The theme for Women's History Month this year is "Women Making History Everyday."
We wanted to engage our faculty and staff, and get them thinking about, not just the
well-known historical women who have made a difference in the world, but the everyday
women that we know who impact our lives in large and small ways. We asked faculty
and staff to submit written pieces about the women who have made a difference in their
lives, families, and communities.
The following pieces were selected by a committee to be represent the "everyday women"
in our lives.
We would like to thank all of the faculty and staff who submitted written pieces.
Not many students would boast that their life began in a high school classroom. For
most teenagers, life ends when school begins. I, too, must admit that for most of
my life I felt immense dread at the beginning of every school day. This ended in the
span of a single class. To all appearances, this one class was in no way a special
one. I had attended classes with Miss Ashley Perry, a Ridgeway High School English
teacher, many times before, but they were nothing compared to what I was about to
experience. The topic: The Great Gatsby and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."
Miss Perry discussed these two iconic pieces of literature with zeal, as though she
had met and spoken with Jay Gatz, as if she steered the very vessel of Fitzgerald's
mind. No other teacher had ever displayed such love for a class' subject matter. She
was my first encounter with a true teacher. I went home that night, enlightened, but
completely unaware of the true effect Miss Perry had had on me. I sat down with Gatsby
and "Prufrock," poured over every word with a passion I had never before had for school
work, and out of me poured the assignment Miss Perry had given: Gatsby and "Prufrock,"
a comparative essay. When this paper was returned to me—with a big, red nine emblazoning
the top—I was stunned. I had written many papers in English class, but this was my
very first perfect score. To this day, I have never felt more proud or deserving of
a grade. It was a grade which instilled in me the belief that I could be good at writing,
received on a paper which convinced me I could enjoy it, written on a book which converted
me to the standing of "writer."
Miss Perry taught me that one in a million can make a difference—one person, one class,
one book, one paper can change the world, even if only in a small way. She made me
believe that one writer, like myself, could raise whole new worlds into existence,
and that this could have purpose if one person was changed by it.
There she was, sweet Miss Perry, teaching class like she did every day, and did far
better than she probably imagined, unaware that she was stitching together the beginnings
of someone else's history. To her, I owe my life's one, great passion. As I learned
from her, life begins with passion.
My Aunt Holly Ruth may not know the extent to which she has impacted my life, so this
is my way of "rising up" and calling her "blessed" before others. Over the years,
I've stubbornly held on to my self-doubt and insecurities, despite her consistent
attempts to infuse in me an ownership of myself and my capabilities. With each new
triumph or accomplishment, Aunt Holly would always tell me, "I'm always impressed,
but never surprised." But I don't think her belief and confidence in me were in vain.
The more I grow, the more I realize how much time I'm wasting by not embracing for
myself the confidence she has in my person and capabilities.
Aunt Holly has encouraged me not to ever let anyone tell me that I "can't" do something.
"They may tell you that you 'shouldn't' do something, that they don't want you to
do something, but don't ever let anyone tell you that you 'can't' do something. If
you want to fly to the moon, go for it. And if you can't...well, then you won't be
there!" In other words, you find out for yourself whether you can or cannot do something.
Don't ever let anyone else decide that for you.
As a wife and mother for over 20 years and a university voice instructor for nearly
20 years, this woman has spent her life pouring into others her warmth and courage
and strengthening her loved ones and students to have confidence in their abilities
and appreciation for themselves. But as involved and active as she is, her priorities
are unmistakable. Her husband, my wonderful Uncle John, and her two daughters, Talley
and Ian, always, always come first. And her extended family is also always a top priority.
After that, she takes care of all the rest of the world, and once the lives of all
her "punk'ins" have been poured into, she'll finally take a moment to replenish herself
with a cup of lavishly creamed and liberally sugared hot tea, pop in the latest BBC
version of Pride and Prejudice, and gleefully knit or make jewelry for hours on end
(the products of which, of course, are always given away to others afterwards). Her
pleasure in the sanctity of "home" coupled with her wanderlust for Scotland is both
infectious and refreshing. And beneath all of this, the deep undercurrent of her belief
and faith in God runs through the many facets of her sparkling life.
So, here's to Holly Ruth Gale, my aunt without whom life and tea would never be the
Dr. Dottie Joiner has always supported my professional and academic achievements.
She provides the time to offer suggestions and words of encouragement with my research
or academic ideas. For example, when I approached her with the idea of co-leading
University of Memphis undergraduate and graduate students on a study abroad experience
to Italy, Dr. Joiner offered many suggestions and helpful tips. In addition, when
I see her at professional conferences, she always asks about my current research and
ways to strengthen it.
I am writing to honor my supervisor, Joanna Curtis,Director of Major Gifts at the
UofM. When Joanna first came to campus in 2008, we were peers. She quickly moved up
the ranks and ultimately became my supervisor, which I have really enjoyed. Her current
position is a newly created position that oversees all of the University's front-line
fundraisers. She has done an amazing job in a short period of time of creating a solid
program and a culture of leadership and integrity. She incorporates teamwork, strategy,
thoughtfulness, and humor into our work. She is always supportive and responsive.
She holds her staff accountable without being a micromanager. Joanna is also an incredible
advisor – always willing to work with me through a tough situation and encourage me.
I admire her commitment to the University of Memphis and to our city of Memphis. In
addition to her major work obligations, she recently completed her Master's in Public
Administration. She encouraged me to do the same and I am about half way through the
program. With her support, I will earn my Master's degree! Joanna is also married
and a mother of two young children. With her busy schedule, she still makes time for
her employees and that really means a lot. I admire her tremendously and am delighted
to have the opportunity to recognize her in some way.
In recognition of Women's History Month, I would like to honor Dr. Mary Stockwell
and Dr. Ruth Wallis Herndon.
Mary Stockwell was my teacher, advisor, and mentor when I was an nontraditional undergraduate.
Going back to school at age 32 was overwhelming. Mary taught one of the first courses
I took upon starting my coursework. I went from overwhelmed to overjoyed at the prospect
of coming to class every week. To this date, she is still the one of the finest lecturers
I have ever heard. She took a sincere interest in my academic career and encouraged
me to go to graduate school before I even really knew that such a thing was possible
for someone like me. She wrote letters, nominated me for scholarships and assistantships,
and supported me at every turn. Once I completed my MA in History, she invited me
back to my alma mater to teach--my first time in the classroom as an instructor! Although
I was an adjunct, she considered me a part of the department faculty and gave me opportunities
to serve the history department and the university. She taught me about both the joys
and pitfalls of academia, but never stopped encouraging me to follow the path I had
Ruth Wallis Herndon was my teacher, advisor and mentor throughout graduate school.
She taught me how to be a scholar, a teacher, and a colleague, always stressing that
each informed the other and shared equal importance in my development as a professional
in academia. She is a true role model in each of these areas. In her classroom preparation,
grading, and mentoring of students; her command of committee work; and the deep attention
to her own scholarship, I have never seen anyone so absolutely pour themselves into
their work the way Ruth does. Even since I have completed my doctoral studies, Ruth
continues to mentor me and encourage me in my teaching, research and writing, meeting
with me whenever I am back in town to critique my latest project while asking me to
critique hers. Through her, I learned the importance of such collaboration and cooperation.
Ruth's transparency regarding the trials and tribulations of the academic world is
one of the most valuable gifts I have received. When I left graduate school I not
only knew that I was well-prepared for an academic career, but that I had someone
to turn to whenever self-doubt started to creep in.
Mary Stockwell and Ruth Wallis Herndon are each exemplary women and historians. They
are truly making history every day in their own right and through the influence they
have on their students. I am privileged to have been able to call them each teacher
-- mentor-- and friend.