Celebrating women

The Senate and Board Chamber was filled with students, faculty and staff Thurs. Mar. 10 for a ceremony celebrating past and present women at Wilfrid Laurier University and their contributions since the institution began as a men’s-only seminary in 1911.

The first female students did not enrol until 1929.
“Women haven’t been here as students since the very beginning, but they have always been shaping the character of Wilfrid Laurier,” fifth-year women and gender studies and cultural studies student Daniel Adelman said.
Adelman cited examples like Clara Conrad, who was head of an educational group at the seminary and worked to provide opportunities for women to attend the school.

Adelman helped organized the event, part of International Women’s Week, and co-hosted it along with Ginny Dybenko, Laurier’s executive: strategic planning. 45 women from all areas of the university were recognized including several current students.

Dybenko began the night with a talk on her time in the business world at Bell Canada and the barriers she encountered as a woman in what was then a predominantly male environment.

“Women supported and still support the core of this university in academics, sports, volunteer work and the hundreds of small deeds that happen every day that usually go unnoticed but make this university a warm and welcoming place to be,” Adelman said in between announcing names of the women being recognized.

Adelman told The Cord that the event had been in the works since last summer as part of the university’s centennial celebrations. “There haven’t been a whole lot of events recognizing specifically women’s contributions,” he explained. “So we set up a nomination process so folks can nominate women that they think contributed something to our community.”

Dean of students Leanne Holland Brown explained her thoughts on the importance of such an event. “Ultimately it’s an event that builds community and recognizes the wonderful people that make up the Laurier community,” she said.

While the number of attendees could not be confirmed, the Chamber was packed from wall to wall. “It just goes to show you — in my day a few years ago, this never would have happened — ever,” Dybenko said of the turnout. “As a university, I don’t think we do anywhere near enough celebrating everything. We have so much to be proud of, particularly this.”