Keene State College President Melinda Treadwell hosted the 31st annual Outstanding Women of NH (OWNH) Awards which honored four women in the community for their impact on the society.
This year’s ceremony was held virtually in a Zoom webinar on March 24 and welcomed Keene State faculty, staff and students, and even N.H. Sen. Maggie Hassan.
“Here in New Hampshire, we have a tradition of rolling up our sleeves to solve problems in our communities, our state and around the world,” Hassan said. “All of the women being honored tonight embody that tradition. Their efforts are inspiring and set an example for all Granite Staters.”
N.H. Rep. Annie Kuster could not make the event in-person, although she had prepared a few words to be spoken by her Constituent Service and Outreach Coordinator Charlotte Harris.
The theme for this year’s award ceremony was “Courageous Women: I will be heard.” President Treadwell said that the nominees of OWNH are judged by the selection committee based on each year’s theme.
“They have persevered through what could have been hardship,” Treadwell said. “It’s about finding a space you wish to advocate in, standing in it and becoming a powerful voice moving forward; become a force for change.”
The awards ceremony saw four women being honored. Lisa Beaudoin was the State of New Hampshire awardee, Demitria Kirby was the Monadnock Region awardee, Dr. Denise Burchsted was the Keene State faculty/staff awardee and Emma Manderville was the Keene State College student awardee.
Beaudoin is the executive director of ABLE NH, the Granite State’s only disability justice organization free of public funds. Beaudoin has advocated for the civil and human rights of children and adults with disabilities. ABLE NH called on the New Hampshire legislature to pass a bill allowing the NH Department of Health and Human Services to provide a Medicaid oral health benefit for adults with disabilities and all Medicaid recipients. NH Gov. Chris Sununu signed that bill, HB 4, in July of 2019.
In December 2018, Beaudoin was in a car accident, hit by a distracted driver. She underwent eight surgeries and had to relearn how to walk.
Following her injury, Beaudoin has advocated for increased penalties for individuals who cause a car crash that results in serious injury or death while using an electronic device.
“It takes an organized strategic team to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice,” Beaudoin said. “Everyone has superpowers to share with mentoring and encouragement, ordinary citizens become extraordinary leaders. We must have the courage to simply believe that together we can achieve the impossible.”
Kirby, the Monadnock Region awardee, is the youth services manager for the City of Keene and is the coordinator of the Juvenile Court Diversion Program. According to the awards page, the program has grown from 13 cases per year since Kirby started, to an average of 33 cases per year. Kirby also volunteers for the YMCA’s Monadnock Youth Coalition. Upon receiving her award, Kirby said she has always been a firm believer in the power of one voice, so the theme, “Courageous Women: I will be heard,” holds true to her values.
“I appreciate the platform to acknowledge the wonderful work women in our community are doing, as well as the restorative and educational opportunities,” Kirby said. “It is important that our youth realize that they are more than just the worst mistake that they have made, and an impulsive decision did not define their life, nor hold them back from whatever path you choose.”
Burchsted, Keene State’s faculty/staff awardee, is a fluvial geomorphologist, water resources engineer, and associate professor in the Environmental Studies, Geography, and Sustainability Department at Keene State College. According to the awards page, Burchsted has devoted her efforts to decolonizing environmental studies and asking the question, “Why is environmental studies so white?” President Treadwell said Burchsted was also instrumental in why Keene State and Keene recognized and celebrated Indigenous People’s Day.
Burchsted also works as a consultant and environmental advocate.
“I am really truly humbled to be recognized in this way when there’s just so many women on campus and in the community who have really accomplished so much,” Burchsted said. “My love that I have from my scientific discipline just pales in comparison with the humility that I really feel from this recognition.”
Manderville, the KSC student awardee, is a contact tracer for the Rapid Response Team, helping to facilitate rapid quarantine for individuals who might have been exposed to COVID-19. Manderville is a member of the Sexual Assault and Violence Education Committee and an Advisory Board Member for Mentors in Violence Prevention. She is also president of the Keene State Public Health Club and a student ambassador for the Public Health Department. In 2020, the Public Health Club was awarded the Keene State Outstanding Academic Organization Award. Upon accepting her award Manderville gave thanks to many individuals in her life including her family and friends.
“I want to take a moment to recognize the privilege that I hold as a heterosexual white and able bodied woman, and acknowledge that I’m very fortunate to have never experienced discrimination or barriers to those identities,” Manderville said.
President Treadwell said the OWNH awards ceremony is one of her favorite events, however she thinks the college needs to better advertise the awards to show their importance to the community.
Hunter Oberst can be contacted at: