2022 Alumna Leader of the Year
Valerie Nicholson-Watson has provided influential, passionate leadership at Harvesters since taking the role of CEO in 2013. Valerie exemplifies a Greater Missouri Woman through strong leadership, community involvement and her ability to inspire and support others.
Valerie has dedicated over 20 years of her distinguished career to hunger relief work. With a Bachelor of Journalism Degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Master of Business Administration from Webster University, she began working at Harvesters after realizing that her career could be more gratifying and impactful by working to address basic human needs. Under Valerie’s leadership Harvesters has grown in food distribution, financial stability and has added innovative programming. In the wake of a global pandemic, both Valerie and Harvesters took on a leadership role to address rising numbers of neighbors needing food assistance. She engaged stakeholders, their partner agency network and staff to ramp up and make sure food was available to anyone who needed it.
In addition to her role as CEO of Harvesters, Valerie has also served on the board of several community organizations locally, regionally and nationally. Valerie has provided exceptional service and leadership to Feeding America by serving at one of the highest levels as a member of National Council. As one of only a handful of food bank leaders serving on this council, she helps create policy and protocols, as well as ensuring transparency and input in all things that impact the broader food bank network and Feeding America. She also currently serves as the President of the Board for Feeding Missouri, a coalition of the six Missouri food banks. She serves on the US Bank Community Advisory Board, and she is a past board member, nominator for participants, and speaker for the Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation. She has been honored with awards from several organizations including the Kansas City Business Journal’s 2021 class of Women Who Mean Business, United Minority Media Association, South KC Alliance and Allied Food Club.
Valerie has an openness to share her experiences and mentor others. “I am always working to support my colleagues by serving as a sounding board, helping them make learning opportunities out of mistakes and by sharing the lessons I’ve learned personally in my career.” Valerie’s involvement has led to mentoring and coaching professionals in the non-profit sector as well as in food banking. Through this extensive mentoring and coaching she is influencing and motivating others throughout the food bank network and with stakeholders in her community.
This selection as the Alumna Leader hopes to honor her distinguished career, prominence in Missouri and her commitment to the Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge. We wish her the best in her retirement.