Limited by the place and time she was born, my mom followed the path of many a woman in the 1950s and became a kindergarten teacher instead of the journalist she wanted to be. She married, had kids. Later, and suddenly a single mother with young kids, she found herself with outmoded skills and in a precarious financial position. She worried about keeping a roof over our heads and funding our education, and she worried about her security into retirement. She threw herself back into the work world and studied, sweated, and saved until she became an early funder and founder of Matrix Asset Advisors, Inc., an investment management firm that today manages more than $1 billion in assets.

I felt so fortunate to have this woman as an example of how to approach the world. She taught me that:

  • Life throws curveballs. Throw yourself a pity party, then get on with it.

  • Persistence, determination, and grit can yield amazing results.

  • One should form a personal board of directors to turn to for strategic advice, connections, and unvarnished feedback.

  • A six-Snickers® day is a metric for a bad day and six daily hugs are needed for one’s mental health.

  • We are responsible for giving back and helping to heal the world.

She hammered these and other lessons into my sister and me, and once she was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, hammering them into her granddaughters became a priority.

I created this award in the hope that we could share her lessons with other girls with grit, and in so doing, honor the girl with grit for whom this award is named.

Fran Melmed
Award founder and board president

Photo: Denise Guerin/Art + Life Photography