In honor of Women’s History Month in March, the LSU Women’s Center hosted their second annual Esprit de Femme Awards Sunrise Celebration, on Thursday, March 27, to celebrate women and their diverse accomplishments. Proceeds from the Esprit de Femme Awards Sunrise Celebration will support the mission and goals of the Women’s Center.
The 2014 Esprit de Femme Awards were presented to eight honorees: Sylvia Duke, Elain Ellerbe, Donna Fraiche, Rose Hudson, Laura Lindsay, Annette Mire, Terri Sterling and Lauren Thom.
“We are extremely excited about the caliber of honorees we had this year,” said Summer Steib, director of the LSU Women’s Center. “Our honorees come from diverse backgrounds and all have made profound impacts on the lives of women in Louisiana. We are thrilled to be able to recognize these outstanding individuals and honor their commitment to women.”
The Sunshine Celebration featured breakfast, coffee and networking, including a performance from pianist Oscar Rossignoli, a senior at LSU majoring in piano performance. Tiffany Dickerson, a local comedian who is known as the Mic Chick, also volunteered her time and talents to serve as the emcee for the event.
Honorees had much to say about what the honor meant to them.
“It’s an opportunity to serve as a role model in inspiring women leaders, and it allows me to express gratitude to those strong women leaders who organized this event,” said Donna Fraiche, a healthcare attorney with the firm of Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz. Fraiche chairs the Louisiana Healthcare Commision and has been honored as the top lawyer in government relations and healthcare by New Orleans Magazine in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
“It has offered me the opportunity to look back on my life and realize that yes, I have made a little difference in bettering the lives of others,” said Sylvia Duke, who in her career has been appointed to multiple task forces and committees on women’s issues by former Govs. Edwin Edwards and Dave Treen, as well as former U.S. Sen. John Breaux. Duke was also involved in the development of the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center, and helped establish the first Women’s Health Day at Pennington.
“The honor is very special both coming from this LSU organization and given the other honorees,” said Laura Linday, an LSU professor emerita. “Most of all, I treasure the people who have supported me throughout my career and nominated me and wrote letters of support. They are extraordinary women, and I am humbled by their act.”
Lindsay recently retired after 35 years of service to LSU, including stints as interim provost, vice provost and associate vice chancellor in the Office of Academic Affairs and most recently as dean of the College of Human Sciences & Education.
Lauren Thom is an LSU graduate and founder of Fleurty Girl boutiques, which carry items inspired by New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana culture.
“This award is special to me, not only because I went to LSU, but because I’m being honored among so many special women and men,” she said.
Thom turned a $2,000 tax return to launch Fleurty Girl online, and today the business has spread to four store locations within New Orleans and loyal customers around the world.
“What I love about what I do is that I really started with nothing,” she said. “No venture capital, just a single mom with three kids. So to be recognized for those efforts means a lot to me because I want to inspire others. I really never thought I’d have the chance to be among these people. It’s such an honor to be recognized.”
In addition to the Espirit de Femme honorees, former Tiger football All-American Bradie James was given the 2014 Men Who Champion Women award for his tireless work fighting breast cancer through his Foundation 56 organization. James, who lost his mother to the disease, established Foundation 56 in 2007 and to date, it has donated more than a half a million dollars, contributing to funding mobile mammogram units that serve communities in South La. and North Texas. In October 2010, the foundation unveiled the Bradie James Resource Cetner inside the Women’s Imaging Center at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, which has served more than 2,500 women thus far.
“[The award] is awesome, but it’s really not about me, it’s about the people that I’ve helped,” said James. “I had to go through a mess to turn it into a message. I’ve helped so many women, not only in Baton Rouge, but in the state of Louisiana and Texas and all over. It’s been awesome. There’s nothing like helping someone else.”
While the Esprit de Femme Awards Sunrise Celebration served as the capstone event for the LSU Women’s History Month celebrations, the Women’s Center hosts several other Women’s History Month programs. These programs include the McNair Scholar Presentation, Gender on Film, We’ve Got Game sporting events and a Survivor Speak-Out.
All of the events during Women’s History Month at LSU highlight the importance of the Women’s Center, not only on campus, but to the greater community as well.
“The LSU Women’s Center is integral to the fabric of this flagship institution. It is one step in highlighting, affirming, and more importantly empowering women to think the unthinkable and achieve the unachievable,” said Kenneth Miles, interim vice provost for equity, diversity & community outreach.
The LSU Women’s Center provides support, referral and information to students, faculty and staff on issues and concerns related to women. The center also promotes the advancement of gender equity issues and well-being through its services, educational programs and advocacy efforts.
LSU’s Women’s History Month Celebration is coordinated by the LSU Women’s Center. For information about the Esprit de Femme Awards Sunrise Celebration or the LSU Women’s Center, please contact Steib at email@example.com or 225-578-1714, or visit www.lsu.edu/wc.