The Sporting Life: Women of Wonder Edition

Honoree Carrie Gentry (seated center) with grandaughter Ryan Gentry, son Howard Gentry and daughter Carol Gentry Johnson arrive at the Kraft luncheon.

Longtime activists and leaders were praised at 26th Annual Kraft Award Luncheon. The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee honored seven trailblazing Women of Wonder at the 26th annual Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award luncheon Thursday, October 17 at the Music City Center’s Davidson Ballroom, the honorees resplendent in “Women of Wonder” sashes and fresh floral corsages.

You couldn’t miss them, nor be less than awed by their lifelong accomplishments. Each year this award honors a person or persons who, like the late Joe Kraft, demonstrates a commitment to community, home and hearth, and individuals in need.

This year’s honorees were (alphabetically): Clare Armistead, style icon, philanthropist and fundraiser; Janet Ayers, philanthropist and education patron; the late Colleen Conway-Welch, longtime VU School of Nursing Dean; Inez Crutchfield, Tennessee State University educator, political insider and Civil Rights activist; Annette Eskind, champion of adoption, and education and social reformer; Carrie Gentry, TSU educator and Civil Rights activist; and Rosetta Miller-Perry, founder of The Tennessee Tribune and Civil Rights activist.

“As you hear about their work,” said 2017 Kraft Award honoree Jerry Williams from the podium, “just focus on the fact that their work has spanned 50 years Ö years without TVs or laptops, years without email — much less texting — without air-conditioning Ö years when they needed dimes and quarter to even make a phone call. Ö” Continued Williams, “You think it’s hard to get things done these days — just imagine Ö”

Honorary event chair Martha Ingram, the 2016 Kraft recipient, continued the sentiment: “Not one of these women is a cookie cutter Ö not one of them followed the crowd Ö Each of them has uniquely followed her heart,” Ingram told the crowd.

After lunch, Mayor John Cooper addressed the audience. “The women we honor today, individually and collectively, have enhanced and improved our community in so many different ways,” Cooper said. “And this community is extraordinarily fortunate. “One of the best gifts these Women of Wonder have given us is the opportunities they’ve taken or created to encourage others to believe in themselves and their work to make things happen,” the newly elected Nashville mayor continued.

After a 17-minute video tribute to the seven honorees, Janet Ayers, in representing the honorees, helped close the program.

“All of us are deeply honored to continue to work to complete our goals and our dreams, as we follow the footprints of Joe Kraft,” Ayers said from the podium. “We hope each and every one of you will join us in continuing to make our community better and stronger.”

The Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award Fund continues the memory of Joe Kraft, who made Middle Tennessee a better place to live through his dedication to community, home and hearth, and individuals in need. The committee who chooses the recipient is particularly interested in nominations of community leaders who, like Joe, sometimes function behind the scenes. The person(s) named as the recipient of this annual award receives the opportunity to recommend that grants from this Fund be distributed to charities in which he or she believes.