Plymouth State University psychology professor Dr. Wendy Palmquist remembers clearly one of her first acts of campus activism. It was 1966, and Palmquist was a freshman at Pomona College in California. For women at the college, it was an historic year: For the first time, female first-year students were not required to participate in the annual “freshman weigh-in,” a tradition in which members of the football team would coax the women onto a scale, then announce their weight loudly to the crowd. Though many students still succumbed to the pressure to participate in this event, Palmquist did not.
“Times do change,” Palmquist said as she accepted the 2006 Theo Kalikow Award, presented annually to a PSU faculty or staff member who has significantly contributed to the welfare of women on campus. The award was named in honor of former Dean and Interim President of PSU, Theo Kalikow. Palmquist, who has taught at the university since 1981, is a founder of the university’s women’s studies program, a supporter of Title IX sports programs for women and a professor whose excellence in the classroom has been recognized by students and colleagues. She has also been an advocate for women and men on campus through the Safe Zone Program, which promotes awareness and non-judgmental treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.
Each year, Plymouth State University honors two members of the PSU community for outstanding service and dedication to supporting awareness of women’s rights and women’s issues on campus. The awards are presented by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, a group of faculty, staff and students that helps identify women’s issues and make recommendations to support women’s achievement in all areas of university life.
English major Christine Messina ’06 received the 2006 Powerful Outstanding Women’s Advocate Award, given annually to a student whose advocacy work for women’s issues is commendable. Messina was praised by commission chair Anne Kulig for her dedication to the Alliance for Women’s Awareness Rights and Equality (A.W.A.R.E.), her service to the Women’s Studies Council and the Women’s Services and Gender Resources Center, where she works as the Gender Equality Student Coordinator, and for her “stellar academic career.”
“Because of my work for women and women’s issues, I realize that I have great dedication and strength that I never knew I had before. It is this strength, and the people who have inspired me, that will affect my future. I hope I never lose this drive to help others,” Messina said.
The President’s Commission on the Status of Women also recognized retiring President Dr. Donald Wharton for his own contributions toward making PSU a place where women can thrive. Wharton called the Kalikow and POWA awards “not only important symbols but powerful realities.”
“These students and staff have been a great influence on campus,” he said. “Thank you for all your great work over the years.”
Palmquist, who has spent 25 years working on behalf of women’s rights at Plymouth State, said her experience as a female college student and college professor has made her determined to use her knowledge, skills, leadership abilities and passion to address women’s issues.
“In many ways I’m still that freshman, refusing to be weighed by the football team,” said Palmquist.
Other Kalikow Award nominees included education professor and department chair Dr. Patricia Cantor, English professor Dr. Robin DeRosa and mathematics department administrative assistant Wendy Burnham. English major Nora M. Toomey was also recognized as a nominee for the POWA award.
Plymouth State University (PSU) is a regional comprehensive university offering a rich, student-focused learning environment for both undergraduate and graduate students. PSU offers 42 majors and 62 minors in programs that include education, business, humanities, arts, and natural and social sciences. The College of Graduate Studies offers coursework that promotes research, best practices and reflection in locations on- and off-campus as well as online. For non-traditional students, PSU’s Frost School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers working professionals opportunities to pursue an undergraduate degree by attending classes in the evenings, weekends and online. Located in a beautiful New England setting, Plymouth State University has been recognized as one of the “Best in the Northeast” by The Princeton Review.