It is that time of year!  The Women Veterans Initiative is sponsoring the 2018 Minnesota Women Veteran of the Year Award.  In collaboration with the MN DVA, the 2018 award will be presented as part of the Salute to Women Veterans planned for Saturday, May 26, 2018 at the Ramada Inn, 2705 Annapolis Lane North, in Plymouth, MN.

The 2017 Women Veteran of the Year was Elizabeth (Steele) Whitbeck of Stillwater, MN.  Elizabeth is a World War II veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve from 1943-1946.  During the war, she served as an instrument flying instructor at Parris Island, South Carolina and later as a rehabilitation specialist in New York City, until discharged as a Staff Sergeant.  At the end of the war, the Marine Corps did not intend to have women comprise any part of its active force structure.  However, when this stance began to shift at the end of 1946, the name on the very first enlistment contract signed under the newly evolved force structure for women in the Marine Corps was that of Staff Sergeant Elizabeth Steele (Whitbeck), making her one of the pioneers who led the way in establishing a permanent role for women in the Marine Corps.

Elizabeth’s public service did not stop after the Marine Corps.  The Minnesota State Legislature recognized Elizabeth’s incredible dedication to volunteer work in 2008.  She has provided multiple decades of volunteer service to a myriad of civic organizations, including the Girl Scouts, Parent-Teacher Associations, League of Women Voters, Women’s Club of Minneapolis, 5th Police Precinct, and many others.  Additionally, for 38 years, Elizabeth served as Vice-President and later a Board member with the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library.  In 1971 she persuaded the Minneapolis City Council to change a law that did not allow the sale of public property apart form real estate, which caused libraries to discard readable books  She successfully advocated for a vote to make an exception to the law for books and then she organized the first public book sale where thousands of books sold in the first two hours.  Her innovative advocacy had a profound impact, enabling public libraries to make books much more affordable to many people and creating a revenue stream that allowed libraries to purchase more books.

Elizabeth’s public service continues to this day.  At 96 years old, she is still going strong and continues to serve on the Library Committee at her assisted living residence.  She is a shining example of the Marine Corps’ core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.  Semper Fi!


Award Form:  Minnesota Woman Veteran Award 2018

SOP for Award:  SOP for Woman Veteran of the Year 2018

Nominate and help recognize outstanding women veterans in for next year.  We ask your help in reaching out to as many veterans as possible. Feel free to contact the Women Veterans Initiative by phone at 612-930-2984 (612-930-2WVI) or by e-mail at:


The 2016 MN Woman Veteran of the Year- Colonel (Retired) Penny Dieryck!

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Press Release Link: Penny Dieryck Press Release

It is a great honor to recognize Penny Dieryck as the

2016 W0man Veterans of the Year.  Her career of service

continues and she is impacting our Minnesota communities

and Minnesota youth with far reaching effects.  She was

nominated by MSG Kim Schaefbauer, MN Duluth Air

National Guard.


Previous Awardees (year gaps reflect changes in award sponsorship)

2009 Winner … Winner2009

2010 Winner … Winner 2010

2011 Winner … Winner 2011

2012 Winner … Winner2012

2014 Winner … Winner2014