Dorothy “Dot” Kovalchick Rourk struggled to get out of her wheelchair as her name was called to receive the University of Louisiana Monroe Women’s Symposium Legacy Award. As she rose, ever so gently, pushing one index finger in the air, she shouted, “Women are the best.”
Rourk, 91, was the first woman on an all-male baseball league team, and she was the real life inspiration for the movie “A League of Their Own.” The symposium audience collectively let out gasps, and some participants were nearly brought to tears.
“Seeing her struggling from her wheelchair to accept her awards almost brought me to tears,” said Kassandra Merritt, a senior mass communication major at Grambling State University.
Merritt was one of several GSU students attending the inaugural program. The symposium focused on motivating and equipping females with the professional level tools to pursue their passions. More than 25 panelists spoke on education and careers, transitioning and adapting and health and lifestyles.
Merritt and other GSU students were the guests of Kathy Spurlock, general manager and executive editor of The News-Star, one of the panelists and event sponsors. During one of the sessions, Spurlock encouraged the women attending to “be mindful of your social media and be mindful of your personal brand” and to network and develop a special one-on-one, confidential relationship with someone they can trust.
Bre’Anna Johnson, a senior mass communication focusing on sports journalism, enjoyed the balancing act session as the panelists talked about the challenge of handling multiple responsibilities. “The panelists spoke directly to what I’m currently facing,” said Johnson, 26. “I am able to apply immediately everything I learned in that seminar.”
Sarah Torresgrossa, Miss ULM and a junior journalism major, also liked the session. “I don’t know how to slow down,” she said. “This shed a lot of light on how to balance my life.”
Christine Rambo, senior vice president for communications and business development for North Louisiana Economic Partnership, told the women in another session that balance can be attained.
“In order to have a balance you must take a deep breath, and focus on work, life and balance,” she said.
Regina Love, 23, a senior mass communication major, and Miniya Shabazz, 19, a freshman mass communication major from Laurel, Maryland, enjoyed the networking opportunities. “I was able to network with women professionals in the area as well as reconnect with women I’d met at previous conferences,” said Love, a Kansas City, Missouri, native.
Three women were honored at the symposium. The Rising Professional Award went to Brooke Foy, a 2006 ULM graduate, artist and college art professor involved in the community. The Distinguished Leader Award was given to Kay Hack Shipp, who contributed financially to build the ULM Jim Shipp Pavilion, a riding facility for disabled children.