Inspiring Women Luncheon Highlights Women’s Importance to the Community

By: Caitlin Vanlaningham Last Updated: September 20, 2012

As the summer came to a close, and the air was crisp and scented with fall, the doors to the Pottawattomie Country Club in Michigan City opened to welcome and host the Inspiring Women Luncheon. Many lovely ladies (and a few brave gentlemen) came out to enjoy the day, the food, and each other.

The luncheon began with opening remarks from Ann Dahm, President of the Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce. Following her was Sandy Smith, Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager for PNC Bank. Smith spoke of the focus that PNC Bank has on women.

“Realizing that men and women conduct business differently, PNC has trained and empowered a force of women’s business advocates. These advocates understand the unique challenges and pressures faced by women in business and were able to connect them with the resources that they need to succeed.” said Smith.

PNC Bank was recognized in 2012 by Working Mother Magazine as one of the top 100 companies for mothers to work for. This is the eleventh time PNC Bank has obtained this recognition. In 2010 and each year afterward, PNC Bank has been recognized by the National Association for Female Executives as a Top 50 Company for women executives.

While the ladies spoke, lunch was served by the staff of the Pottawattomie Country Club to the guests. Hot soup and bread, a delicious chicken salad with fresh fruit and vegetables, and for dessert a decadent chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce elegantly piped into clear glass mugs.

Then the keynote speaker was introduced. Pat Koch was the special guest that day. She is 81 years young, a Leo, and the Director of Values for her family-run business Holiday World & Splash Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana. This is where her career as a inspirational speaker started.

“Women are always loving, right? It’s just the way we’re made,” Koch said. “We have to empower others in leadership because we stand on each others’ shoulders. We stand on the shoulders, do we not, of our grandmothers and mothers and people who went before us; who empowered us. Or maybe did not empower us, and made us want to empower ourselves. I went to highschool in the 1940s. When I graduated in 1948 I went to the principal’s office and said, ‘I want to go to college’, and his answer to me was, ‘Why would a girl want to go to college?’ Now I was one of those girls that didn’t take that lightly. So I found a way. Sometimes we have to empower ourselves.”

Koch was a nurse at the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in St. Louis, Missouri for ten years before she left to take care of her ill parents. She has a bachelor’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University and a master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry from Loyola University. Koch is married to Bill Koch and they have five children and thirteen grandchildren.

Koch presents her speech with grace and a hint of sass. I believe this is what makes her such a great speaker.She spoke of what makes a great leader, why it is important for women to become leaders, why the younger generations need leadership, and she made many other important points as well. The guests listened intently to her words and laughed at her witticisms.

“In order to make a difference, you have to be the difference that you want to make,” said Koch. “You can’t just talk about it. You can’t just read it. You can’t just write it. You have to be it.”

One of the brave gentlemen, Chris Mahlmann, asked Koch what advice she had for men.

“Encourage, respect, let women have their power. Don’t think that makes you less powerful,” answered Koch.

Here was her closing statement:

“Integrity is like virginity,” Koch said. “You either have it or you don’t.”

Blunt, yet true. After Koch was finished, and received a standing ovation, Dahm made a few closing statements and special recognitions. I was able to speak with her afterward.

“This is a terrific opportunity for us in Northwest Indiana because Pat has not been here.” said Dahm. “She’s really a remarkable woman. This is a woman who takes her work seriously, her life seriously, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. And I think we’ve all seen that today. Her message was for everyone. She was being straight forward and say that we’re not all the same. For many women early on the the Women’s Movement the idea was that to get ahead like a man you had to be like one. And I think we can get past that now. And it’s very refreshing to hear someone say, ‘be a woman’!”

It is refreshing to hear. I think I will write it so that you may not only hear it, readers, you can see it, too! Be a woman! To the men: be a man!

To find out more about Pat Koch click here!

Want to know more about the Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce? Click here! How about the Pottawattomie Country Club? Click here!

To find out more about PNC Bank click here!!

Click here to view more photos of the Luncheon!!

Sponsors for the  Inspiring Women Luncheon: NIPSCO, Horizon Bank, Fortune Delivery Services, PNC Bank, Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa, Lady and the Lens Photography, Allstate, 101 Pay.