For almost 50 years, Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest has recognized the achievements of local women with the Rogers Women of the Year Awards.

Following a sold-out ceremony on the evening of May 23, 2024, Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest announced the winners and their accomplishments. This year’s recipients include a senior leader at the University of Waterloo, three alumni and a former member of Waterloo’s Board of Governors.  

“On behalf of the University of Waterloo, I’m pleased to congratulate my colleague Nenone Donaldson and all the inspiring women from our university community on their well-deserved awards and nominations,” said Vivek Goel, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo. “I commend their passion and contributions to their respective fields and to our community.”

Professional 40+: Nenone Donaldson

Laura Hughes, public relations manager, Home Hardware standing with Nenone Donaldson, vice-president, advancement

Laura Hughes from Home Hardware with Nenone Donaldson after announcing the award. Photo from Pure Muse Portrait.

Nenone Donaldson is the vice-president of advancement at the University of Waterloo. She brings over two decades of fundraising expertise to her pivotal role. Focused on advancing the University's mission, Nenone leads a dynamic team of over 120 professionals, spearheading comprehensive alumni engagement initiatives. Her strategic leadership fosters enduring partnerships crucial to the University's mission, driving a sustained fundraising strategy aligned with academic priorities. Through her focus on transformative gifts and collaboration, she empowers her team to exceed expectations. Nenone's dedication ensures Waterloo's continued leadership in education and innovation.

Entrepreneur 40+: Dr. Cindy Ward (BA ’09)

Dr. Cindy WardDr. Cindy Ward is a dynamic Kitchener woman and lifelong entrepreneur having started over ten local businesses, including the original Boathouse in 2004. Cindy earned her PhD later in life, at age 47, and encourages others to always keep learning. Recently she landed a spot on CBC’s Dragon’s Den for her newest business, Dr. Ward’s Fresh Mist, an ecological company that makes plant-based air fresheners. Cindy is the epitome of the phrase “aim higher,” despite the difficulties of life, and at 56 she is a well-loved and respected role model in our community.

Entrepreneur Under 40: Rebekah Churchyard (BSW ’14, BA ’13)

Rebekan Churchyard headshotRebekah Churchyard is a registered social worker, project manager and psychotherapist specializing in geriatrics and dementia care. She is the CEO and founder of Green Care Farms Inc., the first nature-based program in Canada for people with dementia on an operational farm. Rebekah also works full-time in Specialized Geriatric Services for Home and Community Care Support Services Waterloo Wellington. Prior to this, she served as president and vice-president with the Toronto Council on Aging Board of Directors and as an Accountability Table member with the City of Toronto’s Seniors Strategy.

STEM: Linda Li (MASc ’19, BASc ’15)

Linda Li headshotLinda Li is an environmental engineer and associate with Dillon Consulting, an employee-owned, Canadian firm serving the Waterloo community since the 1970s. For seven years, Linda has supported both Canadian and international clients and contributed to complex and multidisciplinary projects in the areas of water, energy and climate change. She continuously strives to foster a culture of collaboration and inclusivity within STEM. Linda’s dedication extends beyond her profession; she volunteers with several engineering and water associations, both locally and internationally. Passionate about knowledge sharing, Linda has lectured and participated in panels at the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo and Toronto Metropolitan University.

Lifetime Achievement: Martha George

Martha GeorgeMartha George is a former member of Waterloo’s Board of Governors. Her multi-decade career is an expression of personal commitment to excellence and passion for empowering others. Becoming the first female chair of Grand Valley Construction Association’s (GVCA) Board, and her progression to president and CEO of GVCA, broadened her influence in the profession. Martha’s invaluable contributions are reflected by thousands of successful industry partnerships, construction projects and community initiatives. A tireless advocate for women in trades and a committed volunteer, her reach surpasses the tangible, positively impacting the well-being of tens of thousands of individuals. Martha’s perspective indicates that “you’re a leader whenever you’re making a positive difference, regardless of position or title.”

More than 120 exceptional individuals were nominated for awards this year, including many with connections to the University of Waterloo. The list includes Dr. Suzanne Kearns, founding director, Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics, and Dr. Norah McRae, associate provost, Co-operative and Experiential Education, as well as many Waterloo alumni, students, staff, former staff and others connected to the campus.

These winners and nominees showcase the strength of our community. The University of Waterloo was founded to address local and global challenges through unconventional means, and our unique approach to developing future-focused solutions inspires real world impact.

Photo from event provided by Pure Muse Portrait