MELBOURNE, FLA. — weVENTURE Women’s Business Center (WBC) at Florida Tech’s Bisk College of Business and Presenting Sponsor Bank of America announced the winners for the 2023 Women Who Rock Awards in honor of Women’s History Month.
All 61 nominees were celebrated at the sold-out luncheon March 22 at the Hilton Rialto in Melbourne, with more than 400 people attending.
In her opening remarks, weVENTURE Executive Director Kathryn Rudloff summarized the purpose the annual awards and gathering: “To celebrate the accomplishments of our sisters in business and recognize outstanding women doing impactful work in our community. We celebrate their accomplishments and rejoice in the opportunity to recognize their excellence. Why? Because empowered women empower other women.”
Here are the winners of the 2023 Women Who Rock Awards.
Female Small Business Owner of the Year
Presented by Kellee Feifer, Preferred Lending Market Leader, Bank of America
Darlyne McGee, owner, Silhouette Hair Design Studio. McGee opened her salon in 1973 and is celebrating 50 years in business this year. Over the years she expanded the salon and now has seven locations, in addition to an academy of cosmetology she founded. Darlyne had trained extensively in Europe and the U.S. and was determined to raise the bar for cosmetology and hair design in Florida. She dedicated herself to helping train others to enter the field and has personally trained and mentored an estimated 500-plus salon professionals and other business owners. She and her business have supported numerous non-profits over the years, offering complimentary cuts to women and girls at the Women’s Center, Hacienda Girls Ranch, Serene Harbor and the Wendy Program. Her nominator notes that Darlyne is a young and vibrant 83 years old, still works 6 days a week in the salon and is an icon within the Florida cosmetology community.
Executive of the Year
Presented by Tracy Sorzano, Senior Vice President and Wealth Strategy Regional Manager, PNC Bank
Janice Zilch, Vice President and integrated product team lead of Multi Domain Command and Control in the Global Surveillance division and Melbourne Site Leader for Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems. Zilch oversees a portfolio of weapon systems that deliver Department of Defense premier airborne command and control and battle management capabilities. These systems include the total life cycle of the U.S. E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and Airborne Mine Counter Measures Systems, and the U.S. Air Force E-8 Joint STARS. As site leader, she also provides executive leadership for the Melbourne site which employs thousands. Zilch takes the time to mentor those under her management. She was awarded the Program Management and Department of Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award, among her highest accomplishments.
Excellence in Mentorship
Presented by Kelly Swartz, Partner with Widerman Malek
Paulette King-Morin. This Florida Tech alumna and proud Panther basketball player has done many things, but all of them are about uplifting and empowering those around her. She coached basketball for 10 years at schools including Florida Atlantic University and then-Brevard Community College as well as the Jamaican national team. She continues working with young people on basketball courts across Brevard. Shed is also a published author (2007’s Music Made Simple: The Baby Step Method) and, since 2010, has worked as a writer, poet, blogger, social media influencer and film maker, using the variety of media to advocate on behalf of others. Her nominator mentioned that King-Morin always involves community stakeholders in her efforts, most notably a group of local elementary students who collaborated to make a short film called “Stop Bullying.”
Women Trending in Tech
Presented by Carmen Robertson, Vice President of Talent Equity and Inclusion, L3Harris
Sarah Farris, Director of Engineering at Guardian Manufacturing. Farris leads a team of 14 engineers with directness and effectiveness. She earned an electrical engineering degree from the University of Mississippi and continues to serve on the school’s College of Engineering Board of Advisors. Over her career, she has developed systems for businesses including Lockheed Martin, Universal Studios, Blue Origin, Owens Corning and United Launch Alliance. Last September, Farris was promoted to Guardian’s Director of Engineering and became a valuable member of the growing company’s leadership team.
Excellence in Caregiving
Presented by Jo Powell, Vice President of Operations, Health First
Teri Jones, founder of Elderly Compassionate Care and Macedonia Education Technology and Career Academy. Jones had a 20-year career in the U.S. Army. She retired in 1997 and started a second career in education, working for 16 years at Eastern Florida State College as director of several departments. It was there that she saw a dire need to address the high demand for healthcare workers and an opportunity to do so in a way that would help more disadvantaged individuals access training and education necessary to pursue careers in healthcare. So she founded the Elderly Compassionate Care and Macedonia Education Technology and Career Academy programs, a veteran- and faith-based program providing Brevard County’s low-income residents scholarship funds for entry level healthcare training. Upon completion of training and certification, students receive job placement assistance through CareerSource Brevard. Jones continues to mentor them as their careers unfold.
Zonta Yellow Rose Award for Excellence in Community Service
Presented by Zonta of Melbourne Board Member Cathy Greene
Diana Adams, Executive Director of the Brevard Heart Foundation and member, West Melbourne City Council. Adams began her career as an award-winning elementary school social studies teacher. Since leaving the classroom, she has focused on community service, serving on multiple boards and committees and volunteering. She may be known for leading the board of the Space Coast Field of Dreams and serving as Executive Director of the Brevard Heart Foundation. Adams is currently working toward her doctoral degree, and her dissertation research is focused on Family Promise of Brevard to help them optimize efficiency in their efforts through their stabilization program addressing homelessness. And Diana serves on the West Melbourne City Council, filling a seat that became vacant last spring before winning a full term in November.
“The 2023 Women Who Rock Awards was an uplifting afternoon celebrating these outstanding community leaders,” said Kellee Feifer, Preferred Lending Market Leader for Bank of America. “We commend the 2023 winners for their efforts to improve our community and their service as leaders, mentors and inspirations to other women.”