Celebrating 25 years of empowering women and girls of color, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation honored Doreen Gentzler and Carol Thompson Cole with “Visionary Awards,” for their positive contributions to communities in the DMV region.
The Washington Area Women’s Foundation honors Doreen Gentzler with a “Visionary Award” for her years of service to the DMV region. (Courtesy photo)
“Carol Thompson Cole and Doreen Gentzler are extraordinary individuals whose trailblazing work in our community has spotlighted the needs of women and girls of color in our region,” said Tamara Wilds Lawson, president and CEO of the foundation. “We are grateful for their dedication, passion, and leadership and look forward to honoring them during our 25th-anniversary celebration in October.”
Gentzler embarked on a 40-year career in news, with 33 years at NBC4 Washington. In addition to her longtime career in media, Gentzler was celebrated for her bravery in tackling complex issues like mental health.
Lawson, who assumed her role in May 2023, said Gentzler “has championed The Women’s Foundation for over 20 years as a board member, MC of countless Leadership Luncheons, and currently as a member of our Leadership Council.”
Although she is now retired, through her years of journalism and service, Gentzler has made an indelible mark on women and told the Informer she isn’t done.
“What used to be Virginia Hospital Center, now is VHC Health, and they are opening a new women’s health center, which is a pretty interesting concept for a hospital, and I’m interested in working for them,” Gentzler said. “Showing up for other women will still be a priority for me.”
Cole, president of Youth Invest Partners, was dubbed by the foundation as an experienced “servant leader” who has been known to shape and change greater Washington area early childhood education systems. She has served in the District for over four decades, helping to create early childhood educational opportunities for youth of color.
Despite her widely known achievements, Cole said she was “surprised” when she got the call.
“That night [Oct. 11] was just, to me, magical,” she said.
A proud Washingtonian, Cole said she went off to college, noticed that D.C. was a very segregated city, and thought she would move somewhere else. After spending time away, she realized how special the District is and came back to look for a way to make contributions to the community.
“At this stage in my life, I’m very pleased that opportunities have come to me, and I’ve been able to serve, not only the city, but the region in many ways,” she added.
Lawson saluted Cole’s “deep knowledge of this region and visionary leadership,” as well as her wealth of experience in fighting for overall equity.
“She has also served on many boards where she is known to speak honestly and powerfully about inequities in education, housing and the workforce [creating] barriers of access that she has dedicated her life to tearing down.”
Cole noted that part of her success has been persistence.
“My parents never told me I couldn’t do anything,” she said during her remarks at the ceremony. Cole continues to be driven by that philosophy, explaining how she was able to secure funding for early childhood education.
“We were able to get a three-year grant from JP Morgan Chase, so we are working on improving early childhood [education], increasing quality… but doing it through improving the education of the early childhood educators and centers,” Cole told the Informer.
One way the Youth Invest Partners president and CEO plans to strengthen educators is through partnerships with universities to support teachers’ educational aspirations.
“We’ve been working with Trinity and American University,” Cole said.
Like the efforts of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, which donated proceeds from the 25th-anniversary gala to help women and girls of color, Gentlzer and Cole are all about empowering others through their work.
Gentzler emphasized her door is still open for younger women aspiring to be journalists. “I haven’t left town yet. I’m still available, still seeing younger colleagues.”
Cole said no matter what, “Do the best every day; you never know who is watching you.”
Source: Washington Informer