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Athena Award Honoree Advocate of Mentoring

Margaret Callihan receives applause during ATHENA Award Luncheon at the Read House

February/March 2004

It’s easy to imagine the energetic and effusive Margaret Callihan as a cheerleader for her employees, urging them to achieve personal and professional growth.

Callihan’s commitment to mentoring women, together with her stellar professional achievements and extensive community service, earned the SunTrust Bank leader the 2003 Athena Award, presented annually by the Chattanooga Area Chamber.

“Numerous people, both men and women, helped me along my career path,” Callihan says. “They coached me, developed me, and exposed me to things quickly. I like to give back by doing the same for others.”

As a mentor to young bankers, Callihan believes in offering constructive feedback. The bank executive, who delights in singing the praises of others, is a natural at applauding her protégés, but she also knows when to pull them aside and let them know change is needed.

A favorite role for Callihan is encouraging her employees to push ahead, even when they doubt their ability to succeed. “I think people tend to rise to the occasion and do things they didn’t think they could do,” she says.

Empowering Women to Lead

A Texas native who moved to Tennessee to attend Vanderbilt University, Callihan is an advocate of mentoring both genders. But she feels it is important to give special attention to motivating women in their careers.

 “There are still too few women in top leadership positions,” she says. “Most women in high places have been helped by others along the way, and it is critical that they continue to support, develop, and assist the up-and-coming talented women too.”

Her dedication to improving the status of women professionals has led to service on the SunTrust Corporate Diversity Council, which seeks to promote women into executive management positions, and in the Women’s Leadership Institute, a local organization devoted to fostering growth and development among women.

“What you typically have at the top of the workforce are men,” Callihan says. “It is how the old paradigm works. But times are changing for women for the better, and people need to continue to intervene and make these changes happen.”


Leading by Example

Callihan’s professional achievements include being the first woman chair, president, and CEO of SunTrust Bank. Her equally impressive community service includes membership on the boards of the UC Foundation, Allied Arts, and United Way of Greater Chattanooga.

Active in service to the Chamber, she is chair-elect of the Chamber board of directors. She co-chaired the Chamber’s Tell the World! campaign that raised $9 million for job growth, and she led the highly successful 2002 Chamber membership drive.

During the Athena Award ceremonies at the Read House, Callihan was praised for her leadership qualities, enthusiasm, and positive attitude, along with the pleasure she takes in promoting the abilities of others.

In presenting the award to Callihan, Beverly Cosley, the Athena honoree for 2002, said, “Margaret Callihan is a living, breathing, and motivating example each and every day to the people she comes in contact with.”