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The General Assembly established the Indiana Commission for Women (ICW) in 1996, charging it with assessing the needs of Indiana women and their families and with promoting the full participation of Indiana women in all aspects of society. Another task charged to ICW was the “identification and recognition of contributions made by Indiana women to their community, state, and nation.”
ICW created the concept of the Torchbearer Awards to honor the many Hoosier women who have overcome or removed barriers to equality or to whose achievements have contributed to making our state a better place in which to live, work and raise a family. Recipients are women who have been pioneers in their industries, have inspirational stories that set the standard for other women, have faced tough choices, demonstrated character and have made significant contributions to their communities and/or to the State of Indiana. While there are a number of award programs, these awards are the only such event in which the State of Indiana recognizes and honors its finest natural resource – the women of Indiana.
The statue, Victory, from atop the Soldiers’ and Sailor’s Monument, was the image selected to represent the Torchbearer Awards. Victory is symbolic of the character and achievements of the women honored, and the flame she holds represents the light our Torchbearers have brought to our state and their communities.
In 2010, the Torchbearer Awards Ceremony took place in the Indiana Statehouse Rotunda. Different from years past, the award recipients were narrowed to ten women in order to highlight these women as true torchbearers.These women were pioneers throughout their lives and have stepped forward as leaders by breaking down barriers to women’s full participation. They have become beacons of light by overcoming immense challenges with courage, perseverance and compassion that creates a lasting legacy and becomes an inspiration for us all.
Thanks to a generous donation from The Lodge Design, the Indiana Commission for Women was able to showcase children's views of what a Torchbearer should be in a video done especially for the evening.
The 2009 event was held Tuesday March 3, 2009, at the Indiana Roof Ballroom. The event was moved from January to March to commemorate Women’s History Month in March. For the first time, Governor Mitch Daniels was able to attend the VIP reception for sponsors and nominees prior to the evening’s program.
The highlight was the “intermission” when Judge Sarah Evans Barker and Judge Margret Robb read a timeline of key moments in women’s history to the Gabriel’s Oboe. Each recipient was escorted to the stage by soldiers from the Indiana National Guard and expressed gratitude for the recognition and the extraordinary testaments to the importance of the Indiana Commission for Women.
The 2008 event was held Tuesday January 22, 2008 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom. The Indiana Roof was beautiful; the napkins were wedge wood blue, the flowers were arrangements of bright pink roses and mini-carnations and greenery, the sponsor table signs and framed table numbers were all in a beautiful script, the lighting was beautiful, the screen arrangement flanked by our 12 foot Torchbearer banners was beautiful, and the entertainment and script were outstanding.
Following a VIP reception for the sponsors and nominees with the Lt. Governor, the program began just about on time and was enhanced by the large diamond-vision screen. The entertainment (singer Sarah Bauer – and a quick appearance by tap dancing troop Big Mamma and the Silverettes) was good and the honorary hosts, Senator Teresa Lubbers and State Auditor Tim Berry added an extra dimension to the evening. The tradition of off-stage announcers was continued this year which adds to the professionalism of the event.
In 2006, under the direction of Chair Melissa Martin, Event Chair Amy McQueen and Executive Director Sharon Langlotz, the gala dinner event was held at the Conseco Field House Entry Pavilion. Lights from fire twirlers dressed in white lit up the venue as a symbol of the light the Torchbearers have brought to others. Sixty nominees were honored and 25 Torchbearer and special Torchbearer awards were presented. Special hosts for the evening, Secretary of State Todd Rokita and Senator Teresa Lubbers provided a lively dialogue throughout the evening as they introduced guests and speakers. Of special note was the Pioneer Spirit Award awarded posthumously to St. Mother Theodore Guerin (1798-1856), foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and a true pioneer Torchbearer. St. Guerin established schools in Indiana and, at the request of Governor Morton in 1861, set up a hospital in Indianapolis for civil war casualties. On Oct. 15, 2006, Mother Theodore Guerin was recognized as a saint by Pope Benedict XVI in a canonization ceremony at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
In 2005, under the direction of Chair Melissa Martin and Executive Director Sharon Langlotz the event was expanded to a full dinner awards program at the Indiana Roof Ballroom.Lt. Governor Becky Skillman was the honorary host for the evening and personally presented all nominees with a certificate.Music filled the ballroom as the audience swayed in their seats to music by Cecily Daniels, on leave from Broadway, and the Broad Ripple High School Jazz choir. Medallions and awards were presented to 25 Torchbearers that evening before an audience of 365 guests and sponsors.Of note was the standing ovation received by Torchbearer Eva Moses Kor before she reached the podium to accept her award. Mrs. Kor, a Holocaust survivor of Dr. Mengele’s experiments on twins, has dedicated her life to healing the pain, teaching the truth, and preventing prejudice.
In 2004, under the direction of Chair Senator Katie Wolf, with the assistance of Executive Director Annette Craycraft and the creative talent of Commissioner Melissa C. Martin, the very first Indiana’s Salute to Women: The Torchbearer Awards was held at the Artsgarden in Indianapolis.With vocal entertainment by Brenda Williams and a gracious welcome from Indiana’s first lady, Maggie Kernan, the evening proved very special to all in attendance.