Destined for Distinction


Photography by Hacker Medias | Shot on location at Kinley Chattanooga

While the path of distinction is unique for every Southern woman, an underlying dedication and determination fuels each journey. A variety of people, principles, and passions come together to inspire us along the way. In their own words, six women share the experiences and values that have guided them to where they are today.

margaret ferguson

Born and raised in Memphis, educated at Sewanee, with my adult years spent in the Chattanooga area, I have lived under the influence of Southern culture all my life. There is a certain gentleness and default to common courtesy that characterizes the best of what it means to be a Southerner. My mother was my role model, and from her, I learned that being respectful and standing up for what I believed in were not mutually exclusive. The single biggest value that has guided my life is my faith in Jesus Christ. Though most of my adulthood has been spent in professional Christian ministry, I pray the foundational principles of loving my neighbors and treating them as I would like to be treated are the ones that I seek to model in every area of my life. I’m grateful that my husband, Scott, is not only a great model of this to me but is also my favorite accountability partner!

Margaret Ferguson

Chaplain, Ascension Living Alexian Village

dr. jensen hyde

I dressed up as a doctor for Halloween at age 2 – ever since I’ve been focused on achieving that goal. From the corridors of medical school to assuming the role of chief medical officer, I’ve traversed a course marked by relentless dedication and a commitment to excellence. Along this trajectory, I’ve been profoundly influenced by mentors, colleagues, family, friends, and patients whose collective wisdom and unwavering support have illuminated the way. Belief in the transformative power of medicine, coupled with values of compassion, integrity, and innovation, have been my guiding forces. As chief medical officer, I stand at the nexus of healthcare leadership, entrusted with the responsibility to uphold the highest standards of patient care while fostering an environment of collaboration and continuous improvement. This journey epitomizes not only personal growth but also a steadfast dedication to the noble calling of healing and leadership within the medical community.

Dr. Jensen Hyde

Chief Medical Officer, Erlanger

candy johnson

Raised in Clarksville, Tennessee, by a resilient single mother and inspired by the legacy of hardworking, farming, military veteran grandparents, I learned the value of selfless service at a young age. Surrounded by a family deeply rooted in the Christian faith and community involvement, I inherited a strong work ethic based on the principles of love and kindness. My childhood summers were filled with church camps, fishing, gardening, volunteering, and homemade front porch ice cream shared by kids in our community. This upbringing fueled my passion for generosity and led me to pursue leadership roles in student organizations while at Austin Peay State University and later serving on the Clarksville city council. I’ve dedicated my career to public and nonprofit work, alongside volunteering and philanthropy, embodying the values of integrity, service, and compassion instilled in me. I strive to honor my family’s legacy by advocating for those in need and working tirelessly to create positive change in my community.

Candy Johnson

President and CEO, Urban League of Greater Chattanooga

stacy lightfoot

My journey began in Chattanooga, where I developed a deep-rooted passion for education and access. As a proud graduate of the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences,
I embarked on my academic path at a Midwest college that recognized and nurtured my gifts and passions. With a bachelor’s in communications/theatre and a master’s in international service, I broadened my horizons through teaching stints in Jamaica and studying abroad in Italy and England. Community service has been integral to my journey, instilled in me from a young age through active involvement with my church and school. Joining University of Tennessee at Chatta-nooga as vice chancellor for access and engagement marked a pivotal moment, allowing me to spearhead initiatives focused on expanding access and championing the success of our academic community through meaningful engagement. Guided
by values of equity and empowerment,
I remain dedicated to fostering a more inclusive and accessible future for all.

Stacy Lightfoot

Vice Chancellor for Access & Engagement, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

jennifer nicely

In 1997, my husband and I moved to Chattanooga, his hometown. I feel incredibly fortunate to have landed at CHI Memorial soon after and began my career in healthcare philanthropy. Mentors including Joan Frierson, Betsy Chapin Taylor, and Jim Hill have guided me over the years and provided incredible support and friendship. I left CHI Memorial briefly in 2006 but quickly returned to my current role as president of the hospital’s foundation. I have the very best job, given the opportunity daily to connect members of this generous community with causes and projects they feel passionate about supporting, and I get to see first-hand the patients and families impacted by that generosity. Growing up in southwest Georgia, the biggest influences on my life have been my parents. Through them, I learned the importance of treating others with kindness and being gracious and fair – traits I continue to live by.

Jennifer Nicely

President, CHI Memorial Foundation

dalya qualls white

Rooted in a love for language nurtured during my time at the University of Illinois, I embarked on a career journey in communications. As senior vice president and chief communications officer at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, I’m guided by the belief that words connect people. Whether facilitating virtual meetings, engaging with communities, or shaping digital brand experiences, I prioritize effective communication to uphold our mission and serve Tennesseans. My journey underscores the power of language in fostering connections and driving meaningful impact. Communications has offered a platform to reach, empower, and motivate countless individuals, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve as an advocate and storyteller.

Dalya Qualls White

Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

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