Marcia Kuegel Carpenter, a retired educator from Daviess County Public Schools, was awarded the 2023 ATHENA Award by Girl’s Inc. on Tuesday for her service toward young women in and outside the community. The annual Legacy Award — which honors a woman posthumously for the contributions she made to society — was awarded to the late Carol Gallagher.
Carpenter, who was unable to attend due to contracting COVID-19 prior to the luncheon, was described as an “innovative, talented and action-driven individual with a deep sense of purpose and an unflagging commitment to community engagement and education.”
Her daughter Caroline Ruschell accepted the award on Carpenter’s behalf.
Ruschell said she often thinks about the women that have touched her life and other people’s lives. She said there are few that she considers awe-inspiring and otherwise indescribable, and she’s thankful that her mother is in that same category as well.
“What an incredible blessing and privilege it is for me to be able to stand before you and say that one of those rare women that I’ve been around is my mother,” she said. “If she were here today, she would want to say that she is humbled and honored to be this year’s ATHENA award recipient.”
Carpenter held several positions throughout the education community. She served as a teacher at the high school and college level before returning to Owensboro to serve as the High School to College Director at Owensboro Community and Technical College. She also eventually spent time as the Senior Guidance Counselor at Daviess County High School.
Following those roles, Carpenter helped launch Kentucky’s first New Tech Network High School, a project-based educational model which was recognized for increasing student engagement.
That led to the framework and day-to-day leadership which helped craft Owensboro Innovation Academy. She went on to launch the Girls Only summer engineering camps to empower young women to explore STEM careers beyond gender biases with the encouragement of women mentors.
Other successful programs she helped launch include the Community Campus, now known as Empower U.
Carpenter has served on several boards and been involved in the community in several ways throughout her time including:
- The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority and the Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Program, both appointed by the Governor.
- Board Vice President and Capital Campaign Co-chair of the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden
- Graduate of Leadership Kentucky
- Chair of the Citizens Committee on Education
- A member of Centre College Parent Advisory Board
- Board member and Former President of Girls Inc.
- Member of Impact 100
- Member of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church where she taught Sunday School for 40 years
“A passionate visionary, she has been the heart and soul of countless life-changing initiatives, affecting meaningful change for incalculable numbers of women, girls and at-risk individuals,” host Kirk Kirkpatrick read from Carpenter’s nomination letter. “She exemplifies the very best of those servant leaders who inspire us – that as a collective of individuals, families, community organizations and businesses – we can create an environment where everyone can thrive.”
Girls Inc. also named the late Dr. Carol “Kit” Gallagher, who died in October 2022, as the Legacy Award recipient.
Gallagher was described as an educator, advisor, author and community activist who consistently encouraged and inspired others to believe in themselves and reach their full potential.
She served as an English teacher in the community and also spearheaded the Virginia Miles Nature Center on the campus of OCTC. She was also a strong supporter of Girls Inc. where she donated books that portrayed strong women and girls and arranged special presentations for the students.
As a recipient of the Legacy Award, Gallagher’s name will be engraved on a plaque at Girls Inc. as a reminder of her contributions to the community.