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Laura Furlong, retired CEO of Marcfirst, listens to a conversation during the cocktail hour of the Leaders of Distinction awards program Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, at the Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in uptown Normal. Furlong was named the Athena Leadership Award winner.

BLOOMINGTON — A retired CEO of Marcfirst has won this year’s Athena award from the McLean County Chamber of Commerce.

Laura Furlong was honored Thursday night during the Leaders of Distinction reception that also honored two other Athena nominees and honorees of Pantagraph Media's 20 Under 40 program.

The Athena Leadership Award recognizes individuals defined as role models who inspire and encourage the empowerment of female leaders. The award is given to a woman or man who has achieved professional excellence, gives time and energy to community service and actively assists others, especially women, in realizing their full leadership potential.

The event was at Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in uptown Normal.

Furlong worked for 26 years, first as the chief operating officer and then CEO. Under her leadership, Marcfirst became a recognized leader in the state and nation in many key areas.

Other Athena nominees were Ken Myszka, owner and director of operations for Epiphany Farms Hospitality Group, and Kathleen Lorenz, the executive director of Leadership Illinois and a two-term member of the Normal City Council.

The 20 Under 40 program, sponsored by Pantagraph Media, recognizes young professionals who are making a difference in their community.

Those honorees were Abby Strader Boesenberg, Fort Jesse Cafe; Allegra Thigpen, State Farm; Amanda Jones, Pantagraph Media; Andrea Aggertt, Shive-Hattery; Andy Traeger, Barker Motor Co.; Brian Shoemaker, State Farm; Cody Troutman, Let's Party Rental Center; Hannah Mesouani, Illinois Wesleyan University; Jade LaMar-Hursey, State Farm; Jay McGee, Clemens Insurance; Jim Rosenlund, Heartland Bank & Trust Co.; Joe Palma, Palma Entertainment, Sober Bloomington; Katie Pratt, Illinois State University; Katie Ride, Ascend Benefits, a division of Snyder Insurance; Kim Kaufman, State Farm; Meryl Brown, Developing Melodies; Molly Smeltzer, Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center; Monica Bullington, Re/Max Rising; Nikki Gibson, State Farm; and Puneet Leekha, Chestnut Health Systems.

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Monica Bullington of Re/Max Rising accepts the Liz Larson Rising Leader Award during the Leaders of Distinction awards program Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, at the Normal Theater.

Bullington also received the Liz Larson Rising Leader Award.

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Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow

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