This year's Women's Hall of Fame class has been anounced. From top left, clockwise: Raye Jones Avery, Julissa Coriano, Anna Marie Leo and Colonel Melissa Zebley.

Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame 2024 class to add 4  

Jarek RutzEducation, Headlines

This year's Women's Hall of Fame class has been anounced. From top left, clockwise: Raye Jones Avery, Julissa Coriano, Anna Marie Leo and Colonel Melissa Zebley.

This year’s Women’s Hall of Fame class has been anounced. From top left, clockwise: Raye Jones Avery, Julissa Coriano, Colonel Melissa Zebley and Anna Marie Leo.

The Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame will add four new members this year: Raye Jones Avery, Julissa Coriano, Anna Marie Leo and Col. Melissa Zebley.

The honorees are chosen by the The Office of Women’s Advancement and Advocacy and the Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame Committee. This year, they received more than 50 nominations.

Jones Avery said she’s devoted her life to being a caregiver and didn’t realize the significance of this accomplishment until she visited the Hall of Fame after getting the call that she’d been  selected.

Looking at all the portraits on the wall was a humbling experience, she said.

“It wasn’t until I scrolled through that gallery that the magnitude of the induction into that whole thing actually hit me,” she said Tuesday. “There are women that have had, that have and are continuing to make such monumental contributions to the state and to the nation.

It reminded Jones Avery of the caliber of women that Delaware has had and does have. 

She said she’d like to see more artists and creatives in the Hall. 

The committee selected the winners for their significant contributions to the First State.

“Our 2024 Honorees embody the dedication of Delaware women to uplift their communities through holistic wellness, education and the arts while also ensuring safer and more vibrant environments in which we can all thrive,” stated Brenda Wise, chair of the Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame Committee. “I commend the committee for selecting a diverse group of honorees who share a steadfast commitment to the state of Delaware and its residents.”

This is the 43rd year of the Hall of Fame, which is the oldest annual celebration of its kind commemorating Delaware women. 

Its nearly 200 members represent women from diverse backgrounds including artists, athletes, community advocates, military personnel, public servants and scientists. 

While there is no minimum age requirement to be inducted, nominees must have lived in the state for at least 10 years and made an important and lasting impact upon the lives of Delawareans.

“The accomplishments of these women underscore the incredible talent and dedication present in our state,” said Melanie Ross Levin, director of the Office of Women’s Advancement & Advocacy. 

It takes time and dedication to nominate someone for the Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame, she said.

“We would like to especially thank all the nominators this year,” she said. “We encourage all Delawareans to take a close look at the list of Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame members and consider nominating someone for this honor.”

The committee uses a rubric to evaluate nominees, and it’s based on two categories: how compelling a story she has and how much her achievements made a lasting contribution to the state, nation and/or world.

The inductees will be honored in a ceremony this fall.

Here’s  more about the Class of 2024:

Raye Jones Avery

Jones Avery has 35 years in public service work with a focus on arts-based community development, education equity and urban affairs. 

She’s worked with organizations like the Delaware League for Planned Parenthood, United Way of Delaware, and Kuumba Academy Charter School.  

She has also been the executive director of Christina Cultural Arts Center Inc. since 1991, leading a $3 million capital campaign to renovate its Market Street location.

Julissa Coriano

Coriano is a clinical social worker and sexuality therapist in private practice, known for her advocacy within the Latinx community, particularly among undocumented individuals, the LGBTQIA community and victims of human trafficking. 

“This is such an incredible honor, not only for me but also for the amazing communities I serve,” she said. “This recognition validates our fight for justice, inclusion, and equity for communities that are historically overlooked, unprotected, and marginalized.”

Co-founder of Orgullo Delaware, she pioneered clinical support services for LGBTQIA-identified Latines and their families and founded the Delaware Sexuality & Gender Collective. 

Anna Marie Leo

Leo is the founder of Wilmington’s Anna Marie Dance Studio, where she taught dance for more than 70 years. 

“I’m proud that Delaware thinks enough of me to warrant my selection into the Hall of Fame, and that I have had the opportunity for over seventy years to work with Delaware’s finest young dancers,” she said.

Many of her students have gone on to perform on Broadway and dance companies around the world. 

Leo has also served as a competition judge and National Vice-President of the National Association of Dance and Affiliated Artists.

Colonel Melissa Zebley

Zebley is a lifelong Delawarean and 32-year veteran of the Delaware State Police

“I am deeply humbled to have been nominated and selected as a member of the Class of 2024 inductees,” she said. “It is an honor to be included in the Hall of Fame, alongside the many great women who have shaped Delaware’s rich history. As I have the opportunity to represent a century of public servants within the Delaware State Police family, I believe this is a testament to our shared commitment to our mission, our core values and our collective purpose to safeguard our communities.”

In July 2020, she made history as the first woman to serve as the 26th superintendent of DSP. 

As chief executive officer, she oversees Delaware’s largest enforcement agency, managing over 700 sworn troopers and 300 professional staff.

“Leadership is more than a title; it is the skill to effectively steer an organization toward its mission,” said Lieutenant India Sturgis, director of public information for the Delaware State Police. “Colonel Melissa Zebley embodies every facet of leadership and is truly deserving of her induction into the Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame.”

Sturgis said Zebley’s selflessness and compassion for others distinguishes her as a one-of-a-kind leader.

“She leads by example, showing genuine care not only for the troopers and professional staff at DSP but also for the communities DSP protects and serve,” Sturgis said. “Words cannot fully express our gratitude for her guidance and the profound impact she has on all of us.”

Learn more

The public can visit the collection of portraits in-person at the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, located at 20 Orchard Road in Newark.

Learn more about the 2024 honorees and all 170 inductees of the Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame here.

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