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Women's Commission Honors Outstanding Female Staff, Faculty, Students


At an event that celebrated connection and community support, Saint Louis University honored six of its most outstanding female faculty, staff members and students at the Women’s Commission’s annual “Women of the Year” Luncheon on Wednesday, April 24.

2019 SLU Women of the Year
(From left to right) The Women's Commission's 2019 honorees Karen Myers, Ph.D., Danielle Uy, J.D., Dame Mary Bruemmer (seated), Donna LaVoie, Ph.D., graduate student Sadita Salihovic and Regina Walton. Ghazala Hayat, M.D. (not pictured) was also honored as a SLU Woman of the Year. Submitted photo

Those honored spoke of loved ones, mentors and others who had helped them thrive in their academic, professional and personal lives, and about the ways in which they have supported others in changing the world for the better, close to home through involvement in their St. Louis and SLU communities, and far afield through global connections formed on the windswept shores of Antarctica.

“It’s the same thread through all the stories,” Ghazala Hayat, M.D., a SLU Woman of the Year for 2019, told the crowd gathered in the Busch Student Center’s Wool Ballroom. “Supportive parents, a supportive family and a supportive community.”

2019 Women of the Year

Ghazala Hayat, M.D.

 A faculty member in the School of Medicine for more than 30 years, Ghazala Hayat, M.D., has participated in more than 25 University committees during her tenure, along with teaching and serving as a mentor to fellows, residents and medical students. She is the author of numerous publications and presentations. She delivered a SLUTED talk, "Interfaith Relationships: Path to Truth."  Noted by colleagues as a "professional powerhouse," Hayat has also been called a champion of women.

Outside of SLU, Hayat serves as the executive director of the Pakistani American Association, a post she has held since 2000. She also serves as chair of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis's public relations committee, is a member of Arts and Faith St. Louis, and is a member of the the board of directors of the YMCA.

Her honors include the Mary Rhodes Award from the Loretto Community, a St. Louis Woman of Achievement honor for multicultural leadership, listing in St. Louis's Best Doctors and being named to St. Louis Magazine's "The Power List: 100 People Who are Shaping St. Louis."

Sadita Salihovic

 A graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences, Sadita Salihovic  has worked as a tutor in the Student Success Center, played a leading role in the McNair Scholars Program and co-founded SLU's Bosnia and Herzegovina Student Association.

She helped organize the 5K Run for Bosnia to provide flood relief funds and scholarship monies for students from the country.

Salihovic has received the Circle of Five Scholarship, the James G. Costigan Mathematics Scholarship and the Mathematics Excellence Award. She was also nominated and accepted into the Association for Women in Mathematics.

Regina Walton

 Regina Walton, executive assistant for the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement,  has received a SLU Spark Award, the YWCA's "Leaders in the Workplace" Award, the Benjamin Hooks Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as well as the Outstanding Service to the Community Award from the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.

At SLU, she has led drives for University participants to take part in the annual Sista Strut, a walk and resource fair to raise awareness about breast cancer in communities of women of color. She has played instrumental roles in organizing the University's annual tribute to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Walton has also played a key role in connecting the SLU community with service opportunities in the wider St. Louis community.

Outside of her work at the University, she leads drives to benefit local churches at Thanksgiving, mentors students at Marian Middle School and prepares Valentine's Day baskets for elderly residents of the Metropolitan Village Apartments in partnership with the Urban League.

Donna LaVoie, Ph.D.

 With more than 20 years of service to SLU, Donna LaVoie, Ph.D., serves as associate dean for faculty affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences. She has served in various administrative roles and on committees including the Student Learning Outcomes Task Force and the Budget Model Team for SLU's Operation Excellence Initiative. LaVoie developed a New Faculty Academy for faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences as well as a new Teaching Fellows program for graduate students.

She has regularly nominated colleagues for Women of the Year and other honors. LaVoie has participated in each cohort of the Women's Commission's Women Leading Women workshops and is known as a mentor for graduate students. She was a participant on a panel of women leaders highlighted as part of the Women's Commission's bicentennial symposium and has served as a keynote speaker and workshop facilitator for the Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning.

Outside of SLU, LaVoice is pursuing a certificate in lay ministry and provides service and a ministry of music through her band "The Mustard Seed Faith Shakers." She is involved in literacy efforts at a local school .

Danielle Uy, J.D.

 In her 10 years at SLU, senior associate general counsel Danielle Uy, J.D., has provided leadership, input and feedback into some of the University's most important policies impacting women on campus. She has served on a number of SLU committees and task forces including on the Operational Excellence Steering Committee and the Joint Faculty Senate-Provost Committee on the Faculty Manual. Uy has mentored law students and new lawyers. Outside of SLU, Uy has volunteered with the Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments, including serving as a member of its board. She is a member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys and is involved in multiple committees for that organization.

Karen Myers, Ph.D.

 The founder and developer of The Ability Institute, Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit, and The Ability Ally Initiative workshop series along with other programs, Karen Meyers, Ph.D., recently received the Faculty Excellence in Diversity and Social Justice Award from SLU's Student Government Association (SGA). 

She has received the Arcus Award for Achievement in Inclusion and Talent Attraction and was the subject of a "Mission in Motion" video.

In addition to her work encouraging creativity in female faculty and higher education professionals, Myers has organized, enrolled and supported Belizean students seeking to earn graduate credentials in student affairs and higher education administration. Due in part to her work, St. John's Junior College in Belize City, Belize, adapted its first accessible restroom.

The April 24 luncheon honored the six Women of the Year as well as the recipients of the Women’s Commission’s Sister Shirley Kolmer Memorial Grant. The three-year-old grant supports projects that empower and enrich the academic and professional experiences of SLU’s female community members, while also raising awareness about relevant women’s issues.

Colleen Fitzpatrick, M.D., a 2018 recipient of the Kolmer grant, took those assembled on a trip to Antarctica, recounting the connections she built with other women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) as part of her membership in the 2019 Homeward Bound program, which was supported by the Kolmer grant.

2019 Sister Shirley Kolmer Memorial Grant Recipients

This year’s luncheon celebrated not only 2019’s honorees and grant recipients, but also the life of past Women’s Commission President Annie Rues Neidel, who died in 2018.

Dame Mary Bruemmer, founder of the Women’s Commission, was also on hand to congratulate the 2019 award class, and to join in the festivities.

After a welcome by Kellisa Fiala, current president of the Women’s Commission, and invocation by L. Michelle Lewis, Donna Bess Myers, 2008 Woman of the Year and a former Women’s Commission president offered a toast to the achievements of SLU women and to those gathered.

As each Woman of the Year was called to receive her plaque, the honorees shared their personal stories of achievement and called for SLU’s women to continue pushing toward excellence.

“To become part of this group, past and present, is truly a great honor,” Donna LaVoie, Ph.D., noted.

2019 Women of the Year Luncheon

Well-wishers and SLU community members packed the Wool Ballroom to honor SLU's "Women of the Year," on Wednesday, April 24. Photo by Amelia Flood

Established in 1973 as The President's Advisory Commission on the Status of Women, its initial primary focus was affirmative action and equal opportunity. To meet the changing needs of University women, the Commission was restructured twice before its present bylaws were adopted in 1986. An Executive Board, widely representative of the women at the University, sponsors programs, provides a forum for women's concerns and serves as a vehicle for communication about issues and opportunities for women in higher education. The Women's Commission has sponsored special workshops and seminars and, since 1978, has recognized the contributions of women to the University by honoring the "Woman of the Year" at an annual luncheon. Programs are open to all members of the University community.

Story by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications