Distinguished Through the Decades: 1996, Felecia (Wallace) Rutledge
Progress 2022: Distinguished Through the Decades
Valedictorian, cheerleader, Rural Health Scholar and member of the Math Team, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the National Honor Society – as a student at Phil Campbell High School in the ’90s, Felicia (Wallace) Rutledge did it all. And yet, she wasn’t too sure at first about doing the Junior Miss program.
“I honestly did not know a lot about Junior Miss until a former winner, Heather Ergle, approached me about participating. I was never involved in beauty pageants, so I didn’t think this would be for me,” explained Rutledge. “That is everyone’s first impression of the program, but that is not what it is.”
Rutledge said what drew her in was the scholarship opportunities – “As the daughter of a minister, I knew attending college would only be affordable with the help of scholarships, student loans or grants,” – but what she gained was that and more, surrounded by other driven and successful young women.
“You enter the program as an individual who might not know any of the other young women, then you become a part of a sisterhood with the other participants,” she said. She also found value in the skills she developed. “Being a part of the program instills a sense of confidence you might not have had otherwise, whether you win or lose.”
Rutledge, who now lives in Huntsville, continued her education at The University of Alabama–Birmingham, attending on a full four-year academic scholarship. Although she said she first planned to enter the medical field, concerns about not being able to spend enough time with her future family drove her in a different direction; she earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2001.
“Growing up, my family always had a lot of time together, and my parents were always available to attend games I was cheering for or any other event,” Rutledge said. It was a model she wanted to follow – and now does. She and husband Andy, who married in January 2003, have “three beautiful children: Ava, 15, Jason, 13, and Matthew, 5.”
“My two oldest children attend Westminster Christian Academy and are involved in many different sports, such as volleyball, football, basketball and tennis. As you can imagine, this keeps us busy,” Rutledge noted. “As a mom, I enjoy being as involved as I can in the lives of our children … My sole goal in life right now is to raise my children and teach them to love God and to never be afraid to pursue their dreams in life.”
Prior to marrying and moving to Huntsville, Rutledge worked a couple of years in Atlanta as a divisional controller with the same company she worked for in Birmingham during college. Since then, her career roles have included chief financial officer for Trilogy Pools and, her current role, CFO for F1 Solutions Inc., which provides IT solutions for businesses in north Alabama.
Outside of work and her children’s activities, Rutledge is also active in the family’s church, Westminster Presbyterian, where she has served as a member of the Women in the Church committee and teaches children’s Sunday School and Wednesday evening classes.
When Rutledge reflects back on her time in the Junior Miss program, a unique challenge springs to mind – apart from the challenge of the program itself.
“I injured my back during practice for the physical fitness routine,” explained Rutledge. “I was putting so much into the routine I just assumed my back was sore; what I did not realize was that I had popped a vertebrae out of place that was pinching a nerve.
“The week of the program, we practiced every day, and every day I would stop by the chiropractor for him to pop it back into place – only to have me pop it back out of place an hour later in practice.”
She also distinctly recalls the talent portion of the evening. “I performed ‘Little Girls’ from the musical ‘Annie,’ similar to the performance Carol Burnett gave in the 1982 film,” she said – a song choice she hoped would help mask any vocal imperfections. “I dressed up in tacky garb with my hair in rollers. I had no expectations of doing well in the talent category, but I ended up winning that category with the hilarious performance.”
With all these memories and more, Rutledge said she would absolutely encourage today’s young women to participate.
“Plan to be surprised,” she said. “Surprised by fun you will have, surprised by the amount of friends you will make in the young women from other schools, surprised by the opportunities that will become available and surprised by the increase in confidence you will have.”