Women took center stage Oct. 29 when the Office of University Development honored the important research being done by University of Maine women scientists and celebrated the many women philanthropists who have made the university’s critical work possible.
Held at Buchanan Alumni House, the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy lunch featured five award-winning UMaine women scientists and researchers who shared their impressive work with nearly 140 alumni, supporters, and faculty and staff members. Presenters were:
- Dr. Mary Rumpho Kennedy, Professor of Biochemistry, Microbiology & Molecular Biology, whose ground breaking research could lead to breakthroughs in understanding immunity and disease;
- Dr. Marie Hayes, Professor of Psychology and Allied Senior Research Scientist at the Maine Institute for Human Genetics & Health, who is working to establish a connection between abnormal sleep and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in high risk babies;
- Dr. Carol Kim, Associate Professor of Biochemistry, Microbiology & Molecular Biology and Executive Director of the UMaine Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, who is studying the biological factors that supplement and prolong the body’s immune response to infection;
- Dr. Elizabeth Allan, Associate Professor, Educational Leadership/Higher Education and co-author of The National Study on Hazing, who lead a first-of-its-kind nationwide research project to study the prevalence and nature of hazing in colleges and universities; and
- Dr. Kate Beard-Tisdale, Professor of Spatial Information Science & Engineering and Director of the National Center for Geographic Information & Analysis, who is exploring the relationship between cancer and the environment.
Also talking about her work was clothing designer Jill McGowan ’83, who founded Jill McGowan, Inc., in Portland. In addition to outfitting presenters in her famous white shirts, she brought with her a number of items from her collection.
“We are blessed to have so many women at the university who are both gifted leaders and generous philanthropists,” said Barbara Beers ’74, Senior Philanthropic Advisor at the Office of University Development and host of the event. “From our executive staff, more than 50% of whom are women, to our volunteer Board of Visitors, now headed by a woman, UMaine has recognized the power of women as leaders.
“Women are also among UMaine’s most generous donors … putting their personal resources where their passions lie. In fact, over 700 women have made one-time gifts of $5,000 or more to UMaine.”
UMaine President Robert A. Kennedy said, “Women are making huge contributions to your university today. And not only as faculty and staff, but as gifted students as well … One of the things I am most proud of is adding women to the senior staff. In fact, today, that group is predominantly female.”
Beers thanked the sponsors of the event: the Maine Community Foundation, represented by Ellen Pope; Garrand & Company of Portland, represented by Brenda Garrand; and Deighan Associates of Bangor, represented by Jean Deighan. She also acknowledged the 23 women who served on the Host Committee and offered their support for the initiative to build greater numbers of women leaders and philanthropists at UMaine.
Also attending was Karen Baldacci, wife of Gov. John Baldacci, who earned a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition from UMaine in 1983 and a master’s degree in elementary education in 2001. A number of UMaine undergraduate and graduate students were on hand as were three students from local high schools who had been invited by Kathy Allain of Owls Head, a member of the Host Committee.
Participants pronounced the event a huge success.
Ellen Pope, Vice President of the Maine Community Foundation, one of the event’s sponsors, said people came away with “a reinforced sense of the deep network of women philanthropists, a positive view of President Kennedy’s leadership and wisdom in selecting strong talented women for his administration, inspiration from the faculty presentations, and a feel for the vitality of UMaine and its development programs.”
Kathy Allain said it was obvious that the three high school girls she invited had thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
“They were impressed with the whole event,” said Allain, whose husband Stanley graduated from UMaine in 1961. “The speakers had such exciting profiles and they were so gracious – they invited the girls to visit their labs and to call them with questions about UMaine. It was a wonderful opportunity to inspire three young women.”
Cindy Blodgett ’98, UMaine’s head women’s basketball coach, said she had been inspired by the presentation from Jill McGowan, who discussed her burgeoning career and the challenges she encountered as she worked her way up the ladder.
Blodgett was especially interested to hear that McGowan got her start in pattern making at the now-defunct C. F. Hathaway Shirt Factory in Waterville, where Blodgett’s mother had worked for more than 30 years.
“That spoke to me immediately,” Blodgett said. “I remember when I was young and my mom took me to tour the mill. I couldn’t believe she stood on her feet for eight hours every day. She always told me to chase after my dream and pursue the career that I wanted. I loved hearing that Jill became tremendously successful by following her passion. Each person who sat in that room during the Women in Philanthropy event has a tremendous story – they’re the ones who paved the path for me so I could chase after my dreams.”
Blodgett said she also had been impressed by Dr. Allan’s commitment to raising awareness about hazing. “Every year her staff shares information about hazing with our team. I love that she’s so proactive. After her presentation, I go back and talk about it at great length. I look at my team and I know the message doesn’t get lost. I know they understand. ”Posted in News