Lakewood’s Cortney Kilbury Wins Inside Business’s 2013 Athena Award

Cortney Kilbury, a Lakewood resident since 2003, was recently named Inside Business Magazine’s Athena Award winner for 2013. The Athena Award is given annually to one individual each from Cleveland and Akron (among other cities national and international) who has attained and embodies the highest level of professional excellence in their profession, has devoted time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in their community, and actively assists women in realizing their leadership potential. Ms Kilbury received her award at Inside Business’s Athena Awards dinner on May 2.

“I’m really honored to have won,” Kilbury said. “Some pretty amazing people have won this award, and to be mentioned with them is really humbling to me.”

Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom, courage, and inspiration, and if you know anything at all about Cortney Kilbury, you realize the award is quite apropos. As Director of Marketing and Communications for Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, Kilbury works on publications, organizes events, and serves as media spokesperson. She earned her Executive MBA at Cleveland State University in 2012 (while working full-time) and then became that program’s spokeswoman as well as the youngest member of CMHA’s executive leadership team. Kilbury works tirelessly to provide things like neighborhood computer labs, a Junior Olympics, and other community development projects, often in conjunction with other organizations such as the Cleveland Foodbank.

“I really love the work that we do,” Kilbury says. “I know I’m in the right place because I’m making a difference with the people that we serve.”

One of the people she is making a difference to is Shequetta Washington. The two met at a CMHA YouthBuild meeting, and have been close ever since. Kilbury is helping Washington develop and perfect her writing and acting skills, as well as obtain her GED.

“Her involvement in my life has basically meant the world to me,” says Washington. “I want to have a name in the world and she’s helping me do that. She’s opening so many doors for me, and words cannot even explain how I appreciate her.”

In addition to her work with CMHA, Kilbury is also a member of more than ten different local organizations and participates in numerous volunteer projects every year. She has organized food drives for the homeless, helped implement CMHA’s Healthy Living Program, and mentored numerous interns and other young people.

But Kilbury’s accomplishments are not limited to her professional life. She has run marathons, completed an Olympic distance triathlon, and done zip-lining, scuba-diving, and hang-gliding. She lettered in volleyball, basketball, and softball in high school. While earning her Bachelors Degree at John Carroll University she played lacrosse and raced on the ski team. Kilbury still plays several sports and is an avid golfer. She participates in several charity runs and obstacle-course style runs each year, and is a member of CMHA’s Corporate Challenge team. As we have lunch at the Winking Lizard on Detroit Road not far from her home, she downs water and lemonade as part of her training for the upcoming Rite-Aid half marathon.

“Gotta stay hydrated,” she says.

Kilbury is also an accomplished artist, having done several commissioned pieces for various clients. Most notably, she was one of 60 Ohio artists chosen to design her own artwork using an electric guitar as a canvas for the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. She used a fused glass process that produced a stunning and fully playable Gibson Epiphone electric guitar that was sold at a benefit auction for $2000. She has also painted several outdoor murals for CMHA and local parks.

Much of her training for all those races and events is running along Lake Avenue and Edgewater Drive, close to the house she owns. And in addition to the Winking Lizard, Kilbury enjoys so much of what is Lakewood – Buckeye Beer Engine (“love their burgers!”), Melt, Einstein’s, and of course Angelo’s Pizza. As an artist herself, she is a big fan of Beck Center and the work they do in and for Lakewood.

And later this year, after a trip to Peru to hike Machu Picchu, Kilbury will cross off one more continent of places to visit. She is an avid traveler, with the stamps of 25 countries on her passport including Italy, Egypt, the Netherlands, Australia, and the Phillipines. Antarctica remains, but, she says, “I may make it there too someday!”

One might think a person with so many accomplishments, honors, goals, and experiences would be a hard-driving, type-A personality. But Ms. Kilbury is anything but. She is ambitious and confident and goal-oriented, but also approachable, respectful, and a genuine pleasure to be around. She credits her family for her drive and success. She says she knew early on she didn’t need to be a doctor or teacher or minister to help people or have a positive influence on others. Her mother was a school principal, is currently a professor in Las Vegas with her doctorate and a recently published book to her credit. Her father runs his own successful home building and renovating business. 

“They were always very supportive and encouraged me to do my best at whatever I did, sports, art, whatever it was, they encouraged and supported me,” Kilbury says.

As a result, despite her numerous honors and accomplishments, people are what matter most to her.

“Relationships are more important to me than anything,” she says.

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Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 10:52 PM, 05.14.2013