Honored at the 2015 Women of Distinction awards celebration were, front row left to right, Dr. Rachel Roper, Dr. Mary Farwell, Dr. Alice Arnold, Bernita Demery and Rosie Thompson; back row left to right, Dr. Lorrie Basnight, Lori Lee, Dr. Holly Mathews, Mandee Lancaster and Dr. Sarah Wiliams. (Photos by Jay Clark)

Event honors female faculty, staff & alumni for outstanding contributions

April 14, 2015

By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

Ten inspiring women were honored April 13 in a ceremony at the Murphy Center that celebrated the impacts women have – large and small – on East Carolina University and the world.

The Women of Distinction awards celebration is held every other year, organized by ECU’s Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women. Each award recognizes a woman who demonstrates outstanding leadership through the type and quality of work she does inside and outside the university; the breadth and diversity of that work; her level of leadership in all aspects of life; mentoring; and her commitment to diversity, empowerment, equality, equity and/or social justice.
ECU anthropology professor Dr. Holly Mathews, center, was honored with the Dr. Linda Allred Profiles in Leadership Award.

Dr. Holly Mathews, professor of anthropology and founding member of the ECU Women’s Studies Program, received the highest honor this year: the Dr. Linda Allred Profiles in Leadership Award.

Allred was an associate professor in the Department of Psychology known as an enthusiastic mentor to faculty and students and a strong advocate for women’s rights and for Americans with disabilities. She died in 2005, and the award was named in her honor in 2007.

“I was fortunate to have known Linda when she taught at ECU and served as director of Women's Studies,” Mathews said. “She set an example of leadership and service for all women to aspire to achieve. I feel extremely honored and humbled to be recognized with this award named in her honor.”

Mathews has taught 20 different courses in her 33 years at ECU, and participated in or chaired over 50 thesis committees. She remains on the executive committee for Women’s Studies and organizes and participates in numerous women’s groups. Her work in the community furthers those commitments and includes service to a shelter for homeless women and children, to the Center for Family Violence Prevention and mentoring breast cancer survivors in a tri-county area.

“I am only one of many outstanding women on campus who devote themselves daily to helping colleagues and students succeed,” Mathews continued. “Be persistent and never be afraid to be the ‘squeaky wheel’ when an issue needs to be addressed. I have found that speaking out is crucial but so is working diligently and respectfully behind the scenes to try and implement positive changes that will benefit others.”

Also recognized this year as Women of Distinction are:

  • Dr. Alice Arnold, professor of art education in the School of Art and Design;

  • Dr. Lorrie Basnight, executive director of the Eastern Area Health Education Center and associate dean for Clinical Medical Education at the Brody School of Medicine;

  • Bernita Demery, financial services director for the City of Greenville and ECU alumna;

  • Dr. Mary Farwell, professor of biology in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, assistant vice chancellor for research and director for undergraduate research in the Division of Research and Graduate Studies;

  • Mandee Lancaster, program director for the Office of Innovation and Economic Development’s Shelton Leadership Challenge;

  • Lori Lee, program specialist in the Office of the Faculty Senate;

  • Dr. Rachel Roper, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Brody School of Medicine and CCSW faculty co-chair;

  • Rosie Thompson, former associate athletics director and senior women’s administrator at ECU;

  • Dr. Sarah Williams, associate professor of special education in the College of Education and director of the STEPP Program.

Prior to the presentation of the awards, keynote speaker Erin Mintmier described her experiences working in war zones near Iraq and in Afghanistan for the United Service Organization. She stressed how many times she observed a small gesture of kindness – a cup of coffee, a hug, sharing a story – having a significant effect on a soldier’s life.

“Their impacts are and will continue to be life changing for so many,” Mintmier said of the Women of Distinction. “If they have made these grand impacts throughout their lives, the little impacts must surely be too numerous to count.”

The Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women is a volunteer organization composed of ECU faculty, staff and students. It is tasked with the planning, implementation and evaluation of policies and practices to promote equity and further the welfare of all women associated with ECU.

Working closely with the committee, students from Drs. Alleah Crawford and George Fenich’s School of Hospitality Leadership courses planned and executed the event as part of their curriculum. Other sponsors of the event included the Chancellor’s Office, the Women’s Studies Program and the Department of Human Resources.