Women and history were recognized at this year’s Faulkner University Annual Benefit Dinner last week featuring keynote speaker, Nikki R. Haley, the former United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on October 3 at the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.
For the first time in many years, the guest speaker for one of the River Region’s largest social events of the year, featured a female guest and the evening’s events provided a subtle, yet moving recognition of women, in particular women’s suffrage.
This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Congress passed the amendment on June 4, 1919 and it was ratified on August 18, 1920.
“Although many might want to argue that progress has been slow over the last century, it is absolutely undeniable that women have assumed significant roles of influence throughout American public life,” said Faulkner President Mike Williams. “Over the last 100 years we have seen women ascend to become cooperate leaders, shapers of public policy, inspirational nonprofit executives and thought leaders of every facet of American civic life.”
Faulkner lauded several alumna as part of the night’s program for their inspiring stories and accomplishments including The Honorable Carole Medley, ’95, Lauderdale County District Judge; Dr. Sky Jones, ’06, doctor at St. Jude’s Research Hospital; Joetta Kelly, ’71, a teacher in the River Region for over 40 years, Senior Master Sgt. Jessica Parker, ’19, member of the United States Air Force and Monica Pugh, ’95, a mother of five children and a foster mother to three.
As each one was escorted on stage, the Faulkner University chorus and Faulkner student Ashby Kasarjian sang "Hero," by Mariah Carey to honor their sacrifices, love and kindness and to showcase their strength of character.
“At our annual Benefit Dinner, we like to include elements of recognition,” said Billy Camp, Associate Vice President for Advancement. “We like to honor individuals or groups of individuals, with one criteria; shine a light where their deeds typically live in shadows. We edify good works, works of love, caring, heroism and service.”
Haley provided a word of encouragement to all the young women in the audience who aspire to be leaders.
“Push through the fear,” Haley said. “The truth is if you push through the fear and you just do it, you will find out that you are so strong on the other side.”
“Once you do, you really allow your talent to show,” Haley added. “You allow your passion to come through and it’s something that women need to encourage themselves to do. You don’t have to wait until someone else tells you it’s ok to do it. Just do it and prove to the world how great you are.”
“Faulkner students are the leaders and the women leaders of the future,” Haley said. “Congratulations on helping them prepare to be the caretakers of the values and beliefs that have shaped America.”
Haley has continually proven herself to be a fearless champion of human rights and education reform and a defender of American interests.
Haley challenged human rights violators across the globe, standing up to oppressive regimes in Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and Russia. During the U.S presidency of the UN Security Council, she hosted the first-ever session devoted solely to promoting human rights. She traveled the world visiting people oppressed by their own governments to see firsthand the challenges they face and to work with them directly on life-improving solutions—from Syrian refugees in Jordan and Turkey, to internally displaced people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, to Venezuelan migrants walking miles every day to cross the Colombian border for food and medicine.
With nearly 2,000 guests in attendance, proceeds from the dinner go toward funding student scholarships.
“Our annual Benefit Dinner is really the signature event of the university. It’s an opportunity for us to showcase our outstanding academic programs and our distinctive Christian mission and the investment we are trying to make into this community,” Williams said. “The most important outcome of the dinner is that we raise money for students to give them more scholarships in order to provide them with a transformative experience and to prepare the new emerging generation to make a tremendous difference in our world.”