Girl Scouts announce 2019 Women of Distinction

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MARTINSBURG — Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital this week has named three women from the Eastern Panhandle as the 2019 Women of Distinction.

They will be recognized at the 15th annual Women of Distinction luncheon this fall on Oct. 9 at the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg.

Nominated by community members, Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix, Christina Johnson and Audrey Morris were selected by their peers for outstanding volunteerism in the community, contributions to their professions, and being exemplary role models for girls, according to a release from the Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital.

“They each clearly epitomize this year’s theme for the Girl Scouts’ Gold Award: ‘Girls the World Needs,’” the release said.

Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix is Shepherd University’s 16th president and its first graduate ever to lead the school; her undergraduate degree was in pre-med/biology. She holds a Ph.D. from George Washington University in anatomy and was a National Institute of Health Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School in anatomy/cell biology. Hendrix is currently on the Board of Directors at the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences; she chairs the National Disease Research Interchange Board, which is partially funded by NIH; she serves on the Board of Directors for Research!America, a not-for-profit public education and advocacy alliance working to make health research a higher national priority; and also serves on the Chicago Council for Science and Technology, and the Executive Advisory Board for Northwestern University Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence. Additionally, she serves locally on the Meritus Medical Center’s Board of Directors in Hagerstown.

Hendrix has been a member of the NIH Council of Councils, the National Human Genome Research Institute Council, and the National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Advisors. She is a past-president of FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology with 100,000 members), and has testified numerous times before Congress regarding the budgets of the National Institute of Health, Department of Defense, and National Science Foundation, and about human embryonic stem cell research. She also served as a co-founder and co-director of the Virtual Naval Hospital, a digital medical library adopted by the navies of four countries. She has authored more than 280 publications on biomedical research, has 10 patents for the treatment of cancer, and continues her research in the Hendrix Cancer Research Lab in Morgantown.

Hendrix’s goals of excellence, innovation, and opportunity impact not only Shepherd University but also our whole region, nation and world, the release said.

“Her career — her very life as a scientist, leader and educator — make her a remarkable role model for all young women everywhere,” the release said.

Hendrix also was a Girl Scout while growing up in the Eastern Panhandle.

Christina “Chris” Johnson, a lifelong resident of the Eastern Panhandle, has served since 2008 as the director of Resource Development for Panhandle Home Health, Inc., where, through its two major annual fundraising events, she has raised more than $300,000 for the organization since its inception. Johnson loves her community and is an active force in its leadership, the release said. She was president of the Martinsburg Rotary Club (2014-15) and the Tri-State Chapter American Fundraising Professionals (2018). She has been a board member of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, a graduate of Leadership Jefferson (2012) and Leadership Berkeley (2012). She served as a member of the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle’s steering committee for five years before becoming co-chair in 2014-15.

Additionally, Johnson is vice president of Laureate Zeta Sorority and was its former president (2015-16). She is a founding member of WISH (Women Investing in Shepherd) and a Paul Harris Fellow (Rotary International); she received the Rotary Presidential Citation Award for her efforts toward helping nine area crisis centers receive human trafficking certification.

Without a doubt, Johnson’s work ethic, leadership skills, compassion and dedication make her a Woman of Distinction, the release said.

Audrey Morris has roots dating back five generations in Morgan County. For the past 20 years she has been the driving force in the success of Starting Points, a program that provides vital services for families in need, according to the release. Expanding from its original focus of teen pregnancy prevention and the education of young parents, the program has grown to include six staff members and 150-plus volunteers who have served over 200,000 meals through the Meal Time Community Kitchen (started 2004); 98,000 bags of weekend food through the Backpack Program (started 2012); 7,500 books given to pre-school children and their families (started 2000); and 68 Cheap-Eats nutrition education activities (started 2014). She has been instrumental in the TOD public transportation project in Morgan County as well as family art activities with the Morgan Arts Council and the community foundation’s FAST aimed at enhancing nutrition, the release said.

Morris has served on committees of United Way of the Eastern Panhandle, and on the boards of Community Alternatives to Violence and the Child Advocacy Center. In addition, she is a past board member of MCAFF and Tri-State Community Health Center, and currently serves on the WVU Extension Service Committee.

“Morris is not only an exemplary role model but also a dependable, noteworthy and empowering resource for women and girls in and beyond Morgan County,” the release said.


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