The Aqua Turf Club was buzzing as attendees for the 10th anniversary Women of Innovation awards dinner filtered into the networking lobby. More than 500 attendees made up of Women of Innovation, past and present, and their incredibly supportive friends and family, created an atmosphere of awe and excitement as they intermingled during cocktail hour. Many of the women were first time attendees and event veterans were quick to reach out and take them under their wing. For women who arrived alone, ambassadors from the Connecticut Technology Council were ready to integrate them into the culture of Women of Innovation.
Once everyone found their table, and the salads, bread baskets, and other appetizers had been devoured, retired Air Force Major General Suzanne Vautrinot kicked the night off with a meaningful and heartfelt keynote presentation.
“You are the people who imagine and what you imagine is changing a nation. You are imagination and tonight you are my heroes.”
Suzanne discussed not only the rewards of innovation but the importance of its diversity. That some of the Women of Innovation in the room would or have already develop extraordinary technologies, some of which would save lives while others would pave the way for business growth and job creation. “You are scientists, engineers, teachers, mothers, sisters… all very different but with so much in common. First and foremost, you are all innovators, and second, you are all very real,” she said.
Suzanne reminded us that being a leader is tough but being innovative enables you to take new steps in order to figure your way around. She expressed the importance of setting integrity before self and having excellence in all you do, that not every decision can be your own but when it is you have the opportunity to blaze a trail that is completely unique.
The excitement and words of encouragement did not end when Suzanne Vautrinot left the podium. Each top category winner graced the stage with her inspiring words of gratitude and encouragement.
The first category winner was Youth Innovation and Leadership recipient Bridget Oei, high school student at East Catholic High School. “One of my goals in life is to always surround myself with brilliant minds. There is something that is so beautiful in the things I do, the research I’ve done, the innovative people I’ve met. I’m so honored to be recognized for seeing beauty and I see beauty in all of you.”
Elaine Pagliaro, Assistant Executive Director at Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science, University of New Haven, was the recipient of the Academic Innovation and Leadership award. Pagliaro inspired us to stay innovative no matter what profession or stage of life we are in. “Be curious; think about everything, not just science. We live in a world, not just a lab. You need to be excited and emotional.”
Every acceptance speech successfully tugged at the heart strings but just to make sure there was no dry eye or expressionless face in the audience, the Connecticut Technology Council rolled out a compilation video of previous year acceptance clips.
The last award recipient, Laura Smith, winner of the Large Business Innovation and Leadership award, hit the nail on the head when she acknowledged the strong competition for such a prestigious award. “I’ve always thought I have the coolest job in the world,” she said. “But after hearing everyone tonight I may have to revisit that!”
The Connecticut Technology Council would like to congratulate each and every one of this year’s Women of Innovation. We are very proud of the top category winners for their hard work, determination and continued passion in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Each and every one of these 59 ladies is deserving of the title “Woman of Innovation.” Connecticut will look to them to be game changers, job creators, passion infusers, mentors, teachers and leaders. We are honored that they call Connecticut home.
2014 Women of Innovation Top Category Winners:
Youth Innovation and Leadership: Bridget Oei, High School Student, East Catholic High School
Academic Innovation and Leadership: Elaine Pagliaro, Assistant Executive Director, University of New Haven
Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership: Ilana Odess, CEO & Founder, Woven Orthopedic Technologies, LLC
Large Business Innovation and Leadership: Laura Smith, Director of Engineering, General Dynamics Electric Boat
Small Business Innovation and Leadership: Manon Cox, President & CEO, Protein Sciences Corporation
Community Innovation and Leadership: Nancy Cappello, Executive Director & Founder, Are You Dense, Inc.
Collegian Innovation and Leadership: Zengmin Xia, Graduate Student, University of Connecticut
Research Innovation and Leadership: Robin Chazdon, Professor, University of Connecticut (not pictured)