2010 Award Recipients

by admin Jul 22, 2015

Stephen Lucas

Stephen Lucas 2010 Stand Up Poster

Class of 2010
English, with minors in Health Policy and Administration, and Women's Studies 
Penn State University Park

For his courage in standing up for marginalized and underrepresented communities.

Read More About Stephen

As photos from the party started to circulate and voices of concern grew increasingly audible, Stephen Lucas knew that he should be the one to stand up and assume responsibility for the situation.  It wasn’t his fault that a white student had attended the Rainbow Roundtable Halloween party in blackface.  He hadn’t even been aware of the situation as it was happening.  Still, his responsibility stemmed from the fact that, as President of the Rainbow Roundtable, he had dedicated himself to a leadership role in the often-marginalized LBGTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, and Allied) community.  Seen from the perspective of Stephen’s commitment to advocating for under-represented groups, the student’s choice of costume was not simply in bad taste; it invoked the ugly specter of a period in our history when whites commonly used blackface as one of a host of tools for dehumanizing and marginalizing black communities.  Although it was clearly not the intention of the student to do this, the incident served to remind Stephen that LGBTQA communities need to be just as reflective as any other about the role that white privilege and historically racist attitudes might play in shaping their practices.  

If Stephen’s ethical leadership shone through in his decision to confront this difficult situation head on, it became even more apparent in the particular way that he chose to respond.  Instead of simply trying to clear his organization’s name, he tried to clear the air.  With the help of faculty, Stephen organized a movie presentation and open forum discussion aimed at educating fellow students about the history of blackface and encouraging students of all races to reflect on the ethical implications of how we choose to deal with this history.  Stephen Lucas stood up, quite literally, in front of a crowd of mentors and peers and did what no leader ever looks forward to doing.  He admitted that he did not have the answers to the questions people were right to be asking.  At the same time, however, he refused to accept this as an excuse to ignore those difficult questions—questions that he thought could, possibly, lead us toward a constructive, community-wide dialogue about race.

This is only one of many examples of the ethical leadership that Stephen has consistently demonstrated during his time at Penn State.  From his work on the Diversity Affairs and Student Life Committee for Penn State’s undergraduate student government, to his work with the LGBTA Student Resource Center, and his involvement in establishing the Big Ten LGBTQA Alliance, Steve has shown the ability and the willingness to put himself out there and to stand up for social justice, gender equity, and human rights.  After graduation, he plans to pursue further studies in public health, where he can combine his interest in policy work with his desire to continue advocating for individuals and communities that are traditionally ignored, marginalized, or stigmatized.

Sarah O'Donald

Sarah O'Donald 2010 Stand Up Poster

Class of 2010 
Human Development and Family Studies, and Women's Studies
Penn State University Park

For her development of Knitivism, a student group that uses knitting in peaceful demonstrations against violence and oppression.

Read More About Sarah

You might be prone to think that there is nothing particularly controversial about knitting… and you would probably be right.  Maybe that is one of the reasons that knitting can serve Sarah O’Donald and the other members of Knitivism as such an effective tool for engaging people in discussions about issues that clearly are controversial.  By helping to found Knitivism and organizing ‘knit-ins’ as a peaceful form of protest against social injustice, Sarah does more than simply remind us of the historically significant tradition of grass-roots activism on college campuses in the United States.   She invites us to take up this tradition in ways that are both creative and responsive to the particular set of ethical challenges by which she and her peers will come to be remembered and defined in the minds of future generations.  

We can be fairly certain that when future generations of college students look back on this time in our history, they will want to know what their predecessors were doing to address issues like sexual assault, threats to the constitutionally guaranteed rights of American citizens, and violations of human rights around the world.  If so, we will be able to tell them that Sarah O’Donald was standing up against these threats and providing much-needed leadership for an organization that both encouraged and helped others to do the same.  If they happen to wonder what knitting had to do with any of this, we might encourage them to think about the role that knitting plays in creating strong bonds; bonds that emerge both within the group of individuals that becomes transformed into a community through the practice, and within the individual skeins of yarn that become transformed into the tangible and enduring products of this community’s work.   

Sarah’s ethical leadership during her time at Penn State is certainly not exhausted by her role in Knitivism, but that role does provide a particularly clear image of the thread (or, perhaps, the yarn) that runs through her multiple involvements with issues of gender equity and social justice, and that underscores her commitment to speaking up on behalf of those whose voices are often muted or silenced.  After graduating this spring, Sarah plans to continue following this thread by moving to southern Louisiana, where she will teach Special Education and Language Arts as part of the Teach for America program.

Peggy Styles

Peggy Styles 2010 Stand Up Poster

Class of 2010
English, with minors in Health Policy and Administration, and Women's Studies 
Penn State University Park

For her tireless efforts helping the women of her community heal from the pain and suffering associated with loss.

Read More About Peggy

It would be nice to believe that most people have no idea of the kind of pain and suffering that Peggy Styles endured after the loss of her daughter, Chloe.  Nobody deserves to go through something like that.  No lessons learned from the experience can even begin to make up for what is lost.  As Peggy discovered when she eventually resumed her commitment to reaching out to others, however, all too many of us have suffered similar losses and have endured comparable hardships. These losses and hardships tend to cut in two ways.  We become severed not only from an individual loved-one, but also from the broader community whose physical, emotional, and spiritual support we so desperately need.  In talking about her own experience, Peggy noticed that this prompted others, who may have otherwise remained silent, to do the same.  This convinced her that there was an urgent need to stand up and assume a leadership role in organizing her community’s resources to help those of its members who needed help the most.

What began as a relatively small group gathering in Peggy’s living room has since grown into a wide network of services available for individuals and families in the Shenango Valley.  Peggy’s leadership has had the effect of bringing together numerous women from various walks of life, all of whom share a common bond and a common desire.  The bond is their pain and suffering.  The desire is to be healed by helping to heal others.  The same motivation to help others that led her to found the organization “Healing the Women Within” has also led Peggy to become involved with the Pennsylvania Weed and Seed’s efforts to improve the quality of life and to deter crime and delinquency in smaller communities, and with the Arc House’s efforts to provide services for displaced women. 

Peggy’s ethical leadership shows clear signs of continuing well beyond her time at Penn State.  In addition to organizing a 2010 Conference on women’s issues, she is also planning to branch out and take the program she has developed for her local area to other parts of the country where individuals and communities are expressing similar needs.  In giving her time and energy to these causes, Peggy is standing up against despair, honoring the memory of her daughter, Chloe, and healing herself by helping others to heal.

Awards Ceremony and Reception