CANANDAIGUA — Margaret E. Somerset, Esq., was recognized at the 35th annual Canandaigua Athena Leadership Awards.
This year’s Athena Young Professional Leadership Award recipient was Allison Hildebrandt.
There were six Athena Leadership nominees and five Athena Young Professional Leadership nominees honored the evening of Nov. 22 at the event hosted by the Canandaigua Chamber of Commerce and the Professional Women of the Finger Lakes. The Athena program was initiated 35 years ago in Canandaigua by Randy and Margaret Farnsworth, owners of Randall Farnsworth Auto Group. It was the first Athena program in New York state and one of the first Athena programs in the nation. The program was recognized this year by Athena International at a conference in Poughkeepsie.
Somerset, a partner with the Underberg & Kessler Law firm, has worked for 30 years protecting the rights of others. This includes achieving the first verdict of its kind on a prisoner civil rights case, defending thousands of clients against medical malpractice, starting her own health care firm in 2001 and becoming one of the founding members of the Rochester Ethics Leadership Consortium.
She is a long-time member of the Super Lawyer Group which represents the top 5 percent of attorneys in Upstate New York. She was named “Lawyer of the Year” in 2016 and has received the “Best Lawyers in America” designation every year for the past 10 years.
Her community service includes teaching and mentoring high school students through New Vision BOCES, serving as a board member of Crestwood Children’s Foundation and board chair during their merger with Hillside Family of Agencies, serving as a board member for Mercy Flight Central during the campaign to purchase a state of the art helicopter, and serving on the Board of Directors of the UR/Thompson Health System. At Thompson, Somerset has served on the steering committees for the capital campaigns to build the Woman’s Health and Breast Imaging Center as well as the new Intensive Care Unit and Pulmonary Clinic. Somerset serves on the executive committee of the board of directors for UR/Thompson Health, the quality and safety committee as well as chair of hospital’s ethics committee, providing leadership on hospital’s governance, quality and ethics. Margaret also initiated the “Lawyers for Learning” program to supply inner-city children with school supplies and mentors which grew to support thousands of students over the course of 27 years. As part of this program, Somerset provided weekly tutoring for an elementary school girl teaching her skills for effective studies and conflict resolution with her peers.
Somerset teaches, trains and mentors high school girls, other female lawyers, paralegals and professional women in both law and the health care field. Over 30 years, she has presented at nearly 100 seminars across the state to professional health care providers and lawyers to improve the quality of care in medicine and law.
As president of Boom Towne Canine Campus, Somerset developed her female staff to become leaders in pet care services, making Boom Towne one of the finest dog care, training and competition facilities in the country. Somerset waived personal compensation in order to offer three key women ownership interests in the business so that they could profit from its growth.
Hilldebrandt, of Canandaigua, is the volunteer and community outreach coordinator with Habitat for Humanity of Ontario County.
In her work, Hilldebrandt has spearheaded Habitat projects working with women, veterans and teens. She is the staff leader for the “Women Build” program and volunteer engagement in that program grew by 25 percent last year. This year Hilldebrandt is leading a trip to build homes in Paraguay and traveled to Nepal in 2018 to build there through Habitat’s Global Village program.
Hilldebrandt is a member of the Canandaigua Rotary, as well as Professional Women of the Finger Lakes, and the Ontario Yates Fund for Women and Girls. She founded the Volunteer Administrator Network of Ontario County, where volunteer management professionals meet to share resources and support. She is also mentoring the Habitat campus chapter at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.