Editorial | CCU’s women’s leadership program seeks to expand

07/02/2013 4:39 PM

07/02/2013 4:40 PM

Women in Philanthropy and Leadership has expanded far from a smallish giving circle to fund scholarships for Coastal Carolina University students.

The organization distributes $30,000 in $1,000 scholarships to women students, and beyond the university is the sponsor for three consecutive years of the Conference and Celebration of Inspiring Women. The most recent, in February, drew more than 600 participants.

The organization has made an impressive mark with about 65 members.

“It’s amazing to think of all we’ve accomplished with 65 members -- think about what we can do with 165,’’ says Terri DeCenzo, the volunteer executive director of Women in Philanthropy and Leadership.

Membership growth is a priority -- and it’s tied to raising more money for scholarships. Conference participants have the opportunity to contribute directly to the $1,000 scholarships for female students.

DeCenzo says WIPL seeks to increase the scholarship amount to $2,500 for 20 students. “I’m passionate about our students,” she says. “My heart went out to students working two jobs to go through college.’’

In all, WIPL has awarded $124,000 in scholarships. Four years ago, an endowment was established to support funding of the scholarships. It passed a milestone when an $11,000 gift increased the endowment total to $101,000.

DeCenzo described as “amazing and inspiring that the person who started the endowment wrote a check for $11,000’’ after she inquired of DeCenzo how much was needed to reach $100,000.

Another anonymous donor gave $10,000 to send two CCU students to the Washington Internship Institute’s Global Women’s Leadership Development Program. One CCU student will attend the leadership development in the fall semester and another in the spring semester of 2014.

“The expectation is that they will bring back’’ to WIPL ideas that will further energize and grow the area organization, pronounced “whipple’’ by some members, although DeCenzo prefers the full name, Women in Philanthropy and Leadership.

Whatever you call it, the effort began in 2002 by a small group of women.

“It was primarily a giving circle. Mrs. DeCenzo really upped the ante and has really grown the organization,’’ said CCU’s Beth S. Stedman, who will continue to coordinate the leadership conference, following her July 1 move from the Office of the President to the Office of Student Activities and Leadership.

Planning is under way for the fourth conference. DeCenzo and Stedman are waiting on a formal contract with the venue, the Sheraton Myrtle Beach.

On Monday, Marjorie Thompson assumed the presidency of WIPL, replacing outgoing president Mary Jo Roberts. Thompson said she’s excited to be part of the leadership and feels the organization is “something to be proud of.’’

The five honorees at the 2013 conference were: Rebecca Wesson Darwin, president & CEO of a media company that owns Garden & Gun magazine; Muriel O’Tuel, who has motivated school, college, business, church and civic organizations; the Honorable Elizabeth Johnson Patterson, native of Columbia and a former U.S. representative and S.C. senator; soprano Sarah Reese, a native of Greenville; the Honorable Jean Hoefer Toal, chief justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina and a member of the court since 1988.

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