Women’s Society presents leadership awards, honors Early

The Women’s Society of Washington University announced the winners of the Harriet K. Switzer Leadership Award and the Elizabeth Gray Danforth Scholarships during its annual membership meeting April 20. 

For the first time in 24 years of presenting the Switzer Leadership Award to graduating seniors, the group selected three honorees for their commitment to the university through leadership. Debbie Killmer, chair of the society’s leadership committee, presented the award to Gwen Klein, Delanie Ludmir and Anna Vaclavek. 

The Switzer Leadership Award recipients are (from left) Gwen Klein, Delanie Ludmir and Anna Vaclavek.

Klein, a John B. Ervin Scholar, is double-majoring in political science and educational studies, both in Arts & Sciences. She serves on the university’s Student Union; Undergraduates for University Socio-Economic Diversity group; and City Faces student group. During her first semester, she applied to be the Student Union’s Opportunity Fund chair, a role that engages low- income students in the university experience. Klein pushed for the fund to become part of the university’s endowment after securing over $350,000. 

She also founded a team focused on bringing a food pantry to campus. The Women’s Society selected the food pantry as one of its funded projects in 2020. Following graduation, Klein will join the Urban Teachers program in Washington, teaching and pursuing a master’s in education at Johns Hopkins University.

Ludmir is majoring in neuroscience in Arts & Sciences. She was selected as a Peer-Led Team Learning Leader, providing academic assistance and advice to students in general chemistry courses. She also became a teaching assistant, serving as a liaison between students and instructors. In addition, Ludmir volunteers and trains others in providing emergency health care as part of the WashU Emergency Support Team. After graduation, she plans to work at Massachusetts General Hospital as a clinical research coordinator and apply for medical school.

Vaclavek, who is majoring in chemistry in Arts & Sciences, is preparing to complete an honors degree. She is serving as a research assistant in Jonathan Barnes’ chemistry lab. She serves as coach and president for the WashU club softball team, organizing frequent practices and games against other colleges in the Midwest. She has given her time and support to multiple organizations, including the university’s Student Health Ambassadors and Campus Kitchen. Following graduation, she will work toward her emergency medical technician license and apply for medical school.

The Danforth Scholarship recipients are Mohaddese Mirzaee (left) and Yekaterina (Katie) Redka.

Gwendolyn Wesley, chair of the society’s scholarship committee, presented the Elizabeth Gray Danforth Scholarships, which award full-tuition scholarships to exceptional community-college transfer students. This year’s awardees were Mohaddese Mirzaee and Yekaterina (Katie) Redka, both students at St. Louis Community College.

Mirzaee studied at the Forest Park campus, where she excelled in her studies of business administration. While attending the community college, she has been involved in many campus-based clubs and organizations. She also provided assistance to students in the computer lab. A native of Iran, she plans to continue her education at Olin Business School.

Redka studied at the Meramec campus. She is a math peer tutor and a volunteer tutor to students pursuing their GED. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She also volunteers at her church, helping with youth-related activities, and at a rehabilitation center for people with addictions. Redka will continue her studies at the McKelvey School of Engineering.

Also at this year’s meeting, the group honored Ida Early, former university coordinator for the group, in her retirement by changing the name of its “Composing a Life” panel to the “Ida H. Early Annual Composing a Life Panel: Women Inspiring Women.” The society also established the Ida H. Early Start-up Grants Endowed Fund in her honor. The fund will provide up to $2,000 to each new Elizabeth Gray Danforth scholar for indirect educational expenses such as housing, supplies and transportation during their first year at Washington University.

Following the annual meeting, former Women’s Society president Gwendolyn D. Packnett shared the virtual stage with her daughter, a 2006 alumna and social justice activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham, for this year’s Adele Starbird Lecture. In the conversation, Packnett Cunningham reflected on her childhood, time at the university and lifelong commitment to social change.

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