ChristianaCare’s Chief Communications and Experience Officer Drewry Nash Fennell received the Women’s Leadership Award from the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce at the 29th annual Women’s Leadership Conference.
More than 500 people attended the Nov. 14 luncheon at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware.
The award is presented to a woman whose distinguished career, leadership and public service have made an impact on her community through education, research and public or volunteer service.
Bob Chadwick, president of the New Castle County Chamber, said Fennell’s work is making Delaware “a healthier state.” He cited Fennell’s “grace and effectiveness in government,” and her record of working “tirelessly with civil rights advocates on behalf of women and the LGBTQ community.”
At ChristianaCare, Fennell leads communications strategy and philanthropic efforts in alignment with the organization’s strategic aims and serves as senior advisor to President and CEO Janice E. Nevin, M.D., MPH.
Accepting the award, Fennell offered three pieces of wisdom based on her experience.
“The worst advice I ever took was ‘don’t smile so much,'” said Fennell. “I took the advice and I was miserable. I’m here to tell you to do the exact opposite: Be yourself. Effective leadership is authentic. And, most of all, smile when you want to smile.”
Secondly, she said, “learn the business. Understand the strategic business aims of your enterprise, whether it’s law or government or health care or banking, and know how your efforts contribute to its success. Get yourself into the rooms where the hard business decisions are being made. And if you’re the mentor, bring people in.”
And thirdly, Fennell said, “Leave room for people to move toward you. Victory is about moving together toward change.”
Fennell joined ChristianaCare in January 2017 after serving as Delaware’s first female chief of staff for Gov. Jack Markell, where she oversaw the work of 16 cabinet secretaries and other senior staff. Before becoming chief of staff, she served as policy director and deputy chief of staff.
As a Delaware attorney, she has more than 15 years of senior management experience within government and nonprofit agencies, guiding policy positions, communications strategies and fundraising. Fennell served as executive director of the Delaware Criminal Justice Council and was responsible for leading a team that won a federal grant to have Delaware participate in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.
Her work as the executive director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware involved advocacy for child welfare, LGBT rights, voting rights, education access and other legislative accomplishments.
She was inducted into the Delaware Commission for Women’s Hall of Fame for 2019 in October.