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Athena Leadership Award winner Doan Winkel, right, talks with Kaitlin Muckey, a member of Next Professionals, as he arrives with his son, Ethan, for the Leaders of Distinction awards program hosted by the McLean County Chamber of Commerce and The Pantagraph at Illinois State University's Brown Ballroom.

NORMAL — An assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Illinois State University received the 2015 Athena Leadership Award on Wednesday from the McLean County Chamber of Commerce.

Doan Winkel was honored at the Leaders of Distinction awards program hosted by the chamber and The Pantagraph at Illinois State University's Brown Ballroom.

The annual award recognizes individuals who inspire and encourage the empowerment of female leaders.

“I don’t get humbled very often, but I was humbled tonight, “ he said. “I am honored to receive this award.”

Asked what he thought of his father winning the award, Ethan Winkel, who turns 10 Thursday, said, “I feel like he deserved it.”

Also recognized at the reception were The Pantagraph’s 20 under 40 honorees — 20 professionals under the age of 40 already making a difference in the community.

They are Stephanie Adomaitis, Josh Barnett, Rachel Bedeker, Scott Black, Justin M. Boyd, Chris Downing, Holly Hedges, Tejas Jani, Kristen Kubsch, Dr. Melissa J. Lockwood, Matt Lyons, Gina Mandros, Natalie McKee, Van Miller, Jesse Paul Padilla, Matt Potts, Justin E. Stuva, Emily Vigneri, Erin Williams and Michelle Wojcik.

Described by his peers as a visionary, Winkel helped organize the With My Girls Empowerment Institute and the Women Mean Business panel, and he has pushed other organizations to develop more innovative and effective methods of engaging and empowering women in their professional advancement.

He is a founder of McLean County Unit 5's Innovative Entrepreneurs experiential high school class and ensured there was significant, qualified female representation in the class and on the panel of local entrepreneurs who screened and selected the students.

Winkel said he aspires to make Bloomington-Normal a community known as a place where female entrepreneurs are welcomed, supported and successful.

Fellow nominees were Susan Baller-Shepard, adjunct professor of religious studies at Heartland Community College; Julie Hile, president of the Hile Group; Carole Ringer, a longtime community volunteer; and Kari Sandhaas, senior agency training designer at Country Financial.

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​Follow Kevin Barlow on Twitter: @pg_barlow.

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Agriculture Reporter

Agriculture reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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