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The Women's Leadership Council — which seeks to promote philanthropy and volunteerism and offer mentoring to the University's female students and alums — has been planning a conference to celebrate 120 years of women's history at Brown. But after President Ruth Simmons — who created the council in 2004 — announced her resignation, the council has decided to shift the focus of the conference, slated to take place May 3-5, to incorporate bidding farewell to the University's president of 11 years.

"At the heart of this is an effort to really celebrate a remarkably long history of women at Brown," said Nancy Neff '76 P'06 P'14, council co-chair. "People tend to forget that Brown had women students long before other universities did."

Though celebrating women's history at Brown is an important aspect of the conference, Neff said the activities and discussions will be geared more toward celebrating the current role of women in the University community. The council is excited about the prospect of bringing in a "wide range of women in various careers and various locations" to showcase what the "fabulous alumnae of Brown do," Neff said. 

Though many of the plans for the conference have yet to be finalized, Neff said it will include panels of women discussing topics related to women's lives, health, finance and more. Also included in the program will be "fun, social pieces" that allow current students and alums to connect with one another, Neff said.

Mary Vascellaro '74 P'07 said she also hopes the conference will exhibit the council's increasingly influential role at Brown, which has evolved over the past several years.

Though this fall will mark the council's first semester without Simmons, the council hopes to continue to expand, Vascellaro said. It has continued to build on its mentoring and philanthropic programs, including a program called Women's Launch Pad that matches council mentors with women in the senior class, offering guidance to graduating seniors as they transition to life after college.

The council also helps to foster philanthropy in the Brown community. This year, the council led the Graduates of the Last Decade challenge and raised $1 million for a matching fund that will contribute to the Annual Fund. The matching fund will help display the council's "philanthropic clout" on campus, Vascellaro said.



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