‘True Grit’ conference, Trailblazer Awards kick of...

‘True Grit’ conference, Trailblazer Awards kick off Women’s History Month events at MTSU

Women of True Grit 2024 promo

Middle Tennessee State University will celebrate the power and strength of “Women of True Grit” with a free public conference and Trailblazer Awards ceremony set for 1-5 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, in Tucker Theatre in Boutwell Dramatic Arts Building, 615 Champion Way.

Beverly Keel, dean, College of Media and Entertainment
Beverly Keel

The conference is part of MTSU’s National Women’s History Month kickoff celebration and inspired by author Edie Hand’s book, “Women of True Grit,” which profiles more than 60 successful women who navigated through adversity.

“I am so excited that author Edie Hand agreed to partner with MTSU on this unforgettable afternoon featuring women from all walks of life who have overcome personal struggles to find success,” says event organizer Beverly Keel, dean of the College of Media and Entertainment.

The event will kick off with a keynote conversation with Hand — a businesswoman, media personality, filmmaker and mother who has authored 35 books. Joining Hand on stage will be NASA engineer Shelia Nash Stevenson, who was the first Black woman in Alabama to receive a Ph.D. in physics and was awarded NASA’s Modern Figure Award.

Dr. Shelia Nash Stevenson
Dr. Shelia Nash Stevenson
Edie Hand
Edie Hand

Several of the women featured in Hand’s book will take part in panel discussions and share their stories of battling racism, sexism, disabilities, cancer, loss and other obstacles.

“From board rooms and laboratories to recording and dance studios, these women have thrived and become role models for others,” Keel said. “There will be something for everyone.”

Off-campus visitors planning to attend should obtain a special one-day permit from MTSU’s Office of Parking and Transportation at Free parking is available in the Rutherford Boulevard parking lots, with free Raider Xpress shuttle service running periodically to the interior of campus.

Trailblazer Awards partners with conference

The June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students Trailblazer Awards and opening ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. March 12 in Tucker Theatre, in partnership with the conference.

logo for MTSU's June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students

The Trailblazer Awards will spotlight women who impact the MTSU community in positive ways. 

Trailblazer honorees this year include Julie Myatt, associate professor of English and MT Engage director; Janet McCormickCommunication Studies professor; Vickie Harden, associate professor and Master of Social Work Program coordinator; Nia Allen, Diversity Dissertation Fellow in Textiles, Merchandising and Design Program; and psychology student Zofia Zagalsky.

Panel discussions following awards

Hand will moderate a panel at 2:40 p.m. called “Hallmark, Healing and Hope” that features:

Lana King
Lana King
Marion MacKenzie Pyle
Marion MacKenzie Pyle
Paula Mosher Wallace
Paula Mosher Wallace

• Lana King, the former CEO of Hallmark Channel who presided over all network operations, doubling the channel’s ratings, distribution, and advertising revenues. Previously, as president of Network Distribution for the Fox Broadcast Co., she helped establish Fox as one of the nations’ strongest networks.

• Marion MacKenzie Pyle, an award-winning writer, director, producer and president of Legacy Media Lab media production company and author of “Healed, Healthy and Whole: How We Beat Bladder Cancer.”

• Paula Mosher Wallace, media executive best known for being the founder of Bloom In The Dark Inc. and co-host of two award winning international television shows licensed with over 40 TV networks and author of seven books.

Keel will moderate a panel at 4:20 p.m. called “Finding Your Voice” that features:

Anastasia Brown
Alie B. Gorrie

• Anastasia Brown, an award-winning entertainment industry veteran who has experience as a label executive, artist manager, music supervisor and content creation. She discovered Keith Urban and later served as judge on the TV show Nashville Star. She also authored, “Make Me a Star: Industry Insiders Reveal How to Make It in Music.”

• Alie B. Gorrie, a disability-inclusion consultant/trainer and theater artist who works to build a more inclusive world. Born with low vision, Gorrie speaks about disability awareness and inclusion while teaching acting and dancing classes to other aspiring performers with disabilities. She also co-produced and hosted “Able: A Series,” streaming on Amazon.

Kelly Lang
Gina Miller

• Kelly Lang is a singer-songwriter and Oklahoma Music Hall of Famer whose songs have been recorded by George Jones, Lorrie Morgan, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.J. Thomas and Ricky Skaggs. She is also author of “I’m Not Going Anywhere,” which offers life lessons as she shares her experience with breast cancer.

• Gina Miller is an entertainment executive and social justice activist who is known for advocating for recording artists. She is senior vice president/general manager of MNRK (formerly Entertainment One), leads the Nashville Network of the National Association of Black Female Executives in Media and Entertainment and has twice been included in Billboard’s Women in Music issue of the industry’s top female executives.

College of Media and Entertainment logo

A copy of Edie Hand’s “Women of True Grit,” will be provided to the first 300 attendees.

The event is sponsored by the College of Media and Entertainment, the Distinguished Lecture Committee and the National Women’s History Month Committee.

For more information, contact Beverly Keel at or 615-898-5150.

— Nancy DeGennaro (