The Barbara McNees Spirit of ATHENA Scholarship

The Barbara McNees Spirit of ATHENA Scholarship recognizes the contributions of retired Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce President Barbara McNees, who for decades actively encouraged and supported the development of women leaders across the Pittsburgh region. The scholarship, a competitive award, pays the recipient’s tuition for attendance to an executive education program at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business: the Carnegie Mellon Leadership & Negotiation Academy for Women. The academy was founded by the late 2011 ATHENA Award Recipient M.J. Tocci.


Criteria & Guidelines:

Beginning in 2019, this scholarship program will target women leaders with eight or more years of experience leading people and/or projects. The goal is to equip mid-level leaders with the knowledge and tools needed to help them advance into the C-Suite or a more senior/executive role.

Additionally, in 2019, the scholarship committee will give preference to an awardee who has committed themselves and their employment to the public sector, not-for-profit sector or entrepreneur/small business sector.

Applications for the 2019-2020 Spirit of ATHENA Scholarship are now closed. Check back soon for updates.

2018-2019 Recipient of the Barbara McNees Spirit of ATHENA Scholarship

Aleya Crable Jennings the 2018 Barbara McNees Scholarship Recipient

Aleya Crable Jennings

Aleya Crable Jennings is the Associate Vice President, Group Account Director at Gatesman Agency. In this capacity, she develops key client relationships, advises senior leadership on marketing strategy, and manages a team of individuals focused on client growth, satisfaction and retention.

Aleya’s expertise is deeply rooted in the development and execution of large-scale, multi-channel advertising campaigns for both national and international clients across a broad spectrum of industries, including financial services, retail and healthcare.

Her tenure at Gatesman began in 2012 when she started at the agency as an Account Coordinator and quickly rose among the ranks to Senior Account Executive. She was awarded the Gatesman Agency Rising Star Award in 2015. After a stint at PNC as a Senior Marketing Specialist, Aleya returned to Gatesman in her current role in June 2018.

Passionate about empowering women within her network and beyond, Aleya actively volunteers with organizations throughout the local community, including Strong Women, Strong Girls Pittsburgh; the Pittsburgh Women’s Alliance; Morning Star Baptist Church; and the Pittsburgh graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Additionally, Aleya has championed diversity and inclusion within the workplace by serving in D&I leadership roles at both PNC and Gatesman. Most notably, she founded and currently leads Gatesman’s Diversity and Inclusion Council which fosters collaborative and equitable practices throughout the agency.

Aleya received the 2018 Young Professional Strong Award, which recognizes women in the Greater Pittsburgh region for their professional achievements, community activism and women empowerment.

Aleya completed her undergraduate studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where she graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Communications Media. She earned a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from Roosevelt University and is currently pursuing an additional master’s in Women’s and Gender Studies from DePaul University. Aleya resides in Pittsburgh with her loving husband, Jarvis.

Barbara McNee

Barbara McNees

Founder of Spirit of ATHENA Scholarship

Retired from the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce in 2013 after a career spent building consensus among business, community and civic leaders in the service of increasing economic opportunity across southwestern Pennsylvania. Among her lasting achievements has been the 1990 founding of the ATHENA Awards Program of Greater Pittsburgh, recognizing women who, through mentorship, help other women to succeed

Each year the Barbara McNees Spirit of ATHENA Scholarship will provide one woman age 35 or younger the the opportunity to attend, tuition-free, the Carnegie Mellon Leadership and Negotiation Academy for Women. (Part of the executive education program at CMU’s Tepper School of Business, the academy was founded by the late M.J. Tocci, the 2011 ATHENA Award winner.) Learn more about the academy’s 100-hour certificate program here.

Inaugural Sponsor

Elsie H. Hillman Foundation Prior to Elsie Hillman's passing in August 2015, she guaranteed the funding of the first Spirit of ATHENA Scholarship as the first individual to pledge financial support.

Founding Sponsors

  • UPMC and UMPC Health Plan
  • Allegheny Conference on Community Development
  • Highmark Health
  • Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC
  • Eat'n Park Hospitality Group, Inc.
  • Jones Day
  • Wendy & David Barensfeld Family Charitable Fund