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image of a compass Trailblazing Women of 2009

At the third Annual Trailblazer Luncheon, on Wednesday, May 20, 2009, the Women's Fund of the Capital Region honored three outstanding Trailblazing Women of 2009: Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Jan Smith, Manager of Public Affairs, GE Energy; and Lorraine Power Tharp, Esq., Posthumous Award.

These women were selected for this award because they provide leadership in philanthropy that challenges and inspires others to support efforts focused on women and girls; contribute substantial time, money and vision to issues affecting women and girls; demonstrate a long standing commitment and involvement in community initiatives; and act as a role model for women and girls.

Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Photo of Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.

The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., is President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York. She has held senior leadership positions in government, industry, research, and academe. Her research and policy focus includes energy security and the national capacity for innovation, including addressing the “Quiet Crisis” of looming gaps in the science, technology, and engineering workforce and reduced support for basic research.

A theoretical physicist, she was chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1995-1999). She is a Vice Chairman of the Council on Competitiveness and co-chairs its Energy Security, Innovation and Sustainability initiative. She is past President (2004) and Chairman of the Board (2005) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and AAAS. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the NYSE Euronext, serves on the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution and as a director of IBM, FedEx, Marathon Oil, Medtronic, and PSEG. She also is a member of the Board of the Council on Foreign Relations. In Spring 2009, Dr. Jackson was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology.

Calling her a “national treasure,” the National Science Board selected her as its 2007 Vannevar Bush Award recipient for “a lifetime of achievements in scientific research, education, and senior statesman-like contributions to public policy.”

Jan Smith
Manager of Public Affairs, GE Energy

Photo of Jan Smith

Jan Smith joined GE in 1985 as a human resource specialist. Throughout her 24-year career in human resources, she has served as the Human Resources Manager for GE Energy sourcing, engineering and the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, as well as a communication specialist and leader. In 1996 Jan was appointed the manager of GE Energy Communications and Public Affairs, serving as the company’s spokeswoman, responsible for internal communications, media relations, and public affairs across the 20 billion dollar, 40,000-employee portfolio worldwide. Beginning 2007, Jan became Director of Communications for GE Infrastructure supporting GE’s Vice Chairman and seven of GE’s leading industrial businesses.

Jan served on the United Way Executive Board of Schenectady County, the Red Cross Board of Northeastern NY, Capital Region Workforce Investment Board, Steering Committee for the Business Council of New York State, the Boards of the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, Schenectady County Chamber of Commerce, 440 State Street, and currently the Albany Institute of History and Art and the Albany Medical Center.

She is a member of the National Board of Girls Inc, and past Co-Chair of the Forum for Executive Women in the Capital Region. Jan is on the Advisory Board of the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund and the Advisory Board of the Atlanta Woman Magazine. She has received the 2003 Woman of Achievement award sponsored by the Schenectady YWCA, the 2004 Albany- Colonie Chamber of Commerce Women of Excellence Distinguished Career award, the 2007 Spirit of the Chamber award from the Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce and the 2007 Community of Excellence Award from the College of St. Rose.

Lorraine Power Tharp, Esq.
Posthumous Award

Photo of Lorraine Power Tharp

Community leader and attorney Lorraine Power Tharp was well known for her volunteer leadership of many arts, health and equine-related organizations, as well as for her years of service to the New York State Bar Association, including serving as its president in 2002-2003. She passed away on October 28, 2008 at the age of 60.

Lorraine was born in Staten lsland, but grew up in Massena, New York. She graduated from Smith College and received her J.D. from Cornell Law School. Following graduation, she worked in New York City with the firm of Wickes, Riddell, Bloomer, Jacobi & McGuire where she was their first female associate attorney. She moved to the Capital District area and worked with the McNamee Lochner Titus and Williams law firm where she was also their first female associate. At the time of her death, Ms. Tharp was a partner in the firm of Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP, in Albany and was the Chair of the firm’s real estate practice group.

At the time of her death, Lorraine held numerous volunteer leadership positions serving her community and her profession. She was a Commissioner of the New York State Racing Commission; and the first woman to serve on the Commission, Chair of the Board of the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund Corporation; and one of the members of the Third Judicial District Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commission, part of the statewide network for screening judicial candidates. She was the Vice Chair and a trustee of Saratoga Hospital, a member of the Board of Directors of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, a trustee of The Hyde Collection, a trustee and Secretary of the Board of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame; a member of the Board of the Empire State College Foundation and a member of the Board of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.