(PRESS RELEASE)_WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (November 10, 2023) – Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) is set to host its 2024 Women of Distinction (WOD) luncheon, honoring local philanthropists Denise Hanley and Sheila Rinker for their leadership, outstanding commitment and service to the Palm Beach County community.
The annual celebration will take place on Tuesday, February 20, 2024, at 11 a.m. at The Breakers Palm Beach.
“Women of Distinction celebrates the legacy of incredible women—and future leaders—who dedicate their time, energy, and resources to others,” said Frances Fisher, event chair. “We are grateful to carry out this time-honored tradition.”
For more than 30 years, the Women of Distinction luncheon has honored exemplary women in leadership who cherish community and family and want to preserve these ideals for others. Proceeds from the luncheon raise scholarship funds for female PBA students who demonstrate outstanding academics, service and leadership.
“At PBA, we cherish the opportunity to celebrate incredible women who have impacted Palm Beach County and beyond,” said President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn. “Denise and Sheila have exemplified service and integrity throughout their careers and civic responsibilities. Both mirror the values that PBA holds dear. By focusing on serving others, giving back, and shining a light, we can create a brighter, stronger future for all.”
Women of Distinction is one of several initiatives from PBA that supports the community and works to create a brighter future—especially as Palm Beach County continues to grow. The university’s most recent notable pursuit has been the launch of its God-Sized Dreams campaign, a major expansion plan that will enable PBA to better respond to marketplace changes, expand program offerings, and build innovative spaces for students, industry leaders, and the public.
The university’s priority is to build the state-of-the-art Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Business Hall. This 120,000-square-foot facility will meet the growing demand for students pursuing business or finance, with a curriculum rooted in Judeo-Christian values and the American Free Enterprise system. The six-story building will also house the LeMieux Center for Public Policy, which continues to bring a grounded perspective to important issues for students and the local community.
The God-Sized Dreams campaign coincides with historic growth at PBA, which just welcomed a record-breaking incoming class at a time when many institutions face declining enrollment. PBA’s location in downtown West Palm Beach enables students to intern and work with esteemed businesses in tech, energy, finance, and health care, as demand grows for well-rounded young professionals who exemplify integrity, faith, and a commitment to service. Around 91 percent of PBA graduates enroll in graduate school or hold a full-time job within six months of graduation.
About the 2024 honorees:
Born in Washington, D.C., to Therese and H. Loy Anderson, Denise Anderson Hanley moved with her parents and three siblings, Andrea, Therese and H.Loy, Jr., to Palm Beach in 1958. She attended Palm Beach Private School, Mt. Vernon Seminary, Briarcliff College, and Florida Atlantic University, where she received her master's in Guidance and Counseling.
In 1970, Denise married her high school sweetheart, Dan Hanley. They raised two sons, Drew and Blake, both Florida attorneys, like their maternal grandfather, Loy and father, Dan, who has been a partner at Gunster for almost 50 years. They are the proud grandparents of Joshua, a sophomore at the University of Florida, Lydia, a junior at Dreyfus High School, and Muoni, three, who attends New Generation Montessori School.
Denise has been a member of the Palm Beach Board of Realtors since the early '80s and opened her own brokerage firm, Denise A Hanley Inc., Real Estate, in 1983. She has served two terms on its board and has served on and chaired the Professional Standards Committee for many years.
Wanda Jenkins and Denise were both members of PBA's Women of Distinction Luncheon from its inception. They were honored to co-chair Palm Beach Atlantic University's Women of Distinction Luncheon for several years after the first chair Bebe Warren, wife of co-founder Don Warren, who conceived the WOD luncheon, decided to step down.
Initially volunteering at the Rehabilitation Center for Children and Adults, Denise was asked to be chair and co-chair twice at their annual luncheon. A dear friend of Joyce and Dusty Sang, she has also served as co-chair and honorary chair at The Ryan Licht Sang Foundation annual events in Palm Beach over the years and will be co-chairing with her husband, Dan, in January 2024. Dan and Denise have long supported several other philanthropic organizations, such as The Hanley Foundation, Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League and the Salvation Army. Dan sits on both boards and recently retired from serving on the board of Palm Beach Atlantic University for the last 30 years.
Denise and Dan are long-time members of Family Church, where their children and they were baptized. Denise's Christian faith in The Word of God and passing it on to her family, friends and others have been her most joyful mission. She has facilitated Bible studies in Palm Beach and Northeast Harbor over many years. She is currently serving the Palm Beach Ladies Fellowship, held weekly during the season at Holy Trinity Church, where all ladies are welcome to attend.
Sheila Rinker’s community involvement and philanthropy reflect her interests in music, literature, arts and athletics as well as her compassion for others.
Palm Beach Atlantic University, which has enjoyed the longtime support of the Rinker family, is among the top causes on her list. The Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Foundation, where she serves as vice president, took the lead in building Vera Lea Rinker Hall, the Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Athletic Campus, and the John and Sheila Rinker Athletic Complex. John and Sheila's newest contribution of 20 million and 6 million from the Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Foundation to fund the six-story Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker School of Business Building will include a stock trading room, lecture hall and the LeMieux Center for Public Policy.
In 2016, the university awarded Sheila and her husband of 42 years, John J. Rinker, honorary doctorate degrees calling them “investors in generational change” for their focus on the well-being of Palm Beach Atlantic University students.
Sheila Rinker personally has lent her creative talents and energy serving as a member of Palm Beach Atlantic's Women of Distinction committee for nearly 20 years, reflecting her passion to support student scholarships. In particular, her heartfelt desire to support female students struggling financially and in need of encouragement has made a measurable difference in their lives.
Sheila was active with several local charitable organizations and causes. For nearly two decades, her volunteer work with the Palm Beach Habilitation Center has included serving on its board of directors as well as on the organization's annual Hab-a-Hearts luncheon committee, which selected her as the “Queen of Hearts” in 2015. That award recognized her longtime commitment, outstanding support and contributions to the event that helped the Center reach its fundraising goal.
She served for four years on the Urban Youth Impact board of directors and briefly on the board of the YWCA of Palm Beach County. "A supporter of law enforcement, she is the benefactor of a police department in a small Florida town, providing officers with zip-on bullet-proof vests and night vision goggles, four fully outfitted squad cars and a finger printer identification computer." Sheila is also a patron for the H.O.W. (Hearing the Ovarian Cancer Whisper) Time Is of the Essence annual luncheon.
Sheila attended Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, where she majored in commercial art (graphic arts). Her artistic talent was first noticed during high school when her artwork won third place in a national poster contest. She worked in advertising for a few years.
These days, the couple travel extensively, with John sharing some of his photos as inspiration for Sheila's art -- painting in pastels. In addition, she is an avid golfer, winning the club championship at the Lake Toxaway (North Carolina) Country Club twice and scoring nine eagles, four of which were holes-in-one.
The couple, who have four children and six grandchildren, are members of Royal Poinciana Chapel.
To learn more about Women of Distinction and this year’s honorees, please visit pba.edu/wod.
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