Celebrating a Life

When I was asked to serve as the National Panhellenic Conference chairman I knew public speaking was an expectation, and one that I have enjoyed over the past year and a half. I have spoken to College Panhellenics, Alumnae Panhellenics, at the NPC annual meeting and at small gatherings of sorority women locally. I did not anticipate, however, that I would be speaking at the funeral of a dear friend. While one of the hardest speaking opportunities I’ve had, it was also the most humbling.

Yesterday we gathered to celebrate the life of Josette G. Kaufman. Josette and I served together in NPC for 13 years, and I knew when I was coming into the chairman position that Josette was who I wanted as the Budget and Finance Committee chairman. She graciously accepted and did a marvelous job championing the finances of NPC.

As an advocacy group for sorority women, it’s no surprise that Josette was so involved in NPC because she believed in community service, leadership and supporting others. What may surprise some people, is that Josette and I are not in the same sorority. That’s true for most of us in NPC. We wear different badges, attended different universities and live in different parts of the country. But we are all sisters, Josette was my sister. Josette believed that our differences unite us. And I think she’d be proud to know that her death brought us all together to remember her life, to honor the values she championed and to carry on the work in her name.

Although Josette dedicated her time to many causes she loved dearly, it was always clear that there was only one true love of her life -- her husband Stephen. A few weeks ago, I caught a glimpse of just how much he loved her. In all the years in leadership positions with women, I have never received a thank you from a husband. But after our trip to Homosassa, I got an email from Stephen titled ‘Good Stuff from a Sorority Husband’ in which he said: “I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am to have my wife part of such a wonderful organization. She always returns renewed and with wonderful experiences.” I realized right then and there that Josette was able to travel the country supporting the women of NPC because she had a husband at home supporting her with unconditional love. We are so grateful to Stephen, for sharing her with us. Just as he did for Josette, so too, do we support Stephen during this time.

Though Josette’s time with us was brief, I’d like to think that was because she knew her purpose, she lived it and she made all of us better. She didn’t need a lot of time. But that’s hard to accept because we need her. There’s a beautiful quote that says:  "Sisters are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly." It’s a comfort to know that Josette will be with us always. Never letting us forget to soar, to shine and to smile.


March 3 – it was a date when thousands of women marched arm in arm in Washington, D.C., and filled the streets. They were assaulted, brutalized and spat upon. It was a march of immense proportion and one that lit the fire from a burning decades-long movement started by women for women.

According to the Chicago Tribune, ambulances “came and went constantly for six hours, always impeded and at times actually opposed, so that doctor and driver literally had to fight their way to give succor to the injured.”

One hundred marchers were taken to the local hospital. Before the afternoon was over, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, responding to a request from the chief of police, authorized the use of a troop of cavalry to help control the crowd.

Every woman who is an American citizen earned the right to vote because of those who braved the public streets and public forums to battle hostility and ignorance.

The Parade for Women’s Suffrage in 1913 laid the groundwork for passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution – giving each of us today the right to vote in a process that so many now take for granted or simply ignore.

The march was a pivotal moment, but the actual debate over female citizens sharing the same rights as their male counterparts lasted 70 long years before culminating in ratification in 1920. 

In the same tumultuous period for women, sororities were created and founded. No surprise that women needed a place of respite and camaraderie to band together. And it should also come as no surprise that the parade was organized by a 28-year-old woman who was exposed to the movement while working on her graduate studies in social work.

How far have we come? CNN called last year’s election “the year of the woman” as we voted to send more women to office to represent us. A record 20 women now hold U.S. Senate seats.

We are not likely to forget our measure of achievement and what it took to get to this moment in 2013.

The history of the Suffragette Movement is one we should revisit and we’re glad our member groups such as Alpha Gamma Delta have been sharing the story.

Kappa Kappa Gamma not only created an online exhibit sharing details from the late 1800s, but has also produced a traveling exhibit that has been on display at Harvard University. The exhibit can also be rented for conventions and other special historical moments to keep the story alive and memorable. 

From time to time, let’s not forget that we need to dust off the grainy and creased photos of the women who marched for us – and ahead of us.


For the 2013 Northeast Greek Leadership Conference, fraternity men and women focused on "putting it all together.” I couldn't have phrased it any better. This meeting allowed me and other NPC volunteers the opportunity to run a new presentation called #PostGradLife. This program shared information about alumnae opportunities for sorority women whether professional or volunteer and how it all translates from the college experience.

A look at the Northeast Greek Leadership Conference.
I shared my unique story. I did not participate in recruitment and receive my bid until my junior year. I also never held any officer positions. Some would have called me just an average, dues-paying member. However, your collegiate experience does not define your alumna experience, in fact, it is only the beginning of the lifelong journey. When I started graduate school I wasn’t aware of the many volunteer opportunities, so I knocked on the Alpha Xi Delta chapter’s door and asked if there was anything I could do to help. This simple gesture started me down a path that eventually led to me being National President.

In a twist of fate, I got started on Alpha Xi Delta's delegation because I lived in the right place at the right time. The NPC annual meeting was in Orlando, where I reside, and one of the alternate delegates for Alpha Xi Delta was not able to make the meeting. I got the call to come sub in and began my NPC journey.

The NPC Executive Committee at the Northeast Greek Leadership Conference.
So, there is no perfect road map to follow to become the NPC chairman or your organization’s president. It simply starts with getting involved. There are many opportunities as an alumna, including being active in your local alumnae chapter, becoming an advisor to the nearest collegiate chapter, working as a professional within fraternity and sorority life or getting involved in your local Alumnae Panhellenic chapter. You can share your talents in whatever way you see fit, whether that is your time, knowledge, education or professional experience. And it’s okay to take a break from volunteering. You will always be welcomed back.

The key to finding opportunities is to network with both men and women within and outside of your organization. All fraternity and sorority members that cross your path today could provide an opportunity tomorrow. Be open to new ideas and collaborations. You are the driver of your sorority experience, especially as an alumna. There is lots of potential for you to get involved and make new friends, you just have to make a move.