Service to All Mankind — a mantra that the women of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. revere — was palpable Saturday morning during the 2019 Eta Phi Omega Outstanding Community Heroes Awards brunch.
Salmon pink and apple green adorned the members of the first African American-established sorority who were gathered at the DoubleTree Hotel ballroom in Albemarle County to honor local trailblazers. Eta Phi Omega’s Diane Price shed light on the meaning behind this biennial event.
“We are out there doing things in the community and reaching out,” Price said. “In many instances to pockets of the community that do not get that kind of reaction or interaction with a minority organization.”
The EPOCH Awards is one event out of many service-oriented events that the Eta Phi Omega Chapter holds, Price said. Along with an array of events, the chapter has donated more than 3,000 shoes to the Salvation Army, hundreds of eyeglasses for Lions International, collects feminine products for the International Rescue Committee and raises awareness for heart health in a campaign known as Pink Goes Red.
Eta Phi Omega Chapter President Kimberly Price-Chambers said, “[EPOCH] shows how involved and what great things people are doing in the community.”
Among those being honored Saturday were author Margot Lee Shetterly, businesswoman Adeline Richardson Quarles, University of Virginia Medical Center CEO Pamela Sutton-Wallace and Charlottesville School Board member Juandiego Wade. The categories represented were the arts; business and economics; health and global impact; and youth and education, respectively.
“We see you. We admire you … [and we] are grateful for all that you do to make our world and Central Virginia a better place,” Price said.
Shetterly — best known for her New York Times bestseller “Hidden Figures
: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race”
— is an Alpha Kappa Alpha member.
“Hidden Figures,” published in 2016, has since received countless recognitions, such as Top Book of 2016 by Time Magazine and Publishers Weekly, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Nonfiction and Best Nonfiction Book at the 2017 NAACP Image Awards.
Shetterly, a Hampton native, described “Hidden Figures” as a personal story because it follows women with ties to her hometown.
“[It] is a Virginia story. The women in the book are from Virginia. The NASA Langley Research Center is in Virginia, and the space program and aeronautics started in Virginia,” she said.
She wrote the novel in an effort to uncover otherwise untold stories about black women in the space race. In her speech, she reflected on the coincidence of many of her characters also being women of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
Prior to the writing of her novel, Shetterly said, she had not fully understood the power of storytelling and now values being able to show her readers different ways of being an American.
As an executive producer, Shetterly was able to see her work displayed in a film adaptation that was nominated for several Academy and Golden Globe awards.
A 1991 graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce at UVa, Shetterly has returned to the university as a visiting scholar in both the McIntire School and the School of Engineering.
Since the success of her books, Shetterly has pledged to publish two more — one of which she currently is writing.
Another award recipient was Quarles, a 92-year-old mother of four and a businesswoman. She is known for her house and dining room table being open to both friends and family.
Quarles worked in a factory and her makeshift hair salon for countless hours to provide for her family. Upon laws requiring hair stylists to acquire a license, Quarles began to take classes at a beauty school in Richmond. She then known for teaching beauticians at the UVa how to treat hair for people of color.
Quarles reflected on her salon days saying that, “Some [customers] would bring happiness. Some would bring sadness. Some were sweet, and some were sour.”
Attendees laughed, enjoying her fond memories.
Sutton-Wallace, who also is an Alpha Kappa Alpha member, has been a Charlottesville resident for the past five years and has been the CEO of the UVa Medical Center since July 2014. She also has been UVa’s acting executive vice president for health affairs since May.
She has received many honors, such as Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women Leaders in 2019, Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare in 2018 and Modern Healthcare’s 10 Minority Executives to Watch in 2016.
Under her tenure, the Medical Center has been ranked the No. 1 hospital in Virginia by U.S. News & World Report, and she said she is intentional in the employment of a diverse staff that mirrors Charlottesville’s demographics.
Among her many responsibilities, the sorority commended her on her ability “to find time to speak, mentor and encourage the next of leadership,” Eta Phi Omega member Stephanie Sanderson-Garrett said.
“I hope that I have helped people walk in their true authentic selves and become the healthcare leaders that they want to be,” Sutton-Wallace said in an interview with Charlottesville Tomorrow.
“Nothing is more important to me than to be recognized by my sorority,” she said during her speech.
Sutton-Wallace, who credited her award to the people she supports and serves at the Medical Center, paused to highlight her employees and their dedication to treating patients at the Medical Center, regardless of their ability to pay for services, demeanor or respectfulness.
“They take care of patients who spit in their face — who do not want to be touched by them because they are wearing a hijab.”
Eta Phi Omega’s Diane Price referred to Sutton-Wallace as “Superwoman,” because, like the superhero, she oversees countless missions that happen seamlessly because of her tenacity.
Wade, a member of the Charlottesville School Board since 2006, received the youth and education award.
He became a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. — the first African American-established fraternity and brother organization to Alpha Kappa Alpha — at Norfolk State University in 1987, and he earned his master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia.
Wade has been honored as Mentor of the Year by the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia and the ReadyKids Child Advocate of the Year.
Wade also is known to be a mentor in the lives of many Charlottesville youth. He believes in the excellence and academic achievement of every child.
“[The youth] need our energy,” said Wade, “They need to know that we care.”
Seven local high school graduates also were recognized Saturday for receiving the 2019 Lilieth G. Meadows Scholarship, created in memory of the woman who played a major role in chartering the Charlottesville Alpha Kappa Alpha chapter.
Recipients in attendance were Alexa Mason, of Albemarle High School; C’erra Rhodes, of Charlottesville High School; and Destini Harris, of Louisa County High School.
Mason was involved in the Principal’s Advisory Committee, the Political Alliance Club and Beta Club and also was a tutor for Young Men with Great Minds. In the fall, she will attend Spelman College in Atlanta as a dean’s scholar.
Rhodes was the executive president of the Student Council Association, an art mentor, and an active member in Project Discovery and Y Street. She will enter Radford University, majoring in psychology.
Harris was the vice president of her senior class and an active member in Destined Daughters — a minority sisterhood club. She also was a teller at the University of Virginia Community Credit Union. She will be attending Hampton University, majoring in journalism and communications as an aspiring news anchor.
Aniyah Butler, of Buckingham High School; Keshawna Nelson, of Charlottesville High School; Kayla Scott of Monticello High School; and Marquan Jones of Albemarle High School also were scholarship recipients. All seven will receive $500 in the second semester of college.
“We, in Alpha Kappa Alpha, take seriously the importance of education,” Price said, “Our mission […] is to cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards.”