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Arizona We Want Institute
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The Arizona We Want gains the public support it needs to become a significant force in shaping Arizona's future.
The Arizona We Want gains the public support it needs to become a significant force in shaping Arizona's future.

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We’re proud to announce the winners of the 2015 Gabe Zimmerman Public Service Awards! Rocky Brown, Dawn Melvin and Robert Pickels will be honored at the League of Arizona Cities and Towns Annual Meeting on Aug. 20. Congratulations to the winners! http://ow.ly/R4pXe

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As a Native American girl growing up in Phoenix and on the reservation, balancing her American culture and Hopi roots was a task that Diane Humetewa learned to do well at an early age. But when the former prosecuting attorney’s appointment to the position of United States Attorney for Arizona in 2007, made her the first Native American woman to hold that title, Humetewa found herself in a unique and somewhat uncomfortable position of having to embrace her place in United States history while maintaining the humility of her upbringing. It was uncomfortable being labeled as ‘the first’ because it can draw attention to yourself and that’s not how I was raised,” Humetewa says.

At first, Humetewa’s focus on doing the task before her overshadowed the magnitude of her appointment. It wasn’t until she started noticing national Native American organizations and other news media pointing out this fact that Humetewa realized it was a topic she would have to address – and one that would be attached to her name for the rest of her life. Humetewa made her work the priority, but found herself trying to honor the historic status of her appointment while proving she could handle the requirements of her new appointment that Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl, who both recommended her, and President George W. Bush, who nominated her, felt she was capable of doing.
“It took on its own significance and I tried not to let that historical mark affect the manner in which I did the job. I didn’t want to discount it because it was an important fact. But I wanted people to measure my responsibility by how I did the job at hand and the fact that I had the tools to do the job,” she says of her appointment. “I believed I was chosen because of my experience in the office and my familiarity with Arizona and that, at end of day, a group of people felt I was the most qualified, whether or not I was a member of a tribe.”
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There weren’t many women in leadership positions while Christine Kajikawa Wilkinson was growing up, earning college degrees and rising through the professional ranks of higher education. So by the time she became the first person to hold the position of Arizona State University Senior Vice President and Secretary, treading uncharted territory had been a familiar place for the Salt Lake City, Utah-born and Tempe, Arizona raised educator. “For my entire career, I was often the first person to hold a position or the first woman in that position. And that’s been the exciting part, to create a path,” says Wilkinson.

Prior to her current positions at ASU, Wilkinson was vice president for student affairs, served as interim athletic director on three occasions. She has received ASU’s Award of Merit, the Alumni Achievement Award, the CASE award for excellence in teaching and several community awards for leadership and service. Her participation in community service includes service at the St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation, Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, Tempe Leadership Advisory and St. Luke’s Health Initiatives boards, and the National Board of Governors of the American Red Cross.

With her lengthy and impressive professional resume, community activism and dedication, she has had opportunities to leave the state she grew up in. Yet, Wilkinson, who still lives in Tempe, chooses to stay where her heart is. “I don’t think there’s any question that Arizona is one of the very best places to grow up and live. It has a rich history and yet it is a very youthful state,” she says. “There is a diverse culture, climate and ethnicity that you don’t’ get in other states. Once people get here, they feel welcome. There is not a rigid social structure. You feel like you can get a fresh start.”
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No one ever had to ask Diana Taurasi what she wanted to be when she grew up. Everyone who met her knew she would live her life on the basketball court. As a young girl in California she honed her skills, and by the time she was a six-foot senior at Don Antonio Lugo High School, her trophy case was quickly filling up.

Upon graduation Diana attended the University of Connecticut, where she averaged 15.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Her natural talent and unshakeable confidence helped her accumulate a record 139 wins and 8 losses, including a 70-game winning streak and three consecutive NCAA Championships. In her junior year the Huskies became the only team to win a championship without a senior on their roster. The following year, UConn became the first university to win the men’s and women’s basketball championships in one season. Diana has many fans in Connecticut and was in the first class of inductees to the “Huskies of Honor” program. After her stellar prep and college careers, no one was surprised when Diana was selected as the WNBA’s first overall draft pick in 2004. Her new team was the struggling Phoenix Mercury, who were coming off an 8–26 season. By the time the final buzzer rang on her first professional game, Taurasi had scored 26 points and led the Mercury to an 84–76 victory. At the end of her inaugural season, Taurasi won the WNBA Rookie of the Year Award and was selected for the Western Conference All-Star Team.

Not only is basketball her livelihood, it is also how she gives back to the community and her fans, who voted her one of the Top 15 players in the history of the WNBA. She actively participates in the Mercury’s Adopt-A-Team program, where each season the team adopts one Title I high school girls’ basketball team and provides learning and development opportunities on and off the court. Additionally, she raises money for breast cancer research through Rock the Pink night by auctioning off her game-worn pink uniform.
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Cindy Parseghian had what some might call the perfect life. She was married to her college sweetheart, Michael. He was part of a thriving orthopedic practice in Tucson; she was the head of a communications company. They had four playful, happy and smart children they doted on.

Then in the Summer of 1994, their idyllic world came crashing down. The Parseghians noticed their second eldest child, Michael, was having trouble in school. The kindergartener was clumsy and had a hard time keeping up with his classmates academically. He was also having trouble lifting his eyes to look at people. After being brushed off by some doctors as being overprotective, Cindy and Michael took their son to a specialist in New York. The diagnosis: Niemann-Pick Type C, a genetic neurodegenerative disease that doesn’t allow children to metabolize cholesterol.

Cindy and Michael were devastated by the news. Because Niemann-Pick is genetic, there was the chance Michael wasn’t the only one with it. As it turns out, three of the four Parseghian children would test positive for the disease; Michael, Marcia and Christa. Only the eldest, Ara, was spared. “I always say that our family was dealt really bad luck, just really bad luck. And that’s how I look at it. I can’t blame anyone or anything for my children’s medical problems.”

After receiving the gut-wrenching diagnosis, the family didn’t retreat. Within a matter of months, Cindy had created the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation. “We’ve made a difference. We’re making differences. We can see it. Even in just care for children, there’s so little known about the disease and a lot of families were just floating out there by themselves, that I think pediatricians are more aware of it, they know how to handle the symptoms better.” To date the Foundation has raised 33 million dollars and scientists have identified the chromosome where NP is found. Though a cure has not been discovered, the Parseghians are hopeful it will happen soon.

Each day during the month of March, the Arizona We Want Institute is featuring excerpts from 48 Most Intriguing Women of Arizona. You can purchase the full book here: http://www.48women.org/the-book/
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When prominent Phoenix business consultant Dr. Ioanna Morfessis was recruited to come to Phoenix to start the area’s first economic development organization in 1985, her family, friends and business contacts in her hometown of Washington, D.C. thought she was crazy. “My family was very upset,” Morfessis said. “All my CEO mentors of big companies I worked with told me ‘you can fry an egg on the hood of a car. You’re going to ruin your life.’ But, I thought, no, I really like this challenge.”

And Morfessis was more than up to that challenge. She started the original Phoenix Economic Growth Corporation, followed in 1989 by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, which became one of the pre-eminent economic development organizations in the country. She helped to recruit or launch hundreds of companies, and is directly linked to the creation of over 200,000 jobs in the Valley of the Sun. Far from ruining anybody’s life, Morfessis helped improve the quality of life for arguably millions of Arizonans.

“Quality of life begins with earnings,” she said. “Without those there is no quality of life unless you are extremely wealthy. Most Arizonans are not ultra-wealthy, they are middle class or below. So it wasn’t about landing companies, it was about being in the right place for this company and helping to contribute to the success of the people who work there.”

Each day during the month of March, the Arizona We Want Institute is featuring excerpts from 48 Most Intriguing Women of Arizona. You can purchase the full book here: http://www.48women.org/the-book/
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“Mofford is well known for spending 51 years in service to Arizona government, but her life before that first job was just as colorful and interesting. She was born Rose Perica, in June of 1922, in the mining community of Globe (she later married Phoenix Police officer T.R. Mofford and divorced after 10 years, staying friends keeping his name). Her parents, John and Frances, were immigrants from Austria. Their daughter was assertive from a young age and would become the first female school president in Globe High School history. So ingrained are her mining roots, for years Mofford’s business cards were made of copper.

An outstanding multi-sport athlete, Mofford excelled in particular at softball. Her skills made it possible for the small-town girl from Globe to see the greatest cities in the country while playing first base for the semi-pro Cantaloupe Queens, travelling by car from game to game. ‘We played in Madison Square Garden,’ Mofford said. ‘Can you imagine how thrilled I was, a girl from Globe? Seeing the tall buildings of New York and Chicago?’”

Each day during the month of March, the Arizona We Want Institute is featuring excerpts from 48 Most Intriguing Women of Arizona. You can purchase the full book here: http://www.48women.org/the-book/
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“In addition to running McCormick Realty and McCormick Professional Centers with her husband of 20 years, Olivia worked to complete St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church. The 20-year, three capital campaign project culminated with a dedication in September 2011. The church seats 1,000 people. The mission baroque designed building sits on a hill that overlooks the city and it’s the tallest structure in the area.
“A parish of 1,300 families built that church and although I am one person of many who has seen the church to completion, I have a certain personal pride in it,” she says. McCormick’s patience and dedication is evident in her work over the years she has lived in Bullhead City. While some choose life in small towns to take it easy and relax, McCormick took a different approach and has followed that path ever since. “I can’t just sit back and say, ‘I’ll be a member of a committee,’” she says. “I roll my sleeves up and say, ‘Let’s get to work folks.’”
Each day during the month of March, the Arizona We Want Institute is featuring excerpts from 48 Most Intriguing Women of Arizona. You can purchase the full book here: http://www.48women.org/the-book/
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