Five women received a 2011 Women Trailblazers Award from UMSL on March 23. They are (from left) Melissa Alper, Terry Freerks, Marissa Smith, Janet Scott and Natissia Small.

A row of police officers gave a rousing cheer as Marisa Smith walked up to receive a 2011 Women Trailblazers Award. Smith, the first woman to hold the rank of police detective at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, was one of five women to receive the award March 23 at a ceremony held at the university.

The annual event is held during Women’s History Month. The event honors UMSL women who have “blazed a trail” for other women by being the first to occupy positions traditionally held by men, were trailblazers in their fields or who have made noteworthy contributions to the university and their profession.

Susan Talve, founding rabbi of Central Reform Congregation, the only Jewish congregation in the city of St. Louis, delivered the keynote address reflecting on the theme, “Our history is our strength.” Tanesha Walker, a UMSL student and secretary in the College of Nursing delivered a dramatic presentation as Harriet Scott.

The Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity sponsors the annual Women Trailblazers ceremony. This year’s honorees are:

Melissa Alper, a UMSL senior, is co-founder of the UMSL Women LEAD Program through the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life. The program encourages and supports women students interested in public service. Among her many activities, Alper has been selected for the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, serves as vice president of the Political Science Academy and interned in the office of State Representative Jill Schupp. She also volunteers for the National Council of Jewish Women.

Terry Freerks, a clinical psychologist and noted swimmer and coach, was the first female head coach of Clayton’s Shaw Park Swim Club. She is a national record holder in her age group, an Olympic trial qualifier and has achieved the highest level of coaching in the American Swimming Coaches Association. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from UMSL and is a member of the Leadership Council in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Janet Scott is the owner and publisher of the Women’s Yellow Pages of Greater St. Louis, former 2nd flutist for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and professor emerita at Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville. She has received numerous awards in communications including the Quest Award for Distinguished Achievement in Communications. She serves on UMSL’s Gender Studies Advisory Board.

Natissia Small, director of UMSL’s pre-collegiate programs, has more than tripled the number of participants in recent years. The program just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Bridge attracts more than 1,500 students each year representing approximately 90 public and private high schools throughout the St Louis metropolitan area. Small has received numerous awards for her work both on campus and in the community.

Marisa Smith is a detective in UMSL’s police department, and one of the first members of the university’s Crisis Intervention Team and Partners for Prevention. She is also a member of the St. Louis Major Case Squad. According to her department, Smith’s efforts have contributed greatly to the increased clearance rate of reported crime on campus.

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Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel