Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough County Women's Hall of Fame inductees set standard for caring


I recently met a young woman in her late 20s who immediately struck me as intelligent and personable.

But she also admitted to never reading the newspaper or watching television news because the events shaping her community just didn't hold any interest. She doesn't see any need to engage the people and problems of Tampa Bay.

As I sat at the Hillsborough County Women's Hall of Fame Induction ceremony Thursday, I couldn't help but think of how the three newest inductees would have responded to my new friend's narrow view. I'm almost certain Dottie Berger MacKinnon, Juel Shannon Smith and the late Deanne Dewey Roberts would have kindly pulled her aside and implored her to examine the city beyond her own existence and make an impact.

Certainly, such caring outlooks comprise the foundation of their lives.

Their legacies contain great accomplishments and achievements.

Action, not words, highlight their biographies.

Beauty and grace, leadership and love, mentoring and role modeling dot the paths they blazed.

But most of all, MacKinnon, Smith and Roberts built their reputations with compassion. They have made a lasting impression in this community because they always helped others more than they helped themselves.

More than 300 people gathered to honor the trio and I'm certain everyone in the room could have shared a story about how one of those three women reached out to lend them a hand. The most fortunate attendees could boast that the three women, all members of the prestigious Athena Society, gave them a shoulder to cry on, an encouraging word or a kick in the pants when they needed it most.

The well-chronicled story of MacKinnon, a former Hillsborough County commissioner, continues to inspire. She has devoted her life to helping foster kids, with A Kid's Place, a residential home for kids torn out of abusive situations, serving as her latest passion.

The drive she's shown for A Kid's Place has been made all the more remarkable by her defying the odds in a battle with bile duct cancer. Of course, MacKinnon spoke not of her achievements, but of all the people who have helped her — beginning with her husband, Sandy MacKinnon.

She also explained what sustains her efforts to help the area's neediest children.

"Along the way, our commitment to lift others up is what will define us," MacKinnon said.

Smith told of similar support and commitment. One of 10 children in a two-room house in Sapulpa, Okla., she grew to become a driving force at the University of South Florida. She became the first African-American to establish an official institute at USF: the Institute on Black Life. She also served as the founding executive director of the USF Women In Leadership and Philanthropy Program, which established an endowment to fund scholarships for female students and research grants for women faculty.

"An inner passion for helping others determined every career path I took," Smith said.

Much the same could be said about Roberts, who died last year after a long bout with cancer. Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce executive director Bob Rohrlack shared with the audience how when he was in between jobs, Roberts lent him an office at her communications company so he would have a place to conduct his search.

"She knew exactly where to grab me by the collar," Rohrlack said.

That's not atypical of Roberts, who built her one-woman PR firm into one of the area's best while assuming prominent roles with the chamber, Leadership Florida and several nonprofits.

"Leadership succession is a continual process, because there's always someone behind you," Roberts famously said.

True enough. These three women should not just be cherished for what they achieved, they should serve as examples of how we all should reach out and reach back.

That's all I'm saying.

. fast facts

Hillsborough County Women's Hall of Fame members

Phyllis Busansky

Mary T. Cash

Elizabeth "Betty" Castor

Helen Gordon Davis

Cecile Waterman Essrig

Pat Collier Frank

Sandra W. Freedman

Clara C. Frye

Adela Hernandez Gonzmart

Sylvia Rodriguez Kimbell

Dottie Berger MacKinnon

Sadye Gibbs Martin

Gwendolyn Miller

Jan Kaminis Platt

Deanne Dewey Roberts

Dr. Juel Shannon Smith

Hillsborough County Women's Hall of Fame inductees set standard for caring 03/30/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 5:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gov. Rick Scott could soon be the all-time king of line-item veto


    2016: $256,144,027

    2015: $461,387,164

    2014: $68,850,121

    2013: $367,950,394

    2012: $142,752,177

    2011: $615,347,550

    Only once has Scott used the line-item veto sparingly. That was in 2014, the year he ran for re-election, when he removed a paltry $69 million from the budget.

    Gov. Rick Scott waves a veto pen at The Villages in 2011.
  2. Rays morning after: An up-and down day for Jose De Leon


    Rays RHP Jose De Leon had a busy Monday - getting called up to join the Rays for the first time and making his way from Pawtucket, R.I., to Boston and the flying to Texas, working 2 2/3 eventful innings to get the W in the 10-8 victory over the Rangers, and then getting optioned back to Triple-A.

    Jose De Leon follows through in the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, on May 29, 2017.
  3. Resignation of communications director Dubke could signal more changes within White House staff


    WASHINGTON — Mike Dubke has resigned as White House communications director, a senior administration official confirmed Tuesday, in the first of what could be a series of changes to President Trump's senior staff amid the growing Russia scandal.

    President Donald Trump speaks at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday, May 29, 2017, during a Memorial Day ceremony. [Associated Press]
  4. Trump pays somber tribute to fallen troops on Memorial Day


    ARLINGTON, Va. — President Donald Trump expressed the nation's "boundless" gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice paid by Americans defending the United States, dedicating his first Memorial Day address as commander in chief to a top Cabinet secretary and two other families who lost loved ones.

    Brittany Jacobs, left, watches as her 6-year-old son Christian Jacobs meets President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Monday, May 29, 2017, in Arlington, Va. Jacobs father, Marine Sgt. Christopher Jacobs, was killed in 2011. [Associated Press]
  5. Florida education news: Budgets, discipline, charter schools and more


    BUDGETING: Florida school district officials keep a close eye on their spending plans as they await word on the Legislature's budget. Gov. Rick Scott