“Leadership is not defined by the length of your resume, but by your ability to draw others to your work,” said Colleen Seidelhuber Willoughby ’55 as she introduced a trio of successful non-profit sector women executives whom she invited to campus to participate in Whitman's 2007 Women in Leadership Symposium on March 28.
Willoughby, a noted Seattle philanthropist who founded CityClub and the Washington Women’s Foundation, has sponsored women’s leadership symposiums at Whitman for more than 20 years, bringing women to share their life stories as inspiration to generations of Whitman students and alumni. In that time, said Willoughby, she has seen an “evolution” of women’s lives, but the women remain “dedicated, funny, tenacious, giving and warm.”
As the afternoon’s moderator, she yielded the floor to her speakers: Paula Clapp, co-founder of Global Partnerships; Megan Karch, executive director of FareStart; and Sonya Campion ’83, fundraising counsel with The Collins Group and co-founder of The Campion Foundation.
Clapp and her husband founded Global Partnerships in 1994 to promote economic opportunity for Latin America’s poor, using micro-lending as their vehicle. “When you talk to these women, you discover that their hopes and dreams are the same as ours—education, safety and security for their children.” Lending a woman $75 can change her life by giving her the means to start a business and earn a living that will allow her to support her family and send her children to school, she said. “Our borrowers are our heroes.”
Karch oversees FareStart, a nonprofit entrepreneurial organization that includes a 16-week culinary training program that takes homeless men and women off the streets and into jobs. In her career working for nonprofit service programs, she said, she has really been guiding people to the life they want. “I thought for many years that it was by accident that I ended up doing what I do,” said Karch, but in conversations with the other panelist she realized “You wind up going toward your passion before you know that it’s your passion.”
Campion is phasing out her career as fundraising counsel with The Collins Group in Seattle, because she and her husband have founded The Campion Foundation, in which they are working to preserve wilderness areas, end homelessness and strengthen the nonprofit sector. She encouraged the women in the audience to look to the nonprofit sector for careers. “It’s scrappy. You get more opportunities more quickly than in the corporate world. There are many more women CEOs in the nonprofit sector than anywhere else.”
Claudia Galeas ’08 said she found the symposium to be a valuable and inspiring experience. “The speakers are admirable women, and it was interesting to hear the difference they make every day in people’s lives and the motivations that drive their work.” Galeas talked to Clapp after the panel presentation and plans to contact Global Partnerships about volunteer possibilities in Honduras this summer.
The symposium was coordinated by the Whitman College Career Center, Reid Campus Center 219. For more information, call 527-5183.