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Women's Endowment Fund to host 30th Anniversary Celebration


National Geographic Media executive Debra Adams Simmons to deliver keynote address


Debra Adams Simmons
Debra Adams Simmons

The Women's Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation invites local residents and community leaders to save the date for its annual "For Women, Forever" celebration on Thursday, April 27, 2023, at the Akron Civic Theatre. The event marks the fund's 30th anniversary and will feature a unique retrospective on the fund's history, as well as an opportunity to discuss its future.

The keynote address will be delivered by Debra Adams Simmons, Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at National Geographic Media, where she works across The Walt Disney Company, National Geographic's parent company, on strategic diversity initiatives.

 An experienced journalist and media leader, Simmons most recently served as Executive Editor of History and Culture at National Geographic, where she directed the 135-year-old magazine's coverage of people and places around the world. Simmons is a graduate of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the College of Arts & Sciences where she co-chairs the Dean's Advisory Boardand was a fellow of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. She has extensive reporting, editing and senior leadership experience, including roles as the top editor of the Akron Beacon Journal and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. A six-time Pulitzer Prize juror, Simmons was president of the Associated Press Managing Editorsand has served on the board of directors of the International Women's Media Foundation, among other esteemed journalism institutions. She also chaired the board of directors of ATHENA International.

Simmons also has had a robust civic life in Northeast Ohio. In addition to serving on the board of directors of the new Ohio Local News Initiative, Simmons chaired the board of Akron's Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop for many years and served on the boards of the Akron Art Museum, Old Trail School, Habitat for Humanity of Summit County, Project Learn, ideastream, College Now: Greater Cleveland, Hawken School and the City Club of Cleveland. She co-chaired the board of Business Volunteers Unlimited: Center for Nonprofit Excellence and has volunteered with Project GRAD Akron, Akron Urban League, Akron NAACP, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign and many other local and national organizations. Simmons is an enthusiastic supporter of the Women's Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

Tracy Carter
Tracy Carter

During the event, the Women's Endowment Fund will also honor Tracy Carter, System Director, Government Affairs and Health Policy at Summa Health, with the 2023 Judith A. Read Tribute Award for Service & Advocacy for Women.

A proud alumna of Ohio University and The University of Michigan, Tracy Carter began her career at Summa Health Akron City Hospital as an INROADS college intern in 1989. She ultimately assumed leadership responsibility for the health system's external affairs functions and earned the organization numerous awards for its commitment to the community. In 2018, Carter was recognized by Modern Healthcare and Becker's Hospital Review as one of the top executives of color in health care. She is most proud of her work in co-chairing a collaborative that helped 60,000 Akron-Canton residents gain healthcare coverage through Ohio's Medicaid expansion program. In late 2019, Carter returned to Summa Health to lead the system's public policy and funding interests with federal, state and local elected officials and government entities.

Carter has provided leadership and support to various civic programs for many years. From 2009 to 2013, she served as the first African American to lead an affiliate fund of Akron Community Foundation and ultimately led the Women's Endowment Fund to raise a historic $2 million to mark the 20th anniversary of the fund. She currently serves as a board member of Akron Community Foundation, Stark State College, and The Well Community Development Corporation. Carter co-chairs the Greater Akron Chamber Government Affairs Committee, serves as president of the Ohio University Ebony Bobcat Network Akron/Canton affiliate, and serves as vice chair of the Akron Civil Service Commission. She also volunteers with the Akron Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., The Clearview Foundation, Love Akron, and The Word Church of Cleveland. 

Named for one of Greater Akron's most influential philanthropic leaders, the Judith A. Read Tribute Award for Service & Advocacy for Women was created in 2016 to honor Judy Read's lifetime of service and extraordinary commitment to empowering women and girls. It is presented annually to the individual or couple who best exemplifies Judy's service, advocacy, leadership and passion in the community. Last year's recipient was Dr. Sandy Auburn.

Carter was selected as the eighth recipient of the award by a committee of current and former Women's Endowment Fund advisory board members and past award honorees.

Corporate and individual sponsorship opportunities for the Women's Endowment Fund's "For Women, Forever" event range from $2,500 to $25,000.

"We are excited to celebrate 30 years of supporting women and girls in Summit County at this year's celebration," said event co-chair Lashawrida Fellows, deputy director of human resources for the County of Summit. "Our last 'For Women, Forever' event raised nearly $65,000 to support the fund's grantmaking. We look forward to welcoming supporters to this reimagined event as we celebrate the history and future of the Women's Endowment Fund."

For more information about becoming a sponsor, visit or contact Affiliate Fund Engagement Manager Debra Hoffman at 330-436-5614 or

"For Women, Forever" celebrates women as philanthropists and benefits the Women's Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation. Tickets to the event will go on sale to the public in March 2023. To receive an invitation, register for the Women's Endowment Fund's e-news at

About the Women's Endowment Fund
The Women's Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation was established in 1993 as a permanent endowment committed to encouraging the advancement of women and girls in Summit County. To date, it has grown to nearly $4 million and awarded more than $1.9 million in grants. Contributions of any amount are welcome and can be made online at or mailed to Women's Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation, 345 W. Cedar St., Akron, OH 44307. For more information, call 330-376-8522 or visit

About Akron Community Foundation
Celebrating 67 years of building community philanthropy, Akron Community Foundation embraces and enhances the work of charitable people who make a permanent commitment to the good of the community. In 1955, a $1 million bequest from the estate of Edwin Shaw established the community foundation. It is a philanthropic endowment of nearly $260 million with a growing family of more than 800 funds established by charitable people and organizations from all walks of life. The community foundation and its funds welcome gifts of all kinds, including cash, bequests, stock, real estate, life insurance and retirement assets, just to name a few. To date, the community foundation's funds have awarded nearly $209 million in grants to qualified nonprofit organizations. For more information about Akron Community Foundation or to learn more about creating your own charitable fund, call 330-376-8522 or visit

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