Chamber names Citizen of the Years, ATHENA Award recipients

March 30, 2021

The Chamber is pleased to announce the recipients of its prestigious awards recognizing outstanding commitment to the Lawrence community and its citizens. Reggie Robinson and Dale Willey will both be posthumously honored with the Citizen of the Years award. Linda Robinson will receive the ATHENA Award, presented by Crown Toyota Volkswagen. The awards will be presented at The Chamber’s Annual Meeting on Friday, April 23 at Abe & Jake’s Landing, 8 E. Sixth St., Lawrence, Kan.

2021 Citizen of the Years

Reggie Robinson and Dale Willey have both been named Citizen of the Years in 2021. Both awards are being presented posthumously to these outstanding Lawrencians who served the community in a variety of ways.

Reggie Robinson exemplified the idea of servant leadership, with a long record of public service in Lawrence, across Kansas, and nationally. He most recently served as the CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation. Prior to that position, Robinson served in multiple leadership positions at the University of Kansas, where he received both his undergraduate and law degrees. Robinson served in multiple capacities at the state level, including an appointment by Gov. Laura Kelly as the facilitator for the Kansas Justice Reform Commission. Robinson also spent time as a special assistant to Attorney General Janet Reno, served as a deputy associate attorney general for the United States, and was appointed to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.

Robinson also volunteered his time for a variety of organizations, including serving on boards of directors for the Friends of the Spencer Museum of Art, Hall Center for the Humanities, Kansas Leadership Center, Douglas County Community Foundation, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, National Academy of Public Administration, and National Organization for Victims Assistance.

“Reggie served as a mentor to many and his leadership has truly influenced the University of Kansas, the Lawrence community and beyond,” said Bonnie Lowe, President & CEO of The Chamber. “He was so generous with his time. Reggie had an uncanny ability to listen, connect and guide others with warmth, kindness and intelligence.”

Dale Willey made a lasting impact in Lawrence, both on the business community and among non-profit organizations. A longtime auto dealer, Willey entered into the business in the early 1960s after graduating from the University of Kansas. He purchased the Pontiac-Cadillac dealership in Lawrence in 1970. He served in leadership positions for state and national auto dealer associations throughout his career. Willey was instrumental in the formation of the Automotive Tech program at Peaslee Tech, with the automotive lab being named in his honor. He was a longtime Chamber member, serving on the Board of Directors and as Chair in 1996. Willey helped found the Lawrence Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame and was inducted as a laureate in 2015.

Willey supported a wide variety of organizations in Lawrence, including Family Promise, Lawrence Public Library, Lawrence Schools Foundation, Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, Peaslee Tech, LMH Health, Lawrence Arts Center, O’Connell Youth Ranch, DCCA and the Douglas County Baseball Association. He was a member of Lawrence Noon Rotary Club and of the Lawrence Breakfast Cosmopolitan Club. The Lawrence noon Kiwanis Club named Willey Citizen of the Year in 2019.

“Dale’s dedication to the Lawrence business community was just exceptional. He gave his time, talents and treasure to ensure our community and its citizens would prosper,” said Lowe. “Seeing his name on the automotive lab at Peaslee Tech is a wonderful reminder of his dedication to his industry and to Lawrence. His influence on our community endures with each student who goes through the program, and beyond.”

2020 Crown Toyota Volkswagen ATHENA Award

Linda Robinson is the 2020 ATHENA Award recipient, presented by Crown Automotive. The ATHENA Award honors people who strive toward the highest level of professional accomplishment, devote time and energy to their community, and open paths so others may follow.

Robinson has been involved in education at all levels throughout her career. She served as the Director of Admissions at the University of Kansas. After spending time in California working at higher education institutions, she returned to Lawrence and was the founding director of the Lawrence Business/Education Partnership Program, now know as LEAP, and established 110 school and community partnerships. Robinson was elected to the Lawrence Board of Education and spent eight years serving in that capacity.

Robinson has been actively involved in many community and civic organizations, including leadership positions on the boards of the Lied Center, the Lawrence Arts Center, the Lawrence Schools Foundation, the LMH Health Foundation and the Bert Nash Endowment Board. Robinson has held various positions at local and state levels in the education field. With her husband, Scott, Robinson co-chaired the Douglas County Red Cross Heroes Campaign and the United Way leadership Givers Campaign. She’s been an active member of the Lawrence Rotary Club and The Chamber of Lawrence for many years.

“Throughout Linda’s extensive and impressive career in education, she has shown outstanding leadership, support, and inspiration to those in her profession. She has made vital contributions to many of Lawrence’s non-profit organizations,” said Miles Schnaer, owner of Crown Automotive. “She exemplifies the professional excellence, community service, and mentorship of other women that the ATHENA Award is meant to recognize.”

About the Awards

The Citizen of the Years award honors an individual whose commitment to and impact upon the Lawrence community spans a lifetime.

The international ATHENA Award program celebrates the potential of all women as valued members and leaders of the community and recognizes those who support them. The Lawrence ATHENA Award is sponsored by Crown Toyota Volkswagen.

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