From E-town to Influence
Women inspire, influence, mentor and move others. Their goals, sometimes lofty, are attained in myriad manners. These women—and many others like them—graduated from Elizabethtown College and followed their dreams. Sometimes the path leading to those dreams went directly from point A to point B and, other times, there might have been detours along the way. In the end, each of the women featured here, while creating a name for herself, has found the time and energy to make her workplace better, lift up others and improve themselves and the community. For all, their connection with E-town was an important step along the way.
Liz Martin ’88: Incubators to Insurance
Though she had earned a bachelor’s degree in business and was eager to set the insurance industry on fire, so to speak, Liz Martin (pictured previous page) was told, after graduation, that she was needed on the family farm. “My father was an entrepreneur,” said the Lancaster County, Pa., native. But his business was chickens and cattle and horses, not auto and life insurance policies.
Though Martin began her career tending chicks, today she is owner of Liz Martin Insurance Agency in Millersville, Pa., and continues with her family’s native grass-fed beef cattle and horse enterprise at Ironstone Spring Farm. “I knew I wanted to do insurance, but my dad needed me in the chicken hatchery,” said Martin.
Maintaining a level of confidence, being in the right place at the right time, getting to know folks smarter than she and mentoring other business women are what took Martin from incubators to insurance. Reaching out to people along the way has balanced her work day with giving in the community, which, noted the alumna, is why she is involved with nonprofit boards.
Back in her E-town days, Martin worked at her uncle’s insurance agency during summer breaks. She liked the business, the growth opportunity and working with people. So, after eight years with the chickens—and with “absolutely no business plan”—she set out on her original path. With her uncle financing the endeavor, Martin purchased his business. “The first three years of commissions went to him,” she said. “It was a struggle, but it paid off.”
A month after taking over the business, a “one-man shop” run out of her uncle’s home in Lancaster County’s Manor Township, she moved to a commercial space. The growth opportunity seen in earlier years was coming to fruition. Martin eventually acquired three more businesses and, today, the independent agency, which employs 12, carries a full line of insurance products.
While in college, Martin was involved with the SAM club. “It’s not like the Sam’s Club you think of today,” she said. “It was the Society for the Advancement of Management.” SAM, which still exists on a national level, was a student group that met with adult business mentors. “That’s where I learned the value of networking,” the alumna said.
She also learned, in the process of growing her company, that she is geared toward business, and a lot about that business she learned from others. “I had good business mentors—good mentors in general—and good people who work with me,” she said. Martin now advises other business women, and that pay-it-forward attitude earned her a Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry 2006 Athena Award. The award goes to a woman who demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in her business or profession, provides valuable service by contributing time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community, and assists women in realizing their full leadership potential.
Martin also is a 2001 graduate of Leadership Lancaster and she has earned numerous business awards including the 2003 Rising Business Star, Elizabethtown College Business Alumni Award, the 2009 Pennsylvania’s Best 50 Women in Business award and a 2011 Small Business Person of the Year award, which is given by the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Jan Lane ’75: Policies, Problem Solving … and Plants
Because Jan Lane’s father was in local politics that area of study always intrigued her. “When you are younger, campaign work seems glamorous,” said the alumna, who graduated from Elizabethtown with a degree in political science. She liked the ideas of policies and problem solving and how to arrive at a win-win solution and, throughout her career, she attempted to find that balance between the needs of those in desperate situations and the limitations of our government.
After graduation in 1975, Lane (pictured at right) worked with Pa. Gov. Richard “Dick” Thornburgh in the Office of Majority Leader of the Pennsylvania Senate and with the District Office of Congressman Bob Michel. Then, as vice president of public policy and strategic partnerships with the American Red Cross, she led its government relations efforts during some of the most challenging times.
“I was at ground zero 48 hours after the attacks and in Shanksville (Pa.) the following Monday when the families were taken to the crash site,” she said of the world-changing violence that occurred Sept. 11, 2001. “Every skill you ever have learned is drawn upon—critical thinking, motivation. You persist when it looks bleak.”
The horrors of 9-11 became a defining moment for Lane. “We began asking important questions: How do you get into more emergency preparedness? What is our public policy on emergency preparedness?” Those queries, along with the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, plus interaction with the Food and Drug Administration and Congress regarding blood safety issues lead Lane to reevaluate her direction.
She took a position as deputy director at the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute and then landed at CARE USA, a humanitarian organization that fights global poverty. She was associate vice president for advocacy, overseeing government relations, the organization’s Citizen Advocacy Network and its “Learning Tours” program, which provides policymakers with a firsthand view of the work the organization does in poverty-stricken communities in Africa and Asia.
Over the years the E-town alumna said she learned to trust her gut when it came to career choices. “Women, especially, second guess themselves,” she said. “We all have an internal compass. You just need to learn to trust it.”
Presently Lane is pursuing a second career as a horticulturalist, as a tenured master gardener and is studying therapeutic horticulture—the purposeful use of gardening to promote health and wellness, especially in someone with physical or emotional limitations, such as “traumatized soldiers,” Lane noted.
“I’ve dabbled in gardening all my life,” she said. “There is Zen, a calming influence.”
Marilyn Bowers ‘12: A Dream Deferred
Wherever Marilyn Bowers (pictured previous page) is working she posts the Langston Hughes poem “A Dream Deferred” to remind her of her path and her goal. The poem asks what happens when a dream is put on hold. For Bowers, it became stronger and even more defined and, in May 2012, when she earned her bachelor’s degree in corporate communications from Elizabethtown College’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS), the first step in that dream became a solid reality.
Bowers’ drive to succeed was not just a personal accomplishment, she said, but also a promise she made to herself to inspire others to be involved in higher education and to be a positive example for her son and daughter. With her intense schedule—classes and 40-hour weeks at Performance Construction Services in Harrisburg, plus part time as a nail technician at Hershey Spa—there wasn’t a lot of time for her children, but Bowers made it a point to share her experiences with them. Homework time was something they did together. She wanted them to see that it took hard work to attain goals but goals could be realized. “Let your education be an example to your children,” Bowers said. “Make a spot for them to be included. And never give up. When you are tired, think of it as a good inspiration.”
Starting her adult degree program with just six credits from York Technical Institute, the educational journey was long but, as Bowers completed each of her classes, she turned up the volume on the song “I Will Survive” on a CD she kept close at hand. Her graduation was the culmination of a journey that spanned four breathless years.
“Some days,” she admitted, “I shed a tear.”
This past March, Bowers was honored by the Greater Harrisburg YWCA as a “Woman of Excellence” for her contribution to the workplace and community, and she also was a featured guest on WITF Smart Talk about her honor.
“The program served a huge need,” Bowers said of the SCPS. “I knew I couldn’t move forward in my career without higher education. … If not for E-town’s commitment to adult learners I would not have had the opportunity to continue my education nor could I inspire others to continue.”
She moves others by serving on the Elizabethtown College Academic Management Board and working as a peer trainer with the SCPS. After barely catching her breath, Bowers is running headlong into the next step of her goal—she is a graduate student at the Penn State Master’s in Education-Training and Development program.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE – More Women of Influence
Joanne C. Anderson ’80
Joanne C. Anderson
Though reaching an alternate target, Joanne Anderson’s career path has been arrow straight. She said that as a young girl, her dream was to be editor of the New York Times, interviewing people and telling their stories. Ever since a grade school project inspired her to interview a U.S. Congressman from her home state of Delaware, she’s been jazzed about putting proverbial pen to paper.
Though Anderson ’80 no longer dreams of for an editor’s office in a Manhattan high rise, she spent a good part of her life writing those stories she set out to tell or communicating about higher education.
Now, a higher ed leader and innovative problem-solver who works as senior advisor to the president for special initiatives at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., Anderson clearly sees the common thread that led her from a childhood writing assignment to present day.
“I believe that being a good writer, a good communicator is about getting to know people,” she said.
While her fifth grade classmates interviewed relatives and neighbors, Anderson set her sight on William V. Roth Jr., who later served as a U.S. Senator and is namesake of the Roth individual retirement account. She posted a letter to him requesting an audience; “he wrote back and said, ‘of course’!”
The stories have been presenting themselves ever since.
When high school friends complained about writing papers, Anderson saw them as a pleasant challenge and, while attending the “fairly new and small Communications Arts program” at Elizabethtown, a college she chose because of its smaller size and its offering to “do a little of everything,” she wrote for the Etownian.
In spring 1979 when students were sent home from Elizabethtown during the partial nuclear meltdown at nearby Three Mile Island, Anderson’s parents prompted her to make wise use of her time. She headed to the Daily Local News. “I drove up to West Chester, introduced myself and asked if they had any openings. The editor told me to call when I graduated.” That, said Anderson, is exactly what she did. E-town diploma in hand, she began covering township meetings.
A year later, Anderson became a writer and editor at Lehigh University, then director of publications and director of marketing and publications at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem Township for 13 years. She also was executive director of communications and development at Camden County (N.J.) College, then was a communications director at MRB Communications, an Internet communication consulting firm in Philadelphia. MRB is where Anderson realized that she wanted to go back to higher education. “I really enjoy having the opportunity to with with faculty dn staff and a new group of student ever four years.”
All along the way, stories have been the connector.
When Alice P. Gast became the 13th president and the first female head of Lehigh University in 2006, she appointed Anderson as her office director. In August 2012, Gast appointed Anderson as senior advisor to the president for special initiatives.
Anderson said she reached this point in her career because “I had the benefit of having terrific mentors and supporters all along the way—my parents, teachers, professors, supervisors and friends. They encouraged me to keep my ears and eyes open to new challenges and opportunities.” To new Elizabethtown College graduates she advised, “If you see something you are interested in pursuing, pursue it; don’t hesitate. And don’t be afraid to fail.”
Amy Beamer ’90
Amy Beamer freely admits that when she graduated from Elizabethtown College in 1990 she had “no real plan.” She wanted to get a job and assumed she’d figure out just what that job would be once she was out in the work world a few years. When searching for a career, Beamer said, “you figure out what you don’t want as well as what you want.”
Just two years into her exploration, Beamer found ‘what she wanted,’ although she wasn’t initially convinced. She landed at Pavone Inc., a Harrisburg-based advertising, marketing and communications company that represents clients in a variety of industries, including food and beverage, finance and banking, and healthcare. It was a start-up, and she was the first employee. Routinely, she worked beyond a 9-to-5, five-day work week. “I spent my days meeting clients, writing copy, managing projects, buying media…on Saturday I did accounting.”
More than two decades later that three-person start up employs 60 and Beamer is now partner and chief operating officer. She also oversees the operations of two of Pavone’s sister companies: Varsity, a marketing and communications firm focused on adults aged 55-plus, and Leap, a marketing research and innovation company. Because she wore many hats along her journey often she was involved in “amazingly” creative projects, including one that required getting up at 3 a.m. and lugging around gallons of Crayola washable paint to create giant footprints all over Harrisburg.
Beamer’s success has been noticed. She was named one of the Central Penn Business Journal’s Forty under 40, one of the Top 50 Business Women in Pennsylvania by the Department of Community and Economic Development and was one of Central Pennsylvania’s 25 Women of Influence. The E-town grad also was named the 2005 Rising Star by the College’s Business Alumni Society. Outside the office, Beamer lives the E-town credo as a member of the marketing committee for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank; as a longtime volunteer with Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership’s Central Pennsylvania Leadership Seminar; as a classroom volunteer and Harrisburg Regional Council member of Junior Achievement; as a board member of Caitlin’s Smiles; and as a guest speaker at numerous schools. She also is on the planning committee for the Harrisburg Regional Chamber’s “Ladies Who Lead” event, which takes place in May.
‘Ladies Who Lead’ is an appropriate endeavor considering Beamer never felt that gender inequality was something she needed to overcome. “I don’t have any stories about that,” she said. “I was always equal.” But, she added, “I have seen the changes. I think because men now have daughters in the workplace they wouldn’t want anyone to treat their daughter as lesser.”
Along the way, there were few challenges that slowed Beamers stride. “I always like when someone says ‘you can’t’. I figure out how. I love the challenge.” As a matter of fact, Beamer is not easily overwhelmed, in general, hearing from coworkers that she is “so calm.”
Her secret, if there is one, simply is “don’t let the pot boil over” by keeping on top of things and meeting deadlines.
Beamer, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with concentrations in marketing and communications, said her education at Elizabethtown made her “very well prepared” for workplace challenges. Accounting classes, she said, were her most important with communications a close second. “The material might have changed since I was in school, but the approach is the same,” she said, noting that her instructors were good at taking concepts and bringing them to life. “I can still hear my professors speaking in my ear when I am at a meeting.”
Natalie A. Birrell ’88
During each summer and over every holiday break from Elizabethtown College, Natalie Birrell ’88, traveled to New York City to work as an intern for Chase Manhattan bank. That’s where she learned about processes and workflow. And it was at Elizabethtown College that she learned about business and the importance of having a well-rounded education. Birrell loved business classes and learning about the importance of writing. “Professor Black and Professor Trostle really pushed us in our business writing assignments,” she said of two of her professors. “They wanted us to be able to demonstrate that we had a command of more than just the numbers, we needed to be able to intelligently communicate the facts and figures.”
Those business classes and writing assignments have served her well. Birrell graduated from Elizabethtown with a degree in business administration and a concentration in finance; she continued her education at New York University’s Stern School of Business, earning a master’s degree in business administration. Even so, coming out of college, Birrell said she didn’t have a concrete sense of what to do with all the knowledge. She knew she had a solid understanding of the industry, so she asked herself what were her passions and her natural inclinations. “I checked my dreams to see that they were appropriately sized to who I was and what I was good at,” she said.
Though Chase offered her a position right out of college, Birrell opted for the Management Training Program at Bankers Trust instead. Over the next 18 months, she learned about all banking departments and, ultimately, had a sense of the types of areas she enjoyed. She was only 23 years old and was working out credits for clients who had loans at the bank, she said, still excited over the memory. Birrell quickly earned a reputation as a troubleshooter by changing processes to make them more streamlined and efficient, she said. “We can’t all be brain surgeons. They are amazing, but I can’t do what they do. I am a great crisis manager and I truly enjoy process and running business.” Birrell said it was important that she pursued a vocation she enjoyed and at which she could align her talents. “I made sure I wasn’t reaching for something I wasn’t.”
For the next 17 years, Birrell served in various senior management positions with Bankers Trust/Deutsche Bank, where she was as chief operation officer (COO) of its U.S. Institutional Asset Management business and, later, COO for its $12 billion Absolute Return Strategies Group.
Eventually, Birrell moved to Anchorage Capital Group, of New York, London, and Sydney, where she is the COO, responsible for all non-investment aspects. Her earlier industry training has come in handy as she handles business development and investor relations, technology and risk, operations and treasury, finance and tax, legal and compliance and human resources and administration. Though she doesn’t directly manage money, her company currently handles more than $10 billion! Birrell acknowledges the large number and the requisite responsibility, “It’s an industry of substantial risk and substantial numbers,” she noted. “You can’t be intimidated.”
Currently a member of Elizabethtown College Leadership Council and the International Business Advisory Committee, she established the Birrell Distinguished Achievement Award Fund of the Prestigious Scholarship Program in 2011. “We didn’t have a lot of money,” she said of her family. “I just wanted to give back to the students. No student should be precluded from advancing an idea due to finances. I wanted to ensure Elizabethtown has the opportunity to back the next innovators and leaders of the world.”
Suzanne Kelley ’73
Dr. Suzanne Kelley’s seven-page curriculum vitae leaves the reader breathless, but the story she tells about herself and how she came to be senior medical director at Harrisburg’s HealthAmerica of Pennsylvania, makes it sound almost like an accident. “I have a convoluted professional life,” she said. “This was not planned this way. I sort of fell into it.”
Kelley, of Harrisburg, graduated from Elizabethtown College in 1973 with a degree in chemistry and a hankering to go to medical school. “In my day, if you wanted to go to medical school you were usually disappointed,” she said. “Medical schools didn’t accept many women.” When she told others of her goals they prodded her to look elsewhere. “It was discouraging,” Kelley said.
Because the E-town grad had been “treated well” by osteopathic doctors when she was young, she said, her dream was to be an osteopathic physician. In 1970 there were two in Elizabethtown; one was a female. “It was surprising and encouraging,” Kelley said. “I thought to myself that it was possible.”
Against the odds, Kelley was accepted to Philadelphia (Pa.) College of Osteopathic Medicine, graduating in 1977. Her internship, at the college’s hospital, included serving as internship cochair and as a house staff representative on the Hospital Administration Committee.
After internship, Kelley became assistant director and staff physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine, at Albert Einstein Medical Center—Daroff Division in Philadelphia. She was then a staff emergency physician at Riverside Hospital, in Wilmington, Del., and was a faculty and staff physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, where she was an instructor in student, intern and resident programs and an instructor for the American Heart Association’s Basic and Advanced Life Support courses.
But, she said, “Life throws you curve balls,” and in the 1980s she sustained an injury that would end her days in the emergency room. “I struggled with that,” she said. “It completely changed my life.” But with one path blocked Kelley began to search for an alternate route to utilize her abilities. “You have the degree; you have the talents; what are you going to do with that?” is what she thought. She also experienced that “When God closes one door, he opens another.” She heard about a fellowship at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, which, she said, “got me into administrative medicine.”
Kelley became a medical adviser and consultant with Post and Schell, a law firm defending medical malpractice and workmen’s compensation cases. Then she was an associate medical director and staff physician with Philadelphia’s Concorde Inc.; a staff physician and a medical advisor in quality assurance and utilization review at the VA Medical Center in Lebanon, Pa.; in private practice, specializing in pain management; and served as a consultant, staff physician, and medical director, at HealthAmerica of Pennsylvania, a managed care insurance company in Harrisburg, where, today, she is senior medical director.
Over the years the unexpected detour lead Kelley to honors with numerous osteopathic medical awards for distinguished service and dedication and, in 2009, she was appointed by Gov. Ed Rendell to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council Act Review Committee.
She has served in countless capacities with osteopathic organizations and is a member and has served on literally a dozen or more medical, educational and community organizations. And, noting that “it’s important to give back to those institutions and professions that make you what you are,” Kelley also has served on the Elizabethtown Leadership Council and has been an Elizabethtown College lecturer.