Celebration Gala

 Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell

25th Annual Celebration of

Today’s Woman

Past, Present, and Future

“Women of the Year”

Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell will host its Celebration of Today’s Woman on June 7, 2018.

This year will mark the Celebrations 25th anniversary of honoring local women that are making a difference in our community.  On the culmination of its 100 years of service to the girls of Greater Lowell and in recognition of its Celebration anniversary, Girls Inc. is pleased to honor three women; Mary Sampas, an accomplished woman who forged the way both for the women of her time and of today; Yun-Ju Choi, a distinguished woman of today; and Lianna Kushi, a woman whose enthusiasm and accomplishment will light the way for the women of tomorrow.

Mary Boutselis Sampas was born in Lowell in 1917, the child of Greek immigrants.  Always an avid reader and scholar, Mary quickly excelled academically and was encouraged by her teachers at the Bartlett School and Lowell High School to pursue her dreams of becoming a writer.  In the 1930’s, as a senior in high school, she began writing a column on Greek news for the Lowell Sun.  This was the beginning of Mary’s journalism career, which would span over 75 years and include columns for the Lowell Evening Leader and the Greek Sunday News as well as the Lowell Sun.  Much of her work was written under various pen names including ‘Gal Friday’, ‘Lowellita’, and ‘Pertinax’.  Among her favorite columns were the first-hand accounts she wrote in 1961 from Europe when she covered President and Mrs. Kennedy’s tour during which the President met with Khrushchev in Vienna and de Gaulle in Paris, and Jacqueline Kennedy went on to visit Greece.  Over the course of her career, Mary met and interviewed numerous celebrities for her columns, bringing them to life for her readers.

In 1940, Mary married fellow-journalist Charles Sampas, with whom she shared a life-long love of writing, literature, travel, world events, and politics.  Their daughter, Marina, was her joy, and sometimes became an inspiration for some of her columns.  Always eager to give back to the city she loved, Mary served on the boards and fundraising committees of numerous local non-profit organizations, including the Lowell Art Association, Community Concerts, the Hellenic Heritage Society, the Hellenic Culture Society, the Brush with History Gallery, the Folk Festival and Regatta Committee, “F.L.I.C.K.S.!”, the Lowell Garden Club, the Lowell Historical Society, the Friends of the Pollard Memorial Library, and many others.  Mary was passionate about her family, her friends, her community, and her work.  On January 8, 2011, Mary’s final column was published in the Lowell Sun, dictated from her hospital bed just days before she passed away peacefully at the age of 93.  Her passion for what she loved did not fade, and it lives on in the example that she set for those who knew her.

Yun-Ju Choi is a devoted community development professional who has spent the last 25 years in leadership roles at community-based non-profit organizations.  Currently the Executive Director of the Coalition for a Better Acre, Yun-Ju is focused on furthering the growth of the CBA in its mission of community revitalization and resident empowerment.  A graduate of Bowdoin College with a Bachelors in Physics, and of Cambridge College with a Masters in Management, Yun-Ju began her career as a financial analyst, but soon discovered a passion for working with people when she accepted a position as a live-in staffer with young people who were in state custody.  This marked the beginning of a new career in the non-profit sector.  Applying her strong financial background and management skills has allowed Yun-Ju to make a real impact in her leadership roles at Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, Youth Opportunity Boston, Lena Park Community Development Corp., Center for Health and Development, The Boston Foundation, and Madison Park Development Corporation.

Yun-Ju is very active in her community personally as well as professionally, serving on the boards of several organizations, including the Whistler House Museum of Art, the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, Mill City Community Investment, Lowell Development Finance Corp., Lowell Heritage Partnership, Lowell Collegiate Charter School, Lowell House, Inc., and Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association.  Her dedication to her community and her tireless efforts to help others are an inspiration to all.

Lianna Kushi is part of the founding team of Entrepreneurship for All (known as E for All), a non-profit whose mission is to accelerate economic and social impact through entrepreneurship in mid-sized cities.  Originally founded in 2010 under the name Merrimack Valley Sandbox, E for All is now active in five cities in Massachusetts.  Lianna now serves as the Executive Director of E for All in Lowell and Lawrence.  A graduate of Smith College where she earned both a Bachelor’s Degree and a Masters in Economics and Social Development of Regions, Lianna is committed to entrepreneurship and community development.  She has given of her time and enthusiasm in service to several local organizations, including the Asian American Commission of the Commonwealth of MA, the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, the Cultural Organization of Lowell, the Revolving Museum, the U.S.-Japan Council, and Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Program on U.S.-Japan Relations. Her dedication and devotion to her community are sure to inspire leaders of the future.

Girls Inc. is proud to honor Mary, Yun-Ju, and Lianna at the 2018 Celebration of Today’s Woman.  We are so grateful for the shining example they set for our Girls Inc. members, who, like these women, strive to be strong, smart, and bold in making their world a better place.


Become A Sponsor

 Sponsors will receive tickets based on sponsorship level.

More information can be found by clicking the button above.


Past “Woman of Today Award” Recipients

1994, Carole Cowan, Ed.D.          1995, Susan Black, M.D.

1996, Clementine Alexis          1997, Nicola Tsongas

1998, Patricia Crane          1999, Nancy Donahue

2000, Eileen Donoghue          2001, Patricia Bradley

2002, Janice Stecchi, Ed.D.          2003 Mary Ellen Fitzpatrick

2004, Margaret Palm          2005, Mary Jo Leahey

2006, Karen Frederick          2007, Therese O’Connor

2008, Jacqueline Moloney, Ed.D.          2009, Kay Geirge Roberts, D.M.A

2010, Linda Chemaly          2011, Mary Louise Keenan

2012, Dorcas Grigg-Saito          2013, Deedee O’Brien

2014, Carol S. Duncan          2015, Naomi M. Prendergast

2016, Amy J. Hoey        2017, Judy M. Burke


Celebration of Today’s Woman

Honoring Judy M. Burke

Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell was pleased to honor and present the “Woman of Today Award” to Judy Burke at the 2017 Celebration of Today’s Woman. The Gala was held on Thursday, June 1 from 6 to 9 pm at the UMASS Lowell Inn & Conference Center.

As a successful executive in the field of higher education, Judy has worked tirelessly to bring educational opportunities to all members of the community, while also helping to ensure that local employers have the skilled workforce needed to fuel a strong local economy.  Her position as Executive Director of Institutional Advancement at Middlesex Community College allows Judy to use her considerable interpersonal and leadership skills to forge mutually beneficial partnerships with community and business leaders.  As Executive Director, Judy oversees Institutional Research, Resource Development, Marketing and Communications, Corporate and Community Education and Training, and numerous career and adult learning programs that benefit both local students as well as the companies and communities that they go on to serve.  Prior to her current role as Executive Director, Judy was with Middlesex Community College’s Business and Industry Programs since 1991 and most recently served as Dean of Corporate and Community Education & Training.  In this capacity, she marketed and managed training programs at a variety of companies and organizations, including National Grid, Cabot Corporation, Lowell General Hospital, LifeLinks, Eink Corporation, Mercury Computer Systems, Raytheon Company, and Verizon.

(Marc & Judy Burke, picture courtesy of photographer Kevin Harkins)

Judy was born and raised in Lowell, attended Saint Michael Grammar School, Keith Hall High School, and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from University of Lowell before going on to achieve a Master of Education Administration from UMass Lowell.  Before joining Middlesex Community College, she worked as a Contract Administrator in the Missile System Division of Raytheon, working specifically on the Patriot Missile Program with the United States Army.

Caring for her community is at the heart of what has made Judy such an effective champion of positive change.  Judy is currently the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors at the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce.  She has served on boards of numerous local non-profit and civic organizations, including the YWCA, D’Youville Life and Wellness Fundraising Committee, the Power of Flowers Project, Lowell Catholic High School Bishop McNamara Award Event Committee, Pan Mass Challenge Fundraiser, the Greater Lowell Workforce Development Executive Board, Middlesex 3 Coalition, the New England Workforce Network, and Merrimack Valley Partners for Progress.

(Judy with family & friends, picture courtesy of photographer Kevin Harkins)

In all that she does, both personally and professionally, Judy gives enthusiastically of her time and talents, with a level of caring and commitment that have become increasingly rare.  She is a long-time resident of Pelham, NH, where she lives with her husband of thirty years, Marc Burke. They enjoy spending time with family, friends, and their three dogs, Baby, Teddy, and Penelope.

(picture courtesy of photographer Kevin Harkins)

We are proud to honor Judy with the 2017 Woman of Today Award.  Her work to promote educational opportunities for all, and the support that she has given her community make her a true role model for Girls Inc. members.

At Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell, girls grow up healthy, educated and independent.  Support like yours allows us to reach even more girls and fully impact their lives resulting in exponential change and brighter futures for all. We are excited to have you join us in this effort to make the girls of Greater Lowell stronger, smarter, and bolder than ever before.

Gala sponsorship’s provide an opportunity to help empower and educate girls from across Greater Lowell.

2017 Celebration Sponsors


Nancy L. Donahue



Carol & George Duncan




Susan Mitchell & Jim Waldo

Dr. Mark Gilchrist


Mary Lou & Jim Keenan

Dr. & Carrie Meikle

Fred C. Church

Jim & Trish O’Donnell, O’Donnell Funeral Home

In-Kind Donations

Middlesex Community College

Maura Sweeney of Lowell Five

Hilton Boston Hotel

Susan Mitchell of Living Design

UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center


The Celebration of Today’s Woman Bronze Medal Award created especially for Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell by world-renowned sculptor, Mico Kaufman.