​Women of Sewanee Success

by Lee Freeland Hancock, C’81, Special to the Messenger

Women of Sewanee, an independent group of alumni, faculty, staff and community members, announced its first fundraising success at Homecoming Weekend: a $20,000 fund for portraits of women scholars and mentors at the University.

The group launched its fundraiser in early October to honor history professor Julie Berebitsky, recently retired chair of Women and Gender Studies. Berebitsky’s portrait will be the first commissioned with a permanent fund named in her honor. Women of Sewanee (WoS) wants to ensure more portraits of groundbreaking women scholars and leaders are visible in places of honor at the University.

At a Friday reception celebrating Berebitksy’s career, WoS members revealed that more than 200 alumni, students, faculty and staff and community members gave from $3 to $2,000. The group doubled its initial goal, allowing for a permanent portrait fund.

“Women’s and Gender Studies was thrilled with the outpouring of support and recognition for Professor Julie Berebitsky,” said Andrea Mansker, current chair of Women and Gender Studies. “The efforts to commission an oil painting of Dr. Berebitsky that will hang in a prominent location on campus were phenomenal and stand as a testament to Julie’s longstanding efforts to disrupt the patriarchal status quo at the University.”

Terry Papillon, vice president and dean of the college, notably helped by creating a Women of Sewanee restricted account at the University. It allows for future donations to the Berebitsky portrait fund as well as new WoS initiatives at the University.

“I am pleased to see this group so engaged and interested in the well-being of Sewanee’s future,” Papillon said. “I look forward to working with them more on projects that will make Sewanee a continually better place for women.”

Women of Sewanee began in mid-July, as alumnae shared stories in connection with the year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of women’s admission to the college. Beginning with a few people on a Facebook page, it now has more than 3,100 members. It is open to women affiliated with Sewanee and the mountain community. Members include college professors, staffers and administrators, legal and medical professionals, farmers, journalists, scientists, nonprofit leaders, educators, theatre professionals, political consultants and government experts, stay-at-home moms and others.

“I never dreamed that a simple invitation for women of Sewanee to join together would turn into such a dynamic movement,” said WoS founder Em Taylor Chitty, C’77, a Sewanee native and University of Tennessee teacher.

Future WoS projects include member retreats and student mentoring and a book on Sewanee women. The group also wants to help enhance mental health, Title IX and wellness programs and community outreach initiatives.

“It’s time for us to show the University the power of female organization and collaboration,” said Hayley Shelton, C’04, a Nashville native and human resources consultant. “I look very much forward to working with the University to overcome challenges and illuminate continued issues that female and female identifying students face.”

Others said WoS is fulfilling a desire to expand Sewanee’s community. “We share a passion for this place and its people,” said Patsy Pyle, C’89, a Birmingham native who leads custom tours in Paris. “When women support women, our community will be stronger.”

Contact Women of Sewanee at <womenofsewanee@gmail.com> or Facebook.

Contribute to the portrait fund at www.support.sewanee.edu

. To designate the fund, select “Other,” and in the Program or Initiative field, note “Women of Sewanee Berebitsky Fund.”