Laura Schaedler to receive ATHENA Lenawee Award

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Tecumseh resident and Lenawee County District Court Judge Laura Schaedler recently learned that she has been recognized as the 2014 ATHENA Lenawee Award recipient. She will receive the award at a special ceremony on May 6 at Dominican Hall on the Siena Heights University campus.

“I’m honored, and especially so to be recognized by a group like ATHENA that does so much to support women in the community,” said Schaedler. She added that she doesn’t do the things she does for the recognition.

“I’m in that funny spot in life where I’ve been thinking of Scripture where it talks about not letting your left hand know what the right is doing when giving,” she said. “Scripturally speaking, you don’t do these things for recognition. But when someone singles you out, it’s an honor.”

On the nomination form, the ATHENA Award program is described as celebrating the potential of all women as valued members and leaders of the community, recognizing those that support them. The award “honors individuals who strive toward the highest levels of professional accomplishments, women and men who excel in their chosen field, have devoted time and energy to their community in a meaningful way, and who also open paths so that others may follow.” There are specific criteria a candidate must meet as well.

Schaedler was nominated by Kathy Williams and Dawn Bales, who noted that she “serves the greater good to help families render peace and securing safety for children. She champions women especially those in need of confidence, basic needs and support.”

Supportive nominations include such statements as, “She always has a positive influence on those around her and a great sense of humor. She is compassionate about her work and the people that she touches every day. She also is tough and bold when she needs to be, standing up for her beliefs and values and willing to challenge the way things have always been done.”

Schaedler was at a conference in Lansing when her friends Licia Willnow, Sue Goldson and Marci Brown came to her office for a visit. When her staff set up a phone call, Schaedler thought they were just there to observe in court that day. But then they announced the good news on speaker phone.

“I was really sad that I was 80 miles away in the middle of training,” she said. “It was a bit much to take in.” But even though it was overwhelming, she said she was truly humbled by the award. Schaedler referred to something she had said on a Facebook post, that when she accepted the award, her mind would be filled with her family and friends, living and dead, who worked so hard to set an example for her, teaching her to give freely of her time, treasure and talent, and about the names of other women who exemplify the ATHENA principals every day without regard to recognition.

“I am especially humble to have been selected from what I heard was at least 12 other nominees that included qualified people who do things that support women,” she said. “I’m here to tell you, those 12 are just the tip of the iceberg because I can think of a whole raft of people who quietly go about their business and never receive recognition or want any recognition for what they do.”

In addition to her position on the bench, Schaedler’s professional accomplishments include serving as a Lenawee County prosecutor for nearly 30 years, acting as Tecumseh City Attorney for 10 years and teaching as an adjunct faculty member at Adrian College and Siena Heights University. She has been a member of several legal and civic organizations, and involved in many community projects including work with Catherine Cobb programs and Catholic Charities.

She was also the catalyst for starting a Sobriety Court for Lenawee County as an alternative program for individuals struggling with alcoholism. One individual wrote “her commitment and dedication to the Sobriety Court has saved lives and reunited families.”

Another said, “No person has a heart with more room for others than Laura Schaedler.”

Schaedler says she just goes where her heart takes her, and if she had to speculate on what type of legacy she’d like to leave, it would be a hope that she’s recognized for her willingness to assist people.

“Even when I’m sentencing someone or putting them on probation, I try to find a way to improve their lives and the community as a whole,” she said. “My goal is to help them do better.”




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