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Gillespie receives ‘Woman of Achievement’ award

Owatonna Woman of Achievement, 2024, owatonna business women
2024 Woman of Achievement Ryan Gillespie, left, received her award from 2023 honoree Rebecca Moore during a Saturday evening event in Owatonna. Moore also delivered the keynote speech. Submitted photo by Aaron Guzman Photography
Joni Hubred, News Editor

Ryan Gillespie credits her son Jayden with making her a woman of achievement.

On Saturday night, Owatonna Business Women made it official.

The Owatonna resident and Bremer Bank mortgage banker is the organization’s 2024 Woman of Achievement. Gillespie was selected from a field of five women, each of whom boasts a stellar list of accomplishments.

“These women… embody the essence of determination, breaking barriers, and paving the way for generations,” emcee Lauren Kozelka said. “Owatonna boasts a rich tapestry of women of achievement who contribute to the fabric of our community in various ways."

Kozelka said OBW is founded on three pillars: professional growth, personal development, and civic awareness. The organization offers opportunities for skills development, mentorship program, and networking, and also offers scholarships to graduating seniors, women enrolled in post-secondary education, and those taking the General Educational Development (GED) test.

Described with the word “magic”, Gillespie is a “self-proclaimed Halloween lover who has been spreading her own magic around our community,” presenter Jessi Mages said.

Among other organizations she’s involved with the Rotary Club of Owatonna, Associated Church, the Human Rights Commission. She is also a member of the Owatonna Business Women, United Way of Steele County board, and Engage Owatonna. She has received the Rotary Foundation Paul Harris Fellow recognition and the OBW’s own Young Careerist award.

“The panel noticed that Ryan makes awesome things happen and brings others along, too,” Mages said.

Gillespie tearfully received the award, thanking her family and her son, “the most important person to me. He has made me a woman of achievement in every darn way.”

“I am so thankful,” she added. “Please know this is incredibly meaningful.”

Keynote speaker for the evening and 2023 honoree Rebecca Moore thanked Owatonna Business Women and event volunteers “for investing in and uplifting women.”

“You show up year after year, and you make this event meaningful and beautiful for women and that's what counts,” she said.

Moore encouraged all the nominees–Gillespie, Beth Fink, Deb Gillard, Karen Hale, and Vanessa Jensen–to look around the room at Spare Time Entertainment in Owatonna. Tables of family and friends crowded the space wall-to-wall.

“Many of these people are here for you. They see how you've shown up, even when it wasn't always easy,” she said. “I hope you feel recognized tonight. Because we do see you. You persevere, and you have created opportunities for others and given with your hearts first.”

OBW also honored long-time community volunteer Linda Breyer with its Lifetime Achievement Award and Tess Brown as the 2024 Young Careerist.

Breyer, who retired in 2005 after 40 years with St. Paul Fire and Marine, is director of Grandparents for Education and volunteers daily in Owatonna schools and with the Steele County Historical Society, among many other activities.

Her nominator called Breyer “kind, loving, generous, and humble… she volunteers at so many places with the largest smile on her face.”

Brown is an advertising project analyst with Federated Insurance. Earlier in the week, she was named the 2024 Big of the Year by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Minnesota, where she volunteers as a Big Sister. She also shares her time and talents with Junior Achievement and United Way of Steele County, among many other groups.

Brown, her nominator said, “is incredibly smart, loves our community and is invested here and makes everyone feel comfortable and welcome. She is always willing to help others and go above and beyond to accomplish goals.”

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