Character, courage, commitment fit 2014 Trailblazers

UMSL Trailblazers

UMSL’s 2014 Women Trailblazers were honored recently. From left are Susan Kashubeck-West, professor of education; Berit Brogaard, professor of philosophy; Chancellor Tom George; Irene Cortinovis, first director of University of Missouri System Western Historical Manuscripts collection; Major General Barbara Faulkenberry, vice-commander, Scott Air Force Base and guest speaker; Sheila Burkett, BSBA 1989, co-founder and managing partner of Spry Digital; Myrta Vida, UMSL senior, recipient of UMSL’s LitMag 2012 Prose Piece Award. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The audience was filled with colleagues, family and friends to honor this year’s class of Women Trailblazers at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. A record number of former trailblazers showed up to cheer them on. And each of the five women being honored exemplified the event’s theme this year of “Character, Courage and Commitment.”

UMSL Chancellor Tom George welcomed Maj. Gen. Barbara Faulkenberry, vice-commander of Scott Air Force Base as guest speaker.

Faulkenberry helps manage more than 37,000 active-duty airmen, reservists and civilians and approximately 1,100 aircraft. A master navigator, she graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1982 and has earned numerous graduate degrees including an MBA and a master’s degree in national security from the National War College in Washington, D.C.

Faulkenberry told three Air Force stories where individuals showed courage, character and commitment not while deployed in hostile territories, but at home in seemingly safe environments.

“These were common events that could happen to you and I,” Faulkenberry said. “But because of the courage, character and commitment of these individuals, the outcomes were very different than we might have expected.”

This was the 19th year for the Women Trailblazer’s ceremony, which honors National Women’s History Month. This year’s trailblazers include:

Berit Brogaard, professor of philosophy at UMSL, was honored because of her high profile leadership roles in a discipline dominated by men. In 2009 she was elected the first female president of the Central States Philosophical Association and served through 2011. She is currently president of the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology. Since 1904 when the society started, six women presidents have been elected out of 107, including Brogaard. She is also an editor of Erkenntnis, the second woman to join that editorial team. She is currently helping to fight sexual discrimination and harassment in the philosophy profession.

Brogaard told the crowd she was honoring her grandmother on this special day by wearing her shoes.

“She, too, was a trailblazer in her town in Denmark because she taught young men how to repair cars and she was the first woman to ride a motorbike,” Brogaard said.

Sheila Burkett told the audience she “had a passion to be a role model” and has been proving that since she graduated from UMSL in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Burkett is co-founder and managing partner of the start-up company, Spry Digital and former senior director and partner at Edward Jones where she led the strategic technology planning process. She founded Women Entrepreneurs of St. Louis and is co-owner of Tuxedo Park rentals. She sits on the board of many organizations and is an advocate for women in technology. She serves on the board of UMSL’s Informational Systems Advisory Board and was at the core of Extreme IT, the university’s highly successful summer program for high school students.

Irene Cortinovis earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UMSL in 1969 and 1971 and was then appointed the first director of the University of Missouri System Western Historical Manuscripts Collection at UMSL and university archivist. She received a federal grant to expand the University of Missouri search for African American historical material. Her oral histories of early Mississippi riverboat jazz musicians can be found in University Archives and African American baseball players are now in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. She helped to establish the UMSL Women’s Center.

“I want to thank the people who came after me for keeping things going,” Cortinovis, 93, told the crowd.

Susan Kashubeck West is professor of counseling and family therapy and associate dean for research in UMSL’s College of Education. She is the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on ways in which discrimination and social oppression negatively affect women, people of color and LGBT communities. She is a member of the Institutional Review Boards for the College of Education and the University of Missouri System.

“I feel very fortunate to have found a profession I love,” West said. “I hope to blaze a trail forever.”

Myrta Vida, a UMSL senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies and Spanish, spent 12 years in the US Army. For two years, she was an award-winning Spanish-language translator for the Defense Intelligence Agency. She has been accepted into UMSL’s Master of Fine Arts for Creative Writing program and plans to seek a graduate certificate in gender studies. She is the recipient of UMSL’s LitMag 2012 Prose Piece Award and the Barbara Kachur Undergraduate Fiction Writing Scholarship.


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