Torch Award for Women’s Equality
2021 Torch Award Winner
Patricia Sloane-White, chair of the Department of Women and Gender Studies, has been honored by the University of Delaware Women’s Caucus with its 2021 Torch Award for her commitment to advancing women’s equality on campus.
2020 Torch Award Winner
Sowmya Shankar, a University of Delaware alumna and senior applications programmer, is the recipient of the 2020 Torch Award for her commitment to advancing women’s equality through the Women in Technology (WIT) initiative.
2017 Torch Award Winner
Karren Helsel-Spry | Administrative Assistant for the UD Faculty Senate
For over three decades, Karren Helsel-Spry has served as an advocate for women at the University of Delaware and her message to those celebrating her recognition by the Women’s Caucus as the 2017 Torch Award recipient was a simple yet powerful one: get involved and help someone if you can.
“The smallest effort can make such a big difference in someone’s life,” said Helsel-Spry. “Read someone’s cover letter or resume, provide a reference or be a mentor. Stand up for someone if you know there is an injustice because you never know when you’ll need help or someone to stand up for you some day.”
This tireless spirit, positive attitude and commitment to serving as a resource for faculty and staff are what prompted Shannon Lennon, associate professor of kinesiology and applied physiology, to nominate Helsel-Spry for the award.
“Karren truly embodies what the Torch Award means,” said Lennon. “She may not have changed policies here at UD but she has and continues to change the lives of women here on campus, from students to faculty and staff.”
Article originally published in UDaily on June 6, 2017.
2016 Torch Award Winner
Nancy Targett | University President
Nancy Targett, immediate past president of the University, was named the 2016 Torch Award winner earlier this summer.
The Torch Award is presented annually in recognition of an individual who has “carried the torch for women’s equality” at the University of Delaware. The torch recalls the lighting of a torch for the 1977 National Women’s Conference, symbolically charting a course between the first Women’s Rights Convention of 1848 and the modern movement for women’s liberation.
It was selected by the Women’s Caucus to represent the past and present efforts to achieve equality and improve the quality of employment for women at UD.
Targett has been a long-time advocate for issues of concern to women at UD, as well as a leader in her field.
A nationally recognized expert on ocean issues today, Targett first arrived at UD in 1984 as a marine chemical ecologist. By 1994, she had worked to receive full tenure, in 2000 was appointed associate dean of the then-named College of Marine Studies and in 2006, was named dean of the college.
She has held positions on the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council; as editor of the Journal of Chemical Ecology and later a member of the editorial board; and is a lifetime member of the International Society of Chemical Ecology.
Under her leadership as dean, among many achievements, the college launched and named its research vessel, R/V Joanne Daiber, after UD’s first female marine scientist to inspire young women considering careers in science and technology.
At the conclusion of the Board of Trustees meeting in May, Targett was officially recognized as the 27th – and UD’s first female – president. She is currently provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of New Hampshire.
Targett accepted the award at a luncheon in her honor on Tuesday, May 31.
2015 Torch Award Winner
Barbara Settles | Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
Settles joined UD as an associate professor of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) in 1968. When she arrived at UD, benefits like maternity leave, equal pay for equal work and provisions for work-family balance were not common practice. But through her efforts, Settles helped lay the groundwork for a more equitable environment for women.
In 1964, Settles became a member of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and soon after coming to campus became founding member of the AAUP UD chapter. She worked simultaneously with a team to organize the first Collective Bargaining Team at UD, which organized as a union in 1972. Settles was the first woman at UD invited to participate in the initiative.
She also played a key role in the pursuit of women’s pay equity as the chairperson of the Salary Committee in 1976. Settles arranged for an external AAUP expert to visit and analyze the budget, which led to the conclusion that “low pay for women was a choice not a necessity.”
Settles worked with the union over the next 25 years, holding various roles as a committee chair and on the executive board; she also often served as a grievance officer in major cases involving departments and female faculty issues.
Professor Bahira Trask, who nominated Dr. Settles for this award, wrote about Dr. Settles’ career:
“She was literally one of the pioneers: when she first came to UD, benefits like maternity leave, equal pay for equal work, and provisions for work-family balance were virtually unheard of. However over the years, Dr. Settles worked tirelessly and with great enthusiasm to educate, advocate, and encourage female employees to stand up for their rights –and to ensure that men heard them. It is not just for her initial efforts, but also the depth and continuity of these achievements, that Dr. Settles needs to be respected, recognized, and celebrated.”
Article originally published in UDaily on May 14, 2015.
2014 Torch Award Winner
Pam Cook | UNIDEL Professor of Mathematical Sciences and Associate Dean of Engineering
As a co-principal investigator on UD’s National Science Foundation ADVANCE PAID award, she has directed efforts to improve the recruitment and retention of women faculty in STEM departments. She leads UD’s Women in Engineering program, which supports female graduate students and faculty through workshops, guest speakers, networking opportunities and mentoring.
Since she became associate dean of engineering in 2002, the College of Engineering’s female faculty representation has increased from 4.5 percent to 16.6 percent. Under her leadership the College of Engineering received funds to establish two junior chaired professorships for women, the Mills Chair and the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professorship.
Cook served as chair of UD’s Commission on the Status of Women for six years. She received the 2012 University Change Agent Award from the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) and the 2009 University of Delaware Trabant Award for Women’s Equity for her efforts on behalf of women at UD.
Article originally published in UDaily on March 26, 2014.
2013 Torch Award Winner
Mae Carter | Women’s Studies
2012 Torch Award Winner
Anne Boylan | History
In 2012, we recognized Anne Boylan, Professor of History, for her outstanding contributions to the cause of women’s equality at the University of Delaware, with the 2012 Torch Award for Women’s Equality. Anne served on the President’s Commission on the Status of Women for many years, worked with ADVANCE to develop strategies to bring more female faculty into the College of Engineering, has mentored countless female undergraduates, graduate students, and new faculty, and contributes service and teaching to Women’s Studies. Her undergraduate and graduate courses in American Women’s History have introduced hundreds of UD students to women’s history.
Last spring, Anne and a cohort of other women who had served on the former Commission on the Status of Women circulated a letter calling for participation in the newly created Women’s Caucus. Anne organized two community meetings, gathered email addresses, and identified female faculty and staff to form the first board of directors. Ever conscious of the importance of historical memory, Anne wrote a brief history of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women. Without Anne’s vision, guidance, patience, determination, and wisdom this caucus might never have formed; now it is up to those of us who belong to the caucus to carry the torch that Anne has handed us.