The University Record, October 28, 1998

WCTF names 5 Women of the Year

By Jane Elgass

Mentoring. Sharing experiences and expertise. Doing that “little bit extra” that makes life easier for others. Listening. Juggling multiple demands with grace and poise. Serving as a role model.

Those are just a few of the characteristics shared by the five recipients of Woman of the Year Awards from the Women of Color Task Force (WCTF) who were honored at a ceremony Oct. 21 in the Assembly Hall, Rackham Building.

Joining the recipients in the audience were family members and friends as well as colleagues from their offices, all offering additional support and recognition to the women who have selflessly given of themselves in both their professional and personal lives.

Shacquel L. Evans, academic services secretary in the College of Arts and Sciences at U-M-Flint, received the Woman of the Year in Human Relations Award from Christine M. Waters, the unit’s interim associate dean.

“Shacquel has made an indelible contribution to women of color and others” on the Flint campus and is “indispensable in her role as secretary of the Academic Standards Committee, to which students bring their woes,” Waters said. “She helps them develop a positive attitude and change their lives.”

A poster in Evans’ office, showing two women of color embracing with the words “Each one teach one,” reflects her life, Waters noted. “She is a mentor and role model, a much-in-demand tutor and adviser,” all while also pursuing a double major in English and African studies.

The “grapevine” at Flint knows that Evans is the person who understands problems and how to get things done. “Dozens of times a week,” Waters said, “We’re told ‘No one else had listened.’ “We’re grateful for every day we have her.”

A. Oveta Fuller is a “superbly successful” academic researcher, a wife and mother and itinerant elder in her church who serves as a role model in all these areas “by example and by helping others,” said Wesley Dunnick, professor of microbiology and immunology.

Fuller, who is associate professor of microbiology and immunology, also received the Woman of the Year in Human Relations Award.

Her success as a researcher studying how animal viruses enter cells “is a model for both academic science and women of color,” Dunnick noted, adding Fuller has mentored three women of color doctoral students in her lab and many undergraduates. “The students would have been successful anyway,” he said, “but they got an extra something [from Fuller].”

She is active within her department, serving on faculty search committees and on recruiting and appointment/promotion groups, which offer career path advice as well as making recommendations regarding the granting of tenure.

As an elder of the Brown Chapel of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Ypsilanti, Fuller holds one of the highest positions in the church, traditionally held by males. “She is a role model here also,” Dunnick said, “again aspiring to success.” This demonstrates, he noted, that “academicians also can have a spiritual life.”

Dunnick noted that Fuller is flourishing in an environment dominated by “men like me” [white males] and happily lives on the outskirts of Dexter “in an area populated by people like me.”

Having spent 37 years at the Medical Center, Gloria J. Edwards “is one of our favorite people and very deserving of this award,” said Patricia Warner, associate hospital director for operations and administrator for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Edwards, who has been involved in social work activities at the Hospitals for many of those years, is associate director of the Program for Multicultural Health. She received the Woman of the Year in Leadership Award.

She has mentored people of color and women, Warner noted, “is quiet, but committed, and frequently stubborn.”

But she also is “a leader and a visionary who listens to people,” Warner said, doing all of this “as a team member, crediting others with leadership.”

Perhaps her most important contribution to the Health System, Warner said, is that Edwards “has taught us to reach out and helped change our internal culture.”

The Rebecca A. Vaughn Distinguished Service Award went to Stephanie Estes-James, academic secretary in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. The award was presented by her best friend—“We finish each other’s sentences”—Linda R. Kennedy, administrative assistant at the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

“We met in 1990 when we joined the Women of Color Task Force together,” Kennedy explained, “and we just clicked.”

In the short time she has been affiliated with the group, Estes-James has served two terms as co-chair and was responsible for the addition of vendors to the annual career conference sponsored by the task force.

“She has handled her duties and responsibilities with confidence and flair,” Kennedy noted.

Jo Ella Coles, manager, information technology communications, Information Technology Division (ITD), was the first recipient of the Phoenix Award.

The award is only for past recipients of other Women of the Year awards and won’t necessarily be given each year. It is meant to recognize and honor those who have continued to achieve, who have exceptional leadership as well as human relations and teamwork skills, who have the ability to listen to others, and who have continued to grow in their careers and to make important contributions to their workplace.

The phoenix went down in flames and was reborn, program host Wendy A. Woods noted, and “the award serves as a symbol of resurrection and growth.”

Coles is known for “shared leadership and dynamism,” explained Jeffrey Tibbs, ITD chief financial and administrative officer, and she “manages by walking around. She touches the people she works with.”

Coles accepted the daunting task of turning around a mismanaged work group whose members were not speaking to each other. At her first meeting with the group, Tibbs noted, “she offered to take on the most onerous projects, managing by doing.” Within days, he said, “there were smiles on faces.”

Knowing that harmony was not enough, that the staff also needed skills, Coles initiated training programs that would make possible upward mobility, programs that stressed skills and competencies as well as boosting self-esteem. She also initiated a recognition ceremony for the staff.

Coles “cleared up in three months” a three-year-old problem related to service delivery and improvement, Tibbs noted. “She took a risk and shared the glory with her staff.”

Also recognized at the program were Honor Roll winners Ruby Hughe, Shelly Morrison, Patricia Whitfield, Monique Washington, Laurita Thomas, Glenda Dickerson and Olivia Thomas.


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