Most teens aren’t quite sure what they want to do in life, but Lisa Simmons was different. She got her first job in a pharmacy in Fishkill at age 14. “I worked beside a female pharmacist and soon realized how respected and necessary she was to the patients she served,” recalls Simmons. “I immediately knew this was the path I would take.”
At age 17, Simmons went on to work at St. Francis Hospital as a pharmacy aide, earning promotions on a predictable timetable as she worked her way through pharmacy school, got married, and had three kids. Soon after she became pharmacy manager, something completely unexpected happened: St. Francis Hospital went bankrupt and became MidHudson Regional Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network.
While the change was initially jarring, a bright side soon emerged. Simmons now had access to Westchester’s Valhalla campus pharmacy department, and her job became more vital than ever as the hospital continued to add services. “Through all of the change, Lisa held the department together with her leadership and perseverance,” recalls co-worker Colleen Reilly. “She gives of herself in any way she can.”
In March, the hospital received a Best Place to Work Headliner Award from the Dutchess County Chamber of Commerce, an honor that must be nominated from within. Simmons was not surprised: “People are enthusiastic about working at MidHudson Regional Hospital because of the struggles we went through collectively. People continued to come to work here when the doors were almost closing and they did not lose hope. There has been a definite boost in morale because we know we will endure to serve future generations.”
Kathleen Bennett MaroldSix years ago, Kathleen Bennett Marold created textiles and interior products for upscale hotel design projects, working with such major design firms as Donghia, Brunschwig & Fils, and Zimmer + Rohde. But work kept her away from home — and her daughters — for 80 percent of the year. So, in 2012, she launched Floor […] Nina SmileyNina Smiley and her husband, Bert, were pursuing successful careers in Washington, D.C., when the forest came knocking in 1990. Mohonk Mountain House, the iconic resort hotel founded by Bert’s great-grand-uncle Albert Smiley, needed someone to take the reins. The couple talked it over, and soon became the only married couple with Princeton PhDs to […] Erin Riley“I’ve never let myself stay within the boundaries of my job description,” says Erin Riley, who started at Scenic Hudson in a junior annual-giving position and, over the course of 20 years, rose to her current post as senior vice president of the nonprofit. “I’ve taken advantage of opportunity for professional growth, acquiring new skills, […] Beth JonesBe bold, be brave, and follow your heart. That’s the advice Beth Jones would give to a young woman starting a business today. In 1991, when Jones founded her award-winning graphic design firm, B. Jones & Co., in Poughkeepsie, graphic design was still a male-dominated field. Yet her firm became known for providing exceptional customer […] Melody Gregory Reflecting on her early days at the law firm she’s been affiliated with for 41 years, Melody Gregory recalls that after graduating high school from Newburgh Free Academy, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and thought law might be something to try.” She took a chance, joined Finkelstein & Partners as a […] Filomena E. FanelliFilomena Fanelli launched her public relations firm with little more than a laptop and her kitchen counter. “When the kids were young, I used to clear Cheerios off the table before a business meeting,” she laughs. Since she formed Impact PR & Communications five years ago, it’s become a go-to agency for clients in the […] Carol GordonAfter more than 30 years as an executive focusing on the “people” aspect of business, Carol Gordon decided to launch her own business as a business management consultant, focusing on employee relations and productive workplaces. “I noticed more people were seeking my input about employee conflicts and career advancement,” she says, and decided to strike […] Leah PennimanTo call Leah Penniman’s work life a career wouldn’t do it justice. The word “mission” is more appropriate; she has a mission to fundamentally change our food systems so that they are more sustainable, healthy, and equitable. Specifically, she is educating and empowering the next generation of activist-farmers to own and farm land, and combating […] Sandra LudlumSandra Ludlum considers her current position and her education her greatest achievements: “Not by virtue of the title, but because of my opportunity to get there,” she says, explaining that she joined Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union with an associate’s degree, and then — through its tuition reimbursement program — went on to receive her […] Kelly MaceAs a healthcare leader, Kelly Mace draws upon her first profession: nursing. “Training as a nurse involves prioritization, time management, the skill to teach, and the ability to direct,” she says. “We learn how to advocate for our patients’ well-being and communicate across all disciplines.” Mace has led several initiatives at CareMount to enhance patient […] Jennifer HowlandGrowing up, Jennifer Howland always had a talent for math and science. But a career in engineering wasn’t her first career choice. “I also considered hotel management, and I loved music. Actually, I wanted to be Julie, the cruise director on The Love Boat,” she laughs. But Howland opted to forgo a career on the […] Kathy MergetAs a child, Kathy Merget aspired to be a gym teacher. Now, as the Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, her goal is to heighten the awareness and practice of wellness and self-care for more than 2,200 students, focusing on making a difference […] Suzanne RajcziAs CEO of Ginsberg’s Foods — the Hudson Valley’s largest independent family-owned food service distributor — Suzanne Rajczi is responsible for a company that generates $169 million in annual revenue and sells more than 8,000 products across New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Rajczi attributes the company’s success to the relationships they create with their clients, […] Tara SullivanShe’s the first female executive at the New York State Bridge Authority (NYSBA), and Tara Sullivan feels right at home in the job. “I love this work — and I love being a female leader in state government,” she says. From her office in Highland, she helps oversee the five major Hudson Valley bridges: Bear […] Debra ForbesDebra Forbes prefers not to be seen or heard, and just lets the work happen. In her case, the work is applying paint and texture to create magnificent 200’ x 80’ hand-painted backdrops for Broadway shows. Her childhood artistic instincts were honed by decorating cakes at her father’s bakery in Philadelphia. A love for theater […] Denise GeorgePresident | Northern Dutchess Hospital; Senior Vice President | Health Quest Andrea RhodesCo-Founder/Producing Director | Tangent Theatre Company Women in Business 201716 of the Hudson Valley’s most accomplished and inspiring executives, entrepreneurs, and leaders. Women in Business 2016Presenting 15 of Hudson Valley's most successful, inspiring and creative female business leaders