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Salute to Women

Salute to Women honors four women within the college's community for personal and professional excellence and for serving as role models and mentors to other women. This is awarded annually during March, Women's History Month.

2014 Salute to Women Recipients

KATHRYN K. MULLINS
GRCC Employee
Executive Deputy to the President
Board Liaison

A Woman of Determination and Leadership
“I think one of the reasons I love working at GRCC is the personal connection I feel with the students,” Kathy Mullins reflects, “because I see myself in them, they are me and I them.” As she recalls her youth, college was not an option; never a consideration, you got married and worked. It was the closing of the factory where she was employed that opened up an unexpected alternative. “The Michigan Works advisor simply offered college as one of a couple of possible uses of the government resources available,” Kathy explains. “Until that moment I had never considered higher education. No one in my family had gone on past high school.”
After she received her AA degree from Baker College, she was urged toward a BA. Once hired by GRCC, she was pressured by mentors and colleagues within the College to complete her MBA in Leadership Studies. “The Michigan Works employee had no idea of the impact that new vision of myself had for me. I have now completed a doctorate! People saw more in me than I acknowledged and I imagine that is true for so many of our students, whether they are fresh from high school or returning as adults with additional family responsibilities.” She sees her responsibility to those students as an effort to remove obstacles and barriers to their learning and their academic success wherever she can.
Several nominating narratives noted the varied and often complex aspects of her current position at the college as point person for the President with K-12 partners, the local community, businesses and legislators. “Managing the often competing interests requires grace and a strict work ethic; Kathy possesses both of these traits.” Another wrote, “She maintains a delicate balance always in situations that demand skillful arbitration, attention to detail, and political savvy.”

 

TERESA WEATHERALL NEAL
GRCC Alumna
Superintendent
Grand Rapids Public Schools

A Woman of Accomplishment and Inspiration

Teresa Weatherall Neal began her long career with Grand Rapids Public Schools as a teenager and student employee. Her story is really one of connection and continuity, from student worker to Administrative Assistant then to Coordinator of Compliance, Assistant Superintendent of Community and Student Affairs and finally culminating as Superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools. “I have loved this district for many, many years,” says Teresa, “My K-12 experience is with GRPS. I’ve never wanted to leave. I didn’t plan for this position as Superintendent, but I was ready when it happened…It’s been a calling.” (GR Times, 9/16/12)
Teresa had already started her family when her sister encouraged her to return to school. “GRCC turned out to be an easy transition because I never felt alone. Of course, my sister was there but so were many others, counselors and faculty and staff. It was such a supportive environment. It is what I want for all of our GRPS students...to not feel alone and to always feel encouraged.” She received an AA degree from GRCC followed by a BS in Public Administration from GVSU and an MA from WMU in Educational Leadership. “I constantly encourage everyone around me to return to school, especially women. Often we don’t know what we are capable of until we take the step.”
Leading a system with nearly 18,000 students and 4,000 employees demands a variety of skills and strength. A narrator wrote, “She is a bold and courageous community leader, a listener, a collaborator, and one of our community’s own as she drives fundamental and extensive change.” Another noted, “It is truly her integrity, honesty and credibility that has given our city’s parents and students the faith to believe in the decisions she is making.”
Teresa herself says, “We only exist because parents allow us to teach their children. It is a great responsibility for all of us to embrace.” (WOOD, 12/13/12)

 

NICOLE BOWL
GRCC Student
Associate in Arts
Juvenile Justice Major

A Woman of Compassion and Dedication
As Nicole Bowl recalls, “When I first came to GRCC directly out of high school, it was really to stay on my parent’s insurance. I had no idea what I wanted to do and the results were predictable!” Now a student ready to graduate and move on to Ferris State University this summer, much has changed for Nicole. “I am a mother now, and I have new responsibilities to my daughter. I know I need a degree and I am prepared to work hard and be successful.” Since returning to GRCC, Nicole has been on either the Dean’s List or the President’s List every semester. As one nominator wrote, “She returned to school as a student who has clear goals…she is very focused, motivated, and keenly devoted to accomplishing her goals.”
Nicole credits the support and resources that she accesses at GRCC with significantly contributing to her academic success. “My daughter is safe and happy at the preschool, which in turn, makes being a student easier for me. I have found so much encouragement from my counselor and from the phenomenal Criminal Justice faculty. They create opportunities for open discussion that are safe and challenging.” The faulty nominators also are impressed with Nicole’s academic performance. “She is a dedicated student who is able to juggle competing demands in and out of the classroom…she is able to apply subject matter to current events and identify the core issues.”
Nicole has found great personal satisfaction from her internship at Degage Ministries. “I love listening to all of the clients’ stories! Everyone has something so important to say, and every life story is different and needs to be heard.” This eagerness and keen interest in the individual has impressed Degage staff. “She is hugely friendly and maintains beautiful and appropriate relationships with our patrons.”

 

ELIZABETH (BETH) FOSTER
Former GRCC Employee
Retired Faculty
Biological Sciences

A Woman of Reason and Reflection
“I felt welcomed as a student at GRJC (GRCC) and welcomed back as I joined faculty some years later.” Beth Foster taught in the Life Sciences/Biology Department for over 30 years. She had attended and graduated from GRCC, then GRJC, transferring to the University of Michigan for her BS and MS degrees. “I was so well prepared and advised by the faculty that my move to Michigan was smooth.” Yet, there were some barriers to break, she recalls, during her teaching career at GRCC. At that time, women were informed that they could not be listed as “head of household” and carry their spouses on their insurance. “My husband returned from military service and returned to school. We wanted insurance coverage and I pressed the college through the grievance procedure and as a result, that policy was rewritten. At that time it was also understood that women would not continue working past their fifth month of pregnancy. I simply kept on working. It was as if they felt pregnancy was an ‘avoidable illness’.”
Multiple nominating narratives list many of the influences Beth had on both her students and her colleagues as well. “Her devotion helped many dentists, nurses, doctors and researchers in their preparation for careers in this community.” Another reads, “As a lab technician, Beth encouraged and mentored me and 13 years later, I owe my start and love of teaching to her.” Another reflects, “She truly served to inspire young females in her tutelage by her ambition and professionalism.”
A recurring theme throughout the nominating commentaries was the strength and depth of being Beth’s friend. “Beth is one of those people who will be a friend for a lifetime. One may not see her every week or talk with her every day, but with Beth, a person can pick up the thread and keep weaving the story anytime.”

 

2014 Salute To Women Award Presentation (YouTube):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UOxhXQZKnw

 

2013 Salute To Women Award Presentation (YouTube)

Past Recipients