Commission for Women celebrates 25 years at Penn State

April 04, 2006

University Park, Pa. -- The Penn State Commission for Women celebrated the accomplishments of women throughout the University's history, and honored some of the University's notable achieving women at its annual spring banquet, held Monday, April 3, at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on the University Park campus. For photos from the event, visit online.

Penn State President Graham B. Spanier commended the commission for its work over the years. "Twenty-five years ago, those path-breaking women could not have known where their work would lead. They were simply trying to find their voice, and change minds and attitudes. But their work, and yours subsequently, has forever altered the face of our University," he said.

Over the years, the commission has been responsible for myriad policy changes; the creation of new programs, initiatives and research studies; and increased campus safety. The commission has launched programs geared toward students, and for women in every employment category at the University, and has helped increase the representation of women at the highest levels.

From 1981 to today, the percentage of women with tenure at Penn State has more than doubled, reaching 25 percent of all faculty. Women now make up 35 percent of the Unviersity's faculty ranks. Women now hold 24 percent of the University's executive positions, as opposed to just 7 percent in 1981. Since 1981, there has been a 200 percent increase in the number of women holding positions in the administrative ranks, including academic administrators.

Spanier, who noted that it won't be long before he will have been president for half of the years the commission has existed, thanked the group for its insight, action and vigilance over the years. "However, as with most successes, the work must continue," he said. "While many obstacles to women's progress have been eliminated, some still persist. I look forward to the day when everyone understands that the human race will reach its highest potential when equality is achieved. I appreciate your work in making Penn State a more welcoming community, as well as a more equitable and just community. And I look forward to your continued work on behalf of the women at Penn State.

In addition to honoring the 2006 Achieving Women Award winners and the Rosemary Schraer Mentor Award recipient, the commission recalled the women of Penn State's past through a program titled "A Legacy of Women's Voices," which was produced and directed by Jo Dumas, lecturer in communications, and performed by Helen Manfull, professor emeritus of theatre arts; graduate student Crystal Endsley; and Sherrin McKenzie, group and program sales coordinator with the Center for Performing Arts at Penn State. The Essence of Joy choir provided music for the program, which featured highlights from the commemorative book, "We are a Strong, Articulate Voice: A History of Women at Penn State," written by Carol Sonenklar.

Portraying Mary Willard, Manfull said, "I returned (to Penn State) as professor of chemistry, and developed some academic techniques which proved to be useful in criminal investigations. My work helped to convict a rather notorious criminal in 1931. ... although education was my primary work. During my 40 years as professor, I taught over 4,400 students. ... In 1965, (I) was given the Woman of the Year Award. I have to believe there are a few more women enjoying careers in science today, because of me."

McKenzie, speaking as Board of Trustees Chair Cynthia Baldwin, who recently was confirmed as a justice of the State Supreme Court, said, "I ran for judge because an African-American woman had just run -- and lost. It was 1989. It ... was ... time. And I became the first female African-American judge in Allegheny County. Neither of my parents went to college, but there was never any doubt that I would attend. ... The most anyone can ask is to be able to have a discussion with all sides represented before a decision is made. That's why you need to institutionalize diversity. ALL TYPES of diversity -- geographic, racial and gender."

As Jan Jacobs, who was vice president for Undergraduate Education and International Programs until her death this past fall, Manfull described the role of women at Penn State. "Progress has not always come easily, nor has it happened quickly. ... Although individuals who were the first in any category are the ones remembered in the history books, each of these milestones was achieved only because of the tenacity, boundary-pushing and creativity of other women who led the way. Undergirding the efforts of those at the cutting edge also stands a large group of women in clerical, technical and other staff positions, whose perspectives and day-to-day decisions have contributed to the overall climate that has allowed women to make great strides. ... To build on the past and continue to realize the important contributions of all women at Penn State in the future, it will take a clear commitment from both men and women at the institution; risk-taking to push boundaries; and each person doing his or her part. I am proud to be part of this strong tradition of pioneering women, and look forward to the challenge of helping the next generation of women as they build on the accomplishments of those who have come before themand lead the way for those who will follow."

After the program, the Commission for Women honored Amy K. Glasmeier, E. Willard Miller professor of economic geography and John Whisman Appalachian scholar in the Department of Geography, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, who is this year's Rosemary Schraer Mentor Award recipient. The award, established by the Penn State Commission for Women, is presented each spring to a University employee who exemplifies Rosemary Schraer's giving of herself as a mentor and who has voluntarily, over a period of time, excelled in helping others recognize and achieve their potential. Consideration is given to any employee, administrator, faculty, technical-service or staff member who has a record of outstanding mentoring service going beyond the requirements of his/her employment duties and responsibilities. Mentoring is defined as advising, facilitating, encouraging and/or paving the way for others to recognize and realize their potential in both personal and professional endeavors.

According to Lee Carpenter, contract coordinator/writer with the Child, Youth and Family Consortium, her primary nominator, "The essence of Amy Glasmeier is her innate ability to listen to what a person says about their professional needs and dreams, and then to pluck from a dizzying array of resources those that will enable them to meet those needs and achieve those dreams. She is one of those vital individuals who listens, offers advice and then run ahead 10 steps as colleagues move toward achievement, cheering them on at every stage and step. ... She has touched so many lives, from so many walks of life and so many career stages -- faculty, tenured and tenure-track, research and administrative staff, graduate and undergraduate student -- I only tapped the surface of the legions who would have praised Amy as a mentor."

Earlier in the evening, the following women were honored as winners of the 2006 Achieving Women Award:

-- Undergraduate student (nontraditional): Sister Alice O'Connell, third-year, undergraduate adult learner enrolled in the honors program at
Penn State Fayette as a human development and family studies major. A member of the Vincentian Sisters of Charity for 25 years and a licensed practical nurse for 15 years, she excels in her new role as a student as well. She presented a literary analysis at Penn State's annual Undergraduate English Conference, traveled to Canada to participate in an honors study of migratory birds, mentors other students, ministers daily to the needy, and supervises teenagers renovating older homes in the community.

-- Undergraduate student (traditional): Resham Patel, a third-year kinesiology student and Schreyer Honors College scholar. She is an active member of Penn State's Women's Leadership Initiative, serves on numerous diversity committees and networks, and is a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts of America. Leadership contributions include volunteering as a peer mentor and a faculty senator for the College of Health and Human Development. Passionate about global humanitarian issues, she served youth roles as a delegate to the commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, representative to the World Bank Conference on Youth Peace and Development in Bosnia, and delegate to the United Nations Special Session on Children.

-- Faculty: Luanne Thorndyke, associate dean for professional development in the College of Medicine. Thorndyke inspires students and faculty as a compassionate physician and mentor. Early in her career, she developed a successful private practice, as well as a clinic that reached out to the underserved population of inner-city Philadelphia. She has advocated for women's health and professional development by serving as a member of the Coordinating Committee for Women in Medicine programs at the Association of American Medical Colleges, founding the Penn State Rural Women's Health Initiative, implementing the Junior Faculty Development Program, advising the student chapter of the American Medical Women's Association, and volunteering at the Bethesda Mission clinic in Harrisburg.

-- Staff nonexempt: Joyce Barnhart, staff assistant to the chancellor at Penn State Fayette. Barnhart performs the myriad responsibilities
of her position with proficiency and aplomb. Beyond the scope of these duties, her dedication and involvement have generously extended to
include coordinating high-profile events, leading campus-wide team efforts, and representing Penn State in an exceptionally positive light. For her professional expertise and remarkable initiative, Joyce earned the Commonwealth College's Outstanding Support Staff Award last spring.

-- Administrator: Josephine Carubia, chief academic liaison officer in the College of Medicine. Carubia has established new education and scientific alliances between the College of Medicine and other Penn State campuses and the Centre County health-care community. She continues to provide leadership as the key administrator for the President's Health Sciences 2020 Team to study health sciences University-wide. Carubia strives to make a better community through her multiple volunteer and mentoring activities and her role as president of the Board of Directors of Global Connections, a community nonprofit group affiliated with Penn State.

-- Staff exempt: Giovanna Genard recently accepted a position as director, Communications and Student Services in the Office of Student Aid. In her previous role at the Alumni Association, she developed online services that now serve more than 450,000 alumni, including the University's first e-commerce store, portal, and online balloting. As chair of the President's Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity in 2004-05, she spearheaded efforts that led to University improvements in recruiting diverse faculty and staff, honoring the late Martin Luther King Jr., and supporting employee participation on commissions and committees.

-- Technical service: Sandra Lutz has been a residence hall utility worker in Warnock Commons for four years. Despite added challenges associated with the North Halls demolition and remodeling project last year, she worked exceptionally hard to ensure that the area remained safe and clean for students who depend on it and regard North Halls as their home. During this time, she also faced a life-threatening illness to which she responded with remarkable spirit and determination. Extraordinarily, she missed no work during this time period and, after a year, is doing well, answering students' needs, and serving Penn State.

  • For more photos from the evening, click on the image above.

    IMAGE: Annemarie Mountz
Last Updated October 27, 2015