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Broadway Producer, Coca-Cola Exec to Lead UMass Lowell Event

Conference to Promote Women’s Career and Personal Potential

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The UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center will be the venue for the university's 2017 Women's Leadership Conference, "The Power and Potential of Women," on Tuesday, June 20.


Media contacts:  Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or and Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or
LOWELL, Mass. – Tony Award-winning UMass Lowell graduate Bonnie Comley and Therese Gearhart, president of Coca-Cola’s Latin-American operations, will headline UMass Lowell’s 2017 Women’s Leadership Conference. 

“The Power and Potential of Women” – which in two short years has established itself as an event not to be missed – provides professionals in business, education, government and the nonprofit sector with a forum to explore career and personal development topics, from understanding what drives creativity to how to succeed in traditionally male industries. The conference will be held on Tuesday, June 20. Registration to attend may be completed at

The conference will open with Comley’s remarks. A native of Bedford, she is a three-time Tony Award-winning producer, writer and performer behind the latest Broadway production of “Sunset Boulevard” starring Glenn Close. Comley is also the founder and CEO of the online streaming service, which brings the excitement of musical theater to viewers around the world through their computers and mobile devices. When the channel live-streamed its first show to 60 countries last year, the event made history and trended on Facebook and Twitter. Comley graduated with a business degree from UMass Lowell in 1981 and has received the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award. A gift from Comley and her husband, producer Stewart Lane, supported renovations of the campus venue that was renamed the Comley-Lane Theatre in their honor in 2007.  

Gearhart will lead the afternoon’s keynote program. The president of Coca-Cola’s Latin Center Business Unit, she is responsible for business operations in 31 countries across the Caribbean, Central and South America. She also serves as the co-chairwoman of Coca-Cola’s Global Women’s Leadership Council, a group that advises the CEO and senior leaders on initiatives to recruit women to and advance them in the company. Gearhart – who has nearly 30 years of international experience in management, marketing and sales – held positions with Motorola Inc. and Black and Decker Corp. before joining Coca-Cola in 1998. 

UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney launched the “The Power and Potential of Women” in 2016 as part of her inaugural year as the first woman to head the university. An advocate for women’s success, she is a national pioneer in higher education, including online learning and teaching entrepreneurship. Moloney is known as a “double River Hawk” because she holds two degrees from UMass Lowell; she received her bachelor’s degree in sociology and a Ph.D. from the College of Education. 

“This gathering of so many diverse and influential women is truly inspiring,” Moloney said. “The event speaks to women at every stage in their careers and every life circumstance as we learn from each other how to build our talents and take our rightful place as leaders. I’m looking forward to hearing from our outstanding ensemble of speakers and connecting with participants.” 

Women leaders in medicine and health care, financial services, marketing, retail, career and personal development, nonprofit management and higher education will be featured across 12 conference sessions. Along with Comley and Gearhart, speakers are scheduled to include Dr. Deborah Blazey-Martin, chief of internal medicine and adult primary care at Tufts Medical Center in Boston; Valisha Graves, executive director of Morgan Stanley; Lex Schroeder, co-founder of Feminists at Work; and UMass Lowell graduates Franky Descoteaux, director of employment services at Epilepsy Foundation New England and Lydia Sisson, founding co-director of Mill City Grows in Lowell. Representatives from companies such as Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Putnam Investments, Bose Corp. and The TJX Cos. Inc. will be among those who lead sessions. UMass Lowell Manning School of Business professors Karoline Evans, Beth Humberd, Elissa Magnant and Erica Steckler – experts in negotiation, organizational behavior, business ethics and management, respectively – will also participate. 

Four themes will inform conference session topics: cultivating career development skills; leading, empowering and inspiring others; succeeding in business and entrepreneurship; and promoting holistic health and financial wellbeing.  A networking opportunity for participants to connect with each other, share their ideas and reflect on the day will close out the conference. The event’s full schedule can be found at

“The Power and Potential of Women” will be held at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, 50 Warren St., Lowell. Individuals interested in learning more about the event or registering to attend should visit Registration is open through Wednesday, June 14.

The event’s sponsors include Enterprise Bank, Circle Health and Fidelity Investments.  

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 17,750 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.