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Delta State to host women’s leadership conference, nationally-acclaimed Sheehy to keynote

By February 2, 2007General

Gail Sheehy

Gwendolyn Sykes

Delta State University, in partnership with Viking Corporation, will play host to the highly anticipated Mississippi Delta Women’s Leadership Conference, Tuesday, Feb. 27; with a post-conference event to be held Wednesday, Feb. 28 at The Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood.

Set to a theme of “Life in Balance,” this year’s conference will both, celebrate and explore “the balancing act” a woman’s life can be, as women, today, have more choices and opportunities than ever before. Options for education, careers and independence all open doors and offer rewarding experiences, yet the role of nurturer, caregiver and homemaker still fall to the woman.

While we enjoy opportunities our grandmothers never dreamed of, we are called to carry our grandmothers’ responsibilities as well as our new found ones, but at what cost? Many women report anxiety over the “balancing act” required to juggle it all. If we are to be able to balance the opportunities and responsibilities placed before us, we must seek balance within ourselves and this year’s conference program offers new techniques and advice on just exactly how to do that – guilt free.

To be held in the State Room of the H.L. Nowell Union on Delta State’s campus, nationally-acclaimed, bestselling author Gail Sheehy will deliver the conference’s keynote address at 9 a.m. Of her 15 books, “Passages” is, by far, her most well-known selection, having stayed on The New York Times bestseller list for three years. It has been reprinted in 28 languages.

Sheehy will be presenting, “The Seasoned Woman: Pursuing the Passionate Life,” an idea cultivated in her new book. The book reports on an emerging phenomenon among women from the Baby Boomer generation, though Sheehy considers the book “only the beginning.”

She hopes to start a movement by connecting “Seasoned Women” across the globe through the Seasoned Woman’s Network website

Also slated to present is Dr. Annette K. Low, Director of the National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Low has been consistently passionate and committed to women’s health issues, and will present on “Women’s Health in Balance.”

Participants will have the opportunity to partake in one of four breakout sessions, including, Nicole Barrett of BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi and her workshop, “Let’s Go Walkin’ Mississippi Women,” which focuses on ways to gain more energy and a healthier life.

Mary Lo Verde’s workshop “Stop Screaming at the Microwave” will take a humorous look at keeping your life in balance.

“Dreams Balance our Lives Naturally,” presented by Kay Stricklin, will examine how dreams introduce balance into our lives because our psyches know we need it.

Jackie Williams, presenter of the “Organic Lifestyle” workshop, will describe how women can improve their quality of life.

The day’s agenda will also feature a leadership panel, as professional women reflect on the challenges associated with balancing and prioritizing family, career and civic responsibilities – guilt-free. Scheduled to appear on the panel are Debra Anderson, Economic Development Planner, Bureau for Long Range Planning, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning; Dr. Karen Fox, Chief Operating Officer, Delta Health Alliance; Florence Jones, Chief Nursing Officer, Delta Regional Medical Center; and Carol Puckett, President, Viking Hospitality Group.

As precursors to the day-long conference Tuesday, there will be two evening events – one on Sunday, Feb. 25 and one on Monday, Feb. 26.

The Lucy Somerville Howorth Award will be presented to Franke Keating, of Greenville, inside the Capps Archives & Museum on the Delta State campus at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 25. This award recognizes an outstanding woman from the Delta who has made great contributions to society, be it at the state or local level. Keating will be presented this award for her contributions in photography and journalism, with selected pieces of her photography to be on display.

The Nellie Nugent Somerville Dinner Lecture will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 26 in the State Room of the H.L. Nowell Union. The lecture series was founded in 1974 through an endowment by Lucy and Joseph Howorth, in honor of Lucy’s mother Nellie, who was the first female to serve in the Mississippi House of Representatives.

Gwendolyn Sykes, Chief Financial Officer for NASA and listed among the 50 Most Powerful Black Women in Business of 2006 by Black Enterprise, will present this year’s lecture.

Sykes, who will be making her third return trip to the Delta State campus since May 2006, was awarded the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal for her leadership of the Columbia Families First Team and in the creation of the NASA Family Assistance Fund, programs designed to provide financial and emotional support to the families of the lost astronauts.

A post-conference event will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood. Gail Pittman, creative director for Southern Living at Home, will open the day’s event “Ladies Day Out: Taking Time for Yourself,” which will take a look at new friendships, ideas and will help women “take stock” of themselves.

There is a $25 registration fee for the Nellie Nugent Somerville Dinner Lecture, a $65 registration fee for the conference and a $50 registration fee for the post-conference event at The Alluvian. Space is limited. Early registration is encouraged, as first-come, first-serve basis will be honored.

To register, please contact Special Projects at Delta State at (662) 846-4023 or visit the conference website at