Gala event honors women “embracing their Great Dameness”

By Peter Osborne

As Sharon Kelly Hake explained the mission of Great Dames Delaware at the organization’s 10th Anniversary Bash on April 25, she talked about “women who have never fully embraced their Great Dameness, women who are struggling to find their voices.”

She also described a Great Dame as “people who help each other with their ideas, advance those ideas, and hold each other accountable.”

And there was a whole lot of that going on Wednesday evening at the Hockessin Memorial Hall. The organization unveiled its Great Dames Scholarship Fund and raised $7,044 from attendees (with an anonymous donor doubling that amount and agreeing to extend the match until May 1 or $25,000 in donations, whichever comes first).

Three $2,500 scholarships were awarded to high-school students. And Dr. LaVerne Harmon, president of Wilmington University and one of three recipients of the first Great Dames Icon Awards, pledged two four-year full scholarships ($38,000 each) to her institution.

And throughout the evening, both honorees and their presenters talked a lot about authenticity, compassion,
and humility.

Honorees were Harmon (introduced by Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki); community activist Bebe Coker (introduced by Delaware State University Provost Tony Allen); and eighth grader and Philadelphia entrepreneur Anna Welsh (introduced by serial entrepreneur Jen Groover).

Among the highlights:

• Allen introducing Coker as someone who “hates the soft bigotry of low expectations.” After summarizing her 50+ years of activism – including leading the peaceful desegregation of Delaware schools – he added, “If it were not for Bebe Coker, I’m not sure what this community would look like.”

• Coker bemoaning the fact that the country “does not respect the teaching profession as we should” before urging attendees to sit down with children and “get a book and turn the page. They like it. Kids want all that stuff. The key to her success? Living by the idea that “if you don’t know a person, you can’t relate to them.”

Local financial planner Fred Dawson (see page 16) was the presenting sponsor for the event, and also performed with his band Club Phred and special guests Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals and Tom “Bones” Malone, formerly of the David Letterman Late Show horn section.

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