written by
Cody Sullivan

Who's the Most Influential Woman in Your Life?

16 min read

Every March, we have the opportunity to celebrate Women's History Month. Additionally, we get to celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th this year. To recognize some incredible women this month, we gave our employees the opportunity to highlight and submit a post of... "The Most Influential Woman in their lives."

We hope you enjoy these submissions as much as we do!

Jonathan Brown - Head Chef - Delta Gamma, University of Oklahoma

amazing woman

The Most Influential Woman I've ever known is My Mom. From raising four boys who have all turned into men and professionals, to putting up with me in this crazy Chef career I’ve chosen, to cross country travels, to missing 12+ years of Christmas and every Holiday. She picked me up when I hit rock bottom and always giving me advice and paths to success. When I wanted to quit being a Chef, she gave me strength to keep pushing. She is always there to let me know that anything is possible with effort and drive. She has always taught to GIVE TO OTHERS even if it’s your last dollar because we will be blessed. I could go on and on, but my mom is my true inspiration and my TRUE FRIEND.

Teresa Marcotte - Accounting Assistant

aunt woman

The most influential woman in my life is my Aunt Melissa. She took me in as one of her own when I was in just 8th grade. She is the most caring and selfless person I've ever met; she's also one of the strongest. She's raised three amazing boys aside from myself. Her oldest boy had a very rare genetic condition, MPS, and had many special needs his entire 26 years of life. She overcame all of the challenges that were thrown her way, including his passing. Despite all of that, she continues to be the most positive person in my life. She's always there for anyone in need and keeps looking for ways to make the world around her a better place.

Kim Spencer - Assistant Chef - Delta Gamma, University of Alabama

first lady woman

The most important woman in my life is Teri Bertram, the First Lady in my church. She has been a part of my life for the last 22 years. She has shown me how to be a mother (mine wasn't always in the picture), how to love without judgement, to follow after God’s heart, and most of all how to be a Proverbs wife.

Teri has been there throughout the years to pick me up, dust me off and tell me to hold on to God's words. From birth, death, divorce, walking away from church, to coming back and remarriage, she has been there for me always with open arms and only a phone call away.

Thanks to Teri Bertram for helping me become the person I am today!

Cody Sullivan - Marketing/Culture Coordinator

woman

The most influential woman in my life is my mom, Lisa. It’d be hard to imagine a more loving, welcoming, generous person than her. She has the ability to connect with everyone she meets instantly which I really admire. She’s able to do this because she truly puts others before herself. She’s loving and kind, while also strong enough to handle anything life throws at her. I’ve never had to wonder if she’d be there for me or not and I consider myself extremely blessed to be able to call her Mom.

Sarah Kercher - Assistant Chef - Delta Gamma, University of Oklahoma

mom

I would honestly have to say the woman who has been the strongest in my life and inspired me most would be my mother. She taught me to work hard for what I really want and to just always be me. She has been my strongest rock. Our life wasn't easy and she always tried to make it better and find the good things to see in the bad. She is my best friend and I would never be able to do any of what I do without her. We do local events together and both work for OU. She is a badass costume designer and amazing artist, and I know she has inspired many other young women in her field. She will always have my utmost respect and love.

Paul Lawrence - Head Chef - Theta Xi, LSU

The most influential lady in my life was my grandmother, Helen Lawrence. She raised me after my father's death. We had a boarding house. When I was 10 years old, she was sick in bed and would tell me how to cook for the guests. "A pinch of this and a pinch of that. Make a little pool then pour in the buttermilk ". She taught me to make all the southern classics. Never would have guessed I would grow up and be a chef the rest of my life.

Meredith Moore - Head Chef - Kappa Alpha Theta, Georgia Tech

aunt

The most influential woman in my life is my Aunt Cathy. She is always there for me. She listens to me, always gives me great advice, and is always honest with me. As a young girl I spent summers with her. I can always count on her and love her very much!

Cliff Raphael - Sous Chef - Kappa Kappa Gamma, Florida State University

My mother has been an extraordinary influence on my life and always will be. She’s the kind of mom who would always take time out and care for her four children and the mom who would never let her hardships in her life distress her kids. My mother has always been a very strong role model to me, and growing up with someone like her to look up to has changed my life in many ways. She has helped me grow physically, intellectually and considerately. She taught me to always love, care and give back to people.

Johnita Quinlan - Head Chef - Alpha Chi Omega, University of Iowa

I have been thinking about this and I cannot with clear thoughts just pick one. I have 7 red headed sisters that are all strong, kind and we all like each other. They have my back and I have theirs as well. When my son got married a few years ago, during the mother son dance I kept getting tapped on the shoulder because it was each of them sharing the raising of my son as we have always done for each other.

Bobby Steward - Head Chef - Theta Chi, University of Oregon

While there are many women that have influenced my life, the title of "most influential" has to go to my Mom, Linda. I'm super lucky to have such a strong, smart and capable life teacher. One of the more impressive demonstrations of awesomeness is that she designed and built the house I was raised in along with my Dad, Grandpa and family friends. She's always there for me when I need to talk to someone. She always has a supportive and relevant perspective to all of my tumultuous life's inquiries. She raised four siblings before me, and she is now a well loved great-grandmother. There are, needless to say, countless other things I could mention, but I'll just keep it brief. Thanks Mom!

Aren't These Awesome?! Keep Going!

Justin Ellingwood - Regional Director

grandma

For Women's Day, I wanted to talk about my Grandma Parrish. This was my mother’s mom. While there have been plenty of other women, my own mother and two other grandmothers who have obviously had a part in raising me, Grandma Parrish was who I spent the most amount of time with growing up.

Both of my parents worked in the morning, so they would take me to her house before school, and after school, I would be back at her house until my parents picked me up to go home. Every morning she would make me breakfast and of course, I always wanted to help. My favorite was french toast. She would have me stand on a stool, whisk the eggs, dip the bread and put it in the pan to cook. Of course, I always had to be the one flipping the toast when the time was right. She was always cooking, which I believe is what fueled my love for cooking. She cooked, she cleaned, she traveled the country and the world with my grandpa and loved like no one I have ever seen.

When looking for photos to attach, it was impossible for me to find a photo without my grandpa in it because they were always together. If it weren't for her, I probably would have never really learned to cook and wouldn't have had an interest in food so it's only fitting that she's the woman who's had the biggest impact on my life.

Michael Vissicchio - Head Chef - Sigma Chi, Tulane University

mother

My mother, Imelda Hartman, is my hero and the most influential person in my life. She had me when she was young and probably before she was able to pursue her own life’s dreams. Her life before me growing up probably wasn't the easiest either, being the oldest of five and parents that were unstable. A lot of family burdens were shifted to become her responsibilities.

When she saw that she was in a dead end marriage she made the choice to go to nursing school and get done as soon as possible so she could support me on her own. It couldn't have been easy for her, as I was about five and didn't understand what was really going on. But as tired or stressed out that she may have been, she always made it abundantly clear that I was loved and there was always close family around.

It's because of her multiple suggestions that I became a cook/chef after many years of crappy dead end jobs. That was about nineteen years ago. There's not a few days that go by that we don't talk to see how each other are doing. It wasn't until I was much older that I came to understand the courage and fortitude that she had when she made the decision to do the best she could for her only son that she adored. Although she doesn't live very close to me I’m very proud and happy that we're not only mom and son but extremely close friends.

Summer McLaughlin - Sous Chef - Kappa Alpha Theta, NC State University

grandmother woman

The most influential woman for me is my Grandma. This picture is from 4 years ago at my graduation from culinary school. She’s always been there for me and I will never be able to thank her enough. I love that we can bond over our shared love of books and I’m so grateful to have her in my life. Love you Grandma!

Ron Schrodt - Head Chef - Pi Kappa Phi, Oregon State University

woman

To stop and think about all of the strong and bold women that have inspired me throughout my life and career and then try to choose one is definitely more difficult than I imagined it would be.

I mean first there is my mother who not only started me on this journey, but taught me that anything is possible as long as you put your mind and work into it and that mistakes are made to learn from and become a better person. There is my amazing wife who everyday stands by my side encouraging me to find the best in what each day brings to us. Then my beautiful daughters who brought out my nurturing side and remind me of the importance of family. And of course being a chef there is Julia Child, whose true passion for food inspired me to find mine.

But I believe my Grandma Rose is the one woman that has been all those things to me and more. I mean, as if raising 12 children in a four bedroom farmhouse was not enough inspiration, she has always encouraged me to be the best person I can in everything I do and to not only strive for my goals but to accomplish them. She makes me proud of who I am and where I come from. Her strength and passion for life has given me the courage to be the person I am today in my life and career.

Shaun Kuriata - Regional Executive Chef

The most influential woman in my life was my Grandma Kuriata, Lydia. She was born in Germany in 1913. She met my grandfather and they had 6 children, which she raised while my grandfather fought in WW2. They fled to America in 1949.

I remember every Sunday after church she would make a spread of food for all her children and grandchildren to come and eat. This is where I found my first love of cooking. She taught me so many things but most importantly she taught me the love of serving the ones you love some good ass food.

Marlena Monsour - Head Chef - Delta Gamma, LSU

The woman that inspires me the most is my husband’s great grandmother, Hazel Anderson. She is not only the oldest person that I have ever had the honor of knowing, but she is also the strongest. She just turned 100 last year and she is still going strong!

She has always made it her way of life to put other people first. Now being as old as she is, you would think she would be very dependent on others, but she is not. She, for the most part, does things for herself. She still drives, she loves to garden, and whenever she can, she loves to see her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and even 2 great great grandchildren. She is truly an inspiration to me and I think she should be an inspiration to us all. She is what I want to be when I grow up. Here's to you Hazel Anderson, or as everyone in our family likes to call her, Mimi.

Eric Daigneau - Head Chef - Sigma Nu, University of Florida

grandma

The most influential woman in my life is my Grandmother. Her name is Frances Daigneau and she influenced me in so many ways. My grandmother was one of the strongest ladies I have ever met. In the 50s, she moved herself and her 3 children from New Hampshire to Florida to start a new life as a single mom. Once in Florida, she worked as a full charge bookkeeper, raised 3 kids, and joined a bowling league once a week, ultimately being inducted into the bowling hall of fame for her 30 plus years of service as league treasurer.

My Grandmother practically raised me. When I was a youth she taught me how to cook. But most of all she taught me how to make-due with what you have. I remember one day when I was ten years old I asked her if she could sew a button on my shorts, she said, "no but I can show you how to do it. That way you'll always know how." This is just one example of the many life lessons she taught me.

Frances Daigneau was the single most influential woman in my life and in 2008 she passed away at the age of 94. However, her strength, morals, integrity, and stubbornness will always be with me.

Joseph (Gravy) Teague - Assistant Chef - Kappa Alpha Theta, University of Oregon

I have had many role models, but the most influential in my life is my fiancee Elizabeth. She has great passion for language, art, science, gourmet cooking, crafting, hiking and swimming (to name a few). Her drive is unrivaled; a true talent. In high school, she excelled at English, Latin and French; this led to a double major of English and Latin at LSU. We often break from videos or songs to speak about the etymology of words, and are learning Spanish and Japanese at home for fun. She reads nightly, and suggests many amazing stories. So far, I love all I’ve read.

Her many artistic talents include calligraphy, freehand drawing, and painting, yet she could become a famed scientist with her mind. She kindled my interest in nature with hikes to many of the beautiful parks here in Oregon. While these shared interests are important to me, none affect me stronger than her culinary prowess. She considers nutrition, texture, flavor and presentation for any food she makes. I am healthier, happier, and have greater potential futures because of her presence in my life. I hope everyone has somebody like Elizabeth, who they can relate to, learn from, and enrich their life with.

Cory McClesky - Head Chef - Sigma Chi, Oregon State University

wife

The most inspirational and influential woman in my life would have to be my partner, Aubrie. I do not have words to properly convey how amazing this girl is, the closest I can come is "bad ass". No one in my life has ever influenced me so much in such a short amount of time. Through her I found more confidence and am able to improve myself in ways I would have never dreamed of before. She is a very caring and considerate person who thinks of others before she thinks of herself.

Hans Hoffman - Head Chef - Delta Gamma, University of Virginia

The most influential woman in my life is Sandy Hoffman. This was my mother, and she influenced me to become a better person for my own child. She has been through thick and thin with me and seen me through to better days. I am very blessed to call her family and now that she is no longer with us, it makes me remember what she stood for over her years here. This woman showed me the way to get through these times, by raising five kids of her own, and nine grandkids through her seventy four years here with us. I am proud to call her "mom" and now I can see what she truly meant when she tried to raise us the right way.

Darin N. Blackburn - Head Chef - Phi Kappa Psi, University of Virginia

My Mother, Phyllis Ann Belcher-Blackburn, was the loveliest of ladies. Funny, smart, witty, perfectly supportive and loving with “Old Hollywood-Movie Star Looks”. She was also the holder of the most beautiful Soul possible, caring and compassionate to a fault.

She inspired me about Love, Food, Nutrition and Hope until she was visited with Alzheimers. Never letting go of her children, her dignity, or her most gracious poise, her fight and our opportunity to care for her ended in late October of 2008.

Each day as I am planning and preparing nutritious meals for the young men I Chef for at the University of Virginia, she is beside me. Encouraging me with her knowledge and love for God's Bounty, but most often I have her spirit when communicating just what it is to Care when communicating with these fine “Students”.

Liz Pelc-Cagle - Special Events Coordinator

mom

I want to celebrate my Mom. She is brave, generous, and makes the best pierogi.