March 6 , 2006
Eight more Heroines
hear their praises sung
BY Stacey Jones
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once said, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” Whether on the international stage or in Emory’s own backyard, the eight women chosen as this year’s Unsung Heroines made the kinds of contributions, large and small, that break down barriers and confront compelling social issues.
All eight were honored at the ninth annual Unsung Heroines Awards reception and dinner, sponsored by the Center for Women and held Feb. 23 in a packed Governor’s Hall at Miller-Ward Alumni House.
Leslie Gilbert ’06C is a survivor of sexual assault. As a first-year student, she bravely spoke out about her own experience and since then has dedicated herself to raising awareness. She is the founder of Sexual Assault Awareness Greek Advocates (SAAGA) at Emory. Said Leslie Campis, director of sexual assault response, “Leslie Gilbert’s is the first voice to break the silence of the Emory community on this important issue.”
Rebecca Vallas ’06C, a partner to Gilbert in launching SAAGA, helped “Take Back the Night” at Emory, a reference to an event last October she helped plan on campus. The annual worldwide event is meant to protest and bring attention to rape and other forms of violence against women. Vallas’ efforts helped “Take Back the Night at Emory” earn a perpetual charter from College Council.
Medical student Carmen Patrick Mohan ’07M received thunderous applause when emcee Brenda Bynum described how Mohan recruited other women in her undergraduate biomedical engineering program at the University of Maryland to help develop a less painful mammography machine. Mohan is the founder of Context, the nation’s first peer-reviewed online journal dedicated to student engagement in communities, receiving a large grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in the process. The first issue of Context will appear this spring.
Alumna Kim Miller ’88C ’89G, a CDC senior research sociologist in HIV/AIDS, was honored for her commitment to providing minority mothers with the tools and resources needed to raise “happy, healthy and fulfilled children.” Her nominator wrote, “Kim fought to bring a social perspective to the institution’s narrow biomedical approach to disease prevention” by pushing her colleagues to acknowledge the “myriad social influences—including race, class and gender—that affect individuals’ ability to keep themselves safe from HIV infection.”
When University Libraries business librarian Lee Pasackow received a call in 2003 from the International Rescue Committee to help the Makors, a family of Sudanese refugees, adjust to life in Atlanta, she couldn’t have imagined how important she’d become in their lives and they in hers. From navigating school paperwork and arranging for tutors for the family’s two children, to helping their mother apply for a job that would allow her to learn English at night, Pasackow “answered the call of duty that many of us never even hear, much less answer,” Bynum said.
Susan Carini ’04G, executive director of Emory Creative Group and junior chair-elect of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), wrote her master’s thesis on gender bias at the heart of the classic television series “I Love Lucy.” But as chair of the PCSW’s staff concerns committee, she tackled the decidedly unfunny challenges working mothers face in attempting to nurse their babies. Under her leadership, the committee secured funding for six additional lactation centers across campus and a commitment that each new Emory building will include a private room for lactating mothers.
In the late 1970s, when she arrived at Emory to assume a tenure-track position in the Candler School of Theology, Roberta Bondi was the first woman to do so. Some years later, her promotion to full professor was a first as well. Founder of the Women, Theology and Ministry program, Bondi’s scholarship brings to light the remarkable but little-known women of the early church. Her nominator said that no one has believed more in the “importance of the relationship of scholarship to lived experience” than Bondi, who has shared her own knowledge, beliefs and experience in a series of well-regarded books and served as a mentor for women at Emory and elsewhere.
Three years of medical residencies in large Northeastern hospitals filled with “ward after ward” of women suffering and dying from botched abortions set Betty Connell, professor emeritus of gynecology and obstetrics, on the path to lifetime activism in support of women’s reproduction rights. As an associate professor at New York Medical College in the 1960s, she left a lucrative group practice to open a series of family-planning clinics in New York’s ‘Spanish Harlem.’ The first woman to chair a female-majority Food & Drug Administration committee on contraceptives, Connell also was the first female member of the U.S. State Department’s Research Advisory Committee.
The Unsung Heroines banquet was underwritten by TIAA-CREF.