Shalise Bates-Pratt presented Whitney Forstner
with the B.J. Seymour Award.
(l. to r.) Aaron Smith, Mayjean Deem, Whitney Forstner,
The Randolph-Macon College Office of Student Life and Diversity Council lauded the
recipients of the B.J. Seymour Alumna Award and the recipients of the Woman of Excellence
and the Men of Vision awards at the 6th annual Empower Leadership Luncheon on Friday,
March 5, 2010.
Whitney Kazmerowski Forstner ’98 received the B.J. Seymour Award,
which is named in honor of pioneering Randolph-Macon College Professor Emerita Betty
Jean “B.J.” Seymour. In 1971, the college officially became coeducational with the
enrollment of 50 women. Seymour, who taught religious studies, joined the faculty
in 1971 as the first full-time female faculty member. She was also the first woman
to attain tenure, chair a department and be granted the rank of full professor.
The award honors alumnae of Randolph-Macon College who have consistently worked
on behalf of issues important to women and/or girls, and who demonstrate vitality,
integrity and leadership. The award, which carries an honorarium, was presented
to Forstner by Shalise Bates-Pratt, the director of student life at R-MC.
Forstner graduated from Randolph-Macon with a B.A. in psychology. During her time
at the college, she served as an officer for Delta Zeta and as president of the
Student Government Association. She went on to earn a M.A. in higher education from
the College of William & Mary and is the incoming president of the Society of
Alumni at Randolph-Macon. Forstner founded and owns Momentum Resources, a company
that places women, most of whom are mothers, with companies who need flexible and/or
part-time workers. As the mother of three-year-old twin boys, Forstner has a deep
understanding of the balance that many women are seeking. Friends say that Forstner
“leads her life with integrity and is very loyal to her partnerships both in business
and in life.” Through her work on and off the campus of Randolph-Macon, Forstner
has shown unwavering commitment to issues that affect women and girls.
“I am so honored to be a part of this day and part of this experience,” said Forstner
as she accepted the award. “I wouldn’t be half the person I am if it weren’t for
all those who have inspired and supported me throughout the years: smart women,
great friends; professors at R-MC who taught me to think differently; administrators
who mentored me; alumni who graduated many generations before me who have now become
my life mentors; the women I work with; my mom, who taught me about dedication and
hard work; my husband, who encourages me; our twin boys, whose unfailing and genuine
love makes life so rich.”
The luncheon also honored the winners of the Woman of Excellence and the Man of
The Woman of Excellence award honors students of Randolph-Macon
College who have worked to contribute to advancing the status of women on campus,
and who demonstrate leadership, vitality and integrity in their lives off or on
campus. This year, Mayjean Deem ’10 received this prestigious honor.
Mayjean Deem is a sociology and Spanish major. She has served as
a member of Macon Peer Response, chair and co-chair of the Gender Relations Council,
president and new member educator of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, and president
and vice president of the Organization for Sexual Minorities and Allies (OSMA).
Outside of the college, Deem has interned at Hanover Safe Place as an advocate for
survivors of sexual and domestic violence and at the General Board of Global Ministries’
Asian Women’s Resource Center in San Francisco, California. Her interest in working
with people of faith not only helped her earn a Bailey Scholarship to attend Randolph-Macon,
but also drew her to mentor children of incarcerated mothers at All God’s Children
Camps. Deem has also served as an International Assistant and is currently the house
manager for the International House at R-MC.
The second annual Man of Vision award honors students of Randolph-Macon
College who have worked to contribute to advancing healthy, respectful relationships
between R-MC men and women on campus, and who demonstrate leadership, vitality and
integrity in their lives on or off campus. This year, Aaron Smith ’10 and Joe
Varner ’11 were selected to receive this prestigious honor.
Aaron Smith is a history and sociology major. Throughout his college
career, he has been involved in and attentive to women’s issues and to issues of
diversity, discrimination and community-building. Smith has served as programming
director, vice president and president of the Residence Hall Association as well
as a J-term resident assistant and an assistant in the Office of Residence Life
and Housing. He is also a member of the College Judicial Board, a writing tutor
and an International Assistant. He has also been involved in Macon Peer Response,
One in Four, the Organization for Sexual Minorities and Allies (OSMA), the Gender
Relations Council, Alpha Phi Omega, German Club, International Interest Group, and
Habitat for Humanity.
Joe Varner is a religious studies major with minors in ethics and
music. He has served as an orientation leader, risk manager and marshal/chaplain
for Kappa Alpha Order, vice president of Service and Outreach for Interfraternity
Council, and a member of the sophomore and junior class boards. He has also worked
with Habitat for Humanity and participated in the 2009 alternative spring break
trip to Biloxi, Mississippi. Varner hosts a weekly bible study in his fraternity
house and worked with the Chaplain’s Office to create the Greek Ministries Organization,
for which he serves as founder and president.
The Empower Leadership Luncheon was sponsored by the Office of Student Life’s Diversity
& Inclusion Programs, as a continuation of the work of the office formerly known
as the Gender Resource Center (GRC). The GRC was developed by the college in the
mid-1990s as a tool to increase and enhance the academic, leadership and social
environment of women at R-MC. This campus resource provided a variety of services,
leadership opportunities and social/educational activities to the entire R-MC community
related to cross-gender relations and women’s issues. Shalise Bates-Pratt currently
serves as director of student life and continues to work with that office to direct
various gender-related activities.