The Distinguished Alumni Award
Brenda von Rautenkranz
The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes a graduate who has made a significant and notable contribution for the betterment of our community. The 2010 recipient, Brenda von Rautenkranz (2005) exemplifies the spirit and goals for civic involvement and trusteeship that Leadership encourages.
Von Rautenkranz is a professional talk show host, motivational speaker and president of her own business called “Fit for Life” which provides personal training as well as motivational and nutritional counseling. She produces and hosts two TV shows: One is a talk show, designed to share information about various charities and people’s lives; and the second is a cooking show highlighting various international cuisines and a fun setting for food and its production.
Von Rautenkranz has been passionate about leadership for more than 20 years. She has coached dozens of professionals, helping them reach their full potential and improving their leadership styles. Her popular seminars and classes have run locally and in a number of East Coast locations.
She has demonstrated her own high-energy leadership style in her roles as PTA president, chairing nonprofit galas and events, and organizing political campaigns. Since graduating from Leadership Premier in 2005, she has been a committed class rep, and for three years has hosted the popular “LHC Iron Chef Cookoff” that benefits local charities and Leadership U.
She shares her knowledge and leaderships skills with the high school interns who work with her each year on her TV shows, as well as all the students at Glenelg High School via her innovative student programs.
The Youth Advocate Award
Diane Mikulis (2008) was elected to the Howard County Board of Education in 2004, and served as chairman of the board from December 2006 through December 2007. During her four years on the board of education, Mikulis established herself as an effective advocate and a compassionate public servant. Her positive, energetic leadership style earned her the respect and affection of staff and community members.
Mikulis provided stability to the board and the school system during a time of intense leadership transition — the hiring of a new superintendent, the move from a five-member to a seven-member board, and the extension of voting rights to the student board member. Her strategic vision helped give life to major initiatives such as a comprehensive capital planning process for the school system, the implementation of full-day kindergarten, an integrated financial system, a student information management system and a communication and public engagement plan.
Mikulis also has been dedicated to a wide range of youth organizations, such as the Boy Scouts, Special Olympics in Howard County, the state of Maryland and Special Olympics Team USA. Mikulis’s service as a Special Olympics coach was recognized when she was selected to accompany the Special Olympics Team USA delegation to the 2009 Special Olympics World Games in Boise, Idaho.
She is known for her strong commitment and connection to the athletes, and she sets an example for others in all of her roles by always putting the diverse needs of children first and by being a team player and an advocate for youth and their families.
The Unsung Hero Award
The Unsung Hero award is given to a distinguished graduate who works behind the scenes to serve the community, recognizing that service is its own reward.
In addition to his involvement with Leadership Howard County, Roy Appletree has served the community in many ways, in capacities that expressed his passion for serving those in need, as: ACS Public Policy co-chair, 2009 to present; Prepare for Success coordinator; Neighbor Ride volunteer; ACS representative to the Howard County Chamber’s Legislative Committee; participant in the Economic Development Authority strategic planning process; and ACS convenor of the Full Spectrum Housing Coalition for the past three years.
Appletree also served as executive director of the Foreign-born Information and Referral Network (FIRN) from 2003 to 2007. His accomplishments were many, including strengthening and conducting a study in 2005 that drew the attention of service providers to the needs of the foreign-born in Howard County. Under his leadership, he strengthened the agency’s reputation and credibility, and took on the issues and needs of those served by FIRN as his own.
Since leaving FIRN, he has continued to be active within the community through the Association of Community Services, as co-chair with his wife of Prepare for Success, and his major passion — advocacy of affordable housing.
The Leadership Legacy Award
The Leadership Legacy Award celebrates a Leadership Howard County graduate or friend whose sustained service to Howard County has added enduring value to our community. Individuals honored with this award have a long-standing commitment to civic involvement and have proven instrumental in creating real and continuing positive change for our citizens. In 2010, Leadership Howard County recognized two outstanding individuals for this award, both of whom demonstrated a passion for making Howard County the best community it could be.
Dr. Chuck Ecker
Chuck Ecker began his distinguished career as an educator in Carroll County. He then served as assistant superintendent of schools in Prince George’s County, followed by his position as assistant and deputy superintendent for Howard County Public Schools from 1974 to 1989. In 1990 he was elected Howard County Executive and served two terms. He went home to Carroll County in 2000 for a two-year stint as interim superintendent of Carroll County Public Schools before serving two four-year terms as superintendent.
According to Chip Lundy, a friend of Ecker’s for more than 20 years, “He always demonstrated honesty, integrity, compassion and character and has put the welfare of others over his own. Some people wonder all of their lives if they have made a difference in this world. Chuck didn’t have that problem — he truly made a difference.”
Dick Story said, “Nearly 17 years ago, Chuck Ecker asked me to take over the helm of the emerging new Howard County Economic Development Authority. His was a compelling vision for an organization that would guide the growth of jobs and the tax base in Howard County through a privatized, non-government entity. Chuck’s argument was convincing, but his passion for a unique approach to economic development made the difference.”
Mary Ellen Duncan noted that Howard Community College was blessed to have a county executive who could capitalize on the strengths of the college for its citizenry — for his foresight in providing space in a county building in Gateway for the Business and Training Center, that was named in his honor.
Ecker is now retired and lives in Sykesville. He and his wife Peg have two sons and 11 grandchildren.
Maggie Brown (In Memoriam)
This community lost an exceptional leader and friend in January 2010. Maggie Brown played an extraordinary role in shaping our community into what it is today. She possessed a lifetime of remarkable and noteworthy achievements — from overcoming racism and diversity in her hometown to becoming the first female African-American leader at the Columbia Association.