Rigsby gets top women’s leadership award

An East Carolina University researcher and faculty member described as a tireless advocate for a high quality university education has received the campus’ top leadership award for women.

Dr. Catherine Rigsby, a professor in the geology department and a researcher with an international reputation, accepted the 2013 Linda Allred Profiles in Leadership Award Monday.

“She is a scholar and educator who instills in her students the importance of a strong liberal arts education regardless of the discipline,” said Jill Naar, chair of the selection committee, who presented Rigsby with the honor.

“I hope that we will all band together to defend higher education — for the future of our women and the future of our men,” Rigsby told the group, referring to state funding cuts that have trimmed university budgets as much as 17 percent in fiscal year 2011-12. “We are an education system in crisis.”

Advocate, mentor

Rigsby has years of involvement in university governance, including her work as chair of the ECU Faculty Senate and the UNC Faculty Assembly. Her commitment to that ideal has strengthened the principles of academic freedom and shared governance, both at ECU and across the UNC system, said Margaret D. Bauer, Rives chair of Southern Literature and professor of English.

Bauer’s nomination of Rigsby described her as a leader in ways that “positively influence the value of the education this university provides our students.” 

Rigsby’s work as a researcher and scientist includes time as a Fulbright Scholar in Brazil, where for the next three years she has been awarded a rare Special Visiting Researcher designation in the Science Without Borders program.

“Rigsby has managed to serve at this exceedingly high level while still teaching undergraduates, still advising graduate students and still conducting high quality, original geologic research,” said Stephen J. Culver, chair of the geology department and Harriot College Distinguished Professor.

‘Women of Distinction’

Ten women, including Rigsby, were recognized for their contributions to the institution, community and region at the event. Each demonstrated leadership in areas such as academics/education, outreach, research, politics, athletics and volunteering. Nominees were judged on six criteria: leadership, commitment, determination, generosity of spirit/time, community building and the ability to empower and mentor others.

Other Women of Distinction included:

  • Holly Garriott, School of Art and Design
  • Dr. Mary S. Jackson, College of Human Ecology
  • Dr. Kathryn M. Kolasa, Brody School of Medicine
  • Dr. Kim Larson, College of Nursing
  • Julie Poorman, Department of Financial Aid
  • Dr. Cindy Putnam-Evans, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences
  • Maria Theresa (Terry) Shank, ECU alumnae
  • Dr. Kathryn Verbanac, Brody School of Medicine
  • Dr. Beth Wall-Bassett, College of Human Ecology

‘Encourage our girls’

Guest speaker Jo Allen, president of Meredith College in Raleigh and an ECU alumnae, told the group that women and men leaders alike have a responsibility to help other women become leaders, to speak out against discrepancies when they arise and to “encourage our girls.”

“Girls need to be taught not to give their power away, whether it’s their money or their bodies,” Allen said.

The Allred Award received by Rigsby honors a former associate professor of psychology who died in 2005. She directed the Women’s Studies Program and advocated for women’s rights and those with disabilities.