Women in Leadership award carries special significance
|Naomi Hepkins '06 (left) and Maggie Arnold '06 at the Best 50 Women in Business awards ceremony held at the Harrisburg Hilton and the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts.
When Naomi Hepkins ’06 received a Women in Leadership award from Messiah College, she accepted it not only for herself, but also for her mother. Naomi’s mother, Joy, meanwhile, speaks with pure elation about seeing her daughter attend a fine Christian college and “have the opportunities I know I would have had if something had not been taken away from me.”
As a young child, Joy witnessed the sudden degradation of her family under apartheid in South Africa. Her highly educated parents were stripped of their livelihood and forced to accept jobs that wasted their talents and skills. Joy, herself, struggled to attain the education she desired. It wasn’t until 1981, when she left her homeland and journeyed to the United States, that she could freely pursue her dreams.
Now, 24 years after her emigration, Joy revels in watching her daughter experience the freedom to blossom into a leader, excel academically, and be honored by the Messiah College community. For Naomi, the knowledge of her mother’s childhood makes the award doubly sweet. “Her perseverance,” Naomi says of her mother, “has driven me to strive for perfection and excel in everything that I am capable of accomplishing. In a sense, I am now accepting this award for her, since I have the opportunities she did not.”
Naomi was nominated for the award by Wendy Cheesman, senior lecturer in athletic training, for her commitment to academic excellence and her extensive involvement in the Messiah College community. The awards are presented in conjunction with Messiah’s role as the only higher education sponsor of Pennsylvania’s Best 50 Women in Business awards, which honor businesswomen who display significant influence in both their careers and their communities. For the past two years, Messiah has presented its own leadership awards to outstanding women students from all five College schools.
The events this year mirrored those of 2004’s successful program. Messiah hosted both a networking reception and an awards reception for the student winners. The women then attended the Best 50 Women in Business awards ceremony, held at the Harrisburg Hilton and the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts. Some of the students even had the opportunity to attend the invitation-only reception for the Best 50 winners at the Governor’s Mansion.
“This program helps the business and political world to be aware of our school and to understand that Christians can also be successful in the business world and in politics,” says Naomi, an athletic training major who plans to pursue graduate studies in physical therapy. “Hopefully this changes their outlook on Christian schools and ultimately their outlook on Christians.”
— Jonathan Vaitl ’06