2004 Women of Distinction honored at annual luncheon

Five women were honored for their personal accomplishments and contributions to society and women’s lives at WSU’s annual Women’s Recognition Luncheon March 25. Marta Maria Maldonado, Beverly B. McConnell, Mary Sanchez-Lanier and Patricia Martin Whitefoot were named 2004 Women of Distinction, while Wilhelmina O. Sarai-Clark was named the 2004 Woman of the Year.

To be considered, nominees must be women distinguished in academic work, career, leadership, public service or any combination thereof. They must have contributed to the personal growth and success of others, especially through education, research and public or volunteer service.

Women of Distinction are chosen in four categories: alumna, employee, student and outside WSU. All nominees for Women of Distinction (not only winners) are eligible for the Woman of the Year Award.

• Wilhelmina O. Sarai-Clark, the 2004 Woman of the Year, has a Ph.D. in dance, anthropology and theater from the University Wisconsin and taught dance movement at WSU from 1965-1992. She was a recipient of the WSU/UI 2004 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award.

She studied and taught the cultural roots of dance and movement.

An ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church, Sarai-Clark volunteers for the Koinonia House as Episcopal campus minister for WSU, where her ministry focuses on multiculturalism and diversity. She is a longtime member of WSU’s YWCA and has served on the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and the Association of Faculty Women. “She was an inspiration to many young women for more than 30 years and continues to motivate not only women, but the community,” said Courtney Washington, public relations/communication coordinator for WSU Human Relations and Diversity, in her letter of support for Sarai-Clark’s nomination.

• Marta Maria Maldonado is the Woman of Distinction in the student category. Having earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology from the University of Puerto Rico and WSU, respectively, she is working on her Ph.D. in sociology from WSU.

Her teaching and research interests include sociology, race and ethnic studies, labor, social change and environmental justice.

Maldonado has been a teaching assistant, tutor and instructor at WSU. She has developed and leads workshops in grant writing as part of her job as graduate support coordinator for the Office of Grant and Research Development.

Maldonado is a member of WSU’s Research and Arts Committee. She has volunteered time to various groups, including WSU’s Commission on the Status of Women and the Pullman Community Coalition Against Hate Crimes.

• Beverly B. McConnell is the Woman of Distinction in the alumna category. She earned a master’s degree in child development and a Ph.D. in educational measurement from WSU. The university recognized her with its Distinguished Alumni Award in 1982 and Alumni Achievement Award in 1983.

McConnell’s work for migrant worker child care and education began in Washington State in the 1960s. It eventually led to her recognition as a national expert and visionary on these issues.

She developed the nationally validated education program for non-English-speaking children called Individualized Bilingual Instruction (IBI). “The outcomes achieved for IBI are, to my knowledge, unsurpassed by programs targeting similarly at-risk children,” said Paul Strand, WSU associate professor of psychology. McConnell helped found the Gladish Community and Cultural Center in downtown Pullman, served as chair from 1997-2001 and received awards in 2000 from the United Way and Festival Dance for her volunteer services in support of Gladish.

• Mary Sanchez-Lanier is the Woman of Distinction in the employee category. She joined WSU’s Department of Microbiology in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and Ph.D. in medical studies, both from the University of New Mexico.

She teaches a course in virology and she teaches a summer course to high school students underrepresented in the sciences as part of the WWAMI program. But teaching is only part of her work. “She has more truly come into her own since becoming the assistant dean in the College of Sciences (COS) in 1997,” said colleague Kathleen Postle, professor of molecular biosciences.

As assistant dean, she is the college’s administrator of choice to deal with faculty, staff or student problems. “She gets directly to the heart of an issue, and then solves the problems with a fairness that is seldom questioned,” said COS Dean Michael Griswold.

Away from WSU, Sanchez-Lanier is leader of her youngest daughter’s Girl Scout troop and is an active member of her church in Moscow.

• Patricia Martin Whitefoot is the Woman of Distinction chosen from outside WSU. With bachelor’s degrees from Central Washington University and a master’s in education from Fort Wright College in Spokane, she has worked for more than 30 years as an advocate for American Indian education.

A member of the Yakama tribe, she has been a teacher, counselor, school principal and school district superintendent in public and tribal schools. “She bridges cultural differences to effectively communicate the needs of native people with a vision that is inclusive of the well being of all,” said Barbara Aston, WSU assistant to the provost/tribal liaison.

WSU has benefited from Whitefoot’s expertise. She is on the university’s Native American Advisory Board to the President. She facilitated tribal involvement in programs with the Colleges of Education and of Liberal Arts. She is helping WSU plan and support programs for its Plateau Center for American Indian Studies.

Jan Noel honored posthumously

A special Woman of Distinction honor was awarded to the late Jan Noel, who served as associate director of WSU’s Office of International Programs and chief officer of the Development Cooperation until her death in May 2003.

The committee that selected the 2004 honorees determined Noel likely would have been an award recipient if she still were living. Her husband accepted the award in her name.

Noel earned her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from WSU in 1973. She joined the university in 1979 as a project development officer for International Program Development. She planned and conducted numerous workshops, conferences and other activities in the U.S. and developing countries for project planning, agriculture, animal health, higher education and related topics.

She was instrumental in promoting the vision of women by establishing cooperative relationships with others within patriarchal social structures of different cultures. She was a role model who inspired women and men to care about social justice and to promote improvement in the quality of life in developing countries with very few resources.

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