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Airplane crash survivor to speak at Women’s Leadership Conference

September 5, 2012

Mercedes Ramirez Johnson, a crash survivor who believes in second chances, will be a key presenter at the 2013 Women's Leadership Conference set for Friday, Feb. 8 at the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel. Ramirez Johnson will be joined by other speakers and presenters who will address this year's conference theme "Lead the Change." The conference and celebration are presented by Coastal Carolina University's Women in Philanthropy and Leadership (WIPL).

Ramirez Johnson was one of four passengers who survived a 1995 airplane crash in the Andes Mountains of Colombia that killed 160 people, including her parents. In surviving the crash, which occurred on her 21st birthday, she committed to making her second chance at life count. She will offer conference participants a "blueprint for change" with specific tools they can use to ensure success in their professional and personal lives.

"Mercedes Ramirez Johnson's remarkable story of survival will inspire us to re-examine our own lives and to meet our personal challenges with renewed energy," said Terri DeCenzo, WIPL executive director. "She will encourage us to look for ways that we can lead change individually and collectively in our communities and the world."

In addition to the conference, two other programs will be presented in connection with the event at the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel:

* Small Business Boot Camp, new for 2013, is scheduled for Feb. 7 from 1 to 4 p.m. to offer success strategies for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

* The third annual Celebration of Inspiring Women, set for Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m., will shine a spotlight on South Carolina women in recognition of their leadership and achievements in the arts, business, medicine, media, philanthropy and/or public service.

The Women's Leadership Conference and Celebration of Inspiring Women are programs of Coastal Carolina University's Women in Philanthropy and Leadership. WIPL seeks to educate, connect and empower leaders and philanthropists to make a difference for women throughout the university and the community. Proceeds from the events support WIPL Scholarships for CCU students and other leadership initiatives.

For more information about registration, sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities, visit, or contact the Office of WIPL at 843-349-5033 or

For media inquiries, contact Martha Hunn, CCU director of news and public affairs, at 843-349-2962 or


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