President's Blog

November 2015

One of the most infamous and disturbing moments during my undergraduate experience was waking up to the phone call that a freshman had a train run on her by some fraternity members.  What is a "train run" you ask?  It was a term used to describe when a woman was fooled, coerced, or forced to have sex with several men one after the other. 

The year was 1983.  This was before Clery and Title IX.  

I remember that the first thing that went through my mind was whether or not my then boyfriend, who was a member of that fraternity, was involved.  It was later reported that he was not at the fraternity house that night.  I was relieved.  But then my relief turned to dismay.  How could this have happened?

The young woman desperately wanted to be in the fraternity's all-female auxiliary.  So, she was pledging the auxiliary.  (Note:  It was against the rules for fraternities to pledge these type of groups. Female auxiliary group members were supposed to be able to just join.)  

Late that night some of the fraternity members called her and asked her to come to the fraternity house.  When she arrived she was shocked to find that her line sisters were not present.  The fraternity members told her that there was one more pledge task that each line sister had to complete before becoming a member – they would have to have sex with every frat brother.  She would be the first and was expected to have sex with each one of them that night if she was going to be initiated.  After she completed the "task", the fraternity members laughed at her and said that she would never be initiated because she was a whore.  They then told her to get dressed and threw her out of the house.  Humiliated, she left college early the next morning never to return that year. 

Although probably every African American attending the college got a similar phone call that morning, no one told anyone outside of our circle.  The only repercussion for the fraternity members were the disgusted, sideway looks they got from those of us that knew what they had done.  We wondered out loud how or why she thought this would be a part of an initiation process, and we chalked up her vulnerability to being a freshman.  And then we went on experiencing our everyday lives on a college campus. 

It is hard to believe that sexual violence is still present on college campuses today; and that our female students are still letting go of their dreams and goals due to these unwanted – and criminal -- actions.  Now, thanks to those that have championed the Clery Act, Title IX, and VAWA, the silence is no longer deafening when these despicable acts occur.  The AAWCC National Board has adopted "Increasing the roar to eliminate the culture of silence surrounding sexual violence against women on community college campuses" as the 2015-2016 National Platform.  Our organization will spend the year discussing, informing, and advocating for women to have safe campus experiences.  I invite you to join us.  This is the year to make a difference.

President's Blog

October 2015

Suddenly there was no air. I could see his mouth moving, but there was no sound.  What did he say?  My mind felt like I was trapped in some sort of third dimension that left you somewhere between reality and a really bad dream.  What did he say?  Come on, Beverly, focus.  Pay attention.

Stage 2 Breast Cancer? But how could that be?

I had a mammogram in January and my annual exam with a breast check-up in February 2010.  My doctor declared I was in excellent health!  Excellent health she said.  I had never had a doctor say that before and I felt good.

Everything was lining up nicely in my life.  My son was graduating from high school in June.  I was ready to take my next professional step...a college presidency.

I attended the AACC National Conference that April in Seattle with expectancy. My plan was to attend the Preconvention Workshop: Gateway to the Presidency, network at the conference and learn from the myriad of forums.

One morning in the hotel I felt a lump in my nipple. It was in such an odd place so I immediately called the doctor's office from Seattle.  I am sure when she looked at my records – clear mammogram, clean bill of health in February – she thought this is just another one of Beverly's lump in breast scares. (I have had lumpy breasts since I was an undergrad at Oklahoma State University.)  So, she didn't immediately agree to see me. She put me in the rotation.

I got in to see her in May and she didn't think it was anything, but to be sure she sent me to have an ultrasound.  And then suddenly I found myself creeping in to be the reluctant star of a really scary Twilight Zone episode.

I was sitting in a radiologist's office waiting for the results of my biopsy. The first thing I thought was I didn't know radiologists have offices.  When he came in he began to speak very deliberate and fast.  My mind was stuck on the first six words though. You have stage 2 breast cancer.  But in my haze he had moved on, speaking a lot of words that I couldn't comprehend.  As he left he said it will be a hard year, but you will make it through fine.

My new path was not the one I was expecting.  It was a road I had NEVER thought I would travel.  A mastectomy immediately.  Five months of weekly chemo until the last dose almost killed me the day before Christmas Eve.  Bloated, no hair, little feeling in my feet and hands.  Food tasted like tin.  Being stuck with a needle (it seemed like every day).  Taking this medicine at this specific time to counteract the chemo.  Crying at the drop of a hat – not out of physical pain, but emotional pain.  It was hard to smile.

Out of the haze I decided to call the American Cancer Society.  I talked with a very nice lady that registered me for everything.  She sent me everything.

For a person like me, information was everything.  So I read all the literature.  It became my lifeline for knowledge.

I took a friend (AAWCC Board Member, Deborah Fontaine) with me to attend the "Look Good. Feel Better" program.  She was my buffer.  And the cosmetologists that donated their time to give cancer patients a free make-over were so kind and compassionate.  I stopped feeling like I had cancer. I felt normal for that brief period.

It seemed like we were all at a Mary Kay party as we said, "No, that's not your color" or "Ooh, now that looks nice."  And to top it off, we got to look at the TLC products and take home a wig, cosmetics, and other donated items straight from top companies.  The most important thing for me was that for that time period we could smile.  So don't tell anyone…but I went twice. The second time by myself.  And those experiences kept me going during the bleak times.

The American Cancer Society is more than a commercial or something you donate to so you can feel good about yourself.  The organization stands in the gap for millions that cannot help themselves.  The volunteers are kind, caring, and compassionate people that help.  They helped me become a survivor, become a college president, and I am grateful that they were there when I called.

October is breast cancer awareness month. Please increase your knowledge and awareness of this potentially devastating disease.

President's Blog

September 2015

I was heartbroken to receive the news that Dr. Mildred Beatrice Bulpitt, Founder of AAWCC and Leaders Institute, passed away on August 21.  Although I never had the honor of meeting her in person, I believe I had begun to know her intimately through her interviews and writings.  I didn't fully understand her greatness until I was asked to speak about women in community colleges at the Michigan Community College Association's Summer Workshop.  Through the research, I found a new person to celebrate and appreciate!  Dr. Bulpitt’s courage, persistence, and moxie captured my inner being.  I now understood what great sacrifices had been made so that I could sit in the president’s chair.  For that, I will always cherish Mildred, and the multitude of other unknown individuals, that came before me and made a courageous stand for equality in community colleges.

Dr. Bulpitt was a warrior to the end.  Long after she retired, she continued to encourage women to have the confidence to move to the head of the line and take the reins of leadership gallantly.  I am pleased that she lived to see the fruits of her labor as the number of female community college presidents has increased from approximately 50 in 1980 (when the Leaders Institute began) to 344 in 2015.

Today, I challenge us to remember Dr. Bulpitt and her important work by increasing the number of women in key decision-making roles at every community college.  We need to work together to push females through the leadership pipeline and be intentional about moving the needle.  Dr. Bulpitt's legacy, and her spirit, remains in all of us.   Let's continue what she started! 


President's Blog

August 2015

In 1998, I was a recently divorced, single parent of a six-year old living far away from home in Spokane, Washington. Spokane Community College's Vice President for Student Services, Dan Chacon, had hired me as the Single Parent Counselor in 1995 and had tasked me with creating a program that would retain and graduate the approximately 1000 single parents that attended the college.

By 1998 that program was recognized by the American Association for Women in Community Colleges as a model program. I was elated, but also fearful and hesitant, to attend the AACC conference in Miami, Florida to receive the award. Dr. Jim Williams, President of Spokane Community College, insisted that I attend.

I made sure my posse (my mother and son) were in tow as I entered the secret world of college presidents. But even with their calming presence, I still thought "I don't belong here" and "couldn't Dr. Williams have picked up the award in my stead?" I knew he wanted me to have the experience of being recognized for my successful work, yet I was truly overwhelmed.

I remember that early morning AAWCC Annual Awards Breakfast like it was yesterday. My nerves were on edge because I didn't know what to expect. All I did know was there would be a lot of important women attending the event.

As we slowly approached the large conference room, I was trembling inside. We all gave big confident smiles, but my young son's smile was the only one that was real. I looked around and a distinguished woman wearing AAWCC paraphernalia warmly greeted us with a smile and escorted us to our table. I believe it was Ruby Curry, now Interim President at St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley.

My nerves began to thaw as I met more of the "distinguished" women in attendance that morning and as I learned more about the sisterhood of AAWCC. The women of AAWCC embraced me and my achievements that day and humanized leadership for me.  They made me feel like I could – and did – belong.

Today, research states that our young women still have a confidence gap when it comes to taking on leadership roles, much like what I experienced. They want to be a senior leader, but can't envision (or don't know how to get) themselves there. They aren't out front sharing their perspectives and taking risks with their careers.

Joining AAWCC has been the single most important decision I made for my professional development. The women of AAWCC have provided me a platform to learn how to lead, how to serve, how to make decisions, and be true to who I am as a person.

As I begin my term as President of AAWCC, I want to stress how grateful I am to accept the reigns from the "distinguished" women that have come before me. I look forward to closing the confidence gap and increasing female leaders at all levels in our community colleges.


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