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Brava! Awards

Meet the Brava Recipients

Each year we identify “Women of Excellence” in our state who have made an impact by their service to others and celebrate them at our annual Brava! Award Banquet. Following are this year’s honorees:




Bernie Griffin
Managing Director Emeritus and Senior Advisor, 5th Avenue Theatre, Bernie Griffin Consulting and Advisor, The 4th Act

Bernie’s career in service to the arts and cultural sector spans nearly 40 years.  In July of 2023 she retired from a 21-year career as Managing Director at The 5th Avenue Theatre.  During her tenure, The 5th grew from a $10 million to a $30 million organization. Prior to The 5th Avenue, she served The Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, The Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach, The Seattle Symphony (where she was part of the team that built Benaroya Hall), The Seattle Repertory Theatre, and Tony Randall’s National Actors Theatre in New York. She is on the executive committee of the Downtown Seattle Association and serves on the Washington State Cultural Alliance.

Griffin was named one of the Puget Sound Business Journal’s 2013 Women of Influence. She was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters in May of 2023 from Cornish College of the Arts and in July of 2023 she was recognized with a King County Proclamation by King County Executive Dow Constantine.


Estela Ortega
Executive Director of El Centro de la Raza

Estela Ortega is one of the founders of El Centro de la Raza and serves as its Executive Director since 2009. Her social justice work began in the late 60’s protesting the Viet Nam war, picketing for Farmworker rights, working on political campaigns and registering Chicanos to vote in the barrios of Houston, Texas. 
Estela has spent the last 50 years helping build El Centro into a civil rights organization, a hub for all who want to engage in civic action through community empowerment; providing human, educational, housing, economic development, cultural and advocacy programs. Ortega is also responsible for the development of Plaza Roberto Maestas a $45 million community-inspired affordable housing project next to El Centro de la Raza.

Estela’s unwavering commitment to building community and advocating for those most marginalized has earned recognition from the Seattle Seahawks, the National Education Association, the Northwest Progressive Institute, and in 2020 she was named one of the Seattle Times 13 Most Influential People of the Decade.



Karen Blair Troianello
Pioneer of Title IX, the suit that changed the course of women's college athletics.

Karen (Blair) Troianello was the named plaintiff representing 39 student-athletes and 11 coaches in Blair v Washington State University, a successful class action lawsuit seeking gender equity in athletics. Filed in 1979 using the state’s Equal Rights Amendment, the case eventually went on to the state Supreme Court in 1987, which ruled that WSU had to include football in the calculations for equitable financial support for scholarships and participation opportunities for women. A track and field athlete, she graduated in 1980 with a degree in communications and worked as a newspaper reporter and copy editor until retiring in July 2023. She lives in Yakima with her husband, Craig, and has one son, Peter.



Following are our previous years’ Brava! honorees:


  • Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange, Chancellor, University of Washington Tacoma
  • Sally Jewell, Affiliate Professor, UW Foster School of Business, Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior
  • Dr. Mary-Claire King, American Cancer Society Professor of Medicine and Genome Sciences, University of Washington


  • Monica Alexander, Captain of Washington State Patrol (Retired)
  • Dr. Kristie Ebi, UW Global Health Professor, Co-Author of United Nations IP Report, Global Climate Change
  • Christine Gregoire, Former Governor of Washington State, CEO of Challenge Seattle

2020 - 2021

(Coronavirus restrictions; no awards given)


  • Colleen Echohawk, Director of Chief Seattle Club
  • Marty Hartman, Director of Mary's Place
  • Georgia Gerber, Sculptor and Advocate for the Arts


WUC Community Civic Leaders

  • Catherine Gibson
  • Frances Heaverlo
  • Karen Lane
  • Pearl Noreen
  • Carolyn Quatier
  • Karen Wong


  • Leslie Jackson Chihuly, President Chihuly Studios and Advocate for the Arts
  • Janet JonesPreston, Global Humanitarian and Community Leader
  • Megan Karch, CEO, FareStart


  • Sara Boos, Artistic Director, Northwest Girlchoir
  • Barbara Earl Thomas, Noted Artist, Writer and Former Director of the African American Museum
  • Trina Westerlund, Founder, Children’s Institute for Learning Differences


  • Sheila Capestany, Founder, Open Arms Perinatal Services
  • Margaret Larson, Broadcast Journalist and Host, KING 5 TV’s New Day Northwest
  • Mary Yu, Washington State Supreme Court Justice


Women of the Century

  • Dorothy C Bullitt
  • Dorothy Stimson Bullitt
  • Harriet Overton Bullitt
  • Katharine “Kay” Muller Bullitt
  • Priscilla “Patsy” Bullitt Collins


  • Janis Avery, CEO, Treehouse for Kids
  • The Honorable Bobbe J Bridge, Founder and CEO, Children & Youth Justice
  • Maureen Browning, Founder, Friendship Adventures


(Ten-year reunion celebration; no awards given)


  • Maggie Walker, Civic Leader and Philanthropist
  • Luly Yang, Fashion Designer and Entrepreneur
  • Sister Kathleen Ross and Martha Yallup, Founders, Heritage College in Yakima


  • Kathy Johanson and Stacy Lill, Founders and Owners, O Wines Winery
  • Lisa Brummel and Ginny Gilder, Ownership Team Seattle Storm
  • Anne Levinson and Dawn Trudeau, Ownership Team Seattle Storm


  • Jennifer James, Urban Cultural Anthropologist
  • Jane Jones, Founder, Book-It-Theatre
  • Jean Walkinshaw, Producer


  • Jane Hastings, Architect
  • Deborah Jacobs, Seattle City Librarian
  • Patrinell “Pat” Wright, Founder, Total Experience Gospel Choir


  • Barbara Bennett, Founder, First Place School
  • Anne Gould Hauberg, Arts & Education Activist
  • Karen Moyer, Co-founder, The Moyer Foundation for Children in Distress


  • Marja Brandon, Founder and Executive Director, Seattle Girls’ School
  • Katharine “Kay” Bullitt, Noted Seattle Civic Leader and Community Activist
  • Dr. Bonnie J Dunbar, President and CEO, Seattle’s Museum of Flight


  • Dr. Linda Buck, 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
  • Assunta Ng, Publisher, NW Asian Weekly
  • Colleen Willoughby, President and Founder, Washington Women’s Foundation


  • Jeanne Ehrlichman Bluechel, Music Education Activist
  • Linda Hartzell, Artistic Director, Seattle Children’s Theatre
  • Nancy Pearl, Director, Washington Center for the Book


  • Virginia Anderson, Director, Seattle Center
  • Francia Russell, Co-Artistic Director, Pacific NW Ballet
  • Rita Ryder, Director, Snohomish and King County YWCA