Women's History Month concludes with a reflective reception

President Kyle with Loren Phillips after the ceremonies

Radford University's observation of Women's History Month came to an end with a celebration of the many women who have shaped the university’s storied history.

Faculty, students and staff attended the 2016 Women's History Month Closing Reception March 30 at the Covington Center for the Visual and Performing Arts to reflect on the month's theme, "Our History is Our Strength."

The month-long celebration examined the contributions women make in society, from academia to the arts, from politics to social justice. Centerpieces of the month were the Circle of Life Intergenerational Dialogues, where an inner circle of women from one generation spoke to an outer circle of participants from other generations about their life experiences and what it is like to be a woman in a particular age group.

Distinguished scholars from other universities joined Radford’s month-long celebration and other events included the annual performances of the Paradigm Shift dance performance and Her-Story Celebration featuring poems, sketches and photo journals by RU students, faculty, staff and administrators.

President Penelope Kyle – the first woman to hold that role at Radford University – shared her thoughts on women’s history on campus and off.

“One generation’s struggle gives rise to the next generation’s opportunity,” she said. “For women of all backgrounds, the struggle has been mighty.”

Kyle shared a remembrance of an event held during her 2006 inauguration, a symposium titled “Women's Leadership in a Global Society,“ which brought Maya Angelou, former Egyptian First Lady Jehan Sedat and current Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton to campus.

“They made it clear to me how vital it is for women to show support for one another and help lift those that need to be lifted,” she said. “These women embodied that philosophy.”

The president was joined in recognizing women’s contributions at Radford by Moira Baker, professor of English and head of the Women’s Studies program.

Baker asked attendees to remember women throughout history and around the world and recognize that it is through their struggle that many advances were made.

“We celebrate women’s long historical struggle in the U.S. and globally,” Baker said. “And we try to continue their struggle for equality, justice and peace.”

Baker was joined by Sarah Hastings, assistant director of Women's Studies and professor of psychology, in honoring two women who have done just that: Pat Brown and Betty Jones of the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley (WRCNRV).

For three decades, the WRCNRV has provided resources, assistance and, occasionally, a roof to local women who need shelter from abuse or assault.  Brown and Jones work tirelessly on behalf of New River Valley women and have collaborated extensively with Radford University and its students.

Baker and Hastings invited these important allies to the front of the assembly to receive Lifetime Achievement awards for their work.

“I didn’t start out in my 20s and 30s thinking that this is what I will do for the rest of my life,” said Pat Brown, executive director of the WRCNRV. “But why would you go or do anything else when you could change lives, change systems and maybe change the world?”

Upon accepting her award, Jones, coordinator for the WRCNRV sexual assault program, cited the important relationship she has shared with Radford University.

“I just want to say I’m honored and humbled by this,” Jones said. “I was born and bred on this campus. I learned about women’s issues here. I learned how to be an advocate on this campus.”

Also handed out at the event for the first time were commencement stoles for graduating Women’s Studies minors. The assembled students received the gold-colored stoles in turn, to applause and recognition from reception guests.

The minor offers students a range of courses with an emphasis on women, the contributions they have made to society and the effects of gender inequality in society.

For Hannah Knowles, a double major in sociology and English, studying women’s issues has been an important aspect of life at Radford.

“It’s empowering to study these things at a school that has such an important history for women in Virginia,” said Knowles, a Winchester native. “And Dr. Baker and other faculty really talk about social justice issues. They help us get involved.”

Baker, who is stepping down from her director position and passing the torch to Hastings, had one more person on which to bestow a stole: President Kyle.

The president thanked Baker for her hard work and pointed to her as an inspiration for women on campus. She also took a moment to challenge all assembled to use history to shape their futures, citing the phrase “well-behaved women seldom make history.”

“It is a phrase that reminds us of Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton; of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton; of Rosa Parks and Maya Angelou,” Kyle said. “I challenge you to remember that phrase and consider all the ways you might be remembered. Find your path and take it, and if you have to misbehave on the way, well, you are in incredible company.”

For more photos of the reception, view the gallery below.


Individuals who played a role in making Women's History Month this year and in years past take a "Broadway" style bow at the end of the ceremonies.

Apr 5, 2016