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Anne MacKinnon

Anne MacKinnon, right, talks with fellow nominee Alberta Giraldo after MacKinnon won the 2013 Woman of Distinction award on Thursday afternoon at the Parkway Plaza Hotel & Convention Centre in Casper.

Anne MacKinnon holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a doctorate in natural resource economics.

She also advocates for the sense of community that the city’s oldest outdoor swimming pool gives its neighbors and for free early-childhood creative arts programs.

She’d tell you the community involvement is more important than all of the degrees put together.

MacKinnon was named the Casper Woman of Distinction in ceremonies on Thursday. The 18th annual event is sponsored by four women’s service organizations: the American Association of University Women, the Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance, Casper Alumnae Panhellenic and Soroptimist International of Central Wyoming.

“I was thinking how thrilled I would be to congratulate one of you,” she said emotionally to the other nominees on stage as the envelope was opened and her name as winner was read.

MacKinnon moved to Wyoming in 1979 as an energy and business reporter for the Casper Star-Tribune, became assistant managing editor and then editor before leaving the paper in 1995 to develop credit courses and public lectures on natural resources policy issues for the University of Wyoming.

She was appointed to the Wyoming Water Development Commission and writes and presents papers internationally, drawing on Wyoming issues as examples. She is currently working with a UW team to develop a pilot project for ecosystem services in the Upper Green River in Wyoming.

She and neighbors formed the Friends of Washington Park Pool, which provides free swimming for families on summer evenings after the pool’s regular hours. She also created the Little Hands Project in 2009 and collaborates with a group of parents, educators, artists and social workers to provide free, early-childhood programs for families in an effort to encourage independent learning and creativity.

She was nominated for the award by Shar Wilkes, who wrote that MacKinnon is a Woman of Distinction because she has stood up for women as an employer, educator and adviser.

The winner is determined by a cumulative point system that considers professional activities, volunteerism, citizenship,

community service, leadership, advocacy of human rights and status of women, high standards of education and depth of commitments.

The other eight nominees were:

Bonnie Gilbertson, owner of CMS Inc., which provides services to the families of people with disabilities.

Alberta Giraldo, who taught 30 years in public schools, established a Spanish program at St. Anthony School and in her third career, currently teaches English as a Second Language at Casper College.

Ann Hines, a first-grade teacher at Crest Hill for 35 years.

Rita Livingston, who taught math, physics and computer programming at Kelly Walsh for 28 years and is a pioneer in computer programming instruction in Wyoming.

Renee Penton-Jones, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority after successful marketing careers in the broadcast and hospitality industries.

Christine Potter, who began her banking career as a clerk and is assistant vice president of Hilltop National Bank.

Lynn Williamson, pastor at Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian Church since 2005.

Karen Zaback, administrator of the Natrona County Public Library Foundation.

Each woman is also deeply involved as a volunteer in the Casper community.

ANB Bank and Chapman Valdez will make a donation in each nominee’s name to a nonprofit of her choice. Nonprofits receiving donations include Arc of Natrona County (designated twice), Central Wyoming Hospice, Audubon Center at Garden Creek, Rita Livingston Math & Science Scholarship at Natrona County Education Foundation, Family Journey Center, Child Development Center of Natrona County, Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming and Wyoming Medical Center Foundation West Tower Campaign.

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Community News editor Sally Ann Shurmur can be reached at 307-266-0520; sallyann.shurmur@trib.com; read her blog at trib.com/dishin; or follow her on Twitter @WYOSAS.

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