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SMITHFIELD, RI - Bryant University announced today that Cheryl Merchant, the president and chief executive officer of textile solutions manufacturer Hope Global, will receive its 2014 New England Businesswoman of the Year award on Fri., Mar. 14th at its 17th Annual Women’s Summit themed “Be the CEO of Your Life.”

Under Merchant’s leadership, Hope Global has nearly tripled its revenue and expanded to multiple operations overseas.  Today, the manufacturer produces engineered textile solutions for automotive, commercial, and industrial use. Throughout her nearly 30-year career, Cheryl Merchant has held senior positions at General Motors, Mazda, Ford Motor Co., and Lear Corporation, managing manufacturing plants around the world.

 Merchant has served on the State of Rhode Island Governor’s Economic Development Council for five years and is now on the Governor’s Workforce Board. In addition, she is a Trustee of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council and Bryant University and a past chair and active member of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce. Merchant is a member of the Rhode Island Commodores and holds an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree from Bryant University. She is also Chairwoman for World Trade Day 2014, sponsored by the Bryant University John H. Chafee Center for International Business.

The award recognizes excellence in leadership by a business or professional woman who is the founder, president, or CEO of a multimillion-dollar business or organization in New England. In addition, the recipient or her institution must be engaged in service projects that improve the lives of others.  Previous award recipients have included Karen Kaplan, president and CEO of Hill Holiday; Navyn Salem executive director and founder of Edesia; Constance Howes, president and CEO of Women and Infants Hospital; Maryanne Cataldo, CEO and founder of City Lights Electrical Co.; Kathleen Hittner, M.D., president and CEO of Miriam Hospital, educator and clinician; Cheryl Watkins Sneed, president and CEO of Banneker Industries; and, Merrill Sherman, president and CEO of Bankcorp Rhode Island and Bank Rhode Island. 

“We are delighted to present this award to Cheryl, who has successfully steered Hope Global to becoming a major midmarket company in textile solutions.  She is an inspiring and highly effective female CEO who has transformed a business’ fortune, and a role model for all women in the workforce today. Students who are interested in a future in business should follow Cheryl’s example of fearless leadership,” said Bryant University Women’s Summit Director Kati Machtley.

More than 1,000 women are expected to participate in the sold out Bryant University Women’s Summit. The event has sold out every year since its inception 17 years ago and has become one of the most highly sought-after conferences in New England. Drawing women from all across the region, the Summit promotes professional, personal, and economic empowerment through education. The day-long enrichment program provides women with the knowledge, skills, and inspiration to excel and advance in today’s marketplace. This year’s Bryant University’s Women’s Summit features three prominent keynote speakers who are pioneers in their fields –  Viola Davis, two-time Tony Award-winning actress and Oscar nominee; Carley Roney, co-founder, The Knot; and Carey Lohrenz, the first woman F-10 Tomcat fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy.

“I’m honored to be selected by the Bryant University Women’s Summit as the 2014 New England Businesswoman of the Year,” said Merchant. “Throughout my career I have worked to create opportunities, for myself and for the organizations I’ve been associated with, and I hope this recognition will allow women throughout New England to see how they can do the same.” 

For information on the Women’s Summit, visit http://wsummit.bryant.edu/

Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., is a leading private university offering an innovative and uniquely integrated business and liberal arts education. Founded in 1863, Bryant University has approximately 3,500 graduate and undergraduate students from 33 states and 85 countries. Bryant University regularly receives top rankings from U.S. News and World Report, Business Week, Forbes and Barron’s.  Visit www.Bryant.edu.

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