Distinguished Alumna Award Recipients
2013 — Michela English ’71
Michela English ’71 has been named Sweet Briar’s 2013 Distinguished Alumna in recognition of her volunteer leadership and professional successes in business, marketing and nonprofit administration. She became president and CEO of Fight for Children in 2006, after serving as president of Discovery Consumer Products and president and COO of Discovery.com. She has held senior positions with the National Geographic Society, Marriott Corp. and McKinsey & Company.
Throughout her professional life, Michela has held leadership roles in a variety of education-, youth-related and other nonprofit and corporate initiatives, including managing the K-12 education programs at both Discovery and National Geographic.
She is vice chair of the board of the Educational Testing Service; a member of the boards of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the College of Art and Design, the public charter school DC Prep, the D.C. Public Education Fund, The Gladstone Companies, and the advisory council of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
She has served as president of the Women’s Forum of Washington, D.C., on the Yale School of Management Board of Advisors, and as director of the NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education, the Riggs National Corp. and Potomac KnowledgeWay.
The College also is deeply appreciative of her 11 years on Sweet Briar’s board from 1994 to 2005. Only the second alumna and woman to chair the board (2000-05), Michela inaugurated and championed Our Campaign for Her World, the largest capital campaign in the College’s history. In 2003, she led the Shape of the Future strategic planning initiative. Under her leadership, several programs were added to the curriculum, including master’s degrees in teaching and education, an engineering science major and bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and business management.
Michela received the award at a luncheon on May 8, 2014. Read the full text of her remarks here.
2012 — Elaine Schuster ’58
Elaine Schuster ’58 was unanimously selected as the Distinguished Alumna of 2012 because of her extensive career as an attorney in her hometown of Oklahoma City.
After graduating from Sweet Briar with a B.A. in English, Schuster went on to complete her master’s and law degrees at the University of Oklahoma. She was the first woman at Whitten & Whitten Law Firm and later became assistant district attorney of Oklahoma County, followed by a long career in private practice. Outside of work, Schuster has devoted much of her time to a number of local, regional and national organizations, including the English Speaking Union, the American Association of University Women, the National Kidney Foundation of Oklahoma-Southern Kansas, the Oklahoma regional church of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and The Oklahoma City/County Historical Society.
In 1982, Schuster was the first woman to be appointed to the original board of education for Oklahoma City’s Metro Technology Centers, a nonprofit career and technology center with six campuses offering training to high school students, adults and businesses. She currently serves as an elected board member for District 4 of Metro Technology Centers District No. 22.
Throughout her career, Schuster has been a strong supporter of Sweet Briar, serving on the College’s board of directors, on the Alumnae Association board and as a member of the Reunion Gifts and Boxwood Circle committees. Schuster has been an emerita trustee since 2006.
2011 — Teresa Pike Tomlinson ’87
Teresa Pike Tomlinson ’87 was elected the first female mayor of Columbus, Ga., in November 2010. At Sweet Briar, she double majored in government and economics with a certificate in business management. After receiving her law degree from Emory University School of Law in 1991, she began working as an attorney for Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick, Morrison & Norwood in Columbus. The firm’s only female partner, Teresa practiced law there for 16 years and is now of counsel with the firm. In 2006, she became the first executive director of MidTown Inc., a community renewal organization seeking to revitalize the nine square miles in the center of Columbus.
Over the years, Teresa has been recognized repeatedly for her community involvement. The Columbus City Council honored her three times for her work on government-appointed boards and task force committees, and the Georgia House of Representatives recognized her as an Outstanding Volunteer. In addition, Teresa received a Certificate of Special U.S. Congressional Recognition for “outstanding achievement, service and public distinction.” She was also named a Columbus Woman on the Rise and Exceptional Role Model in Business, and a Concharty Council of Girl Scouts Woman of Achievement.
A member of the Boxwood Circle Committee for nine years, Teresa has been involved in many alumnae activities and has donated to the College throughout the years. Twice, she helped to raise funds for her alma mater as a member of her class’ Reunion Gifts Committee.
2010 — Sarah Porter Boehmler ’65
This year’s Distinguished Alumna Award was presented to Sarah Porter Boehmler ’65. Boehmler is being recognized for her professional achievements as well as her community service. She became the first woman to be named a senior vice president of the American Stock Exchange in 1985. In 1991 she was put in charge of market development at the exchange, becoming the first woman to attain the title of executive vice president.
Boehmler’s financial career began in 1968 when she took a job as a stockbroker in Charlotte, N.C., and later in New York City. She joined Amex’s marketing division in 1973. In New York, she served on the board of the city YWCA, co-chaired the World Service Council of the YWCA, and was active in Brick Church and the Junior League. She also served on the board of the Third Street Music School. Since leaving the financial industry, she and her husband live in Davidson, N.C., where she served on the board of trustees at Davidson College. Not quite retired, Boehmler has embarked on a new career as farm administrator and bee keeper.
Since graduating from Sweet Briar, where she was a Manson Memorial Scholar and president of the SGA, she has served on numerous bodies, including the board of directors from 1978 to 1988. She is a member of Sweet Briar’s Silver Rose Society, having been a consistent donor to the College for 25 years. In 2006 her family and friends established the Boehmler Scholarship in her honor, which provides full tuition for the most outstanding enrolling member of an incoming class.
2008 — Patsy Smith Ticer ’55
The Honorable Patricia Smith Ticer of the Class of 1955, Virginia State Senator for the 30th District is the recipient of the 2008 Distinguished Alumna Award. This award, established in 1988, honors “alumnae who have brought distinction to themselves and to Sweet Briar College through outstanding accomplishments in a professional or volunteer capacity.” Senator Ticer is being recognized for her excellent work and accomplishments as a politician of the Commonwealth. During her tenure in the senate and as a member of the City Council of Alexandria, Senator Ticer, better known as Patsy, has made a point of supporting agriculture, conservation and natural resources, and children’s health and education.
As a student, Patsy was involved in a variety of clubs and organizations that foreshadowed her bright future in politics and community involvement. A government major, Patsy was a member of the glee club, Friends of Art, the World Affairs Club, Orientation Committee, French Club, the News Staff, Debate Club, Spanish Club, and Social Committee. She was chairman of the Personnel Committee, which helped students find summer employment; commission head of the Sweet Briar YWCA, which helped to emphasize religion in daily life and held social events on campus; and played Varsity Tennis. Patsy was an excellent example of a well-rounded student and graduated a leader among her classmates.
Before her term in the senate began, Patsy steadily climbed in position from Councilwoman of Alexandria to Vice Mayor, serving two consecutive terms in that position, and was elected in 1991 to the position of Mayor. She was the first woman to ever be elected as Mayor of the City. As a member of the City Council of Alexandria, Patsy’s most noted accomplishments include: her introduction and sponsorship of the first extensive revision of the City’s Master Plan; her involvement in the City’s opposition of a proposal by the Washington Redskins to build a new stadium at Potomac Yard, an area zoned for mixed commercial and residential use; and her work in the establishment of the Office of Early Childhood Programs catering specifically to at-risk children.
On the council, Patsy served in many roles. She was Vice-Chair of the Virginia Governor’s Council on Child Day Care and Early Childhood Programs for the state and also pushed for the establishment of the Early Childhood Development Commission in Alexandria. She served as Chair of the Northern Virginia Planning District Commission from 1985–1987, then became Chair of the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions and subsequently Chairman of the National Association of Regional Councils. She was Chairman of the Washington Regional Council of Governments in 1994, Chairman of the Transportation Planning Board, the Washington Region’s metro planning organization, and CALEA, the commission for the accreditation of law enforcement agencies. The Commission is national and international, and sets standards for, and accredits law enforcement agencies. Patsy was twice-Chairman of the United Way Campaign and was honored with the Scull Award for Public Service in 1996.
As Senator, Patsy’s assignments include the Committee on Local Government, Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services, the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation Board of Trustees, and the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Committee on Human Services and Welfare. Because Patsy believes so strongly in the future of our children, she has devoted much of her influence and time to children’s health and opportunity. Through Patsy’s guidance and legislation, infants are now tested for serious disorders that, if left untreated, could cause crippling or death.
Patsy has been a resident of Alexandria for over 55 years. She has four adult children and seven beloved grandchildren. She is also a member of Sweet Briar’s Silver Rose Society, having been a consistent donor to the College for 25 years or more.
2007 — Gay Hart Gaines ’59
A newly planted white ash in front of Sweet Briar House was a gift from the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association to Sweet Briar in honor of Gay Hart Gaines '59 on the occasion of the College naming her this year's Distinguished Alumna Award recipient. The tree was dedicated in a ceremony following the award presentation during SBC's Founders' Day convocation on Sept. 21.
Gaines has been regent of the MVLA, which owns and maintains Mount Vernon, for the past three years. From 2000-04 she represented Florida as a vice regent of the association. These are among myriad roles that earned her one of the highest honors Sweet Briar bestows.
The award is given for distinguishing oneself and the College through volunteer or professional achievements. Gaines took both paths. She ran an eponymous interior design firm for many years and served on the boards of local and national theater associations and diabetes foundations throughout the country. She also promotes conservative public policy through membership in organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, and is active in the Republican Party.
After then-U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) recruited Gaines to chair GOPAC, the Republican Political Action Committee, in 1993, she helped the GOP win a majority in the House of Representatives the next year. In 2002, she became president of the Palm Beach Republican Club in Florida, where she resides.
In 2003, President George W. Bush appointed her to the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She was confirmed for a six-year term in late 2004 and currently serves as vice chairman.
But nothing satisfies her more than her role at Mount Vernon, Gaines told those assembled during her acceptance remarks at the convocation.
“Our mission is all about preservation and education,” she said, explaining that her passion for history is rooted in her days at Kent Place School in Summit, N.J., and at Sweet Briar.
2006 — Elizabeth Perkins Prothro ’39
Her connection to the College began in 1935; she and her mother, driving across the country, passed Sweet Briar. “When I saw it, I decided that's where I wanted to go.” Now, three generations of Prothro women have attended: daughter Kay Prothro Yeager '61; Kay's daughters Elizabeth Yeager Edwards '84 and Linda Yeager Beltchev '85; and son Mark's daughter Holly Prothro Philbin '95.
Elizabeth always has shown great generosity, giving financial support but also determining needs and working to fulfill them. In 1957 she served on President Pannell's Advisory Board. Actively interested in the intellectual life of the College, as Founding Chair of Friends of the Library in 1966, she built an organization that immediately enhanced the quality of the library collections. She is a Life Member of FOL.
In 2001 Elizabeth was one of 22 recipients of Sweet Briar's Centennial Award, which recognized faculty, staff, alumnae and friends who “through dedication and commitment have had a significant impact on Sweet Briar College during its first 100 years.” In 2002, she became a charter member of the Keystone Society.
She served on the Dallas Campaign Planning Committee (Our Campaign For Her World) in 2003 and also was one of three recipients of the Council of Independent College's major national awards, receiving its Award for Philanthropy, which “celebrates individuals who contribute volunteer service or financial support to independent colleges and universities.” Besides Sweet Briar, Southwestern University , Southern Methodist University, Baylor University Medical Center , Midwestern State University , Texas Wesleyan University, the University of Texas, and Wofford College have benefited from Elizabeth 's interest and support.
A member of the Silver Rose Society, her enthusiasm has inspired an ongoing family commitment.
2005 — Jo Ann Soderquist Kramer ’64
Jo Ann Soderquist Kramer graduated cum laude with an A.B. in physics from Sweet Briar before becoming the first woman to earn a master's in aerospace engineering from the University of Virginia School of Engineering.
She began her career as an aerospace engineer with Martin Marietta Corp. in Orlando, Fla., then with Lockheed Martin Corp. in Burlington, Vt. She is now director of naval defense system programs for General Dynamics Corp. in Burlington, Vt.
2004 — Anne Litle Poulet ’64
With more than 30 years of distinguished experience in the art world, Anne Poulet was named (in October 2003) the fifth Director of the Frick Collection, one of New York City's most beloved cultural treasures. The Frick Collection is housed in the New York mansion built by Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919); its sixteen galleries showcase masterpieces of Western painting, sculpture, and decorative art that Frick bequeathed to the public before his death in 1919. She was Curator Emerita of the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, and headed its department of European decorative arts and sculpture, as well as oversaw the publication of 8 catalogues of the museum's permanent collection. In 2000, she received the Iris Foundation Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Decorative Arts. In 2003, she was recognized for her excellence as an author/curator of the exhibition catalogue for Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828): Sculptor of the Enlightenment, which opened in May 2003 at the Washington, DC National Gallery of Art and has since been shown at the Los Angeles J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Musse de Versailles. She is also co-founder and vice chairman of the board of the American foundation, The French Heritage Society, a post she has held since 1982.
2003 — Elizabeth Morton Forsyth ’36
Visionary philanthropist; founder of Lynchburg, VA’s “Miriam’s House” (a transitional home for homeless women and their children), and “Elizabeth’s Early Learning Center” (an establishment that provides educational care for the children of Miriam’s House residents and other community children); author of three books about her family: Charlie’s Children; A Forsyth Genealogy; and C.B. Fleet, The Man and the Company; named the 1996 Outstanding Philanthropist by the Virginia Piedmont Chapter of the National Society of Fund-Raising Executives.
2002 — Nella Gray Barkley ’55
President/Co-Founder of the career-counseling firm Crystal-Barkley Corporation, which conducts programs for companies internationally to better match workers to their jobs; author of two books, The Crystal Barkley Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career, and How to Help Your Child Land the Right Job; first general manager of the Spoleto Festival USA; past President of the Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc.; endless board and committee service to her nation, the state of South Carolina, and her hometown of Charleston, SC.
2001 — Joanne Holbrook Patton ’52
Owner/Partner, Green Meadows Farm of South Hamilton, MA; Owner/Director, Patton Consultant Services; decorated with countless honors and awards, she is the quintessential volunteer - has served on nearly thirty boards, advisory committees, commissions, or councils focused on higher education, the American Red Cross, the personnel and families of the U. S. military, mentally-challenged and aging adults, the Special Olympics, musical theatre and the performing arts, volunteerism and volunteer administration, community service, and the Episcopal church.
2000 — Connie Burwell White ’34
Earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1937 from the University of North Carolina; first female teaching member of the department of philosophy at the University of North Carolina; forty-year career in public relations - senior researcher for Time, Inc., executive assistant to the Editorial Director for Time, Life and Fortune magazines; decorated with the Order of the Cruziero do Sul for "bettering U.S. - Brazil relations"; co-founder and owner of PR firm White & White, Inc.
1999 — Patricia Traugott Rouse ’48
Co-Founder, Vice President, & Secretary of The Enterprise Foundation, Inc. (non-profit: creates housing for low-income American families); appointed by President George Bush to serve on board of the Commission on National Community Service; 4-year member of National Civilian Community Corps Advisory Board
1998 — Katharine Crommelin Milton ’62
Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley; Researcher of Primatology in the Amazonian Rain Forest, Panama, & Papua New Guinea; Evolutionary Biologist; Dietary Ecologist; Author; Lecturer
1997 — Georgene M. Vairo ’72
Lawyer; Professor of Law at Loyola University Law School; Authority on Federal Court Jurisdiction & Procedure; Chairperson of the Dalkon Shield Claimants Trust
1996 — Beryl Bergquist Farris ’71
Lawyer; Field: Immigration Law
1995 — Joan Vail Thorne ’51
Broadway Director; Actress; Stage Playwright; TV Teleplay Writer; Librettist; Teacher
1994 — Anna Chao Pai ’57
Professor of Biology, Montclair State College; Textbook Author; Researcher in Developmental Genetics
1993 — Molly Haskell Sarris ’61
Film Critic; Author
1992 — Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp ’68
Pediatrician; Medical Epidemiologist of the Division of Birth Defects & Developmental Disabilities of the Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta
1991 — Ann Henderson Bannard ’49
Artist & Sculptress
1991 — Sadie Gwin Allen Blackburn ’45
Author (book on residential architecture); Lecturer (Garden Design, National Parks/Wetlands, Chinese Porcelain)
1990 — Virginia Upchurch Collier ’72
M. D., Internal Medicine, Nephrology; Teacher of Clinical Medicine at Jefferson Medical College & the Medical Center of Delaware
1990 — Katherine Upchurch Takvorian ’72
M. D., Internal Medicine & Rheumatology; Associate Chief of Rheumatology at Worcester Memorial Hospital, Massachusetts; Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School
1989 — Hallam Hurt ’67
Pediatrician; Chairman of Division of Neontology at Albert Einstein Medical Center; Associate Professor of Pediatrics & Assistant Professor Of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Temple University's School of Medicine
1988 — Dorothy Rouse-Bottom ’49
1988 — Diana Muldaur Dozier ’60
Broadway, Movie, & TV Actress
1988 — Karin Lawson ’74
Attorney; International Legal Advisor