Longtime community advocate Susan Garnett Spears received the Patricia Lacey Metzger Distinguished Achievement Award at the UMW Leadership Colloquium Thursday, Nov. 3.
The colloquium, now in its 23rd year, is an annual daylong event that fosters connections between professional women. Held at UMW’s Stafford Campus, it hosted more than 100 professional women and featured a series of workshops, as well as keynote speaker Pamela E. Bridgewater, a former ambassador with a celebrated career as a United States Foreign Service Officer.
Named for the late UMW professor who helped found the colloquium, the Metzger award is given each year to someone who upholds high personal and professional standards while achieving a significant career goal. The honor has been awarded annually since 1999.
Spears, president and CEO of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, spent more than a decade in retail management. During that time she became a staunch community activist, supporting regional business, managing local political campaigns and devouring volunteer work.
Her efforts led her to join the Chamber staff as a legislative assistant in 2004. She has been instrumental in developing community-oriented programs such as Leadership Fredericksburg and the Military Affairs Council. As a member of numerous boards of directors, including Rappahannock Goodwill Industries, Spears has served on too many task forces, planning commissions and clubs to name, with a focus on city planning, economic development, historic preservation and race relations.
Themed “Real Women, Real Issues, Real Solutions,” the colloquium included workshops on such topics as building a personal brand, diversity issues in the workplace and finding purpose in all aspects of life.
Keynote speaker Bridgewater, a Fredericksburg-area native, captivated the crowd with tales of the time she spent with anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela and summed up the theme of the day.
“Maybe we will fail at some things, but that won’t deter the lifelong leader and the lifelong learner,” she said. “Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do the job when the time comes, because you can.”