August 07, 2008

Annual gala will honor five Inspiring Women

by Greg Scott

Four women who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership in their professional careers and respective communities, and an SIU Carbondale alumna of the School of Journalism who has earned national acclaim as an author and award-winning journalist, will be honored during the fifth annual Inspiring Women Gala on Saturday, Oct. 18, in the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Student Center Ballrooms and International Lounge.

This year’s Inspiring Women of Achievement award recipients are Millicent Hankla of Anna, Alice Dunn Johnston of Cairo, Kathy Lively of Herrin, and Charlotte West of Carbondale. Jackie Spinner, a Decatur native who currently lives in Washington, D.C., will receive the 2008 Alumna Achievement Award.

“An Evening with the Stars” begins with a reception and silent auction at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and the program at 7 p.m. A live auction follows the presentation of the awards. Proceeds from the Gala benefit Inspiring Women Scholarships, awarded to SIUC freshmen and transfer students for academic achievement, leadership and extracurricular involvement. The scholarship program aims to encourage high levels of educational and professional achievement. Current scholarship winners will be honored at the Gala.

Anyone can attend the Inspiring Women Gala, but all must purchase reservations in advance. Reservations may be purchased for $65 per person. For more information, call Jean Paratore at 618/453-1339 or e-mail Reservation and donor information is also available on the Inspiring Women Web site at

Inspiring Women is a program created by Vice Chancellor Larry Dietz of the SIUC Division of Student Affairs and is associated with the Southern Illinois University Foundation. This year’s Inspiring Women of Achievement are as follows:

• Millicent Hankla, a longtime volunteer in the Anna community, has committed considerable personal time and resources to assist victims of domestic violence and educating the southern Illinois community to develop effective responses to the issue. She became a certified Court Appointed Special Advocate for children and a member of the Union County Child Advocacy Center, organizing an advisory board to better serve abused children. Hankla has developed and conducted programs about recognizing and responding to domestic violence in four regions of southern Illinois. She is a member of “Voices for Children,” a state lobbying group.

Hankla was part of a team instrumental in organizing Bethany Village, a not-for-profit organization where victims of violence or persons in any crisis situation can receive food and clothing. The organization has since expanded to Bethany Village Transitional Housing, with 20 apartments housing women and their children. Additionally, in 1994 she founded Serenity Home -- a non-profit organization serving victims of family violence and child abuse in six southern Illinois counties.

Hankla studied math, physics, and chemistry at SIUC and is one of the first six women to attain a master of arts in mathematics from Southern. Following graduation, she worked for Western Electric Co. in North Carolina -- manufacturing ground guidance control equipment for the NIKE I missile.

Hankla later received a teaching degree from the University of North Carolina and began to devote her time to influencing public policy opportunities that enable “minority” voices to be heard. This 80-year-old grandmother continues her involvement in the local community as an active member of the Anna-Jo Garden Club, Home Extension, and as treasurer of the Anna Women’s Club. She continues to sing in her church choir and is moderator of the Presbyterian Women’s Council. For the past three years, Hankla has served on the State Board of Church Women United as Vice President for Ecumenical Action. She serves on the Board of Directors of University Christian Ministries as its President and also serves with The Interfaith Center of Carbondale. Hankla was instrumental in the development of Gaia House, an ambitious project to build and operate a fully operational living facility, residential college, and interfaith center for students of SIUC.

Alice Dunn Johnston, who will be 92 years old on Oct. 23, is known as the “unofficial historian of Cairo.” Johnston has documented Cairo’s history with detailed notes, annotated memorabilia, correspondence and countless paintings. The town’s No. 1 ambassador has welcomed visitors from all over the country, led tours, conducted presentations, and coordinated committee and organization efforts to raise funds for many organizations in the Cairo community. She keeps Cairo’s spirit alive through her tours and vivid storytelling, complete with dates of the clothing and images of the times.

Johnston has created exhibits of her own paintings of Cairo and quilts over the last 30 years. Her paintings of Cairo’s long-gone historic buildings remind viewers that Cairo was once “the Chicago of the South,” a beautiful and sophisticated river town. Johnston, who speaks regularly to all Cairo schools regarding the town’s history, has served as President of the Senior Women’s Club and co-sponsored the U.S. Bicentennial edition of the Alexander County profiles, a collection of historical essays. She played an integral role in making Magnolia Manor a historic destination.

The Rev. Larry Potts of the Mighty Rivers Regional Worship Center stated that Alice Johnston is, “Cairo’s finest ambassador to the region, giving herself freely to host those who would come to the luncheons at Magnolia Manor or to tour the library and visit the Custom House Museum. She has captured the old town through her paintings and preserved through her art virtually every significant public building and revered home place in the city. Alice has been and continues to be a venerable leader in her beloved church, First Presbyterian Church of Cairo, Illinois.”

Johnston was hired in 2003 by SIUC to paint a mural in the Custom House Museum depicting the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and what they might have looked like in 1803.

Kathy Lively, a two-degree graduate of SIU Carbondale, is chief executive of Man-Tra-Con, a five-county, state-funded job training and placement agency. Lively plans and administers the Critical Skills Shortage Initiative totaling $950,000 throughout the 20-county Southern Region of Illinois through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. She is also executive director of Connect SI, where her role entails coordinating, interacting with and directing the activities of a large number of volunteers from various backgrounds.

Thanks to Lively’s leadership, Man-Tra-Con was named Herrin’s 2007 “Citizen” of the Year in recognition of that organization’s leadership role in the community when a major employer, Whirlpool/Maytag in Herrin, closed its doors in December 2006. Lively assisted in spearheading a transition team of agency, community, healthcare and education professionals, that addressed the many needs of individuals affected by the layoff. During the Illinois Governor’s Workforce Development Conference, Lively received the prestigious Individual Leadership Award, recognizing her significant contributions to workforce/economic development through a leadership role. She has devoted her career to helping other people achieve what she has been able to achieve herself -- a successful and rewarding career in southern Illinois. Lively was recognized in 2006 as “A Leader Among Us”. In 2005-2006, Lively was selected by the Governor to serve on the Delta Regional Authority Advanced Leaders Program. She is a member of the Advisory Group for the Regional Economic Development Corporation; a board member of the Jefferson County Development Corporation; a board member of the Marion Chamber of Commerce; and an Executive Committee member of the Southern Illinois Workforce Investment Board.

Lively’s commitment to her community includes her involvement in the formation and launch of the Beautify Southern Illinois campaign; service as a leader of the high school faith group for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel; and service as parish council president. The Herrin native also devotes time volunteering on behalf of the Herrin Football League and the Tiger Booster Club. She is athletic director of a local school and Youth Director and Council member of her local church.

• Charlotte West has been a nationally respected pioneer in women’s intercollegiate athletics and a champion for gender equity in sports for more than five decades. One of the most respected women in the world of women’s athletics, her career is highlighted by several “firsts” including: first woman member of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, serving on its executive committee and later earning induction into the organization’s Hall of Fame; first member of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators to be recognized as the Woman Administrator of the year; and first recipient of the Honda Award, given for outstanding achievement in women’s intercollegiate athletics. She has served on numerous committees within the NCAA and remains actively involved, participating in campus visits and certification of athletic programs nationally. Prior to her retirement, West was elected by members of the Missouri Valley Conference to be their representative on the NCAA Management Council.

An SIUC Hall of Famer, West served a 42-year distinguished tenure as a SIUC coach, faculty member, and administrator. In 1969, she led her SIU golf team to the National Championship and her basketball team to fifth nationally. She served as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women from 1960-1986. After the merger of men’s and women’s athletics in 1986, she served as Associate Athletics Director and Senior Woman Administrator for one year, Interim Director for one year, and returned to the role of Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator until her retirement in 1998. Additionally, she became one of a handful of women rising to the rank of professor at Southern in 1973, and developed the University’s graduate program in sports management, directing the program until June 1991.

While serving as President of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, West was a strong advocate and vocal proponent of Title IX and worked as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare on the landmark legislation. She also served during her AIAW presidency as a member of the United States Olympic Committee.

In recognition of her impact on student-athletes and intercollegiate athletics, the MVC inducted her into their Hall of Fame and presented her with their Lifetime Achievement Award -- only the fifth person to receive this award. They also present the Charlotte West Award annually to one male and one female student-athlete in recognition of their outstanding achievement in academics, athletics, service and leadership.

Jackie Spinner, a Decatur native, is a staff writer for the Washington Post, where she has worked since 1995. A graduate of the SIU Carbondale School of Journalism, Spinner began her career after receiving her master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Journalism, working as a summer intern on the financial staff at the Post. She has worked as a metro reporter and financial reporter at the paper. Before going to Iraq she covered accounting policy for two years and was the newspaper’s expert on, in her own words, “weather hedges and obscure financial instruments”.

Spinner’s most challenging assignment came in May 2004 when she accepted an assignment as a war correspondent and joined the Washington Post bureau staff in Iraq. She covered the war from its center in Baghdad, Fallujah, Kurdistan, and Abu Ghraib, where mortar attacks and car bombs were a daily occurrence. Spinner survived a kidnapping attempt outside of Abu Ghraib prison, and eventually garnered respect as a seasoned foreign reporter. Her nine months as a journalist covering the war in Iraq is depicted in her book, “Tell Them I Didn’t Cry.”

An award-winning journalist and travel writer, Spinner’s exploits from the Galapagos Islands, Rock of Gibraltar, Spain, Finland and Jordan have been detailed in the travel pages of the Washington Post. An SIUC Alumni Achievement Award Winner, Spinner was a staff member of the Daily Egyptian, SIUC’s school newspaper, for four years. Her proudest moment was when the D.E. defeated the Daily Illini of the University of Illinois in the state college newspaper competition in 1992. Spinner stood on her editor-in-chief’s desk and asked her reporters to shout for one minute as loud as they could for all the people who doubted that they could be the best.

Spinner is a member of the Journalism and Women’s Symposium and was a media fellow at Duke University in 2002. Prior to joining the Post staff, she contributed to the Oakland Tribune, the San Diego Union Tribune, the Decatur Herald and Review and the Los Angeles Times TV magazine.