State health commissioner, Barnes partner honored as trailblazing women

The Oxford Dictionary defines a trailblazer as a person who makes a new track through wild country. As a woman who blazed through the wild country of Indiana’s legal profession was remembered at a recent celebratory event, two more trailblazers were recognized in her honor.

Barnes & Thornburg LLP hosted its fifth Shirley’s Legacy ceremony Thursday, surrounded by those celebrating the pioneer spirit of former Barnes partner Shirley Shideler.

Shideler is known as becoming the first female associate at any major law firm in Indiana when she joined Barnes & Thornburg in 1964. She was promoted to partner at the firm in 1971, becoming the first woman to join the partner ranks at a large Indiana firm. Continuing that trend, Shideler became the first women president of the Indiana Bar Foundation in 1998.

Shideler died in 2003, but her legacy continues to be celebrated by attorneys and non-attorneys alike. The 2019 Shirley’s Legacy awards were presented to honorees Kristina Box, Indiana state health commissioner, and Connie Lahn, Barnes’ Minneapolis office managing partner, for their contributions to bolstering the success of women.

“We are here to honor a couple of amazing people that truly exemplify and represent Shirley’s spirit,” said Barnes partner Nicholas Kile.

In keeping with tradition, Barnes associate Lauren Box presented the first award to her mother, Kristina Box. The state’s health commissioner entered the health profession more than 30 years ago, her daughter said, and epitomizes the definition of trailblazer.

“But I want to go a step further,” Lauren said. “I want to describe her not only as a trailblazer, but in my mind, more importantly, as a trail builder.

“What I mean by calling her a trail builder is that my mom didn’t just set an example so that other women can follow,” Lauren continued. “After forging that path, she took intentional steps to help women behind her, to support the women behind her, and to guide the women behind her and ensure their path to success was far easier than her own.”

“I am incredibly honored to be recognized with this award,” Kristina Box said. “I am sure that women of today do not realize what new trails they may be blazing, but I am excited to see how they will change the world going forward.”

Like her fellow award recipient, Lahn was described by a mentee as embodying the “never give up spirit” for which Shideler is remembered each year. Lahn was praised for devoting her time, energy and resources to ensuring other women could successfully achieve their goals.

For Lahn, being a trailblazer means being someone who tries to sway an organization to look at things a little differently for the ultimate benefit of others. She said she hopes to achieve that goal.

“I so feel like I found place where we can all embrace each other’s differences. I don’t feel worthy of this. I feel so blessed,” Lahn said. “Thank you.”

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