SCARBOROUGH — Elsie Viles, a 96-year-old philanthropist from Augusta, received the first Great Women of Maine’s Legacy Award during a ceremony Thursday night at The Landing at Pine Point.

Viles was among 15 women who were recognized for their leadership, excellence, community involvement and contributions to the community.

Great Women of Maine was organized by MaineToday Media, the largest media company in Maine. It publishes The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville.

Richard L. Connor, editor and publisher of MaineToday Media, presented the awards, along with Ira Rosenberg, owner of Prime Motor Group.

Connor said Great Women of Maine grew out of his belief that responsible corporate citizens have a duty to recognize good things that are happening in a community.

Connor said proceeds from the event will benefit Dress for Success, a nonprofit that helps prepare disadvantaged women for the workplace by outfitting them for job interviews.

The Legacy Award will be given annually to a woman who has served as a role model and inspiration to her community.

Viles, who could not attend the event, is a master gardener who started the Viles Arboretum in Augusta, formerly the Pine Tree State Arboretum.

She has donated money for the gardens at the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care, the auditorium at Cony High School in Augusta and the stained glass restoration at the South Parish Congregational Church in Augusta. Her grandson, William Lund, accepted the award on her behalf.

Maine’s U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins received the Margaret Chase Smith Award, for female “pioneers” who have had distinguished careers. Both senators, who could not attend the event, thanked the audience via videotaped messages.

Twelve women from across Maine received Women of Influence awards:

* Meredith Strang Burgess of Cumberland, owner of Burgess Advertising and Marketing in Portland and state legislator.

* Susan Conley, an award-winning author who founded the Portland-based youth writing center Telling Room.

* Brenda Garrand, owner and CEO of Garrand Marketing and PR in Portland. Her firm was named one of the best places to work in 2010 by Ad Age.

* Bonnie Holding, a Master Maine Guide and fly fishing instructor. She volunteers at a fly fishing retreat for women who are breast cancer survivors.

* Shelley Cohen Konrad, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at the University of New England. She was a founding member of Kids First, which tries to ease children’s trauma after their parents divorce or separate.

* Carla Lafayette, a hotel owner and philanthropist who in 2009 pledged $2 million to CancerCare of Maine.

* Sister Viola Lausier, who has served as finance director for the Saint Andre Home in Biddeford.

* Marcia McKeague, vice president of Acadian Timber, who oversees more than 300,000 acres of timberland in Maine.

* Dr. Melinda Molin, a surgeon at Mercy Hospital’s Breast Health Resource Center.

* Dianne Nason, a senior vice president and regional trust manager for Key Bank. She has served on the board of Day One, a substance abuse agency, for 12 years.

* Eula Shorey, who was managing editor of The Bridgton News for 35 years and was the first president of the Maine Press Association.

* Dawn Stiles, president of Spurwink, a community-based program that provides services for people with emotional, behavioral and developmental challenges.