The eleven individuals named to the Founder’s Circle include Early Supporters – Sandra’s parents, a long-term employee and some of her first clients; Mentors and Advisors – individuals who guided Sandra through the process of earning certifications essential to the growth of her business; and Role Models – fellow small business owners and PR practitioners who exemplify the highest professional standards.
Congratulations to all our Founder’s Circle honorees!
Retired Public Relations Professional
During her 25-year career in public relations, Mary-Jane Atwater counseled nonprofit organizations, associations, businesses and government agencies on constituency and stakeholder engagement strategies. In addition to receiving numerous awards, Atwater was regularly invited to address national and regional conferences on media relations, public speaking, and other communications topics.
Following her retirement in 2013, Atwater founded LOWLINC, a nonprofit “aging-in-community” organization at Lake of the Woods in Locust Grove, Va. LOWLINC enables seniors to remain in their homes with the support of a network of volunteers who provide services, such as transportation, light home maintenance, computer support, errands and referrals, to vetted service providers. Atwater continues top serve as LOWLINC’s chair.
Atwater holds a B.A. degree from Connecticut College. She pursued graduate studies at The George Washington University, earning an M.B.A. degree in marketing and market research, and an M.A. degree in Education-Rehabilitation Counseling.
Atwater is a longtime member of the Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter. In addition to holding several leadership positions, she is a founding member of the Chapter’s Independent Public Relations Alliance. Atwater has also served on the boards of many community organizations, including the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria.
Michelle A. Bell, PHR
Human Resources Management Consultant
Michelle A. Bell, PHR, is Founder and President of 1st Choice, LLC, a nationwide executive talent and document management consulting firm. Built upon Bell’s extensive experience in human resources, 1st Choice develops inclusive training programs for management and employees, and provides recruiting, staffing, and workforce needs assessment and development services.
Bell also specializes in designing and executing programs to prepare socially and economically disadvantaged job seekers for entry or re-entry into the workforce. For Howard University’s Center for Urban Progress, Bell’s team designed and conducted workforce preparation sessions for metropolitan Washington’s inner-city residents. The team also offered resume critique services to the North Capital Collaborative, and Welfare to Work Partnership programs.
Bell has a B.A. degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and is accredited by the Society of Human Resources Management. She is also is an Arbitrator with the National Panel of Consumer Arbitrators, and a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars. Bell is currently working on her first book, which will cover interviewing dynamics and challenges for fundamentally disadvantaged job seekers.
Christine M. Branche, Ph.D.
Injury Prevention Program Researcher and Administrator
Christine M. Branche, Ph.D., is the Principal Associate Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2009, Dr. Branch has served as Director of NIOSH’s Office of Construction Safety and Health, coordinating a multifaceted construction safety and health research program.
Dr. Branche has researched and developed programs for injury prevention across a variety of settings and occupations, including sports and water recreation, construction, older adults, and motor vehicles. She has authored a host of scientific publications, many of which uncover new problems in injury control.
Dr. Branche has also provided technical consultation to organizations such as the American Red Cross, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Football League. Her many awards for research and leadership include the 2014 Robert B. Hurley Distinguished Service Award from the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA).
Dr. Branche received her B.A. degree in biology from the University of Rochester in New York, and M.S.P.H. and Ph.D. degrees in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina. She is a Fellow in the American College of Epidemiology, and serves on the Fire Council of Underwriters Laboratory.
Heathere Evans-Keenan, APR
Communications Coach and Trainer
Heathere Evans-Keenan, APR, is an award-winning communications coach and trainer who has combined her more 20 years of experience in communications with training in psychology and neurobiology to develop customized workshops, talks, webinars, and one-on-one coaching programs for high-profile executives and major organizations. Her many clients include Hewlett-Packard, MedStar Health, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Bar Association, and the Independent Community Bankers of America.
Named Washington PR Woman of the Year in 2011, Evans-Keenan is a frequent speaker on a range of personal development, business, and communications topics. She is also past president of the Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter.
Evans-Keenan graduated from San Diego State University’s College of Mass Communications, with graduate studies in psychology, neurobiology, and psycho-synthesis, a specialized form of coaching that brings all aspects of a person’s personality into alignment. She earned her Accreditation in Public Relations from PRSA in 2003.
Robert. G. Flowers, Jr.
Facility Operations and Management Entrepreneur
Robert G. Flowers, Jr., is the principal and founder of RGF Consulting Corporation, which trains small to medium contractors to compete for government procurement opportunities. He has conducted more than 4,000 training workshops across the U.S., providing his expertise to individual companies, small business advocates, historically black colleges and universities, and state procurement agencies.
Under Flowers’s guidance, RGB has developed a full range of janitorial and floor maintenance services that are now offered to clients across the U.S. He has also served as an instructor on cost proposal and procurement issues at George Mason University and the National Women’s Business Center.
Flowers holds a B.A. degree in Business Administration from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. He has also pursued post-graduate studies in various business disciplines. He is an active member of a host of professional development organizations.
Ruth A. Marshall
Communications Strategist, Trainer, and Educator
Ruth A. Marshall is Director of U.S.-Based Health, Education, and Training Programs at University Research Co., LLC, and its Center for Human Services. There, she manages a portfolio of projects focused on addressing the health and education needs in disadvantaged communities.
Marshall’s career has focused on using communication-based strategies to improve conditions for populations who lack sufficient power or other means of influence. She has provided technical assistance and training for numerous local, state, and federal communication strategies and public health initiatives. Marshall also provided creative and strategic leadership for the award-winning Too Smart To Start underage drinking public education campaign.
Marshall earned her M.A. degree, in organizational communications at Bowie State University. She is a former adjunct faculty member at Nyack College in New York, where she taught courses in management, group dynamics, and diversity.
Retired Public Relations Professional
Until her recent retirement, Rita Mhley, was president of Mhley/Davis & Associates Inc., an award-winning, comprehensive communications practice she founded in 1979 to develop creative messaging programs for clients across a range of industries.
Mhley has also lent her creative talents and leadership skills to community organizations, such as the advisory board of Housing Unlimited, Inc., in Montgomery County, Md. In 1992, she chaired the Landon Azalea Festival in Bethesda, Md., directing a yearlong program of events that raised more than $130,000 in scholarships for area students.
In addition, Mhley contributed to the development of the Independent Public Relations Alliance, part of the Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter. She worked closely with Sandra Hannon to launch IPRA’s community service project to promote issues of child victimization for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Child Protection and Family Support.
Mhley holds a B.A. degree from Rosemont College, and a M.A. degree from the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the editor of numerous periodicals, and author/editor of several books including a Maine forest resource guide, a textbook on water wells, and the 75-year history of Woodmont Country Club.
Regina Perkins is a senior partner with The Clearing, a Washington, D.C.-based management consulting firm serving the public, private, and social sectors. For more than 25 years, Perkins has applied a variety of disciplines and methodologies to assist senior leaders of organizations understand, plan, and implement change and transition. Her many successful collaborations include the U.S. Agency for International Development; the Social Security Administration; the City of Calgary, Alberta; the Girl Scouts of the USA; the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments; The World Bank; and the International Finance Corporation.
Perkins also spent two years as an independent Expert Consultant to the U.S. Justice Department, serving as a member of the U.S. Joint Task Force at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The collaborative effort involving federal and international agencies organized the process for asylum and repatriation of political and economic refugees into the U.S.
Perkins earned a B.S. degree in Management Science and Computer Information Systems from Virginia Tech.
Deborah Walker Sewell
Deborah Walker Sewell, is the founder of D.W.S. Business Resources, which provides a variety of operations, training, special events logistics support, and management services to public- and private-sector clients.
With The Hannon Group, Sewell on worked award-winning campaigns for the U.S. Tennis Association, the College Savings Plans of Maryland, Southeastern University’s Anniversary Gala, and, most recently, a program to promote health insurance enrollment to African-American communities in Maryland for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.
During a previous stint with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), Sewell coordinated logistics for cross-country study tours and conferences in the U.S. and overseas.
Passionate about sports, Sewell is the creator and host of “Sisters-in-Sports,” an online radio program dedicated to educating people about the opportunities and impact women have in the world of professional athletics. She also serves on the Executive Committee of Women Love Sports, Too, which helps women of all ages gain a better understanding of and enjoyment from the sports industry.
Dorothy Green Wills
Retired Business Educator
Dorothy Green Wills, PhD., L.L.D., D.HL., C.M., spent a long and distinguished career as an educator in the areas of business education, social work, and andragogy (the method by which adults learn). She spent 30 years at Vanier College in Quebec, retiring in June 2000 as Dean of the Faculty of Applied Technologies.
Wills’s insights and commitment to the betterment of Canada’s diverse community made her a valuable appointee to advisory boards and committees at all of government. She served on the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada’s Convention Refugee Determination Division for six years, and was a long-time member of the Canadian Multicultural Counsel.
In addition, Wills served as Executive Secretary of the Negro Citizenship Association, and was a founding member of The National Black Coalition of Canada. Wills also served as a researcher on the non-partisan Parliamentary Committee that studied the Participation of Visible Minorities in Canadian Society.
Wills has been honored with a host of awards, including the Order of Canada, the Martin Luther King Junior Achievement Award, the Congress of Black Women of Canada Award, and the Minister’s Award for Excellence in Race Relations. She has also received honorary doctorates from several of Canada’s leading universities.
Roland O. Wills
Roland Oliver Wills is Professor Emeritus at the John Molson School of Business, Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. Following a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, Wills entered academia where he was highly regarded as both teacher and administrator. Upon his retirement, he was the Associate Dean, Academic and Student Affairs, for the Molson School’s Faculty of Commerce and Administration. Wills also served as Deputy Speaker of the Concordia University Senate, the school’s senior academic body.
Wills also enjoyed the high regard and respect of his students, who named Concordia’s computer lab in his honor. Wills also received the Jackie Robinson Award from the Montreal Association of Black Business Persons and Professionals for his contribution to the field of business education. He was also recognized for his valuable contribution to Canadian Society by the Director General, Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
One of Wills’s most cherished outlets for personal involvement has been Union United Methodist Church in Montreal. He chaired the church’s Official Board, and founded its Men’s Fellowship Group, a ministry in which he remains active. Wills is also an honorary member of the church’s Trustees Committee.