March 3, 2003

Unsung heroines receive their due

By Stephanie Sonnenfeld

The women honored at this year’s Unsung Heroine banquet represented various interests and causes championed on campus, but each wore the same expression:
a wide smile of appreciation.

A full house gathered to fete the winners of the sixth annual Women’s Center’s Unsung Heroines on Monday, Feb. 24, at a dinner held in the Miller-Ward Alumni House. This year’s honorees include: Susan Borja (undergraduate), Andy Lowry (graduate student), Dana Greene (administrator); Virginia Plummer (staff), Patti Owen-Smith (faculty) and Karen Worthington (alumna).

Additionally, Jennifer Mathis of Facilities Management received a special commendation for bravery and community service from the Emory Police Department (EPD) and a gift of appreciation from the Women’s Center.

During the early morning hours of Monday, Jan. 13, Mathis was en route to work. As she drove past the entrance to Lullwater Park on Clifton Road, Mathis heard a woman

Pulling into the park, Mathis saw Amy Dillenbeck, an exercise physiologist with the Emory Heartwise program, being assaulted by a man. Dillenbeck’s car had been hit by the man on Haygood Drive, and the two had pulled into Lullwater to exchange insurance information when he began to assault her.

Mathis attempted to block the assailant, but he managed to get away (he has since been apprehended). She then helped Dillenbeck—who was pregnant at the time—call for help and waited with her until authorities arrived. Two weeks ago, Dillenbeck gave birth to her daughter, Anna.

“[Mathis] redefined courage and selflessness,” said event co-chair Marion Dearing, when introducing Mathis to the applauding crowd. Quick to deflect any attention, Mathis smiled and hugged EPD Lt. Cheryl Elliott, who presented the commendation.

“Next to these ladies, this is truly nothing,” said Mathis, who has worked as a landscaper at Emory since last fall. “I wish I could do what you do. I was fortunate to do something else, but you ladies are truly the ones who are special.”

Borja (’00Ox, ’02C), who graduated from Emory College last December, is actively involved with the crisis line and as a hospital volunteer with the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center, often volunteering to work extra 12-hour shifts. She also serves as a representative in the center’s speaker bureau and helped plan its weeklong tribute to sexual assault survivors in April. The psychology and sociology double major is a member of the Emory Women’s Alliance and a founding member of the Coalition Against Rape at Emory (CARE). Borja also serves as president of The Umbrella Group, consisting of six student-run peer education and support groups that deal with everything from living healthy lifestyles to rape to eating disorders.

In addition to her work as a graduate student in women’s studies, Lowry volunteers in all capacities with the Women’s Center—from stuffing envelopes one day to representing the center at an informational fair on another. Lowry also works on the center’s student committee and serves as a member of its advisory council. After moving to Atlanta from her native Chicago, she continued her volunteer work with the Feminist Women’s Health Center and started working with the Georgia Abortion Rights Action League.

Greene (’71G) made history and became a trailblazer within the Emory community in July 1999 when she became the first female dean and CEO of Oxford. The Fulbright fellow and former Peace Corps volunteer returned to Emory after a three-decade tenure as a history professor at St. Mary’s College in Maryland, where she served as associate provost for faculty affairs. Greene’s overall dedication to education, her ability to lead and her interest in the well-being of her fellow administrators, staff and students were key reasons she was nominated as an Unsung Heroine, Dearing said, adding that Greene is “always teaching and always learning.”

Plummer has immersed herself in assisting Emory students and the community since she joined the staff of the Student Health Services as a substance-abuse counselor and licensed master social worker in 1999, but began working at Emory in 1997. Her job allows her to work with a wide variety of student-centered organizations, from Residence Life to the SHAPE peer educators group. Plummer is a dedicated member of the University Senate student committee and participates in and represents Emory as a member of several professional organizations. She has found “a balance, a sweet spot between what the world needs, what she does well and serves her passion, exemplifying a life well lived,” Dearing said.

Owen-Smith, professor of psychology and women’s studies at Oxford, has long been a champion of women’s rights and equality on both the Oxford and Emory campuses. She helped establish the women’s studies programs at both Oxford and Emory, and was one of the founding members of the Women’s Center—in addition to her work with numerous women’s organizations in the metro area. Owen-Smith also has been the recipient of several teaching awards, including the Phi Theta Kappa and Mizel Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Faculty Appreciation Award for Innovative Teaching. She was a Pew Scholar with the National Fellowship Program of the Carnegie Foundation’s Teaching Academy.

Worthington (’94L) first came to Emory as a law student, returning to campus in 2000 as a faculty member and director of the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic. Last summer she was named director of the Southern Juvenile Defender Center (SJDC). Prior to coming to Emory, she was director of program development for the Fulton County Juvenile Court and worked as a staff attorney with the Juvenile Advocacy Division of Georgia Indigent Defense Council. “Karen’s professional dedication makes the world a better place for children, thus making it a better place for us all,” Dearing said to the crowd, which included Worthington’s newborn daughter, Maile Worthington Crowe.






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