Michigan Women Forward honors three local legends
As part of its mission to support women and girls across the state, Michigan Women Forward (MWF), formerly Michigan Women’s Foundation, will host its fourth annual WomanUp & Celebrate Women of Achievement and Courage Awards in partnership with the Kalamazoo (MI) Chapter of the Links, Inc. virtually on September 30 from 12:30-1:30 pm livestreamed on Facebook.
This year’s awards will honor three women who have dedicated their lives and livelihoods to improving our community. Kathy Beauregard is the director of athletics at Western Michigan University (WMU), and the 2020-21 school year will mark her 24th season there. Beauregard is the longest serving athletic director in the Mid-American Conference and is just one of nine female Athletic Directors at the 130 Football Bowl Subdivision schools. She initially came to WMU in 1979 as head women’s gymnastics coach, and she produced two MAC title teams and was twice named the MAC Coach of the Year. In her tenure as athletic director, WMU has seen success on and off the field, including winning 57 MAC championships, 34 NCAA Tournament appearances and seven postseason bowl invitations for the football team. Student athletes have also posted 20 consecutive semesters of a combined overall GPA above 3.00. Beauregard serves her community off campus as well. She has been active in numerous community service organizations, including the American Cancer Society, Go Red for Women, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and more.
Denise Crawford is the president and chief executive officer of Family Health Center, Inc. (FHC) in Kalamazoo. Crawford has led FHC since 2009, steadily expanding the center’s ability to deliver quality health care to underserved populations. In addition to building capacity and scope through expansions at FHC’s main campus, she has established a new, $15 million, 50,000-square-foot clinic in a low-income neighborhood; and partnered with a local foundation to purchase and equip two mobile health care units, which provide Kalamazoo Public School students and their families with health and dental services. Crawford worked to expand FHC’s health care services to include a broad array of medical, dental and behavioral care. She has elevated the quality of care and services offered by FHC, allowing those served by the organization to receive equal or better health care as that delivered by any other healthcare facility.
Judy Jolliffe was born and raised right here in Kalamazoo. Following a 30-year career with IBM, Jolliffe became the executive director of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. There she oversaw the creation of the Epic Center in Downtown Kalamazoo, renovating a closed Jacobson’s department store into a home for arts and culture. Jolliffe has remained deeply involved in the arts community, including the efforts to renovate Chenery Auditorium. She has been interim director of the Irving S. Gilmore Keyboard Festival and interim-co director of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. Jolliffe currently serves on the boards of the Bronson Health Foundation, Fontana Chamber Music, the Air Zoo and the Dorothy U. Dalton Foundation.
In addition to honoring these amazing women, this event helps raise funds for programs and scholarships that directly benefit women and girls in our community. This includes the partnership MWF has built over the last five years with the Kalamazoo (MI) Chapter of the Links, Inc. Together they deliver extraordinary leadership programming and renewable scholarship opportunities for high school students in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. The program, called #UGOGirls for Change, encourages young women to see themselves as leaders for social good and challenges them to make the changes they wish to see in their community, cultivate their networks of peers and mentors, and develop their leadership potential.
Funds raised this year are more important than ever because of MWF’s expanded work in Kalamazoo and the surrounding areas in the wake of the pandemic. In May, MWF launched its $1.5 million Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund to help Michigan businesses that were significantly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, but who were unable to receive traditional funding—specifically servicing individuals who are low to moderate income and those from marginalized communities. To learn more about these programs or other MWF initiatives, visit miwf.org. There you can make a donation to support women and women-owned businesses across the state and learn more about the virtual event on September 30.