Three outstanding Rochester women will be honored by the National Women’s Hall of Fame at a “Keeper of the Flame” ceremony and reception on December 14, 2016, to be held at the Del Monte Lodge in Pittsford, N.Y. at 6 pm. This year’s honorees are Sue S. Stewart, former Senior Vice President and General Counsel at the University of Rochester, Dorothy Coleman, Executive Vice President and CFO at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, and Christine Whitman, Chairman and CEO of Complemar Partners Inc. and President of the Board, Rochester Institute of Technology. The named institutions, as well as Canandaigua National Bank, sponsored nomination of these influential and accomplished women. Ecomiums on each of the women will be read by emcee Ginny Ryan, WHAM TV News Anchor, at the ceremony, outlining the accomplishments for which they were selected for this honor. In addition, our traditional Keeper of the Flame poem will be read.
A limited number of tickets to the ceremony and reception are available for $50, and can be obtained by calling the Hall at 315-568-8060.
Since its inception in 1969, the Hall has inducted 266 historical and contemporary women at its biennial Induction Ceremony — guided by its mission statement: “Showcasing Great Women – Inspiring All”. According to Board President Jeanne Giovannini, “We are cognizant of the fact that 266 inductees are but a fraction of the many great women in our nation. The Keeper of the Flame award was initiated by the Hall in 2005 to honor other deserving women within communities around the country.”
The only other Rochester (NY) recipient of the Hall’s “Keeper of the Flame” award is Dr. Wende W. Logan-Young, for her ground-breaking work on the detection of Breast Cancer. She opened one of the first free-standing centers in the US – the Elizabeth Wende Breast Care Clinic.
Why a “Keeper of the Flame”? In 1977, a torch with a symbolic flame was relayed from Seneca Falls to Houston, a distance of 2600 miles, by over 1000 runners. Houston was the site of the 1977 National Women’s Conference. Millicent Brady Moore, a descendent of Susan Quinn Brown, the youngest attendee at the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention, started the relay race, handing the torch to Kathrine Switzer, the first official female competitor in the Boston Marathon. Ms. Switzer raced a distance, then passed the torch to two-time Olympic Gold Medalist in swimming, Donna De Varona. Both women are Hall Inductees. This same torch will be passed to our three 2016 “Keepers of the Flame”.
To illustrate the diversity of past honorees, we highlight a few below.
Dawn Seymour, from New York, was one of only 13 women to graduate from B-17 combat training as “first pilot” and in 1943 she joined the WASPs (Women Air Force Service Pilots) to serve in WWII. Ms. Seymour was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Award by the National Women’s Hall of Fame for her service, and for her unswerving attempts to keep this part of women’s history alive.
Citing her invaluable dedication to increasing public understanding of the world-changing accomplishments of Susan B. Anthony, the National Women’s Hall of Fame recognized Lorie Lachiusa Barnum, retiring Executive Director of the Susan B. Anthony House with its “Keeper of the Fame Award” in 2005.
A special event honored the Veteran Feminists of America (an organization of Second Wave Feminists) as “Keepers of the Flame” in Seneca Falls. Seventeen of the living members were able to attend, coming from NY, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and California. The Hall honors American women from all professions, but Seneca Falls holds a special place in history as the site of the first Women’s Rights Convention in the Wesleyan Chapel in 1848. A few of the Second Wave Feminists (e.g. Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Charlotte Bunch and Karen DeCrow) have been inducted into the Hall, but every pioneer feminist who worked so hard to achieve equal rights for women was acknowledged at the 2010 event.
Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, a woman who has devoted her career to community service, received a “Keeper of the Flame” award to acknowledge her service. She speaks frequently on philanthropy, community impact, non-profit governance, and diversity to various groups. Ms. Dedecker is a former President of the Hall’s Board of Directors.
Betsy Farmer of Melbourne Florida received the Hall’s “Keeper of the Flame” award at the Crowne Plaza – Melbourne Oceanfront, in Indialantic, Florida. Ms. Farmer was selected for the award for her outstanding dedication and successes improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities.
Peggy Brooks-Bertram and Barbara Seals Nevergold founded the “Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research and Education on Women” in 1999 to bring African American women’s stories to light, and in August 2006, the pair was honored with the Hall’s “Keeper of the Flame” Award in recognition of their continued commitment to the institute.
Finally, at the Hyatt Regency in Boston, Karen Jacobs, a clinical professor of occupational therapy at Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Boston University, was honored for her work in occupational therapy, specifically for her research on the effects of computer and backpack use on university and middle-school-aged students.