

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