News Releases

October 27, 2011
For Immediate Release
For additional information: 
Barbara Kerr, APR
Executive Director of Communications and Marketing
Telephone: 360-992-2921


The Iris Awards:
Honoring women of achievement in Southwest Washington

Nominations are now being accepted
for the first annual Iris Awards. 
The honorees will be announced in January
and will be honored on March 8, 2012

VANCOUVER, Wash. – The event that began at Clark College as a photography exhibit during Women’s History Week 1985 will return to the college in 2012 with a new name but a familiar and meaningful focus.  

The Iris Awards will celebrate the lasting and far-reaching contributions of women in Southwest Washington and beyond.  The awards, which will be presented on International Women’s Day 2012, will honor the tradition of the regional “Women of Achievement” celebration but embrace a new direction for the future.

The announcement of the first Iris Award recipients will be made during the 2012 State of the College Address on Thursday, January 19.  The award recipients will be honored at a reception and ceremony on Thursday, March 8, 2012 from 5-7 p.m. in Clark’s Gaiser Student Center.  Tickets will go on sale in late January. 

The Iris Awards are supported by Clark College, the Clark College Foundation and the Vancouver Business Journal. 

Clark College President Robert K. Knight said, “Since 1985, Clark College has been a regional leader in celebrating the contributions of women. When we made the difficult decision to discontinue the Women of Achievement luncheon, we also made a commitment to exploring new ways in which to honor women in our region. Those discussions led to the creation of the Iris Awards.  We’re proud to make this announcement, and we hope that the community will share our excitement.”

Clark College Foundation President & CEO Lisa Gibert said, “We believe that the Iris Awards will be a fresh and meaningful way to inspire, celebrate, and honor the lives of women in Southwest Washington and beyond.  Most of all, we hope that the Iris Awards will inspire women of all ages in our region to dream and to achieve.”

Vancouver Business Journal Publisher John McDonagh said, “We are proud to join Clark College and the Clark College Foundation in celebrating the accomplishments of women in our region.”  The Vancouver Business Journal’s publications include the Women in Business Directory, the only Portland/Vancouver metro area directory of women owned, directed and/or managed businesses. The Iris Award winners will be featured in the 2012 Women in Business Directory.

Nominations for the Iris Awards

Three Iris Awards may be presented annually.  One recipient may be selected in each of three areas: service in the public sector, service in the private sector, and philanthropic leadership.

Anyone may submit a nomination.  Additionally, more than one person can fill out a nomination form for the same nominee or provide letters of recommendation.

Award criteria and nomination forms are available at Nominations must be received by Wednesday, November 30, 2011.  Honorees will be notified by mid-December. Recipients of the Women of Achievement awards are not eligible for the Iris Awards.  A list of past award recipients can be found at

Forms may be submitted by email at  Nomination forms may be faxed to 360-922-2832.  They may also be mailed or delivered to the Office of the President, Clark College, Baird Administration Building, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver, WA 98663-3598. Driving directions and parking maps are available at

About the Iris Awards

Iris is the Greek word for rainbow. In Greek mythology, Iris was the goddess of the rainbow, the messenger of the Olympian gods. Her name contains a double meaning, being connected both with iris, "the rainbow," and eiris, "messenger."

Award organizers note that Iris is also associated with communication and new endeavors, both of which are exemplified by women in their public and private roles throughout Southwest Washington and beyond.  Additionally, the organizers noted, women’s lives today “represent a rainbow of possibilities.”

Honoring women in Southwest Washington: a history

In March 1985, Pat Watne, the Director of Women’s Programs at Clark College, organized a photography exhibit to honor the volunteer efforts and community leadership of women in Clark County. The exhibit ran from March 3-8 in honor of Women’s History Week.  The women recognized in the photo exhibit were celebrated at a tea. 

Within four years of its inception, the Clark College women’s recognition event moved from the college to the Red Lion Inn at the Quay then, in 2006, to the Hilton Vancouver Washington. In 1991, YWCA Clark County joined Clark College in sponsoring what had become the Women of Achievement luncheon. During its 26-year history, the celebration became the largest event of its kind in Southwest Washington.

In August 2010, Clark College and YWCA Clark County jointly made what they called the “difficult” announcement to discontinue the annual Women of Achievement luncheon. Noting that the expenses for the luncheon had far exceeded revenues for several years, they explained that the event, as it was structured, was “no longer viable in terms of the cost and the resources provided by each organization.” In their joint message, both organizations affirmed their ongoing commitment to honoring women and to their “valued partnership in support of the citizens we both serve.”

YWCA Clark County is discussing potential roles in, and support for, the Iris Awards.  YWCA Clark County plans to continue to award Young Women of Achievement scholarships, which will be presented next spring.