Oberlin, Ohio—The Natural Stone Institute (NSI) awarded Barbara Cohen its Migliore Award for Lifetime Achievement, Katie Jensen with the 2021 Women in Stone Pioneer Award and Brie Pfannenbecker with the 2020 Person of the Year Award.
As the recipient of the Migliore Award, Cohen makes history as the first woman and the first second-generation recipient of the award, NSI said. Cohen entered the stone industry in the 1970s, joining her father Malcolm in the family business, then known as Domestic Marble and Stone. Inspired by her father, she said that he gave her an opportunity to lead in a time when it was unpopular for a woman to take over ownership of a company and to work in an industry that she loves.
During her board service, Cohen contributed not only to strategic guidance, but also led the development of the “Color Plate” books and stone reference guides, the company said. She also provided substantial contributions to the version IV update to the iconic Dimension Stone Design Manual, NSI added. In 1998, Cohen became president of the Marble Institute of America (MIA). During her term, she was committed to improving the association’s image by striving to have an inclusive membership with the widest net of global representation on the board to broaden the industry’s opportunities.
Cohen has been a role model for women in a male dominated industry, in a time when there were few women in positions of authority or management, according to the company. She supported people from all walks of life, regardless of where they were from, NSI added.
“Stone has as much style as the clothes we wear—as the homes we build—as the architects can dream up in their beautiful designs,” Cohen said. Her love of natural stone, leadership philosophy and contributions to the association now known as the Natural Stone Institute have resulted in significant advancements for the entire industry and her reception of the Migliore Award, NSI said.
As the recipient of the 2020 Person of the Year Award, Jensen serves on the Natural Stone Institute’s board of directors and joined the executive leadership team as secretary in 2021. However, her contributions include those beyond her service on the board of directors, the company said. She was instrumental in her company donating stone to multiple Gary Sinise Foundation R.I.S.E program homes for severely wounded veterans, NSI said. She also inspired the association to create a natural stone Lookbook to streamline how R.I.S.E. recipients select natural stone for their homes. Jensen then personally contacted several quarries to solicit their involvement and contributions to the program, according to the company.
During the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jensen participated in weekly roundtable discussions with industry peers offering insight for the association’s executive board and chief executive officer, the company said. She served as a mentor in the Women in Stone Mentorship Program and assisted in key meetings with U.S. Senators addressing legislative issues important to the industry.
“She stepped up to help the association overcome obstacles, presented new ideas and constantly focused on the big picture while inspiring others to do the same,” said Jim Hieb, chief executive officer.
Jensen’s list of 2020 industry involvement includes participating in several educational webinars and offering support to the association’s presence at KBIS. She has also provided helpful insight and donations to the Natural Stone Foundation, the charitable arm of the Natural Stone Institute.
In a letter supporting Pfannenbecker for the Women in Stone Pioneer Award, Coldspring’s Kathy Spanier described her as an accomplished leader and role model for women in the business world, who represents the spirit of the award in every aspect.
Starting out in the family business as a counter sales representative, Pfannenbecker was challenged by dealing with prejudice that a woman selling to contractors and homeowners encountered, according to NSI. Her knowledge of product and production, along with her strength of character, always persevered, the company said. Pfannenbecker went on to work in almost every department at Connecticut Stone, facilitating change in the organization, NSI added. Today, she is vice president of operations at the 70-year-old company.
Throughout her 21 years in the industry, Pfannenbecker has remained as dedicated to her family as she has to her profession, NSI said. She participated in many roundtable discussions, sharing her insights and perspectives that have helped others, including being an advocate for advancing women within the industry.
Pfannenbecker has also been instrumental in organizing and developing the Natural Stone Institute’s Women in Stone initiative, serving as the first chair of its Steering Committee, according to the company. She has led the charge to establish some of their most successful projects, including a Dress for Success charitable donation, the Empowerment Scholarship and several live educational events and workshops.
She also developed the Project Model program at Coverings into an innovative way to educate attendees, while also increasing exposure to NSI member companies, according to the company. By utilizing the exhibition hall before show hours, it allowed uninterrupted access to member experts who demonstrated aspects of finishing and installing stone on a residential project. Pfannenbecker continues a passionate and committed dedication to advancing women in the stone industry, the company said.