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Sept. 9, 2010

Five Pioneering Alumnae to Receive Smith College’s Most Prestigious Award

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – For their extraordinary professional achievements and outstanding service to their communities, five alumnae have been named 2011 recipients of the prestigious Smith College Medal.

Established in 1962 to recognize women who exemplify in their lives and work “the true purpose” of a liberal arts education, the honor will be bestowed at Rally Day on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011.

The following alumnae will receive awards: Alice Ladas ’43, pioneer and activist for women’s sexuality; Susan McWhinney-Morse ’55, social innovator; Sarah Franklin ’82, professor and anthropologist; Shirley Sagawa ’83, policy entrepreneur and author; Laurel Touby ’85, Internet entrepreneur and writer.

In addition to celebrating the medalists, Rally Day has become the occasion that President Carol Christ announces the next commencement speaker.

The 2011 medalists:

Alice Kahn Ladas ’43, M.S.S. ’46, Ed.D.

1Since the late l940s, Ladas has been a passionate advocate for educated childbirth, breastfeeding and women’s sexuality. Ladas graduated from Smith (cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in 1943, when the subjects she later promoted were considered to be taboo. Not one to be dissuaded, she traveled to Paris for training in the Lamaze method of educated childbirth and returned to teach the first such course in the United States. As a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, she proposed to write her dissertation on breastfeeding. Faced with opposition from her teachers, Ladas persisted, and, after convincing Margaret Mead to be on her committee, she received approval. Her thesis, “The Relationship of Information and Support to Behavior: The La Leche League and Breastfeeding,” helped begin the trend back toward breastfeeding in the United States. In 1956, Ladas moved beyond traditional psychoanalysis to help found one of the first body psychotherapy groups in the country, The Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis. Among other titles, she co-authored “The G Spot and Other Discoveries About Human Sexuality,” which became a New York Times bestseller. Soon to be 90, she continues to promote research in body psychotherapy, maintains a private therapy practice and serves on the board of the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy, which, in 2008, named its research award after her.

Susan McWhinney-Morse ’55

2At a stage of life when most decide to slow down, McWhinney-Morse chose instead to take on the challenge of expanding housing options for seniors. She joined with a small group of her Beacon Hill neighbors who sought to remain in their own homes as they aged but did not know how to get the support to make that possible. Using her marketing and fund-raising background, McWhinney-Morse played a key role in creating Beacon Hill Village (BHV), a Boston nonprofit membership organization that enables people as they age to lead safe, healthy and productive lives in their own homes. The concept reflects a paradigm shift in how older people relate to the aging process. McWhinney-Morse has remained active in the leadership of BHV since its founding in 2001, raising seed money and steering it through start-up challenges to stability and success. Now there are more than 60 “Villages” nationwide, two in Australia, one in Finland and hundreds more in the works. McWhinney-Morse has not only spurred new ways of thinking about growing old while remaining active and contributing members of society, she is a model of what can be accomplished by those of any age who have the commitment to pursue new ideas.

Sarah Franklin ’82

3Franklin is a professor of social study and biomedicine and associate director of the BIOS Centre for the study of bioscience, biomedicine and society at the London School of Economics. Her groundbreaking work explores the ethical dimensions of reproductive and genetic technologies and presents them in a way that is comprehensible to scientists, students and the general public. She has written and edited 15 books on the subject, as well as more than 100 articles, chapters and reports. Her pioneering work “Dolly Mixtures: The Remaking of Genealogy” examines the social implications of cloning and stem cell technologies. Franklin has been involved in a cohort of philosophers, sociologists and scientists who have established the social study of biomedicine as an area of research and postgraduate training. In addition to this wide professional network, she maintains collaborative partnerships with policy makers and patients’ groups. Her early criticism of the low success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and its implications for prospective parents has led to better preparation for these parents as well as stimulating advances in fertilization techniques. Franklin holds master’s degrees in women’s studies and anthropology and earned her doctorate from Birmingham University’s Centre for Cultural Studies. She has held visiting professorships in teaching and research at the University of California, the University of Sydney and New York University.

Shirley Sagawa ’83

4A prominent leader in nonprofit development, philanthropy and community service, Sagawa has been called the “founding mother of the modern service movement.” After drafting the original national service legislation in the late 1980s, she played a vital role in the formation of the Corporation for National and Community Service. There she served as executive vice president and spearheaded the development of AmeriCorps. Previously, she drove the Clinton White House agenda on philanthropy and other issues as deputy assistant to President William Clinton and deputy chief of staff to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sagawa’s leadership continues as a partner in sagawa/jospin, a consulting firm that provides strategic counsel to nonprofit organizations, foundations and corporations. Throughout her career, her vision for national service has inspired collaboration and bipartisan support, most recently through a coalition that resulted in the passage of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which increases AmeriCorps to 250,000 positions. A recipient of several national awards, Sagawa was named one of the 15 “women to watch in the 21st century” by Newsweek and one of the “25 most influential working mothers” by Working Mother magazine. She has written three books, including “The American Way to Change: How National Service and Volunteers Are Transforming America” (2010). Sagawa earned a master of science in public policy and public administration from the London School of Economics and a law degree from Harvard Law School.

Laurel Touby ’85

5Before, MySpace or Facebook, there was, a Web site founded by Touby and devoted to community building, social networking and career improvement for the millions of professionals working in journalism, publishing, advertising, marketing, design and other media-related specialties.
Upon graduating from Smith with a degree in economics, Touby landed her first job at a large New York City ad agency. She then went on to a successful career as a magazine writer and editor, first on staff, then as a freelancer. However, the freelance lifestyle meant that Touby spent much of her time working alone from home. In 1994 Touby and another freelancer decided to host a cocktail party in order to meet new people. Thus began a series of “media salons,” which ultimately led to her launching Mediabistro in 1996. By 2007, Touby sold Mediabistro for $23 million to Jupitermedia (now known as WebMediaBrands). More than a million media professionals worldwide have registered on the site. Users subscribe to Mediabistro’s many services, which include educational seminars, conferences, events, forums and industry-specific blogs, such as the popular TVNewser. Touby has served as a Smith Alumnae Quarterly board member. The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce honored her with the "Entrepreneur of the Year Award" in 2007. She has also joined the Media Task Force of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,800 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.


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