Center celebrates annual luncheon

Don Robertson, vice president of Student Affairs, sits next to Kimberly Barrett, who founded the Women’s Center in 1992. || Jordie Oetken/The News

Twenty years ago, University administrators realized there was a void in campus culture.

That’s when Don Robertson, who had just been appointed vice president of Student Affairs, charged Kimberly Barrett, who was in the Testing and Counseling Center, to create an on-campus Women’s Center.

Robertson said he approached Bill Allbritten, director of Testing and Counseling, to determine the right person for the job.

“Kimberly enthusiastically agreed to take on the challenge, creating such a center,” Robertson said in his introduction of Barrett, who was the keynote speaker at the 24th annual Celebrate Women luncheon Tuesday.

He said he could not offer her additional budget or staffing.

“She quickly built a firm foundation and developed programming and services and now, 20 years later, the Women’s Center is an integral part of Murray State University’s campus culture,” he said.

Barrett’s presentation titled “The Triumph of Feminine Finesse: Celebrating 20 Years of Progress Toward Gender Equity” addressed this year’s theme for the Women’s Center, “On the Road to Gender Equity: Going Forward, Backward or Standing Still?”

“I think society has come to a tipping point in which women are going to be the leaders and define how we move forward,” Barrett said.

To explain this “tipping point” Barrett’s presentation included statistics pointing out what progressions have been made and what remains to be done to achieve complete gender equality. Focusing on “Women’s Education, Women’s Empowerment,” this year’s theme for Women’s History Month, Barrett shared numbers regarding women in higher education. While the number of women faculty members around the country have increased, few college presidents are female.

Barrett cited statistics in varying professions before sharing global low points – pointing out countries where women have little education, economic participation and political empowerment.

Barrett’s message left the approximately 200 attendees with one point to ponder: gender equity is not about women becoming more powerful than their male counterpart; it’s about the two working cohesively.

Jane Etheridge, director of the Women’s Center, said the luncheon is important for all in attendance.

“You can fill in these missing pages when we look at what men and women from different backgrounds have contributed to make our world what it is today,” Etheridge said.

Women’s Center worker, Kelly Herrenbruck, junior from Hanson, Ky., presented the 2012 Margaret Simmons Female Student Athlete Award to softball pitcher Chelsey Sullivan. Following that award, Sarah Wang, senior from Milton, Ky., awarded the Celebrate Women Scholarship to Rachel Burgin, graduate student from Pewee Valley, Ky., and thanked Etheridge who is retiring this year, for her service to Murray State.

A tearful Etheridge accepted flowers and a memory box from current and former staff members before closing the ceremony.

“As my time at Murray State draws to a close it’s time to bid you farewell,” she said. “As I look out over this audience, I see so many people who have touched my life. Thank you for leaving footprints on my heart.”