WDAS Women of Excellence 2017


105.3 WDAS paid tribute to phenomenal women all over the Tri-State with our Third Annual Women Of Excellence Luncheon presented by Gwynedd Mercy University.

It all happened Saturday, April 1st, 11am-5pm at our new home - The Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown - located on 17th and Race. This year, once again, we are proud to recognize some incredible women who have made their mark within our community.

WITH PERFORMANCES BY: Joe, Eric Benet, Leela James and Kevin Ross

Eric Benet
Leela James
Kevin Ross
  • Dr. Ellyn Jo Waller, First Lady of the ENON Tabernacle Baptist Church
  • City Councilwoman Janie Blackwell (District 3)
  • Sue Serio, Fox 29 Reporter & Weather Anchor
  • Julie Coker Graham, President & CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Jacqueline Grace, Vice President & Asst GM, Harrah’s Philadelphia
  • ... and our Special Trailblazing Woman of Excellence will be presented to one of the most influential African American women of our era, Ms. Susan L. Taylor, Editor in Chief Emeritus of Essence Magazine and Founder and CEO of the National Cares Mentoring Movement

WDAS asked the Tri-State region to nominate women who they felt personified the title of "Woman of Excellence." Below are the local women we have chosen to honor at the Women of Excellence Luncheon on April 1st. 

Congratulations to Local Sheroes: Lynette Medley, Lois Fernandez, Evelyn Sample Oates and Dr. Elana McDonald & Dr. Delana Wardlaw

Lynette Medley
Lois Hernandez
Evelyn Sample Oates

It’s the 3rd Annual WDAS Women of Excellence Luncheon presented by Gwynedd Mercy University, driven by Barbera's Autoland, and brought to you in part by Cedar Woods Care Management, Lourdes Health System, Always Best Care Philly & Delaware, Gift of Life, PGW, Platinum Productions and The Mother’s Day Music Festival, and 105.3, WDAS!


Susan L. Taylor, 2017 Trailblazing Woman of Excellence Award Recipient

Susan L. Taylor

Susan L. Taylor, best-selling author of four books, and editor of eight others, is a fourth-generation entrepreneur, who grew up in Harlem working in her father’s clothing store. At 24, she founded her own cosmetics company, which led to the beauty editor’s position at Essence, the publication she would go on to shape into a world-renown brand with more than 8 million readers. It was that enterprising spirit wedded to a deep love for her community that led to the founding of the National CARES Mentoring Movement in 2005 as Essence CARES. With local affiliates in 58 cities, National CARES has recruited, trained and deployed more than 140,000 mentors to schools and youth-support and mentoring organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters, as well as in its own culturally rooted, academic and social tranformational initiatives. A community-mobilization movement, National CARES is the only organization dedicated to providing mentoring, healing and wellness services on a national scale for Black children.

Susan Taylor’s vision is clear: calling together a critical mass of caring people to work strategically, peacefully and passionately to heal all that is hurting our children, communities and country. No partisan politics, no egos, she says. "This is about creating what we sing and say we are - America the Beautiful, a nation in which all children and families have opportunities to thrive.” This is a vision that builds on her nearly four decades of groundbreaking work in publishing.

At Essence magazine, Taylor not only served as chief editor, but also authored the magazine's most popular column, In the Spirit-the first in a mainstream U.S. magazine to champion spiritual growth as a pathway to total well-being and a meaningful life. Under her guidance, the publication's readership soared to eight million in the U.S., the Caribbean, Canada, the U.K. and English-speaking Africa nations, and the Essence brand expanded into book publishing, broadcasting, eyewear, hosiery and its own fashion catalogue. But nowhere outside the magazine did she bring people and Black culture together so beautifully as with the launching of the Essence Music Festival and its famous empowerment seminars.

A lifelong activist who has worked to ensure people across the globe, from South Africa to those who struggled in the wake of Katrina, Susan says, securing our children is her highest calling and the big business of Black America today.


Dr. Ellyn Jo Waller, First Lady of the ENON Tabernacle Baptist Church

Ellen Jo Waller

Ellyn Jo Waller, Ed.D., from Queens, New York, is the daughter of Robert and Ellen Payne. She is the partner in marriage and ministry of Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller, Senior Pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They are the proud parents of two beautiful young ladies, Elynn Morgan and Eryka Lynn.

Ellyn Jo has a Doctor of Education in Curriculum Instruction and Technology in Education and Doctor of Education in Curriculum Instruction and Technology in Education with an emphasis in Literacy Education from Temple University. Ellyn has been employed as a Special Education Teacher in Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania. She is a member of the Adjunct Faculty in the College of Education at Temple University.

Ellyn Jo has always been passionate about education and empowering women. After being introduced to the issue of human trafficking in 2005 through research for the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention, combatting the issue became a passion as well. She participates in anti-human trafficking efforts domestically and internationally. Ellyn is a member of Philadelphia Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition and Co-Chair of the Religion Subcommittee.

Ellyn Jo leads the Sisters in Christ women’s ministry at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, which seeks to develop and strengthen the spiritual lives of women through Bible studies, fellowship gatherings, retreats and outreach opportunities. In 2011, she led the Enon family in establishing an anti-human trafficking ministry, She’s My Sister, to raise awareness on the issue of human trafficking. This ministry participates in street outreach and advocates on behalf of victims of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. In October of 2015, She’s My Sister hosted its inaugural Human Trafficking Awareness 5K Walk/Run to raise funds for the development of a trauma-informed transitional residential program for young women exiting “The Life” and aging out of the Child Protective Services system.

Ellyn Jo serves on The City School Board (Education Committee Chair), Community College of Philadelphia’s Foundation Board, as well as other local and national organizations and Co-Chairs the United Negro College Fund’s Delaware Valley Women of Faith for Education Afternoon Tea. She is the President of the Charitas Foundation, which seeks to positively impact lives of individuals through sowing financial seeds into organizations with life changing missions. Ellyn and gemologist, Kenyatta Black, designed the Faith, Hope and Love Collection by Ellyn Jo, jewelry line. Ellyn donates her portion of proceeds to the Philadelphia Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition.

Ellyn Jo is a woman of deep faith, committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. She believes her first ministry is to her family; being supportive to her husband and their daughters. She firmly believes God allows periods of influence and resource in our lives with the expectation that we will bless others, especially the less fortunate. It is her heart’s desire to please God and be a blessing in the lives of all she encounters.


City Councilwoman, Jannie Blackwell, (District 3)

Jannie Blackwell
Jannie L. Blackwell, a six-term council member born and reared in Philadelphia, is a seasoned advocate for social change with a thirty year reputation for serving community members and the poor and underprivileged in the City of Philadelphia, making her a leader in our City with her own vision.

Jannie L. Blackwell received a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Cheyney University and a Master of Arts in Education at St. Joseph’s University. Councilwoman Blackwell began her political career by serving as Special Assistant to the Governor, assigned to the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She resigned with her husband, then State Representative Lucien E. Blackwell, when he ran for and was elected to City Council.

In addition to serving as delegate to the National Convention for the last four presidential elections, she served as Administrative Assistant to two Lucien E. Blackwell campaigns for Mayor, four for City Council and three for the U.S. Congress. She also served in this capacity during his fifteen-year tenure in City Council, before succeeding him.

Since taking office in 1992, Jannie has emerged as a strong contender and powerbroker in the local political arena. Elected among her peers as Majority Leader in 2000, Councilwoman Blackwell is a behind-the-scenes consensus builder and problem solver. A stellar politician who understands the making of solid policy, Councilwoman Blackwell has introduced significant legislation during her four Council terms.

In addition to her role as Majority Leader from 2000-2008, Blackwell is also Chair of the Education Committee and the Chair of the Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless. She is Vice Chair of the Finance Committee and member of the Committee of the Whole, Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities, and the Committee on Ethics. Councilwoman Blackwell is also a Co-Founder and Commissioner on the Mayor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs.

While rooted in the Blackwell tradition of empowering the underserved, Jannie has crafted her own vision for the Third Councilmanic District that focuses on increasing affordable housing and creating economic opportunity for her constituent base whose demographics are continually expanding. She has enhanced her district by increasing commercial development and homeownership opportunities. As a Commissioner on the Philadelphia Housing Authority Board, she is proud of the blight removal and new housing construction across the City. The Lucien E. Blackwell Homes, located in and around 46th Street and Brown Streets in West Philadelphia total over 1,000 new homes available for rental and homeownership!

In 1999, Councilwoman Blackwell announced a Ten-Year Economic Development Plan for West and Southwest Philadelphia leading to the formation of a non-profit organization, “West Philadelphia on the Move”. The Plan incorporates her vision for increasing affordable housing and job and business development. Her leadership and hands-on approach with business leaders, public and private institutions, community groups, town watch leaders, block captains, and other elected officials, has continued to allow this economic development plan to come to fruition, culminating in over 3 billion dollars in public and private investment.

Councilwoman Blackwell has made a life-long commitment to move her community forward, and will always work to foster an end to homelessness, neighborhood blight and poor public education through using the tools of public policy, legislation and public involvement. Her overall vision is to improve her constituents’ quality of life – regardless of race, class, gender, or socio-economic status. She continues to believe that there is a solution to every problem, and that when we work together, everybody wins.


Sue Serio, Fox 29 Reporter & Weather Anchor

Sue Serio

Since 1997, Sue Serio has welcomed each new day with FOX 29 viewers, as weather anchor for "Good Day Philadelphia."

Prior to joining the FOX team, Serio served as co-anchor of WAKE-UP, the top-rated morning show on WIVB-TV, a CBS affiliate, in Buffalo, New York and she co-anchored the station's “News at Noon.” Prior to that, she worked at WHYY-TV 12 (PBS) in Philadelphia where she was a weather anchor and feature reporter on the evening newscast.

Sue is a cum laude graduate of Towson University in Maryland. While earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication, she started her professional broadcasting career in radio at WMAR-FM in Baltimore. Sue then hosted numerous radio shows. Among them: WBAL in Baltimore, as midday radio host; WSTW in Wilmington, DE, as morning show co-host; WMGK in Philadelphia, where she was host and producer of the popular “Magic After Dark;” and WKSZ-FM, where she co-hosted the morning show.

A five time Emmy nominee from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Serio was honored by the Academy in November, 1994, when she received the Outstanding Individual Achievement Award for weathercaster. In June, 1995, she received the Certificate in Broadcast Meteorology from Mississippi State University. She is also the Co-Chair for the local Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk. Sue is active in her community, volunteering for events at the Media Theatre, Tyler Arboretum, the SPCA, and many more.

During her free time, Serio enjoys needlework, films, and sleeping. Serio and her husband, Bill Vargus, currently reside in Delaware County with their daughter Nia Patricia.


Julie Coker Graham, President & CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau

Julie Coker Graham

Julie Coker Graham is the President and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) where she oversees all of the organization’s departments and operational duties. Prior to this, she served as Senior Vice President of Convention Sales and managed a staff of 25 sales and services professionals at the PHLCVB.

Coker Graham joined the PHLCVB after serving as General Manager for the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing, where she oversaw operational aspects of the 350-room hotel. Her responsibilities included directing all hotel and employee operations, managing the assets, providing monthly profit and loss statements, maintaining legal compliance, assessing issues and outlining sales and marketing strategies, as well as providing guidance, mentorship and leadership to employees and managers of the hotel. Coker Graham began her career at Hyatt n 1989 as a corporate management trainee and worked her way up tofront office manager, hotel assistant manager and assistant executive housekeeper at Hyatt Regency O’Hare. In 1994, she was promoted to her first room executive position at Hyatt Deerfield (Chicago). In 1998, she was promoted to General Manager at Hyatt on Printer’s Row in downtown Chicago and later General Manager at The Lodge, a Hyatt property in Oak Brook, a suburb of Chicago. She was a nominee for General Manager of the year for Hyatt Hotels Corporation 2004 and 2006.

Coker Graham was named chair of Mayor Jim Kenney’s transition team for the Democratic National Convention preparation. She serves on the board of Center City District, as well as two of tourism industry’s top associations – the U.S. Travel Association and Destination Marketing Association International. Plus, she is a member of the Philadelphia Chapter of Links, Incorporated. She served as first Vice Chair for the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association (GPHA) as well as a board member with Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (now Visit Philadelphia), Independence Visitors Center Corporation, Girls, Inc. Philadelphia region, and Boys Scouts of America Cradle of Liberty Council. She was awarded Cradle of Liberty Good Scout Award by the Boy Scouts of America Cradle of Liberty Council and was the recipient of the 2011 John Wanamaker Award (Individual Award) given by the YMCA of Philadelphia and Vicinity.

Coker Graham is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, where she received a bachelor of science in Hospitality Management and graduated Magna Cum Laude.


Jacqueline Grace - Vice President & Asst GM, Harrah’s Philadelphia

Jacqueline Grace Benson

Jacqueline Grace, Vice President and Assistant General Manager at Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack, is responsible for the strategic direction and operational excellence of the Gaming Operations, Food & Beverage, Security, Information Technology, Facilities, and Racing organizations. In her role, Jackie partners with property leaders to ensure guests enjoy an unsurpassed visit and team members maintain a work culture that continues to embody the company’s Mission, Vision and Values.

Prior to joining the Harrah’s Philadelphia team, Jackie held the position of Vice President of Human Resources at Horseshoe Baltimore. During her tenure with Caesars Entertainment, Jackie has also held the positions of Regional Director of Human Resources, Regional Director of Employee & Labor Relations, Director of Marketing and President’s Associate within the Atlantic City Region. Prior to joining the gaming industry, Jackie maintained the position of Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion as well as various Technology management roles with Merrill Lynch in New York City.

A graduate of the University of Virginia Darden School, Jackie earned a Master of Business Administration degree. In addition, she received a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electrical Engineering from Stony Brook University.

Jackie and her husband are parents of a precocious and funny three-year-old son and a spirited, ever-moving, soon-to-be one year old daughter. In her spare time, Jackie enjoys photography, writing and travel.



Congratulations to our Local Sheroes

Meet Your 2017 Local Women of Excellence

Lynette Medley, Founder of No More Secrets, Focusing on Sexual Health and Awareness

Lynette Medley

Lynette Medley is dedicated and highly skilled sexual awareness educator with +15 years of experience in the areas of sexuality, religion and advocacy. What distinguishes her from others in her field of expertise is that she leads uncomfortable discussions with ease. It's simple to explain why: if it isn't realistic or relevant enough, people lose interest. Lynette has a special interest in empowering self-esteem and promoting sexual freedom she believes the path to happiness is doing. Based in Wilmington, Delaware, she's determined to uncover the secrets around sexuality and promote open communication. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Drexel University in mental and behavioral health sciences and a master’s degree from Widener University in Human Sexuality Education.


Lois Fernandez, Founder of Odunde

Lois Fernandez

Born and raised in South Philadelphia, Lois Fernandez was an activist that was ahead of her time. Ms. Fernandez’ activism and commitment to education have lasted for close to 5 decades... but arguably her biggest accomplishment was taking a $100 grant in 1975 to create what is known as Odunde. Over the last 42 years the annual ODUNDE Festival has grown into the nation’s largest African-American street festival in the country and is attended by up to 500,000 people annually. The ODUNDE Festival has a $30.6 million dollar economic impact on the State of Pennsylvania and a $28 million dollar impact on the City of Philadelphia.


Evelyn Sample Oates, Exec. Director of External Affairs, School District of Philadelphia

Evelyn Sample Oates

Evelyn Sample Oates is an accomplished professional, servant leader and advocate in our city. In her professional career, she serves as the Executive Director of External Affairs for the School District of Philadelphia. She works side-by-side with the Superintendent executing strategy elements including: building one-on-one relationships with community, business, faith-based and civic leaders to call upon them for collaborative ventures; leveraging long-term and new relationships with elected officials to establish School District champions; and support the creation and expansion of partnerships with local non-profit and for-profit businesses and institutions to generate support for the District. She builds broad-based networks of support throughout the city and state all in the name of helping children achieve in the classrooms and beyond.


Dr. Elana McDonald & Dr. Delana Wardlaw, Identical Twin Physicians

Dr. Elana McDonald & Dr. Delana Wardlaw

Dr. McDonald and Dr. Wardlaw were born in Philadelphia and raised in North Philadelphia; the youngest of four siblings. Both Dr. McDonald and Dr. Wardlaw were educated in the Philadelphia Public School system and are graduates of Central High School Class of 251. Dr. McDonald and Dr. Wardlaw received Undergraduate degrees from Temple University and attended Pennsylvania State University together graduating from the College of Medicine Class of 2000. Dr. Elana McDonald is a Board Certified General Pediatrician and owner of two pediatric practices in Philadelphia (Pizzica Pediatrics & Memphis Street Peds). Dr. Delana Wardlaw is a Board Certified Family Medicine Physician, practicing at Temple Physicians Incorporated in Nicetown.

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