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Chamber President Matt Morrow poses with 2020 Rising Star honoree Ashley Norgard, left, and Athena Award recipient Francine Pratt.
Photo provided by Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce
Chamber President Matt Morrow poses with 2020 Rising Star honoree Ashley Norgard, left, and Athena Award recipient Francine Pratt.

Nonprofit leader, lawyer honored by chamber

Posted online

The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce yesterday announced the 2020 recipients of two awards honoring community leaders who empower women.

Francine Pratt was named the Athena Award recipient. The honor recognizes a local professional who helps others reach their leadership potential. She’s the third Springfieldian to receive the honor from the chamber, following Morey Mechlin and Jan Fisk.

“I do what I do because there are so many opportunities that we are given. Being able to share what we know and what we learn with others, we help other people grow,” said Pratt, executive director of Prosper Springfield. “I don’t do it for the reward. I do it because I’m passionate about it.”

Ashley Norgard, an associate with law firm Kutak Rock LLP, is the recipient of the inaugural Virginia Fry Rising Star Award, honoring the late Husch Blackwell LLP attorney who died of cancer in November 2018. The Rising Star award honors emerging leaders under the age of 40.

Norgard said she was one of the last women Fry mentored before her death.

“Virginia’s leadership was transformative, both personally and professionally,” she said. “Virginia mentored women all throughout the community and truly her legacy is the way that she inspired others, not only through direct mentorship, but how those who were lucky enough to be mentored by her must mentor others.”

The two women were selected among dozens of nominees by an independent panel of judges, according to a news release from the chamber.

As the executive director of Prosper Springfield, Pratt is working to reduce the area’s poverty rate by 5 percentage points and reach 60% in postsecondary attainment by 2025. Her past roles include various positions with the state of California, Missouri Family Support Division, Isabel’s House and Missouri State University’s multicultural programs. She’s also served as a board member for the Missouri College Access Network and a member of the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development Equity Project. Pratt also was part of the 2019 Springfield Business Journal 12 People You Need to Know live interview series.

“No matter how tough the task is in having oversight of community goals, you just keep going,” Pratt said of her work with community initiative Prosper Springfield. “I consider myself a behind-the-scenes person. It’s a community collective way of doing this.”

Norgard began her legal career in 2013 with Husch Blackwell. In the community, she serves as a trustee for the Springfield-Greene County Library District and has earned recognition as a Top Business Practitioner in the 2017 Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly Women’s Justice Awards. She was honored as one of SBJ’s Most Influential Women last year.

She echoed Pratt in saying the award was not about her. She said it’s a testament to the legacy of Fry.

“I had an hour-long conversation with her about three weeks before she passed and I was able to thank her for the impact that she had on my life. She conveyed to me what our relationship meant to her,” Norgard said, adding she didn’t know at the time how ill Fry was. “That has carried over for me in the last year that she’s been gone. I don’t wait to tell people how much they mean to me.”

She said when she got the call from chamber President Matt Morrow that she received the award, tears filled her eyes and Fry came to mind.

“I could hear Virginia saying, ‘Put on some lipstick and get it together,’” Norgard said with a laugh.

Pratt and Norgard will be honored at an awards luncheon on March 4 at the White River Conference Center.

“These two women are truly examples of just who we had in mind when we developed this program a few years ago,” Morrow said in the release. “I can’t think of two people more deserving to receive these honors.”


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