Central Minnesota Community Foundation Announces Awards in Philanthropy Recipients

Friday, August 13, 2021

The Central Minnesota Community Foundation (CMCF) is pleased to announce the recipients of this year's Awards in Philanthropy.  Debra Leigh will be receiving the ATHENA Award, Melinda Gau will be receiving the Professional Award in Philanthropy and Dennis and Barb Gregory will be receiving the Alex Didier Award in Philanthropy. The CMCF Annual Celebration in Philanthropy Social will take place on Thursday, September 9.

Dennis & Barb Gregory - Alex Didier Award in Philanthropy

The Alex Didier Award in Philanthropy recognizes a person or couple who has significantly contributed to the field of philanthropy in the region.
Dennis and Barb Gregory have a passion for giving-back both financially as well as with their time. As children, their parents instilled the notion that it’s better to give than it is to receive, a message the Gregory’s whole-heartedly believe in. Over the past two decades the couple has contributed to numerous charities and volunteered their time for the betterment of the community. Barb credits her mom for being her ultimate inspiration to become a philanthropist. As a child, she volunteered with her mom at the local food shelf, a passion Barb has since passed down to her own children. Barb’s been a long-time supporter of the ROCORI Area Food Shelf. Dennis served as the past Board Chair of the Central Minnesota Community Foundation; in total he served a full nine years on the board. He also serves on the St. Cloud State University School of Business Advisory Council, Chair of Granite Charitable and a volunteer with the American Cancer Society’s local chapter. Barb and Dennis have established a Donor Advised Fund through CMCF in which they’ve made multiple gifts to local organizations throughout the past 16 years. Some of those organizations include the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central MN, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Good Samaritan Fund.  

Melinda Gau - Professional Award in Philanthropy

The Professional Award in Philanthropy recognizes efforts of a professional advisor such as an attorney, accountant, financial planner, or other professional who has significantly contributed to philanthropy in the region.

Melinda has a passion for supporting her community and philanthropic mission within Central Minnesota. She first started at Quinlivan & Hughes P.A. in 1994; she is now the CEO. While working with clients, Melinda helps them achieve their philanthropic goals by guiding them on all of their charitable giving options. Her background of working closely with CMCF, helps her provide guidance to her clients. Although Melinda’s passion for law and helping grow the community are evident through her profession, her volunteer work is a great example of how much she gives back to the community. Melinda serves on the United Way of Central Minnesota's board, where she was Board Chair for two years. She also is on the St. Cloud Hospital Board among other past board positions. Aside from her work on local boards, Melinda enjoys volunteering for Wills for Heroes and Kids Fighting Hunger.  

Debra Leigh - ATHENA Award

The ATHENA Award is a lifetime achievement award recognizing exceptional women leaders who inspire others to achieve excellence in their professional and personal lives.

A woman who has dedicated her career to the performing and visual arts, anti-racism training, leadership development of women, international education and prioritizing the success for under-represented students is the recipient of this year’s ATHENA Award, Debra Leigh. Currently, Debra is the Interim Vice President of Cultural Fluency, Equity and Inclusion at St. Cloud Technical and Community College. Prior to her role at SCTCC she’s spent the majority of her professional career at St. Cloud State University as the Director of Dance. In the community, Debra has been a member of several boards and organizations. Most recently she’s been the Chair of the Central Minnesota Community Foundation’s Board, with serving for six years as a member. The ATHENA Award is presented by the Women’s Fund of the Central Minnesota Community Foundation and sponsored by Granite Partners. 


The Central Minnesota Community Foundation (CMCF) attracts and administers charitable funds for the benefit of the local community. Since 1985, CMCF has grown to over $147.6 million in assets and awarded over $134.5 million in grants to non-profits.  The CMCF is governed by a local board of directors and is a partner of CommunityGiving, which is a collaborative of community foundations united under a single framework to create efficiencies that maximize the impact of our donors.  Collectively, CommunityGiving administers over 900 funds totaling nearly $201 million. Learn more at CommunityGiving.org/CentralMN.