Two emotional standing ovations for award-winners Professor Jane Turner and Catherine Devereux were the highlights of the second annual Tees Businesswomen Awards, attended by more than 440 people.
It was a night of 10 category winners – with Sharon Lane’s mum and fellow Tees Components director Jean Wood receiving the Businesswoman of the Year gong on her behalf – while Jane, pro vice chancellor at Teesside University, received the Outstanding Contribution Award in a surprise presentation.
Held in Wynyard Hall’s Grand Marquee – specially lit and decorated for the celebration – the Businesswomen Awards were organised by Tees Business publishers Resolution Media & Publishing, in association with headline sponsors Northern Skills Group.
Seventeen months after losing husband Russ to suicide, Catherine was the winner of the Inspiring Others Award in recognition of her work setting up children’s mental health charity, the Russ Devereux Headlight Project in his memory.
With Russ’s parents and many other family and friends looking on, the announcement of Catherine’s name brought the audience to their feet, as they applauded the tearful solicitor onto the stage.
After receiving her award from Zoe Lewis of headline sponsors Northern Skills Group, on behalf of category sponsors SABIC, tears rolled down Catherine’s cheeks as she told event host, BBC presenter Charlie Charlton, she was proud to accept the award to further raise the profile of the project’s work.
Reflecting on the fact it was a night of awards for women, she said: “The irony is that this came from a man who was just amazing and it’s been a massive loss to our family.
“I look at Russ’s mum and dad and all his family and all our gorgeous friends who have helped us through these last 18 months.
“I honestly never thought I’d be in this position, but after what happened to Russ it’s made me realise that this sort of thing can happen to anybody.”
Asked by Charlie what it meant to receive the award, she answered: “It’s not about me, it’s about what we’re trying to achieve for people who have gone through what we’ve gone through and if we, through our friendship groups, can in a tiny way help to teach children about mental health and to help suicide prevention, then we will have done a good job.
“We’re delighted to be here tonight and I’m delighted to receive the award for my family, for Russ’s family and for all my friends who’ve supported me. Thank you so much for shining a spotlight on what we’re doing.”
There were more tears – from the winner and audience – when the night ended with Resolution directors Martin Walker and Dave Allan presenting Jane Turner with her special award.
Pro vice-chancellor for enterprise and business engagement at Teesside University, she has been a huge advocate of the Tees Businesswomen Awards whilst building a unique girls’ mentoring scheme despite living with very late-stage ovarian cancer
“I’m overwhelmed,” she admitted during an emotional speech. “I’m currently dealing with cancer and it’s just made me more determined to get this region where it needs to be.
“I want to thank my husband Jason – we’ve been to hell and back, and he’s been there.
“None of us know what’s around the corner, so just go out and live your lives, grab the moment, be the moment and enjoy the lives we’ve been given.”
Afterwards, she admitted: “I had no idea so I’m gobsmacked. I’m just shaking and lost for words.
“What these two guys, Dave and Martin, have done and the momentum they’ve created for this region is just fantastic.
“These business awards are the right thing to do. We shouldn’t have to be doing this – but this is just fast-forwarding our work to get the balance for men and women in this region.”
Click here to see a full list of winners at the Tees Businesswomen Awards.
Click here to see more pictures.