As Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Director of the College Center for Academic Support at UR, Suzanne O’Brien’s days are spent caring for college students.
But she has also accomplished numerous other tasks in her time here at UR, and one of those pursuits just earned her the Susan B. Anthony Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Suzanne O’Brien’s career is defined by service to the University community in many ways,” Dean of Students Jody Asbury said last Thursday at the annual Susan B. Anthony Legacy Dinner. “Suzanne has mentored and supported young women who have gone on to executive and leadership positions in institutions and businesses all over the country. Her advocacy for professional development, personal growth, and leadership potential for women is without peer at the University.”
O’Brien, who received the award in a crowded May Room, remains humble.
“The letter of nomination said that my support and mentorship of women over the years has been important,” O’Brien said. It gives me great pleasure to know that people who have worked with and for me have gone on to other positions both here at the University of Rochester and elsewhere and have consciously used the principles they learned from me.”
O’Brien graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UR in 1959 with a degree in English. During her 45-year career at the University, she has contributed to undergraduate academic life through the various posts she has held and received the Goergen Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Learning in 2003, according to a university press release.
Several other women received awards as well. The Susan B. Anthony Scholarships, given to two women in their junior years who have displayed, according to the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership, “leadership, academic excellence and commitment” to their fellow students and community, were presented to Colette Carmouche and Kellie Hasselwander.
Carmouche, an anthropology and African and African American studies major, is a member of the PRIDE Network. Hasselwander, a French and history double major, is on the cross country team, in Catholic Newman Community and the co-ed a capella group After Hours.
“[This award] is validation that a busy life is worth it,” Hasselwinder said.
The Susan B. Anthony Prize, awarded to a “graduating woman student who has shown exceptional leadership, academic excellence and involvement in student life,” was given to Take Five student Alison Delpercio, whose many accomplishments include being a Resident advisor and D’Lion, in addition to being a part of numerous other clubs.
The Fannie Bigelow Prize, awarded to an undergraduate woman who expresses “with conviction and sound judgment, her opinions on vital topics,” was presented to senior Mariana Bojaca, who has been active in such groups as the International Institute for Public Policy.
The William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Association of Women MBAs Leadership Scholarship Award was given to senior Michelle Abraham, who has been an avid member of the Simon School community.
The Jane R. Plitt award went to sophomore Julianne Nigro, who has been a highly active member of many women’s groups on campus, including Amnesty International, Women’s Caucus and the Women’s Studies Undergraduate Council. The award is dedicated to “a leader dedicated to constructive social change in her community,” and is named after the woman responsible for gender neutralizing the Gannett newspaper organization and opening up the Rotary Club and Kiwanis Club to women.
This year’s Legacy Dinner also fell on a special occasion, marking the 60th year since the proclamation of Feb. 15 as Susan B. Anthony Day, in honor of the hometown hero. However, there are still issues remaining in gender relations.
“One of the issues that bothers me the most is domestic violence/violence against women,” Nigro said when asked about what areas in gender relations could benefit from the most attention. “There is still so much secrecy and shame surrounding this issue, which makes it so difficult for women to come forward and tell their story. Society has a lot of trouble defining what abuse is, especially since abuse can take place in so many different forms. There can be physical, emotional, verbal, financial, or sexual abuse, and very few people know this. Society still assumes that if the woman is not being hit, domestic violence does not exist, and this is not true.”
“Certainly the improvement in possibilities has changed phenomenally for the better over the years I’ve been here, although it would be great to have more women in the highest positions here at the University,” O’Brien noted.
Ultimately, though, the biggest emphasis of the night seemed to focus on involvement. As Nigro stated, “It is important to get involved with something that you are passionate about. There are so many problems in the world that really need our help, and it is up to us to do what we can.”
Brenneman is a member of the class of 2009.