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YWCA of Northwest Ohio honors several women with UT connections

Five of the seven women who received Milestone Awards from the YWCA of Northwest Ohio this year are associated with The University of Toledo.

“The members of the YWCA and I are honored to recognize these outstanding women with this prestigious award,” said Lisa McDuffie, YWCA president and CEO.

The YWCA’s Milestone Awards honor women in the community who have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities and contributed to the empowerment of women.

This year’s winners were selected by a committee from some 100 nominations.

Recipients associated with the University recognized at a March 13 luncheon were:



Leslie Adams, an Ohio artist and UT alumna, who took home the art award. She received a bachelor of fine arts from the University in 1989 and has become a nationally recognized portrait painter. She has been commissioned to paint more than a dozen official portraits for the state of Ohio. Her work has been featured in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, and her exhibit, “Drawn From Life,” can be seen at the Toledo Museum of Art.

Marianne Ballas, chair of Women & Philanthropy at The University of Toledo, who was recognized for business. She is the dealer and owner-operator of Ballas Buick GMC. Women & Philanthropy was chartered in 2006 and made its first award to UT in 2008. Through this giving circle, members of diverse backgrounds and interests work collaboratively to pool their charitable gift dollars to make positive, meaningful and immediate impacts at the University. In six years, the group has gifted $214,931 in 10 grants to the campus community. Ballas has served as chair since the group formed.



Vallie Bowman-English, clerk of the Toledo Municipal Court and UT alumna, was honored for government work. She received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University in 1992. Bowman-English was elected clerk of the Toledo Municipal Court in 2003. She is the first African American and first attorney elected to the position. In 2012, Bowman-English developed a mobile application to access the court schedule and case information, documents and payment; Toledo Municipal Courtwatch was the first app of its kind in Ohio.

Susan Martyn, Stoepler Professor of Law and Values and Distinguished University Professor, who received the education award. A national authority on legal ethics, Martyn has authored five books intended to illuminate the subject for a variety of audiences: clients, practicing lawyers and law students. She regularly contributes amicus curiae briefs to the United States Supreme Court on bioethics and legal ethics issues, and has served on several national bodies that shape the laws that govern lawyer conduct, including the American Bar Association’s Ethics 2000 Commission. Martyn is a life member of the American Law Institute and a fellow in the American Bar Foundation.



Dr. Sonia M. Najjar, professor of physiology and pharmacology, and director of the Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Research, who was honored for sciences. An authority in diabetes research, Najjar has published several seminal papers that introduced novel paradigms in the field. In 2006, she founded the Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Research, the only comprehensive diabetes and obesity research center in Ohio. Najjar also played an integral role in facilitating the 2013 establishment of the Middle East Diabetes Research Center, thanks to collaboration between UT and the American University of Beirut (AUB). Her plan is to develop a PhD program in cardiovascular and metabolic diseases at AUB modeled after the successful UT program, which she headed from 2001 to 2006. Long-term goals are to attract more medical schools from the Middle East to join this venture so the Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Research can play a leadership role in fighting diabetes in that region where diabetes is prevalent.