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. Tarpon Springs fire chief to retire in September after 39 years

    Local Government

    TARPON SPRINGS — When Richard Butcher got involved with Tarpon Springs Fire Rescue in 1978, he had just moved down from Ohio.

    Tarpon Springs fire Chief Richard Butcher is retiring after 39 years of service.
  2. Seeking change, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn goes outside for new fire marshal


    TAMPA — Sarasota County Fire Marshal John Reed has been hired as Tampa's new fire marshal, and Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he wants Reed to shake up Tampa Fire Rescue's building inspection bureau.

    Sarasota County Fire Marshal John Reed, 53, will make $118,310 a year as the new fire marshal for the city of Tampa. [City of Tampa]
  3. Ruth: Trump is no Boy Scout in speech to scouts


    It could have been worse. At least the Boy Scouts of America didn't invite Dennis Rodman to address its 19th jamboree to discuss American foreign policy with North Korea and the art of nose piercings.

    President Donald Trump addressed the Boy Scouts’ national jamboree in Glen Jean, W. Va.
  4. PSTA, wary of future cuts, keeps property tax rate steady

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority stands to lose $2 million a year if voters approve an expansion to Florida's homestead property exemption on the 2018 ballot.

    One of The PInellas Suncoast Transit Authority's hybrid busses. The PSTA's governing board voted Wednesday to maintain the current property tax rate. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |   Times]
  5. Rays power way to 5-1 win over Orioles on eve of crucial road trip

    The Heater

    St. PETERSBURG — The Rays didn't get many hits in the early going Wednesday, but they got a couple that went a long way and that was enough to beat the Orioles, 5-1.

    Rays right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) hugs catcher Jesus Sucre (45) after Souza's solo home run in the seventh inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]