Two Ashford university Employees Receive YMCA Women of Achievement Awards

Two Ashford University employees were recently recognized by the Clinton YWCA as “Women of Achievement.” They were among six area women and one business recognized for their extraordinary efforts and accomplishments in the community at the 37th YWCA Woman of Achievement awards banquet on April 15. Nominations were submitted by colleagues and friends and winners were selected by past Women of Achievement and current YWCA Board members.     

Ashford faculty member Theresa Judge, OSF of Clinton, received the 2010 Religious Woman of Achievement Award during the event. She was born in Clinton and entered the Sisters of St. Francis in 1962.  She earned her A.A. degree at Mount St. Clare College (MSC) in Clinton, her B.A. degree in English from Marycrest College, Davenport, and her M.A. degree in English from Western Illinois University, Macomb. Judge taught in several places, including Sacred Heart in Clinton, before returning to MSC to become resident director, athletic director, intramural director, yearbook advisor and dean of students. She started the men's and women's tennis teams and coached both teams for 10 years. She’s now serving as chair of the English department at Ashford. For all of her 34 years at the institution, Judge has served as the official scorer for the men's basketball team, never missing a game. She was inducted into the MSC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997 and received the Founder’s Award for distinguished service to the college in 2000.

Judge is also a tireless volunteer in the community. A former member of the YWCA Board, she has also served on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration Committee since its inception, as well as other committees such as the Youth for a Safe, Nonviolent Summer Program, Board of the Mount St. Clare Speech and Hearing Center, Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, and the Clinton Human Rights Commission. Her commitment to education and to youth and especially to disadvantaged persons also led her to service with The Arch of Clinton, the local branch of L'Arche International, which is dedicated to providing welcoming homes for special needs adults and their companions. 

Her nominator Sallyann McCarthy said, “Her energy for bettering our community, one student at a time or one project after another, comes from her commitment to her religious life and her belief in active nonviolence as a way of life. Asked recently what she would do or where she would go if she could do anything, she replied, ‘I would stop the war in Afghanistan.’”

Gabrielle Leblanc, campus admissions manger at Ashford, received this year’s County Woman of Achievement Award. She received her education from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, RI.   She previously worked at Ashford as an enrollment advisor, enrollment manager and associate director of admissions.  Nominator Debra Swanson wrote, “She is well respected by her staff.   She puts effort into helping staff members achieve their personal best by offering heartfelt advice. She has the characteristics of a true, caring leader.” 

In 2008, Leblanc organized a holiday clothing and food drive to collect needed items for the women and children at the YWCA Crisis Services shelter.  In 2009, it was an Easter drive that raised funds to purchase a “wish list” of items for the women and children at the shelter.  She rallied co-workers and, through combined efforts, they collected $900 to purchase items on the list.

The next year the holiday drive was re-created and she led efforts to collect winter clothing items to give to school children at Bluff Elementary School.   In addition to the collection of clothing, funds were raised to purchase toys and gifts for the children. She said, “We are here only for a brief period of time and it is our responsibility to inspire people to be better than they are to instill hope for future generations.  The definition of success should be defined by the differences me make.” 

Leblanc is the first to admit that furthering her education has changed her life and has assisted her in achieving her personal goals.  She said, “Knowledge is power.” She recognized a need to help others achieve their educational goals and was instrumental in setting up an annual college scholarship program for women utilizing YWCA Crisis Services. The scholarship program provides two full online scholarships to be given each year to women in the YWCA Crisis Services program. The online modality allows the participants to attend courses in a safe environment. She lives in DeWitt, IA with her husband Carl and her two children Caleb and Sophia.

About Ashford University

Founded in 1918, Ashford University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools ( The University offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs online and at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. The University is known for its high quality yet highly affordable online and on-campus programs. For more information, please visit or call Shari Rodriguez, director of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.