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Council News

Women’s Leadership Council Co-Chairs Liz Sherman ’77, P’06, P’09 and Sandee Ting Simshauser ’84, P’18, P’20, P’21 thank the 125 Years of Women at Brown Conference Steering Committee for their tireless planning and execution of a momentous alumnae experience.

• Marcia Dunn, MD ’82, Conference Co-Chair

• Nancy Fuld Neff ’76, P’07, P’14, Conference Co-Chair

• Lauren Corrao ’83, P’16

• Sara Dioguardi ’83, P’20

• Shelley Fidler ’68, P’09

• Pamela Farrell Lenehan ’74 AM’74, P’03, P’06

• Alexandra Mandis ’95

• Joelle Murchison ’95

• Marcy Sandler ’86, P’15, P’18

• Adina Young ’82, P’20

• Dana Zucker ’90, P’21

The Council would like to thank Mentoring Co-Chair Amy Reiss ’85 and Programming Co-Chair Adina Young ’82, P’20 for their service, time, and leadership on the WLC Executive Committee.

Additionally, the Council Co‑Chairs thank the following members for their service on the WLC.

• Rachel Freedman Berg ’93

• Linda Smith Buonanno ’67, P’95

• Emily Janney Elliot ’04

• Sarah Francois-Poncet ’80, P’10

• Nancy Gidwitz ’70

• Martha Clark Goss ’71, P’04

• Sivan Hines ’84 MD’87

• Pamela Farrell Lenehan ’74 AM’74 P’03, P’06

• Heidi Messer-Martin ’92

• Chandra Reddy Metzler ’95

• Marsy Mittlemann P’00, P’04

• Amy Reiss ’85

• Alexandra Steel Scott ’04

• Irene Sinrich Sudac ’81, P’17


On the eve of the Conference, current and former members of the Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) gathered for a celebration of the Council and the Conference. In attendance was founding member and Chair Emerita of the WLC Susan Pilch Friedman ’77, P’08. During the evening President Christina Paxson awarded Ms. Friedman the President’s Medal for her promotion of women’s leadership and philanthropy at Brown, and for her extraordinary support of the University. Calling Ms. Friedman “a woman of exceptional vision, leadership, and commitment,” President Paxson cited her support of the Women’s Launch Pad, and for establishing the Friedman Student Center, the Friedman Auditorium, and Friedman Hall.

Fatima Husain ’17 received the Susan Pilch Friedman ’77, P’08 Excellence Award in Women’s Leadership on Thursday evening. Established in 2015 by a group of Brown alumnae and parents in honor and celebration of Ms. Friedman’s tireless efforts in the area of women’s leadership, the award recognizes a senior woman who best exemplifies this outstanding leadership. Ms. Husain is the second woman to receive this award.

On Friday afternoon, President Paxson presented Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Janet L. Yellen ’67 LLD’98 hon. the President’s Medal for her “wise advancement and application of knowledge of markets, policy making, and economic behavior to the public good,” and for the way she has, both in life and work, “reflected the shared values of Brown University.”

The President’s Medal is the highest honor a Brown president may bestow. It honors a person who has achieved distinction in a particular field including education, scholarship, public services, the arts, or philanthropy. It is a distinction that has been awarded over time to only a select few.


Rain may have postponed the Brown Get Down!, but the sun came out on Saturday afternoon for a community flash mob. Participants danced to a mash up of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” and Beyoncé’s “Girls (Who Run the World).” A special thanks to Rachel Balaban ’80 and her daughter Olivia Burnham for choreographing the dance.

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On May 5 – 6, 2017, over 700 alumnae from the classes of the 1950s through 2016—including one alumna from the class of 1949—returned to campus for the 125 Years of Women at Brown Conference. Attendees at the sold-out Conference had the pleasure of listening to eight keynote speakers and 63 speakers on 15 panels. They were also treated to an intimate musical performance by singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter ’81 DMUS’96 hon., as well as experiential offerings and the opportunity to return to the classroom. Following the Conference, President Paxson wrote, “With alumnae like you, nothing can stop Brown from making an ever-increasing mark on the world through rigorous and insightful scholarship, innovative education, and the preparation of women—and men—for lives of impact and meaning.” This Commemorative Women’s Leadership Council newsletter features highlights, photos, and videos from an unforgettable Conference. You can relive the Conference by viewing our recap and visiting the Brunonia website for a photo gallery and quotes from our Conference attendees!


Conference Keynote and Featured Speakers

Perri A. Peltz '82, P'19 and Jill T. Furman '90 Documentary filmmaker and public health advocate Perri A. Peltz ’82, P’19 and theatrical producer Jill T. Furman ’90 opened the Conference on Friday morning. Ms. Peltz talked with Ms. Furman about how her Brown experience influenced her Tony Award winning career and the success of her most recent production, Hamilton. “I think we are legitimately changing people’s lives,” Ms. Furman said. A six-time viewer of the show, Ms. Peltz agreed, “Hamilton changed my life!”

Janet L. Yellen '67 LLD'98 hon. Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Janet L. Yellen ’67 LLD’98 hon. talked about the history of women at Brown and notable alumnae who have changed the workforce. Her inspiring speech, “So We All Can Succeed: 125 Years of Women’s Participation in the Economy,” discussed the barriers that still prevent many from achieving full success and equality, to the detriment of the economy as a whole, and described how the presence of working women stimulates the economy.

Diane von Furstenberg P'91, P'92 World-renowned fashion designer, mentor, and philanthropist Diane von Furstenberg P’91, P’92 spoke about how her mother’s life experience and strength influenced her. Ms. von Furstenberg worked hard and lived the American dream. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was growing up,” she said. “I wanted to be a woman who was independent, who was in charge of her life, and who could have a man’s life in a woman’s body. I became that woman through a little dress.

Lynn Nottage '86 DFA'11 hon., P'20 Playwright Lynn Nottage ’86 DFA’11 hon., P’20 is the first female playwright to win a Pulitzer twice. One of two female playwrights on Broadway, Ms. Nottage said that it, “is one of the few places that remains difficult for women to penetrate.” The fluidity at Brown and the encouragement of her advisors allowed Ms. Nottage to change her educational path from pre-med to theater. Besides being on Broadway, Ms. Nottage is creating an art installation and working on her next projects, including a stage adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s novel The Secret Life of Bees.

Maggie Hassan '80, P'15 and Gina Raimondo New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan ’80, P’15, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, and President Paxson addressed increasing the role of women in government and in high-ranking positions in the workforce. Governor Raimondo referenced the state’s historically male-dominated government while Senator Hassan acknowledged the progress New Hampshire has made diversifying government representation.

Cecile Richards '80 LHD'10 hon. President of Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards ’80 LHD’10 hon. became an activist while a student at Brown, where she felt emboldened to question authority and stand up for her beliefs. Ms. Richards emphasized that, despite the enormous headway that has been made with reproductive and sexual rights, we must all become and remain involved in the continuing fight for affordable, safe, and expansive health care. Change, she warned, will not come out of DC, but out of the resistance of its constituents and local government.


Community Gathers for Life-Saving Service Project

Mothers and Children On Friday afternoon, nearly all Conference attendees gathered in Sayles Hall to assemble 600 safe birth kits for Saving Mothers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating preventable maternal deaths and birth-related complications in the developing world. Founded by WLC member Dr. Tara Shirazian ’99 MD’03, the organization centers on educating and empowering women so they can become active participants in decision-making regarding their sexual and reproductive health. In addition to building the kits, participants also wrote messages of well wishes to expectant mothers and knit baby hats, all of which were donated by Brown alumnae.

Dr. Tara Shirazian ’99 MD’03 and Saving Mothers recently returned from a trip to West Pokot, Kenya. Dr. Shirazian reported, “Their excitement over receiving the birth kits was truly palpable. We thank you for your help in packing over 500 safe birth kits at the 125 Years of Women at Brown Conference for the Kapenguria District Hospital in West Pokot, Kenya. Together we can make great strides towards preventing death for women in pregnancy and childbirth, because no woman should die while giving life.”

Celebrating 10 Years of the Women’s Launch Pad

Service Project with Co-chairsOn Saturday afternoon, members of the Women’s Launch Pad community gathered under the tent to celebrate 10 years of the WLC’s mentoring program. In a program led by Women’s Launch Pad co-chairs Andra Greene Ellingson ’78 and Amy Reiss ’85, mentors and current mentees celebrated the program’s growth and success. The Chattertocks gave a special performance to end the ceremony, and a photo booth captured some special moments with both current and former mentors and mentees.

Join our Community!

Are you interested in learning more about the Women’s Launch Pad? Would you like to mentor a senior class woman in the 2017 – 2018 academic year? Become a part of our growing network. Mentors commit to a minimum of six meaningful contacts with mentees from October through April and should make an effort to meet in person at least once during the year.


Women Together: Challenge Success

In January, the Women’s Leadership Council announced the participation challenge, Women Together. When 7,125 alumnae donated to the Brown Annual Fund by May 1, the Council would unlock $1.25 million for the Annual Fund. On Saturday morning, WLC Co-Chairs Liz Munves Sherman ’77, P’06, P’09 and Sandee Ting Simshauser ’84, P’18, P’20, P’21 announced the overwhelming success of the challenge in which 7,502 alumnae participated in the challenge, donating a total of nearly $10 million to the Annual Fund. If you have not made your Annual Fund gift yet, give now to help us break the record of 10,000 women donors! Thank you for your support of the University!

WLC Mission Statement

The Women’s Leadership Council consists of a group of Brown women appointed by the President of the University who, through their leadership, volunteerism, and philanthropy, work toward enhancing Brown by inspiring and engaging the alumnae community as active participants in the life of the University. The Council accomplishes this by demonstrating and encouraging a commitment to volunteer and philanthropic leadership at Brown; providing opportunities to connect Brown alumnae with students as mentors, role models, and advisors; and organizing events, activities, and initiatives that engage Brown alumnae with each other and with the intellectual excitement of the Brown community.