The Washtenaw Community College Foundation’s Women’s Council honored three local women at its annual Salute to Women’s Leadership luncheon today.
Attendees of the 21st annual luncheon, held at the Morris Lawrence Building on the WCC campus, helped honor the community contributions of Jan Barney Newman, Debbie Bourque and Elaine Rumman, while also hearing a presentation from keynote speaker Yodit Mesfin Johnson.
Jan Barney Newman has devoted most of her life to education. She worked as a public school teacher; founded her own company, Aristoplay, a publisher of educational games; and operated a Learning Express toy store on the west side of Ann Arbor. She also has a long history of volunteerism, including as a board member for Girls Group and the Glacier Hills Foundation, as a trustee for the Ann Arbor District Library, and a strong supporter of Washtenaw Community College.
Barney Newman on the honor: “We ask for others who can’t ask for themselves. We are all in this together, to make good things happen. Service to others is the rent we pay.”
Debbie Bourque has a passion for helping women. In addition to her career as a research administrator at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, she has served as president of the Junior League and of P.E.O., a philanthropic organization that promotes educational opportunities for women. She has also been involved with the Ann Arbor YWCA, serves as an advisor to the Chi Omega sorority, is active with a single moms ministry at her church, and was a 12-year member of the WCC Foundation Women’s Council.
Bourque on the honor: “I read a quote that said, ‘When you have strong women, you have strong children.’ When you help others, you really do help yourself. Volunteering begins at home. When you have a strong community, we all benefit. WCC is a gem and we need to support it.”
Elaine Rumman came to Michigan from her native Palestine in 1969 with six children and a seventh-grade education. In the decades since, she achieved her driving passions of being educated and working to strengthen families. Her path to a master’s degree in social work started at WCC in 1973. She became a social worker for Ann Arbor Public Schools and started an award-winning community television show, Proud Parent Network. She has also volunteered with the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice and the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit.
Rumman on the honor: “My priority in life is to keep learning. I have a burning desire to learn. With an education, I truly understood the meaning of the American Dream. Follow your passion, make a difference and believe in yourself. Without the support of WCC, I would not have been able to start the next chapter of my life.”
Mesfin Johnson, the event’s keynote speaker, is a nationally-recognized speaker, trainer, activist and entrepreneur who champions causes that promote equity and access for women and people of color. She has coached and trained hundreds of women, entrepreneurs and activists in Michigan and around the United States using her own leadership curriculum.
She says her success began when someone at Ann Arbor Huron High School helped her secure a scholarship at WCC.
“I realize I have a responsibility to carry forth what was given to me,” Mesfin Johnson said. “Without your vision, our most valuable students may fall through the cracks.”
The 28-member WCC Foundation Women’s Council, currently chaired by Eileen Thacker, was created to bring together women from the community to address some of the barriers experienced by female students at WCC. The group’s mission is to endow scholarships for women based on leadership and academic excellence, provide a mentoring program, and provide services and resources that support the women of WCC.
The Women’s Council luncheon started in 1997 with a goal of creating an endowed scholarship. Since then, the event has raised more than $650,000 and expanded to fund scholarships and grants for childcare, books and emergency needs for WCC students.
For information about Washtenaw Community College, visit wccnet.edu.
For more information about the WCC Foundation, visit wccnet.edu/foundation