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HPU's Strickland Women's

Leadership Council Welcomes


New Officers and Members


High Point University’s Elizabeth Miller Strickland Women’s Leadership Council has inducted four new members and appointed a new chairwoman, Laurna Godwin, owner and president of Vector Communications Corporation, and a new vice chairwoman, Sue Downes, CEO and co-founder of MyEyeDr.

“We are thrilled with how the Strickland Women’s Leadership Council has been received by our female undergraduate students and the surrounding community,” says High Point University President Dr. Nido Qubein. “This council is comprised of some of the best and brightest women in the country, and we are incredibly honored to have them as mentors to our students, who will one day follow in their footsteps as extraordinary leaders themselves.”

The Strickland Women’s Leadership Council was established in August 2020 as a part of Elizabeth Miller Strickland’s $12 million gift to High Point University. The council was founded on the principle that empowering women to be strong, independent leaders is an important life skill. As The Premier Life Skills University, HPU is committed to ensuring its female students are provided with the support, opportunities and resources to learn strong leadership skills. The Strickland Women’s Leadership Council helps to fulfill that commitment with the development of seminars and programs by successful women who are leaders within their own communities and industries.

“Through the establishment of the Women’s Leadership Council, we help to promote the empowerment of women in leadership,” says Strickland. “Everyone within our council has been excited to welcome our four new members and watch as two of our existing members rise to take the distinguished positions of chairwoman and vice chairwoman.”

The new officers are as follows:

Laurna Godwin

She has been named Chairwoman of the Strickland Women’s Leadership Council. An inaugural member of the council, Godwin has been an integral part of the council since its formation in January 2021.

Godwin is a native of New Jersey and earned her undergraduate degree from Princeton and a master’s in journalism from Columbia University in New York City. For more than forty years, Godwin has used her communication skills to educate people about issues affecting how they live, work and play.

She is the owner and president of Vector Communications Corporation, a communications and engagement consulting firm that she co-founded in 1998.

During Godwin’s career, she was recognized with the prestigious Emmy for her broadcast journalism on three different occasions. She has received many awards including the Individual Legacy Builder Award – Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri; The Hellenic Spirit Athena Award; Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award; the Quest Award; Women of Achievement Award; Women of Distinction Award; and many others. In 2020, she was honored by the Women’s Foundation of Greater St. Louis with its Making a Difference Award.

Godwin’s late husband, Samuel C. Hutchinson, Jr., owned Interface Construction Corporation. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri. She has served on several civic boards in the St. Louis region. She is Chair Emeritus of the St. Louis Community Foundation, and currently serves on the boards of the St. Louis Police Foundation and the Regional Business Council.

Sue Downes

She has been named Vice Chairwoman of the Strickland Women’s Leadership Council. As an inaugural member of the council, Downes has been an active and devoted member of the council since January 2021.

Downes, CEO and co-founder of MyEyeDr., had an extensive career in the eye care industry prior to starting the company, and has worked in almost every area of the eye care field for more than thirty years.

From one office in 2001, she has led the MyEyeDr. brand to add over 600 locations across twenty-five states and the District of Columbia, with more practices joining every month. In addition to her work leading the MyEyeDr. team, she is the recipient of several prestigious honors including, Montgomery County Chamber’s “Spirit of Free Enterprise” award, the 2011 Most Influential Woman award, the 2012 Smart CEO award for Entrepreneurial Spirit, the 2015 ACG Corporate Growth Award, and was named the Optical Women’s Association 2016 winner of the Pleiades Award. In 2018, Sue was named the Person of Vision by Prevent Blindness.

Downes has been an active volunteer working with Prevent Blindness and she provides volunteer support to various organizations including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, Foundation Fighting Blindness, and the Alzheimer’s Association. Downes’ proudest accomplishment is raising her two sons. Her son, Grant Healey, is a member of High Point University’s Class of 2021. She lives in Northern Virginia with her beloved husband, PJ.

In addition to instating the new officers, four new councilwomen have been inducted into the Elizabeth Miller Strickland Women’s Leadership Council.

The new members are as follows:

Joy Atkinson

Joy Atkinson is the president and CEO of Presperse, a cosmetic ingredient company. Based in New Jersey, Presperse, one of the 900 independent companies owned by the Sumitomo Corporation, is the only United States-based company run by a female CEO, though Atkinson hopes many others will follow suit. As a high school student, she had a strong interest in finance and banking, and at sixteen, she worked part-time at a local bank in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from Georgia State University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in business management and planned to join the bank full-time. After consideration, she decided to leave the bank and joined the JCPenney Management Training program, where she was first exposed to the cosmetic and fragrance industry. With her background in finance, Atkinson joined Rich’s Department Stores and moved through several positions, eventually becoming a buyer of men’s fragrances and cosmetic accessories. Over the years, she progressed through several international cosmetic and fragrance companies including Tsumura International, Firmenich and Symrise before she took her current role with Presperse.

In addition to her corporate positions, Atkinson has served on several cosmetic industry boards as well as her alma mater’s WomenLead program at the Mack Robinson College of Business. She is the mother of two children, Jack and Kylie. Jack is a senior strategic communication major in the Nido R. Qubein School of Communication at High Point University.


Shonn Brown

Shonn Brown is vice president and deputy general counsel at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, a $19 billion consumer packaged goods company. In this role, Brown advises on matters of public policy. She is an established corporate and community leader, known for her strategic planning, risk management, governance and advocacy skills. With more than 20 years of experience, Brown is a seasoned litigation and trial attorney, as well as an influential business advisor. Prior to Kimberly-Clark, she was a partner in the law firm Lynn Pinker Hurst and Schwegmann LLP, a boutique trial law firm representing Fortune 500 corporations, major financial institutions and high net worth individuals.

Brown is an active leader within the legal industry, as well as within her community. She has served on the Dallas Bar Association Board of Directors, where she has led the development of a leadership program for female lawyers and has held the positions of secretary-treasurer and vice-chair. She also served as the immediate past board chair for the Texas Women’s Foundation. In addition, she has been involved with the board of trustees for the Hockaday School, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Lamplighter School and the Dallas Black Dance Theatre. Shonn is also the co-founder of the Village Giving Circle, which grants funds to advance the African American community in North Texas.

Brown is an alumna of Southern Methodist University where she received both her Bachelor of Science and Juris Doctorate degrees. She has three children, including Evan, a sophomore popular culture and media production major in the Nido R. Qubein School of Communication at High Point University.


Carli Loss, D.D.S, M.S.

Dr. Carli Loss joined the passionate and hardworking team at Epic Orthodontics in June 2020. Recently, Dr. Loss has become a partner with Dr. Joseph Hicks, who has been serving the Knoxville community for 20 years. Both doctors want to be connected to their community where they have relationships with their patients (and their families) and support local schools and businesses. They found that they both strive to demonstrate that the community is stronger together through their passion for perfecting smiles. Epic Orthodontics has been voted one of the best orthodontists and the best place to work (under 50 employees) in the 2021 Cityview Best of Contest.

Loss is a High Point University alumna, graduating from High Point University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in biology. In 2017, she graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with a Doctor of Dental Surgery, and from the University of Kentucky in 2020 with a Master of Science degree and a certificate in orthodontics. Upon graduation from University of Kentucky, she became board certified by the American Board of Orthodontics by successfully completing the written examination and clinical examination. She is currently a member of the American Association of Orthodontists, Southern Association of Orthodontists, Tennessee Association of Orthodontists, American Dental Association, Tennessee Dental Association, the Second District Dental Society and the local Seattle Study Club chapter.

Dr. Loss is married to Justin Loss, a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.


Martha Yarborough

From her almost 20 years of teaching and coordinating student programs, Martha Yarborough learned how important it is for people to have a purpose in life. She graduated from Greensboro College in 1966 and went on to work as a teacher for Guilford County Schools. She taught eighth-grade English and history for three years at Ferndale Middle School before she had her children. Once she returned to teaching, she began the rewarding job of working with at-risk high school students. After six years, she transitioned to coordinating a special needs program for Guilford County Schools. In her position, she helped to place special needs students in internships.

As an educator, Yarborough saw first-hand how important it was for people to have support and encouragement in their lives. This led her to become one of the founding members of Women in Motion, a women’s initiative for the High Point, Jamestown, Archdale and Trinity, North Carolina areas. The initiative focuses on supporting and encouraging women in the workplace, and as more women become involved, she hopes to see continued collaboration with the community while preparing the next generation of women for success.


The other extraordinary women who currently serve on the Elizabeth Miller Strickland Women’s Leadership Council include:

Elizabeth Miller Strickland - Chair Emeritus

Cynthia Strickland Graham – Executive Director, The Strickland Family Foundation

Christine B. Cottrell – CEO and Founder, RetailData, LLC

Heidi E. Hatfield – Managing Partner, Hatfield Holdings

Deborah Kennedy Kennard – Managing Council, Mobil Oil Corporation, Retired

Lindsay D. Scott – Talent Development Manager, Coca-Cola Consolidated

Betsy L. Turner – Senior Vice President-Senior Portfolio Manager, Northern Trust Bank

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