WILLOW 2nd Annual Celebration of Excellence Dinner
Faith & Inspiration | September 25, 2022
Willow is beyond excited to host this second celebration and presentation of the Judge Bernice B. Donald Award of Excellence to Ms. Rose Flenorl. Our Honoree and each of the women being recognized, have gone above and beyond what is required of them in

Lexie Carter, WILLOW Founder
From the President

Willow is beyond excited to host this second celebration and presentation of the Judge Bernice B. Donald Award of  Excellence to Ms. Rose Flenorl.

Our Honoree and each of the women being recognized, have gone above and beyond what is required of them in the interest of improving the lives of others. They have earned the attention and respect of the communities that they serve, therefore, the Women of WILLOW congratulate and celebrate you. We are grateful for your works and we join you in making Shelby County better as we continue to grow together.

Rose Jackson Flenorl
Manager, Global Citizenship, FedEx Corporation


Rose Flenorl serves as Manager of Global Citizenship at FedEx Corporation, one of Fortune’s “World’s Most Admired Companies.” As a visionary leader in the internationally recognized FedEx Global Citizenship group, Rose has been instrumental in the design and execution of the company’s major citizenship initiatives.

Most recently, Rose led the team that designed and launched FedEx’s $5 million commitment to HBCUs. Rose also oversaw the launch of the company’s first-ever E-Commerce Learning Lab for women and minority small business owners. She spearheaded the company’s influential MLK50 campaign that unites community organizations and team members in Memphis and beyond to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin  Luther King Jr. Rose oversees citizenship initiatives in the areas of Global Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Logistics, and  Diversity, Equity & Inclusion including multi-million-dollar grants, events, and employee engagement activities.

Rose’s career spans 30 years and includes work in marketing, communications, and corporate social responsibility. Prior to joining FedEx, she held positions at International Paper and IBM.

Rose is an active community leader in Memphis and at the national level. She represents FedEx on the Conference Board Corporate Social Responsibility Council and the National Civil Rights Museum Board of Directors.

Rose is a two-time recipient of FedEx Five Star Award, FedEx’s highest individual honor, and a two-time recipient of the Marketing and Communications Shining Star Award.

Her outstanding professional and philanthropic achievements have earned Rose numerous prestigious awards and honors including the Salvation Army Partner in Mission Award, the Memphis Grizzlies Community Hero Award, and the Girl’s Inc. “She Knows Where She’s Going Award,” the Girls Scouts “One Smart Cookie” Award, The Tri-State Defender Women of Excellence Award, the Tennessee Women in NAACP Frances Dancy Hooks Award, the AKA Sorority Southeastern Region Vanessa Rogers Long Humanitarian Award, the National SCLC President’s Award, and recognition as a Dress for Success Worldwide honoree.

Her educational background includes a B.A.Ed. degree in English and Journalism from the University of Mississippi. She was the first African American female to be inducted into the Ole Miss Student Hall of Fame and was chosen by Glamour Magazine as one of the top 10 college women in the United States. She was inducted into the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame in 1998. She served as National President of the Ole Miss Alumni Association in 2008 and board chair of the University of Mississippi Foundation from 2015-16. She is also a charter member of the Ole Miss Women’s Council.

Ethel Virginia Higgins


Everyone wants a hero. Someone to look up to. Someone to admire. Someone to love. Someone to hold your hand. Someone to dry your tears. Someone to make your meals. Someone to make you laugh, to pray with you, to encourage you. To assure you. We found that someone in Ethel Virginia Higgins.

Ethel made her way from Mississippi to Memphis. She was known for her humility and beauty. Her beauty was legendary and her husband, James Curtis, felt he was the envy of all men because she said yes. They married and between them had 12 children: Mattie, Jack, Bill, James Lee, Gina, Don, Virginia, Jerry, Cal, Dewayne, Mary, Gwen.

Ethel worked tirelessly to rear, educate, and guide her children. School, homework, parent meetings, school extracurricular activities, chores, church, manners, respect and getting along were her strictest rules. She set rules of the house that required the older children to care for the younger children while she worked. She was known for hosting a family whipping at the end of the day (with her bible in her lap). She daily admonished her children to do right, learn to be kind to others and share what you had. The days ended in a roundtable session with her asking questions of what each child did that day what they needed to prepare for the next day. Her children knew that she loved them and wanted them to do the right thing. No one woman could have done more to hold her family together, stand between her sons and the streets, live a Godly life, and be an example for her children No matter where her children resided in or out of the country, she always made her way to support them, yes, even spoil them.

Sunday mornings, beginning with Sunday School, Sunday nights and most Tuesday nights, Ethel and her children made their way to church. Here is where she was saved, baptized, and filled with the Holy Ghost. Here is where she drew her strength and gained her solid foundation.

Ethel never met a stranger and had the ability to always share with others in need. Many can testify that she was and is known for offering all who visit a cup of coffee, good conversation, warm wishes, a hug, and a God Bless You.

She has mastered the art of making each of her twelve children, individually, feel as if he or she is the favorite. This same feeling of being special has transferred to the grandchildren and great grandchildren, who share that same sense of being the favorite.

On October 5th, Ethel will celebrate her 89th Birthday. She is as beautiful inside as she is on the outside. She gives of her time and effort to make everyone feel welcomed and to leave inspired. She is quick to share the love of God and to encourage everyone to be blessed. She is a caregiver to those in need and a quiet and soothing comfort to those suffering griefs over the loss of a loved one. She spreads love everywhere she goes. She is her family’s hero. She has always inspired them. She continues to inspire them every day.

Marilyn E. Kennard
Retired Management Analyst
Navy Manpower Analysis Center


Marilyn E. Kennard is currently serving as a Management Analyst at NAVMAC Code 20. She is a native of Bessemer, Alabama. She graduated from Jess Lanier High School in 1988 and reported to Recruit Training Command in Orlando, Florida in January 1989, then graduated from Mess Management Specialist “A” school in San Diego, California.

She served her first initial assignment as a Mess Management Specialist at Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in May 1989. Her other assignments included USS Mount Hood (AE 29) in Concord, California; Naval Air Station Alameda, Alameda, California; USS McKee (AS 41) San Diego, California; and USS Boxer (LHD 4) in San Diego, California. In October 2002 she reported to Navy Personnel Command, Millington, Tennessee as a MS/CS Detailer, eventually becoming the Lead Detailer, managing over 4,500 Sailors within her community. In 2007 she reported to Makin Island (LHD 8) Pre-Commissioning Detachment in San Diego, California and later transferred Pre-Commissioning Unit in Pascagoula, Mississippi until 2009 where she served as the Department Leading Chief Petty Officer. In October 2009 she commissioned USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and was later selected for the Command Master Chief Program in 2010 where she served three years onboard USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53). In November 2013 she reported to Naval Support Activity Washington, D.C. where she served onboard for a 2-year tour. She later transferred and completed a 3-year tour while serving as the Command Master Chief at Naval Support Activity Mid-South, TN. She was first African American female to serve onboard Mid-South as a CMC. She retired on January 31, 2019, after serving 30 years of faithful service.

She is a graduate of the Senior Enlisted Academy (Class 126) and a graduate of the Command Master Chief/COB course. She has earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Resource Management from Park University and Master of Science Degree in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas. She is a proud member and leader of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Chapter, Germantown, TN, and a graduate of 2019 Cohort #8 - Zeta Organizational Leadership (ZOL) Certification.

Vequitia Barnes


Vequitia Barnes is an experienced servant leader who leads in all aspects of her life. She has built a phenomenal reputation by helping the less fortunate, to helping others secure residential safety, and diverse community assistance. She is the founder of Community Assistance of the Greater Mid-South, where she spends extensive time and effort helping homeowners save their homes. Vequitia is committed to helping communities strive again.

Currently, Vequitia is a Federal Program Specialist where she serves the homeless within our schools and communities. She ensures that the parents of our displaced students receive educational services, healthcare, dental assistance, as well as mental health care. One of Vequitia’s biggest strengths is collaboration. She recognizes that she can do nothing alone but with the help of others, all goals are achievable. She works with several non-profits like the Wrap Around Services, Project Stand, United Way, Community Service Agency, and more to ensure that no one she encounters has a need unmet.

Vequitia is a Memphis native with a B.A. in Psychology from Christian Brothers University. She has received the Exceptional Performance Award for Homeless Program in 2020. She also received the Visionary Award for Shelby County Diamond in 2021. She is a loving wife, mother, friend and educator. Her life motto is, “if I can help just ONE, my living won’t be in vain.”

The late Reverend Doctor Autura Eason-Williams


Autura Eason-Williams was born and raised in Memphis, TN. She attended University of Memphis and Memphis Theological Seminary. She completed her Doctor of Ministry degree at Wesley Seminary in Washington, DC. Autura accepted her call to full-time ministry in 1997 and served under appointment in the United Methodist Church from 2002 until her death. She was commissioned Provisional Elder in 2003, Ordained Elder In 2006. Her appointment history includes Centenary United Methodist Church, Calvary Longview United Methodist Church, Associate Director of Connectional Ministries, Christian Education and Age-Level Ministry and Pastor of Capleville United Methodist Church.

During her tenure at Capleville, Autura led the church in developing many community activities for seniors including a multi-generational computer coding ministry, English as a Second Language classes, outreach to neighborhood schools, a community food pantry, and an apartment ministry. Committed to the community, Autura served as a founding board member of the Center for Transforming Communities and of US Making it Happen Shalom Zone; facilitated Formation for Ministry classes at Memphis Theological Seminary and coached for Center for Youth Ministry Training. In 2011 she chaired the Advisory Committee that developed Belle Forest Community School. She also served as an Arise2Read Coach at Ross Road Elementary. Autura also served on several boards including Wesley Senior Ministries, Lakeshore, Wesley Foundation University of Memphis, Hannah’s Hope, United Methodist Neighborhood Centers, New Church Development, and District Committee on Ministry. She led youth camps/retreats, confirmation retreats, district conference UMW retreats, Church Women United and Key Women events and preached for local church, district, and conference events.

Autura served as the Chair of the Memphis Conference Board of Ordained Ministry and was a member of Memphis Conference Black Methodists for Church Renewal. She served many years with Methodist Lebonheur Healthcare as a member of the Faith and Health Committee, My Sister’s Keeper planning committee, and The Congregational Health Network.

In 2016, Autura was elected First Clergy Delegate to Jurisdictional Conference and served as a General Conference Reserve in 2016 and 2019. She served as Secretary of the Southeastern Jurisdiction Council on Finance and Administration. In 2019, Autura was selected to be part of the Memphis Conference UMC Next delegation and was committed to working toward a church that embraces and fully includes all people. Autura led the 2020 Memphis Conference General and Jurisdictional Conference delegation. She was committed to accountable discipleship and participated in a women’s covenant group for almost 20 years. In July of 2021 She was named Metro District Supervisor of the Memphis Metropolitan Area. Overseeing over 400 congregations spanning from the Mississippi River to the Tennessee River.

On July 18, 2022, Autura died from fatal injuries sustained during a carjacking. She is survived by her husband, Darrell D. Eason-Williams, her mother, Tommie Dell Reed and her four children: Ayanna, John, Terence, and Gwendolyn.


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