Winfrey to Receive 2023 Athena Award

Denise Winfrey
Denise Winfrey

The Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry and its Council for Working Women announced that Denise Winfrey is the 2023 recipient of The ATHENA Award.

Winfrey will be honored at the 35th Anniversary luncheon on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 11:30 a.m., at the Jacob Henry Mansion Estate’s Victorian Ballroom.

The ATHENA Award Program was developed in 1982 to honor exceptional female or male leaders who demonstrate the highest levels of professional excellence, contribute time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community, and actively assist others, particularly women, in realizing their full leadership potential.

A fundamental goal of Winfrey’s has always been to intentionally include women in programs, projects, and initiatives. This ambition has remained a persistent theme throughout her work professionally and beyond, now into retirement.

Mentoring women is a core mission that motivates Winfrey’s continued public service. Much of which is accomplished through one-on-one collaboration in helping women see their value and know their worth.

Additionally, Winfrey looks to optimize speaking engagements by leading listeners to see what they too can do for the greater good. To that end, servant leadership has been a driving force behind Winfrey’s ongoing, active participation in local, county, state and national roles.

In each realm in which she works, she does so with the intent to inspire and help women of all ages across a wide and diverse socioeconomic spectrum in the process.

Winfrey currently serves as a Will County Board Commissioner from District 6 (D-Joliet) and has since 2009. She served as President (2022-2023) and now is Immediate Past-President (2023-2024) of the National Association of Counties (NACo).

She retired from Commonwealth Edison as an internal consultant in 2000. Winfrey also holds director positions with Silver Cross Hospital and Will Grundy Medical Clinic, having served as President for the latter as well. She attended Joliet public schools and did her undergraduate work at Lewis University and received a Master of Science at American University in Washington, D. C.

Winfrey has been actively involved in the Will County community for over three decades. She has been a member and Legislative Chair for the National Hookup of Black Women (NHBW), an Election Deputy Registrar and a board member and President of the Board for Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living (WGCIL).

During her time with WGCIL, Winfrey led the Accessible Cities Alliance, a program which brought Will County, the City of Joliet, the Joliet Chamber of Commerce and local businesses together under a first-of-its-kind private-public partnership led by WGCIL to enhance accessibility across region, enforcing Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Winfrey’s additional awards, recognitions, community, and chamber involvements include:

  • Will County Executive (first female to hold post)
  • Will County Board Chair (first female to hold post)
  • Joliet Township Collector

The public is invited to join the members of the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry to honor Winfrey on Wednesday, Sept. 13 from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Jacob Henry Mansion’s Victorian Ballroom, as they celebrate her many accomplishments and recognize the path that she has illuminated for many to follow.

Contact the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry at (815) 727-5371 or online at to make reservations.


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