LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 20, 2013) — Imagine a woman who made such an impact on her university that 55 years after she retired as dean of women the University of Kentucky honors her still every year.
Reading about Sarah Bennett Holmes, one gets the distinct impression that this was a woman with all the right stuff. She helped steer the university through some of the most tumultuous and tragic years in this nation’s history. From 1929 through 1941, Holmes served as assistant dean of women, and from 1942 through 1957, she was dean of women. That’s from jaw-dropping flappers to Elvis Presley, from the Model T to Sputnik, from the Great Depression through World War II to the Cold War, from the last great silent film “The Battleship Potemkin” to “The Bridge on the River Kwai.”
Through it all, Sarah Bennett Holmes championed women’s rights and tirelessly encouraged young women at UK to dream big and to pursue those dreams of an education and a career with their whole hearts. This was not a script she read; it was a life she led.
Widowed young with four children, she took the route many women might take today, but few even considered in the 1920s: she went back to school to complete her college education. One of the first things she did as assistant dean of women was to develop a work program for female students to ease their financial burden during the Great Depression. Before she retired, she saw to it that the decrepit wooden Army barracks that housed female students were demolished and a modern (for 1958) dormitory built especially for women and named after the university's beloved dean of women.
The University of Kentucky still honors the courage and compassion of this phenomenal woman with the Sarah Bennett Holmes Award, presented for the 20th year by the UK Women’s Forum. The awards recognize two female UK employees for their contributions to issues that affect women at UK and across the commonwealth and who promote the growth and well-being of other women. One faculty member and one staff member are recognized through nominations by their peers. Each award recipient receives $1,000.
Nominations for this prestigious award close Friday, Feb. 22, so there is still time to honor a woman who lives – perhaps even unconsciously – a life that would have made Holmes proud. Nomination forms for the Sarah Bennett Holmes Awards are available at http://www.uky.edu/womensforum/nominate.html.
Sarah Nikirk, chair of the Women’s Forum, said, “I know there are untold numbers of women on this campus who go above and beyond for this campus and our community. I hope many will consider recognizing a peer or co-worker for this coveted award, and then join us at the awards luncheon.”
All Sarah Bennett Holmes Award nominees are recognized by name at a ceremony during a luncheon to honor these outstanding women. The Sarah Bennett Holmes Award annual awards luncheon will be Thursday, March 7, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Frank Harris Grand Ballroom of the Student Center. The featured guest speakers for the luncheon are Ann Bassoni, Work+Life connections coordinator of the Work-Life Office in Human Resources, and Gail Kennedy, arts and outreach librarian in the Special Collections Division of UK Libraries. All nominees are strongly encouraged to attend the luncheon.
Luncheon reservations are $15. Tables for eight may be reserved for $120. The luncheon reservation form is available on the Women’s Forum Web site at http://www.uky.edu/womensforum/2013%20SBH%20Luncheon%20Reservation%20(4).pdf . Reservations for the luncheon are open until Friday, March 1.