Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes (center) honored three local women March 6 at the CountyFull size photo

Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes (center) honored three local women March 6 at the County's McDade Administration Building to celebrate Women's History Month. Honored were (from left): Mika Ryan, Mayolyn Saunders, and Dr. Mary Leck.

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TRENTON, N.J. -Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes and several County officials honored three area women today for their achievements during a celebration of Women's History Month.

Hughes and the freeholders presented awards to Mika Ryan of Pennington, the president of the Mercer County Sports and Entertainment Commission, Mayolyn Saunders of Trenton, a longtime Trenton entrepreneur and civic activist, and Dr. Mary Leck of Kendall Park, a retired professor of biology of Rider University in Lawrence and advocate of the Hamilton-Trenton Marsh.

"I'm proud to stand here today with these three women who are pioneers in their professions," Hughes said. "They are a shining example of what faith, hard work, and strong values can produce for the community that is Mercer County, and have paved the way for new generations of young women to succeed."

Mika Ryan, a former standout college athlete at the University of North Carolina and the former head women's basketball coach at The College of New Jersey, now serves as president of the Mercer County Sports and Entertainment Commission. Through the commission, Ryan seeks to attract sporting events, various artists, and other entertainers to Mercer County. In recent years, under her direction, the Commission attracted new events such as the Cyclocross mountain-biking championship and the United States Women's Senior National basketball team to Mercer County.

Ryan said she was honored and privileged to be in the company of her two fellow honorees.

Dr. Mary Leck is a professor emeritus in biology at Rider University and is an expert in the field of freshwater marsh ecology. She has studied the Hamilton-Trenton marsh since 1975 and has been a leader in a discipline once dominated by men. Dr. Leck continues to generate interest in the environmental health of Mercer County by conducting guided tours of the Hamilton-Trenton marsh and areas along the Delaware River.

"I accept this award on behalf of the many folks who have devoted their efforts to improve and protect the marsh, including Mercer County Parks and Planning (departments), the Delaware and Raritan Greenway, Rider University, The Friends of Hamilton Marsh and the many volunteers who help every day," Leck said.

The final honoree, Mayolyn Saunders, 93, is considered a legend in the Trenton community. Ms. Saunders broke barriers for both women and African-Americans in Trenton dating back to the 1940s. She fought for equal rights for African-American consumers, demanding Trenton's businesses to allow them to visit movie theatres and hotels. A graduate of Trenton Central High School, Ms. Saunders also opened up the first black-owned business on West State Street in Trenton, and later founded the Community Cultural Club to bring the arts of music, literature, drama, and history to Trenton.

"I knew Trenton when it had trolley cars," Saunders said. "I love Trenton, and I pray that I see Trenton come back to the old Trenton it used to be."

Hughes was joined by Freeholders Anthony Carabelli and Ann Cannon, Mercer County Surrogate Diane Gerofsky, and Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello in the celebration at the County's McDade Administration Building.