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Educator and judge among Women’s Foundation Legends Award honorees

Velma Lois Jones, an educator for 43 years, was the first African-American classroom teacher elected as president of the Memphis Education Association.

 
 Velma Lois Jones

 
 Judge Bernice Donald

 
 Sylvia Goldsmith Marks

 
 Dorothy Gunther Pugh

 
 Dr. Shirley Raines

Velma Lois Jones, an educator for 43 years, was the first African-American classroom teacher elected as president of the Memphis Education Association.

Judge Bernice Donald was the first African-American woman to serve as a judge in Tennessee and was the first African-American woman in the United States to serve a bankruptcy judge.

Now Donald and Jones are among the five women trailblazers the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis has selected as 2012 Legends Award honorees. They join Sylvia Goldsmith Marks, who helped launch the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis in 1995, Dorothy Gunther Pugh, founding artistic director and CEO of Ballet Memphis, and Dr. Shirley Raines, the first female to serve as president of the University of Memphis.

The Legends Award pays tribute to women whose work embodies the mission of the Women’s Foundation. The honorees are leaders in politics, dance, education, the judiciary, and philanthropy. Each will be honored through one-of-a-kind works of art and prose at the Legends Award Reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on April 17 at The Columns at One Commerce Square, 40 South Main Street.

The mission of the Women’s Foundation is to encourage philanthropy and foster leadership among women and support programs that enable women and children to reach their full potential.

Donald has been a pioneer for women judges and for African-American women in particular. In December 2010, President Barack Obama nominated her for to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She is the first African-American woman to hold the position.

As a civil rights activist, Jones marched, boycotted, picketed, and recruited others to join in the demonstrations that brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis. On Feb. 13, 2012, the White House Office of Faith-based Neighborhood Partnerships honored her at the age of 81, with the “Drum Majors for Service” award.

Marks is a well-known figure in philanthropic circles. For over 70 years, her philanthropic and humanitarian involvement has impacted a wide range of Memphis non-profits, including the Memphis Botanic Gardens, Memphis Jewish Federation and Youth Villages, among others. She worked closely with Mertie Buckman, another legendary Memphis philanthropist, to launch the Women’s Foundation.

Pugh’s leadership with Ballet Memphis started in 1986, with two professional dancers and a $75,000 budget. Today, the organization employs 18 professional dancers, operates with a $3.2 million. She is credited with helping to expand Memphis’ cultural horizons while highlighting a new dimension of the city’s creative soul to audiences around the world.

Raines’ tenure as U of M president began in 2001 and has been marked by her work in building productive partnerships on and off campus. She is at the helm as the school observes its landmark centennial year, 2012.  

For more information on the Legends Award reception, visit www.wfgm.org or call 901-578-9346.

 

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