Delaware Tech and the Owens Campus Alumni Association hosted Women’s Day, a celebration that highlights exemplary women and benefits the Alumni Association Scholarship Fund May 28 at Heritage Shores in Bridgeville.
The event, which is held annually, recognizes the significant accomplishments of dedicated women who have overcome personal and professional obstacles and made a positive impact on Delaware and the communities in which they live. Since the inception of the event in 1995, 45 women from around the state have been recognized.
The honorees this year are Mary Bailey, an administrative assistant in Del Tech Nursing Department, and Heather Block of Lewes, formerly a project supervisor and acting chief of part for PERFORM, USAID Iraq's Monitoring and Evaluation Program.
In her address to the Woman's Day attendees, Bailey talked about her education at Del Tech and how she was the first person in her family to attend college. During her college career Bailey earned an associate's degree in executive secretary technology, a bachelor's degree in administrative office management and an associate's degree as an office software specialist.
Bailey is also very active in her church neighborhood and community by teaching Sunday School, reaching out to women and children through the choir and dance ministries, worked as a teachers aid for Turnabout Counseling Ceneter, teaching math and English to elementary school children and has taught at Del Tech.
Block's Woman's Day nominator, Lisa Perelli of Milford, said, "Heather is a trailblazer, a natural at assessing the needs and the potential of any given situation. She expanded the DARE program to 35 nations, collected coats and hats for orphan children in Afghanistan, raised the visibility of women in media in Iraq and trained board members across the United States that support women's health initiatives."
Throughout her professional career, Block has moved from one male-dominated field to another, in positions of leadership and power, maintaining her integrity at all times. In her address to the attendees, Block didn't talk about her career achievements. She told the story of her mother and discussed issues affecting women today.
Block said, "We each contribute our thimbleful to history, so I’d like to use this time to share the story of my mother in honor of Women’s Day. My mother was raised very poor in Minnesota and contracted polio as a teenager. She was warned she might never walk again, but was admitted to Sister Kenny’s polio treatment hospital that had opened in Minnesota and was cured. She went on to tour with the Aqua Follies and then became the first member of her family to graduate from college while working at a paper bag factory.
"After college, she joined the Army and moved to France and Germany to support the troops, the only jobs women had at that time with the Army. She traveled all of Europe and then returned to the U.S. after several years and met my father, who was in the Army at that time. My mother raised three kids and then found out in the 7’s when she was divorced that women had no access to credit after divorce. So she began working for an organization to help women find jobs and establish credit. My memory is that my mother always worked and also handled all of the child raising.
"I grew up with the values of public service and of political action. In her senior years, she played a mean game of tennis, won a national slalom in Colorado, volunteered at an orphanage in Hanoi, rode rapids in Costa Rica and learned silver smithing in Mexico. She was an example of living life on her own terms. She raised me at the twin altars of self sufficiency and determination. I also hope to pass on those same values to the dozens of women and men that I mentor around the world.
"How does this apply to women and Sussex County? In every way. Too many women live in poverty due to having babies young and not getting enough education. And this doesn’t just pertain to young women. I read that senior women have much less retirement savings as they aren’t paid as much. What can we do to support women? Support women-owned businesses, support women political candidates, support family planning and mentoring for all ages. And maybe most important, take action. Next time you hear anyone say 'he throws like a girl, hits like a girl, cries like a girl…' Say something, intervene. These are part of the subtle conditioning that begins young.