Find Events Find People Find Jobs Find Sites Find Help Index


December 9, 2002

Anniversary event heralds decade of work for Women's Center

By Stephanie Sonnenfeld

While the weather outside was cold and slightly icy, the Miller-Ward Alumni house was warm with celebration last Wednesday night as a crowd of about 250 gathered for the Emory Women’s Center’s (EWC) 10th anniversary gala, Dec. 4.

“Wine, Women & Song!” was the theme of the evening, and it provided what its name promised. After a wine reception, gala chairs Patti Owen- Smith, Oxford psychology professor, and Paula Washington, ’95G, kicked off the celebration with “Women in Our Lives,” a photo montage and reading of names of women submitted by the Emory community. College senior Tina Lu performed Schubert’s “Sonata in B-flat Major” as accompaniment to the presentation.

“Tonight, we celebrate the women of Emory University, and in doing so we celebrate the lives of all the women who have nurtured us, supported us, taught us and loved us,” Owen-Smith said. Familiar faces on the Emory campus flashed upon the screen (concluding with a final “surprise” photo of EWC Director Ali Crown) along with other women whom Owen-Smith called “our mothers, sisters, daughters, teachers, students, partners and friends.”

Women weren’t the only ones honored at the event. Emory President Emeritus James Laney was cited for his efforts in helping to establish the EWC during his tenure, which lasted from 1977–93.

A recent book detailed Laney’s time and accomplishments as Emory president but left out a somber, pivotal and telling moment in Laney’s history, Crown said.

In 1990, the campus was shocked by the occurrence of two date rapes during one weekend. The community was ‘enraged,’ Crown recalled.

“I had never seen [Laney] so worried—not just sympathetic and concerned, but almost grief-stricken and at the same time, intensely thoughtful,” she continued. “His first thoughts were about—and this is very characteristic—healing our community.”

Following news of the rapes, Laney initiated dialogue with the Emory community and appointed a group to address the situation. Crown said he was intent on making the campus a safe place to learn and work. What resulted was the idea for a women’s center.

“With a lot of hard work on the part of many people and the important support of Jim Laney, that became reality in 1992,” Crown said. “The rest is history, and that’s what we are celebrating tonight.”

On behalf of the EWC, Crown presented Laney with a framed commendation honoring the entire scope of his work, which was met with a standing ovation from the audience. Following the event, Laney admitted the growth of the EWC was far beyond anything he could have initially conceived when it first began.

“It’s all due to Ali Crown, and I don’t know why I’m being honored,” he said with a smile.
Gospel trio D’Vine (which includes Emory Hospital employee Paula Saunders) concluded the formal program with performance. Guests then enjoyed a buffet dinner.

The gala isn’t the only event honoring EWC’s anniversary. In the fall, EWC hosted “Conversations With Six Notable Emory Women,” a program featuring a cross-section of faculty, staff and students discussing their Emory experiences. In the spring, there will be an exhibit at Woodruff Library’s Schatten Gallery highlighting women’s lives at Emory through photographs from Special Collections.

For more information on the Women’s Center and its programs, call 404-727-2000
or visit