April 7, 2017
What is a real woman?
This was the question posed – and answered – at the 2017 Women of Distinction Awards at East Carolina University on April 4.
“We hear so much about ‘real women look like this’ or ‘real women wear this,’” said keynote speaker Tonya Jefferson Lynch, a local writer and entrepreneur who also works as the web coordinator for the ECU Writing Center. She named her mother as an example of a real woman, who taught her, “It’s ok to be who we are. Our laughter, our tears, our failures, our triumphs define us. Real women are determined to say ‘I am here.’”
Lynch addressed a crowd of around 160 in Harvey Hall at the Murphey Center before 10 women were honored as the 2017 ECU Women of Distinction. These awards are given every other year by the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women (CCSW) to recognize the outstanding contributions of faculty, staff, alumni and community members to East Carolina. This year’s theme was “Real Women, Real Change.”
After thanking the honorees for being who they are, Lynch continued, “Real women, like these Women of Distinction, see the value of mentoring, face challenges, lead despite criticism, seek diversity, spark ingenuity, see possibility, inspire communities, fight doubt, weigh risk, count cost, and in full view of the world, press forward. You are real, and we are mighty glad about it.”
Most of ECU’s employees and students are women, at 63 and 60 percent respectively.
“The majority of human beings on our campus are women and they combine their dynamic leadership abilities with courage and intellect to elevate and enhance our thriving academic environment,” said Chancellor Cecil Staton. “This committee draws attention to the achievement of women at ECU. This is important in the life of our university.”
One of the recipients was named the Linda Allred Profiles in Leadership Award recipient: Dr. Susan McGhee, associate dean of the College of Health and Human Performance.
“I’m feeling overwhelmed, humbled and shocked,” said McGhee, who did not know she won the award until the ceremony. “I’m so appreciative. I’m amazed at the other women here. You can certainly see how they are all deserving of this award. I knew Linda Allred; though I didn’t work closely with her, I respected what she did. I was trained as an associate dean by Sharon Knight, who was the first Allred recipient, so this is especially meaningful to me.”
Allred was an associate professor in ECU's psychology department. She directed the women's studies program from 1994-95 and was a strong advocate for women's rights and for Americans with disabilities. She used a wheelchair for the last several years of her life due to a debilitating condition, and remained an enthusiastic mentor to many faculty and students before she died in 2005. The first award in her honor was given in 2007.
“Like most of you, I believe that a leader is not born, but that the ability to lead is cultivated and nurtured along the way,” said Dr. Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for student affairs. “These recipients impact the experience of thousands of students.”
Many people worked together to make this event happen, according to planning committee chair Eleanor Cook, assistant director for discovery and technology services at Joyner Library and CCSW member.
“This event was incredibly supported by the College of Business hospitality management program, which is our tradition,” Cook said. “The students in Dr. George Fenich and Dr. Alleah Crawford's classes poured their creativity into the project. They also worked the event and helped the caterer. All of this provides the students a learning experience but it also helps us defray costs associated with the catering, decorations and similar.”
Students served in other key roles; Chloe Mintel did graphic design work, and students from the School of Music also provided entertainment. The event was sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor, the Office of the Provost, the Division of Student Affairs, ECU Police, Joyner Library and Human Resources.
2017 Women of Distinction