Twelve women from area businesses, organizations, and educational institutions will be honored at the 26th YWCA Princeton’s Tribute to Women awards dinner on Thursday, March 5, beginning at 5:15 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency. Cost: $125. For further information, call Jenn Attridge at 609-497-2100, ext. 333, or visit Princeton www.ywcaprinceton.org.

The tribute program was established to honor women who have made significant contributions to their professions and community in executive, entrepreneurial, professional, educational, and elected roles. Candidates are nominated by managers, colleagues, and peers in the workplace and in the community, and were judged on academic achievement, professional responsibility, community service, demonstrated leadership, mentoring, ability to communicate ideas, special projects or accomplishments, and commitment to the YWCA’s mission to eliminate racism and empower women.

Honorary chair of this year’s awards is Bridgette Heller, global president of baby care for Johnson & Johnson. Heller joined Johnson & Johnson in 2005, where she develops and implements growth strategies. Previously she worked for 18 years at Kraft Foods. She recently became chair of the national youth organization Girls Inc. and has joined the advisory board for African American studies at Princeton University.

This year’s honorees are:

Harriet Bryan, a community volunteer from Skillman. Bryan has spent years advocating for low and moderate income housing, and her work on the League of Women Voters Housing Committee and Princeton Community Housing led to the building of Princeton Community Village, Elm Court, Griggs Farm, and most recently the expansion of Elm Court.

Mia Cahill, managing partner of Forrestal Village law firm Dennigan Cahill. Cahill guides clients through difficult divorce processes in a positive way, equalizes the balance of power between spouses as a matrimonial mediator, and works compassionately in domestic violence matters. She holds many professional memberships, and since 2006 has been a member of the Princeton Regional School Board.

Janet Smith Dickerson, vice president for campus life at Princeton University. Dickerson, a member of the president’s cabinet, is responsible for campus programs and services, and works with several university directors. Previously she was vice president for student affairs at Duke University, and a dean at Swarthmore College. She is an elder of Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, and president of the central NJ chapter of the Links, Inc., a civic organization focused on friendship and service.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African studies at Princeton University. Harris-Lacewell has written books, academic research, and newspaper articles across the country, and has provided expert commentary on U.S. elections, racial issues, religious questions, and gender issues for numerous media outlets around the world. She was a regular contributor on NPR and theroot.com, and she keeps a political b log entitled “The Kitchen Table.” She travels extensively and works on behalf of local and national efforts for justice.

Elizabeth Johnson, COO of Isles in Trenton, a nonprofit community development and environmental organization with the mission to foster more self-reliant families. A plant biologist by training, she started the Isles’ community gardening program, now the most extensive in the state. She serves on the Trenton Board of Education, the Mercer County Open Space Board, and the Trenton Downtown Association Board. She also is an advisor to Leadership Trenton.

Meredith Moore, senior vice president of communications at NRG Energy in Carnegie Center. Moore is responsible for overseeing media and public relations, charitable giving, employee communications, special events, and marketing programs. She also helped create NRG’s Global Giving charitable initiative, which benefits community partners throughout New Jersey and in the other regions served by NRG. She also serves on the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Susan Nettesheim, vice president of product stewardship for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Company. Nettesheim champions programs in sustainable development, including global chemical policies. She also chairs the Women’s Leadership Initiative for two of the consumer group sites. Having lived overseas and traveled extensively throughout her career, she has a great appreciation for diversity and the value of different perspectives.

Deborah Poritz, attorney at Drinker, Biddle & Reath on College Road East. Poritz, New Jersey’s first female attorney general and a retired chief justice, has served as deputy attorney general, assistant attorney general, and chief counsel to Governor Thomas Kean.In 2006 she stepped down from the high court and joined Drinker Biddle & Reath as Counsel in the firm’s Princeton office. She sits on the advisory panel established by Governor Jon Corzine to consider candidates for state judicial office, and chairs the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Code of Judicial Conduct.

Cynthia Ricker, vice president of PNC Bank. Ricker is a business banking relationship manager, supporting not-for-profit and commercial clients in the Princeton area. She is the face of PNC in the community, and as such has earned hundreds of accolades from her clients in all aspects of their business transactions. Outside of the bank, she is treasurer of Womanspace, on two committees for the Susan G. Komen Central and South Jersey Affiliate for the Cure, and is active in her church.

Judith Scheide, philanthropist and community volunteer, of Princeton. Scheide, often called “Princeton’s silent hero,” has lived in Princeton for more than 30 years, and served in the development office of Princeton University as associate director of campaign relations and annual giving. She married Bill Scheide in 2003, and the two are co-presidents of the Scheide Fund, which has given its support to countless agencies and organizations in the Princeton area.

Denise Wood, vice president of Princeton BMW/Mini on Route 1. Wood started her career at a time when only 2 percent of car dealerships were owned by women. For more than a decade she has hosted the “Ultimate Drive,” a unique fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, which she notes is an opportunity to sensitize men to the need for support of and encouragement to breast cancer survivors. She also has been involved with the Arthur Ashe Tennis Program, which helps inner city children learn and enjoy tennis.

The Fannie E. Floyd Racial Justice Award, named for the wife of former Princeton Township mayor Jim Floyd and social activist in Princeton who died in September, will be given out for the first time this year. Floyd’s husband will accept the award, which will be given to women who have made a distinguished contribution to racial justice over the course of a lifetime.

Karen Jezierny, director of public affairs for Princeton University will chair this year’s program. Jezierny is responsible for the development and implementation of Princeton’s state government relations. She was founding director of the University’s Policy Research Institute on the Region, known as PRIOR, and served in many other capacities during her 20-plus years with the university.

She has worked extensively in the state government, most recently serving as assistant treasurer under Governor Jim Florio. She was named by Governor Christie Whitman to serve as a founding member of the state’s Council on Local Mandates, a post that she held for six years. Jezierny also has held volunteer positions in many local organizations, including 20 years with the Breast Cancer Resource Center. She is a former tribute honoree.

This year’s lead sponsor is Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Company. Other sponsors include benefactor sponsor NRG Energy, Bracco Diagnostics, Covance, Janssen Pharmaceutical, PNC Bank, and the Times of Trenton.

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