From co-founding a bookstore that became a community center to mentoring future health care providers and helping Utahns better understand the place they call home, each of the women honored Friday at the 25th annual YWCA LeaderLuncheon has contributed to making Utah a better state.
The honorees excel in their fields, earning the respect of peers and colleagues and inspiring other women to follow in their footsteps, said Anne Burkholder, YWCA chief executive officer to a sold-out gathering of more than 1,400 people. The luncheon featured a speech by Anita Hill, a law professor at Brandies University and advocate for race and gender equality.
Six women received Outstanding Achievement awards from the YWCA. Mary Schubach McCarthey received the first YWCA Heart & Soul Award in recognition of her community volunteering, dedication to bettering women’s lives and “transforming generosity” in support of the YWCA’s mission.
McCarthey helped the YWCA raise nearly $21 million over the past 16 years to expand the nonprofit organization’s Salt Lake City campus. She currently is chairwoman of its Community Advisory Board. She is a founding member of the YWCA’s Mary Willis Critchlow Society, which explores issues related to the YWCA’s goal of empowering women.
McCarthey said that more than 17 years, five buildings and hundreds of meetings later, the YWCA still has a “grip” on her heart and soul.
“The YWCA showed me the dedicated work of many individuals can make a difference,” McCarthey said, adding that her own life was “one of thousands improved” by the organization.
Also honored Friday were:
Business • Betsy Burton, owner of The King’s English bookstore, which she co-founded in 1977 and guided into becoming one of the nation’s iconic independent bookstores. She has championed freedom of expression while advocating for support of independent bookstores and local businesses. Burton also works to increase community understanding of people with disabilities, a cause inspired by her son who has multiple disabilities.
Community Service • Deb Sawyer, a peace activist who helped create the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the Gandhi Alliance for Peace, a life’s work that began in the 1980s when she started attending the Salt Lake Society of Friends (Quakers) services. Sawyer’s commitment to creating a more peaceful world continues, she said, in the hope that humans will eventually become “hooked” on democracy, human rights and nonviolent problem solving.
Education • Pam Perlich, senior research economist at the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, where she oversees the Utah Community Data Project, and adjunct professor in city and metropolitan planning and geography. Through the Utah Community Data Project, Perlich is providing insights into community diversity and how Utah’s neighborhoods are changing over time.
Public Service • Rebecca Chavez-Houck, a Democrat who has represented Salt Lake City’s District 24 in the Utah House since 2008 with a focus on health and human services issues and is the House’s assistant minority whip, a member of the Governor’s Multicultural Commission and of the Utah Commission on Immigration and Migration. With a background in nonprofit work, Chavez-Houck has championed social justice and cultural diversity issues.
Medicine/Health •Harriet Hopf, former director of the Women in Medicine and Science Program at the University of Utah, professor of anesthesiology, adjunct professor of bioengineering, and associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Medicine, where she mentors junior faculty as part of her goal to nurture others in making a difference in the world.
Sports/Athletics • Kathy Christine Howa, Rowland Hall physical education instructor and softball coach, a cancer survivor and founder of Swing for Life, an all-volunteer nonprofit that has raised more than $1 million in cancer research funds while educating young men and women about cancer awareness and community service.