Barbara Corn Patterson, Andrea Smith and Kaarina Jager, Roswell’s outstanding women for 2013, pose for a photo during Women’s History Month Celebration Brunch, Saturday, at the Roswell Museum and Art Center. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Cindy Wilson had an inspiring message for the some 160 guests at Saturday’s 2013 Women’s History Month Celebration.
“You can have it all. You must know that,” said the former aerospace and computer technology specialist who described the challenges she faced as career woman in the 1970s. “I want you to dream. We did things because we didn’t know we couldn’t. I want to see us get back to that. We need it because we’re not doing it anymore… The one thing our country can do is — we are excellent at dreaming and creating.”
The audience was moved by Wilson’s inspiring tales of her childhood as the daughter of a space pioneer who was involved with the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo manned missions, and her stories of how she struggled to start as a typist and worked up to senior management at Hughes Aircraft Company.
As guest speaker of the 14th-annual celebration, Wilson shared podium time with City of Roswell Mayor Del Jurney who thanked the three women honored for their community service during the brunch.
“It’s a good day to the three honorees today,” Jurney said. The mayor read a proclamation on behalf of the City of Roswell that proclaimed March 2013 as Women’s History Month.
The proclamation also recognized the three women honored Saturday — Kaarina Jager, Barbara Corn Patterson and Andrea Hill Smith — and asked Roswell residents to reflect on the American women who have been leaders in emancipation, industrial labor and peace movements, and who have made the society “more fair and just for all of us,” Jurney said.
Jurney also encouraged the community to “reflect upon the accomplishments of pioneering women who came before us and the accomplishments they made for the quality of life we enjoy today.”
The theme of Saturday’s brunch was “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).” The non-profit organization’s sole purpose is to organize the once-a-year event to host the brunch and honor selected women of distinction in the community.
The National Women’s History Project, founded in 1980, is an educational nonprofit organization. Its mission is to recognize and celebrate the diverse and historic accomplishments of women by providing information and educational materials and programs. To learn more about the national organization, visit www.nwhp.org.
Wilson, who is also the brunch’s chairperson, is a regional program coordinator and trainer at WESST — a company that helps small businesses, especially women and minority-owned businesses, grow and succeed.
WESST helped fund the yearly brunch. This year, WESST promoted the history of women by bringing awareness to suicide prevention, Wilson said. A video was shown as part of this year’s event.
The suicide program was held Tuesday at the Roswell Museum and Art Center’s Bassett Auditorium, the same location as Saturday’s brunch, and given by Faith Simitz, 17, as part of a requirement to earn her Gold Award for Girl Scouts. Simitz’ brother committed suicide.
“That was a little different this year,” Wilson said. But the organization wanted to help Simitz realize her dream of earning the Gold Award.
The honorees this year were given an award and a chance to speak.
Hill Smith, born in Roswell, grew up on a farm and became an accountant after attending Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. She became a business owner and accounting professional in a male-dominated industry in the 1990s.
Smith was appointed to the Board of Trustees at ENMMC in 1995 and served as chair when the hospital was sold to Community Health Systems in 1998. She continues to serve as a trustee. She served as the treasurer of the New Mexico Republican Party in the mid 1990s. She was appointed to the Chaves County CASA Program Board of Directors in 1991. She is also a member of the Altrusa Club of Roswell.
Corn Patterson, a native of Roswell, is from a large pioneer family. She became a registered nurse later in life and earned a bachelor’s degree in Health Care Administration from Saint Joseph’s College. She has held many offices and been honored. These include: serving on the Board of Directors for the New Mexico Nurses Association, given The Woman of the Year Award business and Professional Women’s Clubs in Roswell and awarded the U.S. Army Achievement Medal for Volunteer Nursing in Honduras in 1987.
She is writing her first book “The Rock House Ranch,” a memoir about her early life.
Jager was born in northern Finland, just south of the Arctic Circle, As an immigrant, she married an Austrian missionary and followed him to the U.S. Her husband, Reinhard, was killed by a drunk driver in Albuquerque, leaving Jager to raiser two sons.
Jager became a teacher in 1998 at Chisum Elementary. Her youngest son was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of cancer, and later died. Jager decided to continue her education, completing a master’s degree in education from ENMU last year. She now teaches at the Creative Learning Center.