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In This Issue

       

Gift commitment from Jan Henrie ’69 will help develop women as leaders

Mike Lamb, Jan Henrie, Jim Rhatigan
Jan Henrie, who lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest, recently returned to Wichita for the WSU Foundation President’s Club dinner. Left in the photo with Jan Henrie is Mike Lamb, WSU Foundation vice president for planned giving, and James Rhatigan, dean of students emeritus.

When Jan Henrie graduated from law school in 1972, only 1.5 percent of students in her graduating class were women. Today, the number of female students in law school is closer to 50 percent, which suggests a parity of sorts.

But to Henrie, that progress represents only a partial success in society and the workplace. Women in leadership positions — as CEOs, partners, presidents and executives — are still woefully underrepresented. Until that gap is closed, she says, the issues that most affect women will remain unresolved.

Henrie, a 1969 graduate of Wichita State University, wants to see WSU take a strong role in developing women leaders. She has pledged more than $1 million, through a combination of outright gifts and commitments from her estate, to create the Jan Henrie Women’s Leadership Fund at Wichita State.

In a recent interview on campus, Henrie shared her thoughts about the purpose of the fund and the way Wichita State can influence future women leaders.

What is the Jan Henrie Women's Leadership Fund?

It is a fund to provide programs that will identify, train, support, mentor and encourage leadership in women. Women who might benefit could be anyone associated with Wichita State, but also women from the community. It needs to be inclusive; it doesn’t matter how old you are, what your background is. We need more women who have leadership skills to advance this world, something we haven’t done very successfully so far.

Why is the program needed?

I believe we need more women who can be identified as having leadership interest and potential, and they need strong female leaders in education, business, politics, medicine, etc., as mentors and resources. Only when more women are in leadership positions at all levels of society will economic parity become a reality. Women have to be in positions of leadership in order to change things that matter to other women and raise the level of all our goals.

Why do this at Wichita State?

I want to see Wichita State develop a national reputation as a place where women are cultivated as leaders, a place of imagination and brilliance. Wichita at one time was regarded as an entrepreneurial hotbed, but no longer. I know it is possible to support the kind of creativity and innovation to return Wichita to prominence if women leaders are finally full partners. Wichita State is the new critical leader in the metro area because of President Bardo’s vision and I believe many effective women must be incorporated into our future plans. I want the Women’s Leadership Fund to be an integral part of our future.

How will it work?

We have a steering committee that will be charged with making recommendations to the dean (of the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) for how fund distributions will be made and what new programs will be developed. The majority of the committee members will be women and will represent a broad base of constituents. If we are doing our job, the programs will evolve as the needs of our leaders change. The programs offered in 2056 will look very different from those of 2016. I would be remiss if I didn’t include a call for resources as well as people. My goal is to see this fund reach $5 million with the help of others who believe in the power of women to contribute more fully to the future.

How did you end up a lawyer, a very male-dominated profession at the time?

I really wasn’t drawn to any of the more traditional choices then available to women. I was encouraged by a friend to consider law school. I graduated from Southern Methodist University. I’ve had a life of many choices. I practiced law, moved into academics at the University of Houston School of Law, then was recruited to participate in a program with international organizations on global future projections. More recently I’ve been involved with business opportunities, politics and environmental initiatives. I also enjoy exploring the San Juan Islands, where I live.

How would you describe your experience at Wichita State in the mid to late ’60s?

I majored in activities and campus life. I discovered Jim Rhatigan, who was dean of students, as my mentor and friend. I’m proud to say he still is both. The new Rhatigan Student Center is a proper tribute to him, from the thousands of us whose lives he touched.

 

circle arrow If you would like to support the Jan Henrie Women’s Leadership Fund, please contact Mike Lamb, WSU Foundation vice president for planned giving, at 316-978-3804 or mike.lamb@wichita.edu.