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University to celebrate Women’s Hall of Fame inductees, Pioneer Woman

Friday, March 25, 2016

LAWRENCE — Since 1970 the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity has honored a select group of women to be inducted into the University of Kansas Women’s Hall of Fame. It honors and celebrates KU’s rich legacy of phenomenal women.

“These women are exemplary members of society in both overall impact and outstanding character,” said Kathy Rose-Mockry, the center’s director. “Many inductees accomplished feats in their respective fields at times when it was practically unheard of for a female to make such progress. The influence of their numerous contributions and achievements is immeasurable, and these women serve as awe-inspiring role models.”

This year’s inductees include Venida Chenault, Alferdteen Brown Harrison, Sharon Lee, Anne Levinson, Patricia N. Long and Carol J. Fabian. 

In addition, the center recognizes as the Pioneer Woman an exemplary Kansas woman who has made historic contributions of local or statewide significance. This year’s Pioneer Woman is Marci Penner.

A celebration to honor the Women’s Hall of Fame inductees and Pioneer Woman recipient will be Wednesday, April 13, with a reception at 5 p.m. in the Adams Alumni Center, followed by the Women’s Recognition Banquet at 6:30 p.m. in the Kansas Union Ballroom. Sign up for the banquet at http://emilytaylorcenter.ku.edu/wr-rsvp

Chenault is the president of Haskell Indian Nations University. She is responsible for the oversight of Haskell’s core mission, which is the education of tribal peoples from every tribe in the United States. She has increased the capacity of Haskell to deliver a quality educational experience through strengthened partnerships at the local, state and federal levels. She has also increased student retention rates under her tenure. She received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate from KU.

Brown Harrison is a retired professor of history and the director of the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center at Jackson State University. She was the first African-American to earn a doctorate in history at the University of Kansas, and she helped establish what became the African and African American Studies department at KU. Harrison created the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center, the first museum to highlight African-Americans in Mississippi. She has become a leading advocate for documenting and preserving African-American history. Harrison has also published several books. She received her bachelor’s from the KU, master’s from Wichita State University and a bachelor of arts from McPherson College.                

Lee is the founding physician and chief executive officer of Southwest Boulevard Family Health Care, a nonprofit health clinic in Kansas City, Kansas. Lee has spent her career providing health care to poor and marginalized people. The clinic treats all patients, regardless of ability to pay, and is located in a medically underserved neighborhood. Lee has been involved in HIV/AIDS research and patient care since the epidemic hit the U.S. She was one of the first doctors in the Kansas City metropolitan area who would treat AIDS patients. She received her bachelor’s and medical degrees from KU.

Levinson is a retired judge who has excelled in athletics, social justice advocacy and public policy and management. She was deputy mayor to the first African-American mayor of Seattle, Norm Rice, and was appointed by then-Gov. Gary Locke as chairwoman of Washington’s utilities commission. As a municipal judge, she started one of the nation’s first mental health courts, which have now been adopted by several communities across the United States. She was a founding board member of the Seattle Girls’ School and the Center for Children & Youth Justice, and led the successful effort to keep the WNBA Seattle Storm in Seattle, creating and serving as the founding chair of an all-female local ownership group. As one of the state’s first "out" public officials, she has been a leading voice for LGBTQ equality in Washington for many years. Levinson received her bachelor’s degree from KU and her Juris Doctorate from Northeastern University School of Law.

Long retired in May 2015 as president of Baker University, a post she held since 2006. She had the distinction of being the first female president at Baker. Long guided a successful initiative to develop signature academic offerings, strengthened student life, and expanded campuses across Kansas and Missouri. As a first-generation college student, Long understood the importance of sharing her successes to build the successes of others. A dedicated civic leader, Long served on several boards, including the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Kansas Independent Colleges Association and the Douglas County Community Foundation. She received her bachelor’s from Southwest Baptist University, master’s from Central Missouri State University, and doctorate in educational policy and leadership in higher education from KU.

Carol J. Fabian is a highly regarded senior faculty member in KU’s School of Medicine who excels in clinical practice, research and leadership. She has seen and evaluated hundreds of women with suspected cancers, devised new approaches to breast cancer diagnosis, and published her findings in high level international scientific journals. Fabian has a 38-year history as a clinical and translational researcher in clinical oncology treatment and prevention. She has also served as one of the major division leaders in the Kansas Masonic Cancer Research Institute, acting as a chief of the Cancer Risk Assessment as well as the Prevention and Control Program, as medical director of the Breast Cancer Survivorship Center, and current leader of the Cancer Prevention Program. Fabian received her bachelor’s and medical degrees from KU, conducted her internship and residency at Wesley Medical Center, and her fellowship at KU.

The 2016 Hall of Fame’s Pioneer Woman is Marci Penner. She is the executive director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation and has spent more than 20 years promoting and advocating for Kansas, particularly its rural communities. She has published several Kansas travel guides, as well as doing research for “The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers.”

Penner started the Kansas Sampler Festival in 1990. Since then, it has grown to include more than 150 communities and more than 10,000 participants a year. She organized the We Kan! Conference, focusing on supporting rural Kansas communities. Many of the businesses she promotes in her travel guides are either women-owned or employ a number of women.

In 2004, she was appointed co-chair of the Kansas Governor’s Rural Life Task Force. She has received numerous prestigious honors in Kansas, including Distinguished Kansan of the Year from Kansas Native Sons and Daughters. Penner received her bachelor’s degree from KU and master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin.

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