March 1, 2004

Praises sung for campus women

By Stephanie Stinn

Over the last seven years, 28 women have been honored as Unsung Heroines by the Women's Center, and their ranks expanded with the addition of five more, who were duly honored at the event's annual banquet on Tuesday, Feb. 24, at Miller-Ward Alumni House.

The awards are given to women who have demonstrated extraordinary dedication to issues affecting women at Emory or in the larger community, but whose efforts have not received formal recognition. This year's honorees include: Piper Beatty (undergraduate); Jenny Higgins (graduate); Kristen Looney (staff); Donna Jean Brogan (faculty) and Patricia Boyle (alumna).  

This year's event also included a special posthumous recognition of Sidney Howell Fleming ('64M), who helped pave the road for women in Emory's medical school community and served as a role model for students and colleagues alike. Fleming, who died in February 2003, was the only female in her graduating class and four years later was appointed to the medical school's admission commission--a post she held for over 35 years. She also was an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science, in addition to serving as director of training for psychiatry residents.

Gender issues were the topic of much of Fleming's scholarly research. She taught courses about bias against women and wrote an article on Emory's first female medical student, who graduated in 1946. She conducted extensive research on the background and impact of allowing women to vote in Wyoming when it was a territory--50 years before it became legal.

Like Fleming, this year's Unsung Heroines displayed a trait for wide-reaching interests that went beyond their chosen field of study or daily job tasks.

"All five women have different roles here at the University but share one thing in common: Each has given unselfishly of her time and talents to all women and our entire University," said Paula Greenfield Washington ('95G), current chair of the Women's Center Advisory Board.

Beatty (a senior majoring in women's studies and English) not only has her plate full with academic obligations, but she is also involved with Volunteer Emory. For the last three years, she has served in a variety of leadership roles in the organization, from program coordinator leading weekly service trips to the Atlanta Children's Shelter, to organizing the group's Women's History Month celebration. She has also served as an overnight worker at Atlanta's Shearith Israel Women's Shelter and has worked with Jerusalem House, a permanent shelter for women and children with HIV/AIDS.

Higgins' interest in women's issues doesn't stop with her research as a graduate student in women's studies--it is a constant in all her activities. As the student concerns committee chair for the President's Commission on the Status of Women, she led the development of a widely-praised comprehensive plan to address and prevent sexual harassment on campus. Recently, Higgins organized a fundraiser for the Feminist Women's Health Center and used that role to coach young volunteers who lacked experience in planning and fundraising.

It was debate that brought Looney to Emory not once, but twice in her lifetime. Looney was first recruited by Emory while a high school debate champion and she attended Emory from 1997-98, prior to her transfer to Wellesley College. During her time at Emory she was involved with the Urban Debate League (UDL), where she is currently operations manager. After her 2001 graduation, Looney was named a Fulbright scholar and studied in Bejing, working as an English teacher in a migrant school and conducting independent research. She also served as Carter Center intern and prepare President Jimmy Carter's briefing book to his trip to China last year. Looney was unable to attend the banquet as she was in China, helping to locate a missing young boy she befriended as a teacher.

In 1971, Brogan was the first woman appointed to a faculty position in the biometry and statistics department in the School of Medicine, and in 1980 she became the fourth woman in the history of the school to be promoted to full professor. In 1991, she broke another barrier by being named the first female chair of the Rollins School of Public Health's biostatistics department. Her prolific research long has focused on women's health issues, with a particular emphasis on breast cancer, reproductive and lesbian health. Her commitment to women's issues reach beyond her profession, most notably illustrated with her 1972 class action suit against DeKalb County; at the time the county required all married women to register to vote in their husband's name.

As an undergraduate at Emory, Boyle ('94C) was involved with the Coalition Against Rape at Emory (CARE) during a period of widely publicized sexual assault incidents on campus. She helped coordinate education programs around these issues, particularly focusing on the prevention of violence against women. She used her roles in her sorority and as a sophomore resident advisor to alert students to sexual assault. Professionally, she has mentored and advised women entering her field of neuropsychology and Alzheimer's research.

For more information on past Unsung Heroine award winners, please visit .