The Sixth Annual Phenomenal Women of USI and the Community program held at USI on March 15 recognized women who honor and advance diversity at the University and in the community. Each year, women are honored in six categories: undergraduate, graduate student, faculty member, support staff member, administrative staff member, and three members of the community-at-large.
Sherrianne Standley, senior vice president for Advancement, served as emcee for the ceremony. In her opening remarks she said, “Whether they are being role models for other students, widening student’s horizons through introductions to other cultures and countries, giving moral support to a diverse range of student problems, using professionalism to assure employment opportunities, reaching out through the arts to students of diminished circumstances, boosting young women’s self esteem, or using the power of the pen to change attitudes, these women demonstrate every day what it means to be phenomenal.”
The Phenomenal Women of 2007 are:
Shalonda Newcomb, Phenomenal Woman Undergraduate Student
Shalonda Newcomb was nominated by Brianna Lambert, a fellow USI student and house-mate, who is impressed by her friend’s aspiration to become a doctor. In her nomination, Lambert recounts how Newcomb was a premature baby, spending her first two years in a hospital because she was born without an esophagus. The grace and skill of the doctors who attended her inspired Newcomb to enter the practice of medicine. Even though she works diligently to achieve academically, Newcomb also is a student leader. She is president of Alpha Sigma Alpha social sorority and Order of Omega Greek honor society, and a member of Sigma Zeta science honorary, the Biology Club, American Chemical Society, Habitat for Humanity, Colleges Against Cancer, Panhellenic Council, AMIGO orientation leaders, and Student Government Association. In the community, she has been involved with Komen Race for the Cure, Special Olympics, and Little Sisters of the Poor, in addition to leading several of her sorority’s community volunteerism efforts. Newcomb was named Greek Woman of the Year last year and won the Panhellenic and Order of Omega Scholarships. A national dean’s list student, she works four jobs and is enrolled in 18 hours this semester.
Catherine “Katy” Simutis, Phenomenal Woman Graduate Student
“Katy” Simutis was nominated by three people: Heather Keefer, Lisa Staples, and Stephen Edwardson, who work with her in USI’s biology labs. Keefer says she met Simutis her freshman year, and that Simutis immediately became her “mother away from home” as well as mom to three other freshman lab workers away from home. Simutis’s mothering is not limited to her USI freshmen. She has three sons of her own, and her dedication to family is inspiring to the undergraduate students, who say they are trying to teach her how to say “no.” In addition to being the biology lab supervisor and pursuing her Master of Public Administration degree, Simutis is an outstanding cross country runner for USI.
Dr. Betty Hart, Phenomenal Woman Faculty Member
Dr. Betty Hart was nominated by Roneshia Clark, one of her students. In her nomination, Dr. Hart is called a “champion for diversity” who teaches ethnic literature and racism classes. In her classes, she demands respect for students’ points of view, no matter how controversial the subject matter becomes. Dr. Hart, professor of English, is not only respected by the campus community, but also by the larger community and the media. Her research and public presentations on Zora Neal Hurston are in demand at professional conferences. She is called an advocate for change and is cited for her role in urging the USI Theatre Department to produce “A Raisin in the Sun” this year.
Sandy Hatfield, Phenomenal Woman Support Staff Member
Sandy Hatfield was nominated by Lois Stevens, building and equipment supervisor, with whom she has worked in the Physical Activities Center for several years. Both women are retiring this year, leaving a void in the USI Athletic Department. Hatfield has worked at USI for 24 years; first as a part-time assistant for USI’s first lady Betty Rice at the University Home, keeping the home running and preparing for social events. Later she moved to campus and split her duties between administrative assistant for the vice president for Student Affairs, who also wore the Athletic Director’s hat, and Varsity Club secretary. The growth in the Varsity Club fueled Hatfield’s move to full-time Varsity Club secretary, where she makes certain the many events of the Club meet a high standard and the fund-raising goals, that the club’s hospitality is extended during athletics events, and that all membership matters are taken care of, linking with the USI Foundation staff.
Ruth Waller, Phenomenal Woman Administrative Staff Member
Ruth Waller was nominated by Dave Enzler, director of Recreation, Fitness, and Wellness, and Tim Buecher, director of Career Counseling. She has worked in a variety of leadership roles at USI: Coach, physical education teacher, admissions counselor, and for the past 22 years, she has been director of Intramural and Recreational Sports. Ruth was a pioneer in women’s athletics at USI. She started and coached the women’s basketball, tennis, and softball teams in the early years, creating opportunities for women students that had not previously existed. Knowing that a great intercollegiate athletics program would require enthusiastic support, she coached the early cheerleading and cheer squads and started the pep band. She took that same enthusiastic attitude to recreation and fitness programs, creating one of the most successful programs on a college campus anywhere. The special events she has created in the program make it possible for people of all backgrounds, abilities, and ages to participate. Waller brought Disc Golf to Evansville, creating the first course, open to all citizens, on the USI campus. She also has worked to raise awareness of disabilities by managing wheelchair basketball games on campus. She has been an energetic founder and sustainer of the USI Komen Race for the Cure team.
Patty Avery, Phenomenal Woman of the Community
Patty Avery was nominated by Janet Heldt of Old National Bank. Heldt cites Avery's prominent role with "Girls in Bloom," a program that seeks to develop healthy self-esteem and body image in pre-teen and teenage girls. She also is a founding member of Women’s Equality Day and invests her efforts in the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in Evansville and Vanderburgh County. As a former adjunct instructor in radio and television at USI, she has assisted students in their professional endeavors, including internships and job opportunities. Before joining Old National Bank, Avery was involved for 15 years in a volunteer mission organization that took her to several international locations. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, she founded a home for street girls, overseeing staffing and organizational issues. She came to Evansville in 1999, worked for Fox 7, and then moved to the Vanderburgh County Commissioners’ Office. It was in the Commissioners' office that she was able to affect issues such as homelessness, domestic and sexual violence, and self-esteem for children. Avery was a finalist for Evansville’s Athena Award last fall.
Mattie Miller, Phenomenal Woman of the Community
Nominated by Loretta Zygmut, a friend in membership in the American Association of University Women, Mattie Miller was truly a trailblazer of her generation, as an African American woman raised in the south who graduated from Tuskegee Institute, went on to earn a master’s degree from Indiana University, and a counseling and administration certificate from University of Evansville and IU. She spent her career as an English teacher, reading teacher clinician, high school guidance counselor, assistant middle school principal, and principal of Harper Elementary School. She continues to teach English as an adjunct instructor at Ivy Tech. She also has taught adjunct for IU and UE. As a Lilly Endowment Leadership Education Fellow, she spent three years in training and planning programs for young adolescent Hoosiers. She was selected by the National Education Association for special assignment in France and by the World Congress of Teaching for schools in West Africa. Her professional and community involvement efforts are many, including the board of the Indiana State Teachers Association, Leadership Evansville, and WNIN Public Broadcasting. Single among these organizations is her faithful leadership in her church, Liberty Baptist, where she has held many leadership positions, especially those focusing on youth.
Gina Moore, Phenomenal Woman of the Community
Gina Moore was nominated by Pam Doerter, coordinator of internships and co-op education in Career Services, who wrote in her nomination, “everyone knows that Gina is well known as half of the singing Browne Sisters, but she is also well known for her big heart and soul, and her loving and giving personality.” Moore sings everywhere in the community, mostly without remuneration. As her nominator pointed out, “no” is not a word in Moore’s vocabulary. Doerter points to Moore’s inspirational and uplifting performances at Komen Race for the Cure, the Big Show for Evansville ARC, opening Otters games and other opening competitive games, Gospel Nights at the Philharmonic, and performances of Sounds of Grace as examples. Moore’s giving of her talent and her optimistic spirit are key to the Browne Sisters annually being named entertainment winners in Evansville Living magazine.
Moore sang “We Are Family” during the program. Jacquelyn Spears read the Maya Angelou poem, “Phenomenal Woman.” The program concluded with a performance of “My Red Shoes” by the Children’s Center for Dance Education, choreographed by 2006 Phenomenal Woman Deena Laska-Lewis.
The program was sponsored by Old National Bank, the Evansville Branch of the American Association of University Women, and the USI Multicultural Center.