A local judge was honored by the Akron Bar Association Jan. 23.

Judge Deborah Cook, a sitting member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, received the 2014 Judicial Pioneer Award. Judge Cook is the first and only female from Summit Country to hold her position. She is also the first and only woman from Summit County to be a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court. She served the court from 1995 to 2003.

Cook said that the reward was special because it came from the people around her.

"What it means to me is it is a very nice pat on the back from my friends and colleagues," Cook said.

The Judicial Pioneer Award was created by the Akron Bar Association to honor a person who is the first of his or her race, gender or cultural heritage to hold a judicial position.

Cook agreed that she has broken through several gender barriers during her career.

"The pioneer part is just the truth," Cook said. "I was one among a very small group of women practicing law in Akron in 1978 and the early '80s."

Cook recalled being the only women working as a lawyer in a firm early in her career. One of her superiors recognized her talents and asked to see more of the "girl lawyer."

In the few decades since getting her start, Cook has seen vast improvement in the field of law as it comes to gender diversity. She noted that at least half of the students in her law school class were women.

In 2003, serving as a member of the Supreme Court of Ohio, Cook was a part of the first time female justices outnumbered males.

Cook graduated from The University of Akron in 1974 with a degree in English. She then attended the Akron Law School and earned her second degree in 1978. She has stayed in the area, despite hearing cases in Cincinnati; her office is on the corner of Main and Market streets in downtown Akron.

Previous winners of the Judicial Pioneer Award are Judge Joseph D. Roulac, Judge Mary Cacioppo, Judge Mary F. Spicer, Judge Joyce George, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Judge James R. Williams.