2019 Athena Award winner: 'I'm used to being the nominator, not the nominee'

2019 Athena Award winner: 'I'm used to being the nominator, not the nominee'

CHAMPAIGN — A longtime University of Illinois Foundation leader is the 2019 Athena Award recipient.

Christy Devocelle, senior vice president and chief financial officer of the foundation, was named by the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

Devocelle is the 31st local recipient of the award, which "honors individuals who assist women in reaching their full leadership potential; demonstrate excellence, creativity and initiative in their businesses or professions; and provide valuable service by devoting time and energy to improving the quality of life for others in the community."

She will be presented the award at a luncheon at the Champaign Country Club on Feb. 21.

"I am very surprised and honored," Devocelle said Wednesday. "I'm used to being the nominator, not the nominee."

She has been with the foundation since March 1997. She earned her undergraduate degree at Illinois State.

Three years later, "my husband and I came here in 1995. For two years, I worked for a bank in Bloomington, and passed my CPA exam," she said.

It was at a meeting of CPAs that her career took a major swivel when she met a UI leader.

"I was seated next to Cam Murphy," Devocelle said. "One thing led to another. I was asked if I would be interested in applying at the foundation. Six months later, I was working here."

Earning an Illinois MBA, she moved steadily up the ladder, and after 22 years, "we have a lot of great things going. We're halfway through three major campaigns for all three universities."

All the while, she has been a mentor.

Kelly Bennett, the foundation's director of accounting, said: "Christy has consistently taken an active interest in advancing my career and empowering me to reach for and achieve my professional goals. She demonstrates, through words and actions, what it means to be an engaged leader that shows a vested interest in developing future leaders."

"Christy is the kind of woman who lifts others up and seeks to promote others with no expectation of recognition or glory on her own part," added Joan Dixon, president and CEO of Community Foundation of East Central Illinois.

She also volunteers with a number of nonprofits and community organizations, including Crisis Nursery, where she serves as board president. She has also been actively involved with the Community Foundation, the United Way of Champaign County, the Illinois CPA Society, the St. Matthew School Parent Club and Illinois Truth Basketball.

The Athena Young Professional Award recipient is Abby Hendren, executive vice president for brand strategies at Busey. Under her leadership, a number of employee improvement programs have been created, including Associate Experience, which provides development opportunities through training programs.

She volunteers with a variety of organizations, including the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County, the United Way, the Illinois Bankers Association and First United Methodist Church.

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