2018 Salute to Women of Achievement

Kerri Garcia, Event Chair

Kerri Garcia, Director of Communications for the University of Nevada, Reno is the 2018 Chair of the Nevada Women’s Fund Woman of Achievement luncheon. Throughout her more than two decades of public relations and communications experience, Kerri has proven to be a deeply respected professional who is actively involved with many important issues that impact our local community. Her career has spanned the corporate communications, advertising agency and non-profit arenas, as well as owning her own public relations consulting business.

A native Nevadan, Kerri attended the University on a full-ride athletic scholarship in tennis. After many years, she returned to her alma mater roots to contribute to its rich tradition while looking toward its future of growth. She sits on several community boards and committees, including serving as a member and past president of the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows and as a board member for Western Industrial Nevada (WIN).  She is a past president of Nevada Women’s Fund board of directors (2008); has chaired Renown Health’s Community Advisory Committee; and served as president of the Public Relations Society of America, Sierra Nevada Chapter.

“This annual fundraising lunch to support the mission of the Nevada Women’s Fund is a one-of-a-kind event,” said Garcia. “I’m honored to once again be working with the Fund and look forward to seeing many business and community friends on May 24.”

Heather Penney, Keynote Speaker

This year’s speaker for the Salute to Women of Achievement luncheon is Heather “Lucky” Penney, someone who also has Northern Nevada roots and an incredible story. Heather grew up around aviation and warbirds and was part of the first wave of women who went directly into fighters from pilot training. While studying for her Masters of Arts at Purdue University, she learned that Congress had opened combat aviation to women and quickly joined the first collegiate team to race in the Air Race Classic—an annual transcontinental air race for female pilots.

Heather applied to the Air National Guard and earned her wings at ENJJPT, Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training, where she flew the T-37 and T-38. The first and only woman in the 121st Fighter Squadron, she deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom for initial combat operations as a night-time SCUD Hunter in the western deserts of Iraq, also supporting Special Operations Forces. On the morning of September 11, 2001, she went to work not knowing that she would be flying one of two jets tasked with finding, and disabling United Flight 93. The only way to do that would have been to fly her F-16 directly into the plane. Penny was ready on that day to give her life for the country, not knowing at the time of takeoff that United Flight 93 had crashed attributed to the heroic acts of the passengers aboard.

While living in Sparks, NV she attended Lloyd Diedrichson Elementary and Sparks Middle School, before moving with her family to Colorado.  Heather remains tied to the area through her participation in the Reno Air Races.

Jane Adams Nichols Ed.D, Hall of Fame Inductee

Dr. Jane Adams Nichols will be inducted into the 2018 Nevada Women’s Fund Hall of Fame. In 2000, Jane was the first woman selected as Chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education. During her time served as Chancellor, Jane contributed immensely to helping develop and shape the higher education system of Nevada. Thousands of students, many of them women, are the beneficiaries of Jane’s dedication, leadership, and innovation over the years.

Exposed to the civil rights movement at a young age, Jane was inspired to fight for those who were facing social and political injustices and help take action on their behalf. She immeasurably served the community by dedicating herself to work in education and social welfare, where she has been a leader.  She has always been active serving on various Boards and committees including, Crisis Call of Nevada, Nevada Women’s Fund, Reno Philharmonic, United Way of Northern Nevada, to name a few.

Always understated and not seeking accolades, she is known as a social worker, counselor, advocate, activist, teacher, researcher, academician, and administrator. Jane Adams Nichols exemplifies a Nevada Women’s Fund Hall of Fame recipient.