International Women’s Day

In honor of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d write about some of the women I admire. These are women I know/knew personally, women who have influenced me on my journey. It’s not an exhaustive list – just a few names that popped into my head when I saw today’s Google Doodle “celebrating progress on the path to gender equity”.

In addition to honoring Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day with this post, I was also struck by the picture that popped up on my desktop today (my desktop rotates through my travel pictures). It’s a picture of the base of a sculpture with these words: Mitákuye Oyás’in. This is a phrase from the Lakota language celebrating the belief that we’re all connected. I believe in this world view of interconnectedness – the tree of life with many branches and strong roots to support us all even through divisiveness, distress, and discord. So – in the words of a Lakota prayer – here’s “to the mineral nation” that builds and maintains our bones, here’s “to the plant nation” that sustains our bodies and organs, here’s “to the animal nation” that offers “loyal companionship in this walk of life”, here’s “to the human nation” with whom we share our paths “upon the sacred wheel of Earthly life”. And here’s to the women who touch, heal, preach, lead, support, drive, build, engineer, defend, create, collaborate, serve, protect, and connect us all.

Mary Sue Butler and Betty Jean Campbell. Mary Sue was my first piano teach, and Betty Jean was my last piano teacher. From them I learned musicianship, the central role of regular practice, how to get through the terrors of recitals, how to accompany as well as how to play a solo, and most importantly, how music – all sorts of music – can save and sooth the soul.

Mrs. Endorf, Mrs. Shuck, Miss Brooks, Mrs. White, Mrs. Toole, Mrs. Tuttle – my first through sixth grade teachers. Ah, the many, many, many lessons – life lessons, penmanship lessons, spelling lessons, science lessons, math lessons – that I learned from these women.

Dr. Donetta Goodall. Donetta was the first woman leader in higher education to impact me. She altered my sense about what I could be and do at ACC, and shaped my approach to leadership. Perhaps there were other women before her on my journey – but frankly, higher education leadership was a male prerogative as I entered my early roles as a leader. Donetta is calm, gracious, funny, patient, and forthright. She saw something in me – even when I was an interim dean who knew nothing about what it meant to be dean – that she supported, enabled, and applauded. She is a lovely lady – and I learned a lot working for her and watching her in action.

Midge Jones. My Aunt Midge was a hardworking, lovely, generous lady with a great laugh, a great sense of style, and a great love for me and my sister. Among many things, she taught me that you could “color outside the lines” – NOT something my parents ever taught me. When my sister and I were visiting her and headed off to spend the day at Six Flags (we were probably 12 and 14), she fed us hamburgers for breakfast. At the age of 12, I had no idea that you could eat hamburgers for breakfast! Ah, the things I learned from Aunt Midge.

Debra Peterson. I won’t tell you Debra’s story – it’s not mine to tell. But I have known and admired Debra for over 20 years. Life has thrown her all sorts of heavy burdens, yet she perseveres with kindness, compassion, and a smile. If you want an example of endurance with resilience through life’s trials, get to know Debra (if you don’t already).

I celebrate these women and many others who helped me become who I am today. I celebrate the progress that women have made even while knowing that there is much left to do. I’ll end with a little more from the Lakota prayer that I referenced earlier. These women – and many others not mentioned here – “are all my relations, my relatives, without whom I would not live. We are in the circle of life together, co-existing, co-dependent, co-creating our destiny. One, not more important than the other. One nation evolving from the other and yet each dependent upon the one above and the one below.”

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