By Ruth Ann Ruiz
The Post Newspaper Features Editor
A star-studded line up with a record-breaking attendance filled Moody Convention Center for the 15th annual Women’s Conference. Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce spared no effort in making sure the attendees were made to feel all the glory of being a woman.
After the opening ceremonies were completed, Gina Spagnola, CEO of GRCC introduced the mistress of ceremonies, Mia Gradney from Houston’s KHOU 11 News and the crowd showed their appreciation with a huge round of applause.
Following her introduction was a panel of experts from UTMB speaking about how women can maintain their superpowers, which was followed by Kelly Ochoa who spoke to the audience.
Finding your superpower was a dominating theme of the conference, with each invited guest on stage sharing their superpower.
The ladies in attendance were treated to comedian Leighann Lord. She hails from New York and was a big hit for the Texas Coastal women. Her humor on senior mothers wanting their daughters to buy them a new cellphone was spot on and brought out the laughter.
Not only were the attendees entertained by her humor, but Leighann also herself was blessed by the people of the Gulf Coast. “From the moment I got here, I have been nothing but welcomed and embraced. To get here and feel so at home feels wonderful!” Lord shared.
Leighann believes in the collective community of women, “There’s nothing better than the company of good women. We need to come together and energize each other,” she shared with The Post Newspaper.
After a lunch break and a couple breaks for working out, along with some refreshments provided by Del Papa Distributors, the audience was ready to meet the ladies of Galveston County who had been selected as Women of the Year.
Leading the list in a very distinguished position which no one else has ever held in the past, was Mary Ellen Doyle. Doyle was honored with being Legacy Woman of the Year. The audience gave her a standing ovation as she made her way to the stage.
While Mrs. Doyle was on stage sharing her life story, her own sense of humor kept rolling into her presentation. The crowd was overjoyed to see her honored, as some of the attendees have known her since she first moved to Texas. Her husband and children were in attendance.
Five other women who were also honored as Women of the Year: Michelle Beckwith, Kelly De Schaun, Janice Hallisey, Deborah J. Jones, and Cynthia Smith. Each woman has provided the community with outstanding professional and personal commitments throughout their lives in Galveston County.
Deborah J. Jones was not only a Woman of the Year, but she was also a speaker and shared her story as a cancer survivor and leader at UTMB.
Vendors for all the neat little things women love such as aroma therapy, jewelry, clothing, books, and much more were on site to provide women with a chance to get up, stretch their legs and support local small businesses.
Cheer, happiness catching up with friends who haven’t seen each other since the pandemic was a number one priority for many of the women at the conference. There were also many first-time attendees such as Carina Morales.
“I’m liking it a lot, it’s so energizing and inspirational to hear each women’s story,” said Morales. She plans to come back to next year’s conference.
Keynote speaker, Jena Bush Hager brought out another round of applause from the guests. Rather than a prepared presentation directed at the audience, Jena elected to have a casual conversation with Gina Spagnola with Gina reading questions from attendees.
Early on in their conversation the audience learned exactly where Jena was the night before Queen Elizabeth II passed away. “I was sitting next to Prince Charles on the last night he would be a prince,” said Jena.
Jena, along with a camera crew from the Today Show, had flown to Scotland for a planned interview with Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. Jena was enjoying a royal dinner as she sat next to the prince and duchess. The next day they learned the interview had been canceled due to the Queen’s passing.
As for how Jena keeps her life balanced. Well for starters, she really doesn’t like that word and its general reference to women only. She’d like it if men were asked how they keep their life balanced. She did go on to share that her newest goal is to put her cell phone away when she is spending time with her children.
She has no plans, nor has she ever had plans to get into politics, but she pointed out to the audience and encouraged other women to run for office.
Being both a granddaughter to a U.S. President and a U.S. President’s daughter has given Jena some experiences that most will never have. For instance, her first kiss with her now-husband was on top of the White House amongst the machine gun armed Secret Service.
At her granddaddy’s inauguration little Jena and her twin sister Barbra were feeling chilly in the 51-degree temperature. So, they found a way to sneak inside the White House and were entertained by the White House florist who kept them busy making floral arrangements for their grandparents.
The same florist who sheltered the girls from the cold and what would be a long boring experience, was called upon for Jena’s wedding in May 2008 to Henry Chase Hager.
Coming to Galveston, though she didn’t say, seemed to make Jena feel like she was at home with her grandparents who loved visits to Galveston. She shared some of her fondest memories of both her maternal and paternal grandparents and she let all mothers in on a secret for guiding teenage girls.
“When we would take our teenage problems to our mom, she would end her suggestions by telling us what we were dealing with really wasn’t worth worrying about,” Jena shared with the audience. Barbra Bush knew the worries of a teenage girl, though they seemed to be all encompassing in the moment, will be fond memories in the future.
Women throughout the conference hall were dressed in smiles and embraced the day as an escape from their normal along with some wonderful words of inspiration from the star-studded line up of guests.