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GRCC's Salute to Women event honors Maria McKee, Melissa Gheorghiu, Senita Lenear and Penni Weninger for inspiring and empowering

March 29, 2023, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Community College on Wednesday honored four women whose dedication and talent have inspired and empowered those around them.

The 2023 Salute to Women Awards honored Maria McKee, Melissa Gheorghiu, Senita Lenear and Peni Weninger during ceremonies on Wednesday at Sneden Hall on GRCC’s DeVos Campus.

The event, conducted by annually during Women's History Month, honors four women within GRCC's community for personal and professional excellence and for serving as role models and mentors to other women. The event is coordinated by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

This year’s honorees are:

  • McKee, who has worked at GRCC for just over three years, first as a tutor at the Lakeshore Campus, IRW Lab, and Early Middle College sites. Maria became the interim Language Arts Tutorial Lab coordinator. Maria studied writing with a poetry focus at GVSU and soon graduates from the Michigan State University College of Education with a master’s degree in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education. 
  • Gheorghiu, who is a single mother of three who returned to education after 20 years away, and has been tremendously successful. She co-organized a clothing drive for students in need as part of an Honors Program project, is a member of Psi Beta Honors Society; TRIO student support program for first generation students, and is a chapter officer for GRCC’s Alpha Upsilon Kappa chapter. Melissa is a semifinalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, and is the recipient of the Phi Theta Kappa All State Academic Team for GRCC. She is also the recipient of this year's Brian Kloet Campus Involvement Award. Melissa has been accepted at University of Michigan.
  • Lenear, who was elected as the Third Ward City Commissioner, takin office in January 2014. Her extensive service includes serving as chairwoman of the Mayor's Safe Alliance for Everyone Task Force, which developed a violence-reduction strategy. She also served on the Great Housing Strategies committee, which provided recommendations for addressing our community's housing needs. Additionally, she served on the Kent County's Friend of the Court and Lead Task Forces; both were designed to research and make recommendations that positively impacted the community and elevated the services being provided. Commissioner Lenear has more than 25 years of business experience, which includes a variety of leadership positions at the largest healthcare insurance provider in the state of Michigan and co-owning an event planning and business consulting firm.
  • Weninger, who started at GRCC in 2004 as a support staff member in the Instructional Support Department Interdisciplinary Studies Department, where she planned faculty and adjunct faculty learning days, retreats and coordinated professional development classes and events. Her last role was on the Human Resources team, where she managed intake, applications, and arranged interviews. She retired in 2017 and continues her involvement in the college community, serving on the Golden Raider Retirees’ Gold Team.