Game Changers

The Women's Foundation Honors Memphians Who are Making a Difference



When it comes to changing the social and economic landscape of our community, few groups have played a larger role than the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis. With an annual budget of $1.5 million and a dedicated group of members and volunteers, the Foundation’s work is specifically geared towards women and children, and each year, the group honors Memphians who have contributed to that cause.

To date, 27 women have received this honor, with past winners including such well-known figures as Maxine Smith, Gayle Rose, and Dr. Shirley Raines. This year’s honorees include Dr. Barbara Prescott, Dr. Rosie P. Bingham, Kathy Buckman Gibson, Carolyn Chism Hardy, Rachel Shankman, and Hazel G. Moore.

Founded in 1995 by a grant from local philanthropist Mertie Buckman, the Women’s Foundation helps Memphis women achieve and maintain economic stability for themselves and their families. “It was established to raise money and grant dollars and put those investments back into our community,” says Ruby Bright, executive director of the Women’s Foundation since 2000. “To create a sense of women’s leadership through philanthropy, to educate women about giving — the impact of collective giving for and by women. ”

Just four years after its inception, the Foundation conducted a study showing that 80 percent of those living in poverty in our communtiy were women and children.  “I think it was startling to the board of directors,” says Bright. “It raised attention to the board that we need to be a part of the solution. In its 18th year, we continue to work on that and make strides. It’s very difficult to move the needle of poverty, but we know that, through grant-making and other work we do in the community, we are changing lives every day.”

In 2009, the Women’s Foundation established its Legends Award to honor women whose “visionary and innovative work is paramount in their specialized areas of service and philanthropy.”

With the goal of staying true to its mission, engaging the community, and creating something unique, the Foundation decided not only to honor exceptional women with the award, but also to recognize female writers and artists. After the honorees are chosen each year, a separate committee selects a writer to profile the honoree and also commissions a work of art to represent the honoree. “We are storytellers and we are passionate, purposeful, and thoughtful in reaching the next generation, honoring the past, and being so much in the present,” says Bright.

The artwork and stories about each were initially presented at the Foundation’s Annual Tribute Luncheon in April, and afterward, the art is on display in the community at various locations, including Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women.

On the following pages are profiles of the 2013 Legends Award honorees, a brief Q&A with each winner, the artwork that represents them, and a listing of all previous winners. To nominate a local woman for the 2014 awards, visit the Women’s Foundation at wfgm.org. — Anna Cox

 

Barbara U. Prescott, PHD.

Dedicated to educating  children in Memphis and Shelby County, Dr. Barbara U. Prescott has worked on the front lines to improve the education system for 30 years. She is presently the executive director of PeopleFirst Partnership, the education and talent component of Memphis Fast Forward. Starting her career as a teacher and guidance counselor, Barbara was co-director for the Optional Schools Program and is a former three-term member of the Memphis City School Board where she served twice as president and vice president. During that time, she sat on the board of directors of the Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA); was named to the All Tennessee School Board; chaired the Ethics Advisory Board; earned the distinction of Master School Board member, and served as the president of TSBA. She has been an instructor for TSBA’s Vision Academy and the Board/Superintendent Relations Academy and has worked with school boards and systems across the state in team building and strategic planning.

Prescott was recently appointed to the Transitional Planning Commission (TPC) in 2010 and elected chair. The TPC was tasked with creating the plan for the merger between Shelby County and Memphis City Schools. She is also a licensed professional counselor.

 

What or who motivates you?

“That’s a really interesting question. I’d say what motivates me the most is the desire to give back to the community and make it a better place. I would say specifically with children, but really it’s education at all levels.”

What’s your greatest challenge?

“My work on the TPC [Transitional Planning Commission] was challenging as we were elected after the decision was made for the merger [between Shelby County and Memphis City Schools]. By law, there had to be a planning commission, not to enact or implement but to make sure the plan was set up for the school board. It was challenging, but the people I worked with were fantastic.”

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

“I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years — my faith is very central to me, so that’s definitely a factor. I believe everyone is given talents, and it’s our duty to use them. So the lesson from that would be to do work for which your talents can be best used.”

What’s your proudest moment/greatest reward?

“There have been many proud moments, most centering around my family. For one, presenting my kids, Allie and Allison, with their high school diplomas. I was president of the Memphis City School Board at the time, so that was really great. Another would be my husband’s individual awards, like when he [Allie Prescott Sr.] was named Outstanding Alum at the University of Memphis.”

What’s the best advice you ever received?

“It’s also the advice I’d give: Embrace your strengths and talents and give back with a purpose. Act on your talents and passions because that’s where real change can happen.”

 

The ABC’s of Life Artist: NJ Woods Acrylic on canvas The work ”celebrates the calm, balanced, and magnetic personality of Barbara Prescott and her commitment to family, work, service, and community.“

 

 

 

 

Rosie P. Bingham, PHD.

A prolific writer, presenter and leader in the field of psychology, Dr. Rosie Phillips Bingham became the first African American to serve as Vice President of Student Affairs at the University of Memphis in 2003. She has served as president of three national professional organizations — the Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors, the International Association of Counseling Services, and the Society of Counseling Psychology of the American Psychological Association (APA). Rosie was an organizer of the first National Multicultural Conference and Summit of the APA. She was selected as one of 15 women from around the world to participate in the Women of Color Development Incubator Project funded by the Kellogg Foundation and used that training when she served as Chair of the Board of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis (WFGM). She also served on the Board of Directors for American Psychological Association and on the Council of Student Affairs for the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities. Locally, she serves on the Baptist Women’s Hospital Board of Directors and on the Boards of Trustees for New Memphis Institute and WFGM.

 

What or who motivates you?

“I get motivated by lots of things and lots of people. But especially by inspirational stories; seeing people overcome. I’m very spiritual; so, I’m inspired by testimonies, by people doing good to others, and our students.”

What’s your greatest challenge?

“My greatest challenge and satisfaction might be interpersonal relationships. But also that I step up and speak up. While I will do that, I always have to tell myself to do that.”

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

“First turn first to faith, then peace follows. Then a really practical one, that I tell everyone, learn to do discretionary saving, even if it’s a small amount. Not emergency fund or retirement. I believe for those of us who aren’t wealthy, that’s how we gain financial freedom.”

What’s your proudest moment/greatest reward?

“Other than my son, you know, it’s last year when the University of Memphis Black Student Association gave me their Lifetime Achievement Award. For students to say I made a difference still makes me emotional.”

What’s the best advice you ever received?

“Probably depends on which setting. One was something I saw modeled; I watched my predecessor always take his children’s calls. Working moms struggle with giving enough to their kids. My son always had access to me. Made him feel like I was always there and I could have less guilt. Another is when you are a person of color, or a woman, when you’re at the table, speak up. It’s not enough to be at the table, you must speak up.”

 

Speak and Speak Often Artist: Melissa Dunn Acrylic on canvas “The piece represents Dr. Bingham's brave, fiery, and energetic personality, balanced with her warmth and thoughtfulness.”

 

 

 

Kathy Buckman Gibson

Kathy Buckman Gibson stands on a legacy of entrepreneurship, philanthropy and dedication to Memphis. As Chairman of the Board at Buckman Laboratories International, Inc., Kathy succeeds her father, Robert Buckman, as head of the company that her grandfather, Stanley J. Buckman, created in 1945. Following in the footsteps of one of Memphis’ most well-known philanthropists — her grandmother, Mertie Buckman — Kathy has given her time and attention to improving education and the local economy, as well as the arts. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, the very organization her grandmother started in 1995. Kathy is involved in almost every aspect of the community, serving as co-chair of the Memphis Talent Dividend: College Attainment Initiative, and on the boards of the Tennessee College Access and Success Network, the National Civil Rights Museum, and the national board of Girls, Inc., where she was recently elected treasurer.

 

What or who motivates you?

“My grandmother [Women’s Foundation founder Mertie Buckman] had a vision of what could be done with a collection of diverse women with a common commitment, not with other’s resources but with their own. Pooling those resources together collectively. Anyone who ever had a doubt of what a group of women can do, just needs to look around this city these days.”

What’s your greatest challenge?

“I never imagined that I would one day meet a man who had all the key qualities that I was seeking in a life partner, at age 40. And it just so happened that he was African American. I had to deeply explore what I knew were my natural biases as a white female growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, before I could really think about having a long-term relationship with that individual. But if I hadn’t encountered those challenges, I wouldn’t be where we are today.”

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

“I strive every day to see the opportunities within the challenges, whether in my personal life or the work environment,  and then there are always the unexpected challenges associated with every opportunity. Ones that often require a great deal of creativity and hard work to bring them to fruition.”

What’s your proudest moment/greatest reward?

“At the age of 48, I never dreamed it would be possible to be a first-time mother. And as we went through that process of trying to have children, I had to address the various challenges. Now we have two beautiful girls. Also, this award is deeply personal because it represents the culmination of a vision my grandmother had so many years ago. To receive this, and know that she’s smiling above means a tremendous amount.”

What’s the best advice you ever received?

“My grandmother was very powerful, and yet very graceful. I often think of what Grandmother would do in any situation, and I strive to seek out the opportunities that I know she would look for that come with every challenge.”

 

the belt of venus Artist: veda reed Acrylic on canvas ”A symbolic landscape, the pink is representative of Kathy’s red light (leadership, energy, vibrancy, and activism) disbursed.“

 

 

 

Carolyn Chism Hardy

Taking the road less traveled by women in business, Carolyn Chism Hardy has been an executive in Memphis for more than 30 years. A trailblazer, innovator, and job creator, she started her career at the J.M. Smucker Company where she successfully managed Finance, Quality, and Human Resources before becoming the first African-American female plant manager. Carolyn left Smucker to serve as vice president of services, responsible for national software implementations for Honeywell-POMS Corporation. In addition, Carolyn was former vice president/general manager for Coors Brewing Company — the first African-American female vice president/GM of a major brewery. In this role, she was responsible for manufacturing and distributions, serving the southeastern U.S. and 100 percent of international distribution and military bases around the world. In 2006, Carolyn had another first when she started Hardy Bottling Company, making her the first African-American female to own a major brewery, with the ability to manufacture over 100 million cases.

 

What or who motivates you?

“My mother. I was the 7th of 16 children. She had a way of going about her day and doing what she needed to do and always had time to listen. She would always tell us that time is more important than money, and we took that into our professions. She never took government assistance because she never wanted us to think you could get something for free. The values you learn at home shape your professional life.”

What’s your greatest challenge?

“I want to blaze a trail, and if you’re going to blaze a trail, sometimes you’re going to get blazed. It’s new for you as much as it’s new for others, and sometimes people don’t know how to handle it. I worked really hard making people feel comfortable, but I wasn’t always invited in with open arms. Normally you get passed over before they realize you’re the one. Stay persistent. A lot of times women and minorities are trying to convince you we’re as good as the guys. You have to go in and accept no less than what you’re qualifications merit.”

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

“Never take no for an answer. I’m coming back; it’s just a matter of when. Because I know I have what you need. Have confidence and determination.”

What’s your proudest moment/greatest reward?

“My greatest reward is my three children. Two girls and one boy, and they all have bachelor's degrees — two  girls have master’s and my son’s in dental school. My mother, who only had an 11th-grade education, instilled the importance of education, and between her kids and grandkids she has 50 or 60 degrees now. I’m proud of that legacy.”

What’s the best advice you ever received?

“Go into business. Become an entrepreneur. I felt I could do it, but sometimes someone looking at you from the outside can see the characteristics that you take for granted. Someone has to say, ‘Follow your dreams.’”

 

For Carolyn Artist: Jennifer Sargent Woven tapestry “This tapestry is collected impressions of Carolyn in visual form — her business outfits, her home surroundings, and the difficulties of being both female and African American in the business world."

 

 

 

Rachel Shankman

The daughter of Holocaust concentration camp survivors, Rachel Shankman was born in a displaced persons camp in Munich, Germany, and was brought to the United States at an early age. Her life experiences led her to join the staff of Facing History and Ourselves in 1991. Prior to joining Facing History, she was director of the Jewish Student Union at Memphis State University, educational director of Beth Sholom Synagogue, regional director of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, and a casework associate with Family Services of Memphis. Rachel served as the first woman president of Beth Sholom Synagogue, has served on numerous boards and was a graduate of Leadership Memphis, Class of 1994. Rachel was selected to be listed in Who’s Who for the year 2000 and the recipient of the Women of Achievement Award in the category of initiative. In November 2004, she was awarded the Bishop Carroll T. Dozier Award for Peace and Justice from Christian Brothers University. Most recently, Rachel received the 2012 Ruby R. Wharton Award for outstanding service in the field of race relations.

 

What or who motivates you?

“Wanting to make our community the best possible Memphis it can be, but I’m equally motivated to think beyond our community. Realizing in my particular interest, how we can use education for every student to achieve a quality education. One that teaches them how to function in a democracy — for example, civic responsibilities and to think and engage.”

What’s your greatest challenge?

“Economic resources that we all need in our community. Issues of poverty and how we use our resources. Knowing that we’ve got enough human and economic resources to meet the tremendous need of education. Also helping people truly understand difference and shared goals that are transformative, that go beyond any one person, community, or race.”

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

“To see value in each human being and recognize that I have so much to learn. Humility — years  of experience have taught me to appreciate how much I still have to learn. I’m a lifelong learner.”

What’s your proudest moment/greatest reward?

“Without question, helping raising two very fine human beings, my two sons. They still teach me by the way they live their lives. No matter how challenging work situations can be, raising two children is my proudest accomplishment.”

What’s the best advice you ever received?

“My parents taught me what you carry with you through your life is your good name. How you behave and how you value people is far more important than any [physical] reward. Live with integrity.”

 

Portrait of a Legendary Life: In the Words of Witnesses Artist: Coriana Close Part of a tryptich (shown here: A Student Asks Core Questions) ”inspired by Rachel’s role as an agent of change.“

 

 

 

Hazel G. Moore

Hazel G. Moore has spent more than 40 years as a cosmetology professional and licensed instructor. She is a successful businesswoman and the sole proprietor of Hazel’s Hair Fashion. As a trailblazer in the beauty industry, she was appointed by the governor to the State Board of Cosmetology to assist in regulating state laws, a position she held for more than 20 years. Affectionately known as “the Mayor of Whitehaven,” Hazel is often called upon by city leaders to participate in strategic planning meetings to address problems, projects, programs, and initiatives that impact the community. Hazel has been instrumental in the advancement of the Whitehaven community, working with city leaders to aid in the construction of the Whitehaven Branch Library. For the past 20 years, she has sponsored several annual events in the Whitehaven community, has served on a number of boards and committees, and held several leadership positions. Presently she is a member of the Methodist South Healthcare Community Board, Remington College Memphis Campus Advisory Board, the Mayor’s Advisory Board on Education, and is president of the Community Relations Council Board of Dr. Benjamin Hooks Job Corps Center.

 

What or who motivates you?

“There are so many great children who need help and support and if you have something to give and pass on to others you should. It’s easy for people to say, ‘I can’t’ when it comes to change, but you can if you want to bad enough.”

What’s your greatest challenge?

“Showing [the community] that things can change. Most of the time, people don’t see things changing and trying to motivate people to create change [without seeing results] is hard. I’ve realized that most people don’t like change, but you have to say, ‘C’mon, we can do it together.’ Someone has to take the lead.”

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

“Be a good listener. Listen to people and their needs, and you can learn a lot yourself. And working with people — most of the time, I feel like so many people get angry, and anger destroys a lot. You have to stay positive. Stand for whatever you believe in and make it work.”

What’s your proudest moment/greatest reward?

This award was definitely one. It gives me an honor for people to see and understand the challenges you face in trying to make things change. I feel like my work has really let people know that I did it because I loved it and it was needed. There were so many other great women [honored]. It was very special to me that they chose me as one.”

What’s the best advice you ever received?

“I have this little serenity [prayer] that I keep on my mirror that highlights and inspires me because it keeps me focused and I don’t get caught in a standstill: ‘If you can’t change something, then move on and focus on changing the things you can.’”

 

Stars in Her Crown Artist: Jill Wissmiller Digital print “The energetic flecks of sparkle in the portrait represent her amazingly active spirit that gives off so much light.”

 

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