By Cindy Brookshire
When Prince William Living launched its first Influential Women Awards competition four months ago, the magazine invited readers to nominate local women who inspired them, through their professional achievements, charitable works or ability to improve the lives they touch.
Magazine staff poured through dozens of impressive entries. (View a full list of nominees on page 33.) With so many women giving of themselves to strengthen our community, leaving their marks on the business world and serving as an inspiration to others, selecting just five to profile was no easy task. However, a few rose to the top: Jane Beyer, Cathy Hailey, Dr. Alice Howard, Sheila Mathis and Rebecca Vaughan-King. Congratulations to these inaugural Influential Women!
Champion of Community Causes
Assistant to Prince William County Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, Potomac District
Montclair resident Jane Beyer still has a sticky note that says “Maureen” on her phone, a reminder of the day she answered Supervisor Maureen Caddigan’s line with, “Chairman Connaughton’s office. How may I help you?”
The slip is understandable for a woman who has championed four county supervisors through their elections and served each as an assistant: Maureen Caddigan, Sean Connaughton, Mary Hill and Michele McQuigg. This year, Beyer received her 20-year pin as a longtime employee of Prince William County, and for more than 30 years she has been a leader in the Prince William Republican Women’s Club.
“I can’t begin to name all of the groups Jane has had an impact on,” said Jan Cunard in nominating Beyer for the award. Cunard is secretary on the Board of Directors of Discover Prince William & Manassas, the Prince William County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She worked on the board with Beyer, a former member.
“She’s not afraid to ask the hard questions in the meetings she attends that others are reluctant to ask. Jane has always been reliable. I know if she says she will do something, she does it. She has inspired me and numerous other women to be the best we can be. She leads by the example she sets,” Cunard said.
Beyer is also a champion of the best use of the county’s recreational resources. In addition to her former role at Discover Prince William & Manassas, she represents the Coles District on the Parks Commission, an advisory body to the Board of County Supervisors.
In these positions, Beyer has performed many functions for the county, from determining arts grants to ensuring that empty water bottles were removed from Pageland Farm in Gainesville after a Civil War reenactment event July 23-24, 2011, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run.
Recently, Beyer has championed two more causes: the efforts of the Prince William Area Free Clinic and the county’s Horticultural Therapy program. A former nurse, Beyer said she admires doctors and nurses who work a full caseload and then volunteer at the Prince William Area Free Clinic’s Unified Health Center at St. Margaret’s in Woodbridge.
“They’ve brought in Virginia Cooperative Extension [volunteers]to do classes for diabetics, they have a small food bank, and we as a board are much more hands on, donating coats and talking with people. I have a much better sense that I’m making a difference and getting back more than I’m giving,” she said of the clinic, which provides medical and dental care to indigent and uninsured residents of the county, Manassas and Manassas Park.
Beyer is also making a difference by reinvigorating a stalled project of the Horticultural Therapy program, which supports adults with psychiatric and cognitive disabilities in their recovery by getting them outside to weed, garden and cook their own meals. “There’s a park that was proffered years ago, that’s part of a master plan back in 2006, as a horticultural park. I’d like to work to see that land designated for this program,” she said.
Creative Muse for LocalYouth
English and Creative Writing Teacher, Woodbridge Senior High School
Not everyone gets an “It’s a Wonderful Life” George Bailey moment. Cathy Hailey’s came after nearly 35 years of teaching, when her former student, Sarah Crossland—now an associate writing professor at
Longwood University— delivered a petition with more than 1,100 signatures to a 2013 Prince William
County School Board meeting. At issue was whether the creative writing concentration that Hailey heads would continue to be included in the four-year Center for the Fine and Performing Arts (CFPA) specialty program when it moves from Woodbridge Senior High School to a new county high school expected to open in 2016.
Crossland defended the value of Hailey’s program. She wanted board members to know the effect it had on her life, and on the lives of countless others who had added their comments and signatures to the petition.
Hailey’s students have gone on to earn Master of Fine Arts degrees at George Mason University, journalism degrees from Columbia University and been accepted in other disciplines at the London School of Economics and top research universities around the world, including the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
“I’ve had students go on to be physicists and still claim that their poetry classes or advanced genre classes had a huge influence in their critical thinking and creative problem solving,” explained Hailey. “Creative writing made them able to step into research labs and know how to go about working out problems and making decisions. Being part of a writing community prepares them for any kind of work where they have to produce things collaboratively, because it is such a foundational skill.”
Thanks to Crossland’s petition, and citizen comments, decision- makers are taking a second look. Hailey is reportedly working with Dr. Roberta Apostolakis, Prince William County Schools supervisor of language arts, to design a four-year creative writing concentration that could possibly be used at CFPA when it moves, or at any high school in the school system.
Hailey continues to produce the award-winning, annual Eddas literary and art magazine with her students, staying after school twice a week to guide its production. She also organizes the monthly “Coffee House,” which helps to fund the magazine, at the high school.
On Coffee House days, Hailey often leaves the school after 10 p.m., putting in more than 15 hours to provide students with a space where they can perform and display their artwork in a supportive environment. Coffee House also gives Hailey’s pupils confidence and stage presence for continued growth as writers.
On Saturdays and during summers, Hailey, who resides in Manassas, also co-directs the Northern Virginia Writing Project at George Mason. The project, which began in 1977, trains writing teachers, and, thanks to Hailey, also works with young writers.
Hailey said that while a student at Duke University, she was deterred from enrolling in a course taught by Reynolds Price, who The New York Times called one of the most important voices in modern Southern fiction. Her hesitation?
“I didn’t have the confidence in my high school writing samples. They were analytical essays and some poems and I didn’t think they were good enough,” she said. “I don’t want any student to go off to college and do what I did.” And so Hailey makes sure that her students leave high school armed with confidence in their abilities and a portfolio of work to back it up.
ALICE HOWARD, Ed.D
Women’s Role Model and Advocate
President, Prince William County Chapter, National Coalition of 100 Black Women (NCBW)
Understanding that some women may fear mammograms, Dr. Alice Howard gets one once a year, and lets everyone know about it. Yes, ma’am.
“The mortality rate for triple-negative breast cancer is the highest in the country for black women,” she tells anyone who will listen. “If I’m going to go out here and speak on behalf of women getting mammograms, then I need to be a role model myself.”
As president of the Prince William County chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women (NCBW), Dr. Howard helped secure a $78,000 Potomac Health Foundation grant to help her chapter collaborate with community partners to educate women about triple-negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive variant of the disease. Community partners include Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center physicians, the Sentara Mobile Mammography Van team and pastors and congregations of eight traditionally black churches in Prince William.
“It took an individual like Dr. Howard and the coalition to bring these churches together to support and educate our congregations on the deadly cancer disease,” said Pastor Patrick Thomas of Dale City Christian Church.
“She clearly sets and defines our mission and is very passionate about serving the community in which she lives,” said LaBrenda Haynes, a founding member of the local NCBW, in nominating Dr. Howard, of Dumfries. “She continues to serve as a positive role model to me and other young women in the community. She is a noted trendsetter who believes that success often comes from using unique non-traditional ideas and exploring every available resource and avenue to create change and to make a difference in others.”
The grant’s purpose also includes promoting mammography screenings and providing support that allows women with cancer to share their stories. The chapter finished information-gathering sessions in February and will submit its data to Potomac Health Foundation in the spring, Dr. Howard said. The group also plans a culminating health activity in June 2014.
Dr. Howard not only leads the local NCBW chapter, she is the reason it exists. While president of the NCBW Northern Virginia chapter, she realized that 18 other Prince William residents she recruited were commuting to the nearest meetings, in Arlington.
Saying “Enough!” she gathered 71 Prince William lawyers, doctors, educators and other prominent women of color and within nine months set in motion the paperwork and structure to install a local chapter. In November 2012, the NCBW national chair made it official. Since then the chapter has recruited 22 more black women professionals, Dr. Howard said. Her goal is to recruit at least 50 more by June, making the Prince William chapter the largest in the organization.
This septuagenarian said she gets her energy and enthusiasm from her faith, grounded in her home church of First Mount Zion Baptist in Dumfries. She added that she takes her toughness from her mother, who over her lifetime gave birth to two dozen children.
Dr. Howard studied at the University of Oxford and holds three academic degrees. Now retired, she devoted more than 35 years as an educator in Prince William County, trained school principals in Washington, D.C. and weathered seven turbulent years as the first black superintendent at Colonial Beach Public Schools in Westmoreland County.
“My parents taught me to believe in myself,” she said. “And if you believe that what you are doing is the best for the people with whom you are serving, then you stick to it. I’ve had a very successful career. Colonial Beach was a challenging place for me, but it was a place that made me grow. God kept me, and I survived. I left there with an impeccable record.”
Dr. Howard continues to focus on educating, mentoring and empowering students. Volunteering through NCBW, she encourages students at Saunders, Rippon and Potomac middle schools to be successful in academic pursuits in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. She also promotes respect for authority, anti-bullying and building self-esteem.
SHEILA MATHIS, CNM
Influencing Hearts and Minds
Owner and Executive Director, Manassas Midwifery & Women’s Health Center
On Jan. 29 at 5:26 p.m., Sheila Mathis of Manassas, a certified nurse midwife (CNM), attended the birth of Martin Gregory Gallagher at the new birthing suite in the Manassas Midwifery & Women’s Health Center— the first free-standing midwifery birth center in greater Prince William. The baby, weighing 10 lb., 1 oz., was the fifth natural, out-of- hospital birth for parents Katleen and Tom Gallagher. However, it was their first in Manassas. Previously, they drove all the way to Alexandria for the nearest prenatal midwifery and birth care.
For Mathis, it was a milestone—at last, the first birth out of 630 she could finally attend since opening the nonprofit operation in 2009. Because local hospitals denied her and her three midwives credentialing privileges (including admittance to the hospital during the births of their patients’ babies), she sent previous laboring patients, with volunteer doulas to accompany them if requested, to collaborating physicians. Mathis expressed gratitude to the doctors at Lake Manassas Women’s Health Associates in Gainesville, as well as hospitalists from Novant Health Prince William Medical Center in Manassas and Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center in Woodbridge, for their teamwork during that time.
“I believe that we have influenced the minds and hearts in the community by showing that midwives can work with other allied health professionals,” Mathis said.
Her center’s primary mission is to provide high-quality, affordable care to women who are uninsured, underinsured or are Medicaid eligible. She said she also aims to provide culturally sensitive holistic care to the underserved.
Mathis and certified nurse midwife Kathleen McClelland, a Centering Pregnancy coordinator at the midwifery, were among five CNMs honored at the 11th annual Advocate of the Year Celebration held last November in Richmond by Birth Matters Virginia. The grassroots advocacy group supports and recognizes care providers engaged in “mother-friendly” best practices.
In introducing the two to the awards ceremony audience, Sharon Hamon-Boomer, co-director of Birth Matters Virginia’s North Region and also a volunteer doula, said: “Their dedication to serving women and their families has changed lives. I cannot think of any practice that deserves this award any more than they do.” She added, “The standard of care that Manassas Midwifery has created in the Prince William area should be replicated everywhere.”
Upon learning that she’d also made the Prince William Living list of Influential Women, Mathis said, “I’m honored that you would consider me for this award, but I am a humble servant to the people I care for. That’s what I do.”
Her husband the Rev. Derrick Mathis is director of operations at the midwifery, which has earned grants from March of Dimes and the Potomac Health Foundation. “God has allowed us to be here, taking care of women largely of lower income, in an atmosphere where individual providers often say, ‘If I take more than 30 percent [paying through]Medicaid, my practice won’t stay afloat,’” he said. “We do the opposite. We take about 70 percent Medicaid [eligible], and by the grace of God, we are able to stay here, and we are growing and expanding.” The center has a 12-person staff, including the Mathises.
In addition to midwifery and well-woman gynecological care, the center’s midwives provide Centering Pregnancy, prenatal care in a group setting for women with birth due dates close to each other’s. Bringing them together helps the moms-to-be learn from each other and form connections. Other services include free childbirth education classes in English and Spanish, offered three Saturdays each month. The center also hosts monthly meetings of the breastfeeding support group, La Leche League of Manassas and of the Prince William chapter of Birth Matters Virginia.
Mathis, who is on track to complete her doctorate in nursing in 2015, also brings college nursing students into the practice, both midwives and students in other disciplines. “We know that is the future of midwifery, to mentor and train, so there will be more … in the profession and familiar with the career path,” she said.
Rebecca Vaughan-King, who turns 40 this year, started her career at age 7, selling enough custom greeting cards to her mom’s radio station coworkers to buy a microwave. “My only goals were to wear high heels and have an office. I never wanted to be rich. I wanted to be free,” said the Gainesville resident.
In high school, Vaughan-King won state and national awards in DECA, a national student organization that prepares high school and college students as emerging business leaders and entrepreneurs. After a few college courses, she fast-tracked to full- time work and bought her first house at age 21.
Later, marriage to Patrick King brought love and eventually business partnership as president of Imagine, a full-service integrated marketing firm. Since Vaughan-King became a fulltime member of the Imagine team in 2011, the company has seen increased growth and accolades—including a 2013 VEMA Award, an international competition recognizing excellence in multimedia arts. Patrick King is founder and CEO of the firm, which is headquartered in Manassas with offices in Chicago and San Diego.
“My wife is the county’s greatest cheerleader,” said King, who nominated her for the award. “She is always willing to help others, work harder and give of her time and energy. She inspires me each day with her glowing personality and determination to make our county a better place to live, work and play.”
“The business community and the city of Manassas embraced us so wonderfully, it did fuel me to get more involved,” said Vaughan-King. She donates time and talent to the Prince William Chamber of Commerce and serves on the boards of a number of community organizations. She is chairperson and the only female member of the nine- person Manassas Business Council, an economic development advisory group for the Manassas City Council and staff. She also chairs the American Red Cross Prince William County Leadership Council.
Additionally, she is an alum of Leadership Prince William, a nonprofit organization with a mission to develop, inspire and connect local adult and youth leaders. Vaughan-King won the 2012 Young Professionals of Northern Virginia Leadership Scholarship, which provides partial tuition for the nine-month leadership training. She said that participating in the “Lean, Mean” Class of 2013 inspired her to reexamine her abilities.
“I came home from the opening retreat with my ‘Emergenetics’ profile and Patrick and I sat down for a number of hours, reviewing and discussing it, and we actually changed my job,” she said. “I’m redand yellow [conceptual]. My skills are talking to people, motivating them and creating a sense of community.”
Vaughan-King credits the connections she made in Leadership Prince William with her success in building a four-person volunteer committee that saved the local American Red Cross’s fundraising gala, which had been cancelled last year. The committee turned it into an “Under the Sea” prom to change the tone and lowered ticket prices to make the event more inclusive and draw new people. It worked, raising $30,000, she said. She hopes this year’s Red Cross prom will surpass that amount. The event, called “One Enchanted Evening,” is March 28 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Heritage Hunt Golf & Country Club in Gainesville.
“I want to inspire people who want to be involved, want to be a part of their community, want to do good things, but they’re stuck in the ‘I don’t know how.’ It’s easy and fun,” said Vaughan-King.
Cindy Brookshire is a frequent contributor to Prince William Living. She can be reached at [email protected]