2017 Writing Women into History Recipients

On Saturday, March 4, the Macomb Feminist Network (MFN) will host a reception honoring this year’s recipients of its Writing Women into History Award. Established in 2010, the award recognizes women who have been role models in the community and have made substantial contributions to the quality of services and opportunities in McDonough County, whether these are civic, economic, educational, aesthetic, environmental, or health related. The Macomb Feminist Network decided to initiate this award because women and their roles in society have frequently been left out of traditional history texts. The award draws attention to the many projects women have brought to fruition in McDonough County.

The four women to be honored at this year’s reception are Lorraine Epperson, Pamella McLean, Rebecca “Becky” Parker, and, posthumously, Debbie Maguire.  Each of these women has been active in multiple areas of community life but each has also had a particular focus that identifies her passion in a singular way. Lorraine Epperson is probably best known for excelling in business and for her years of active and comprehensive support of Western Illinois University.  Pamella McLean has distinguished herself through activities that focus on health, especially the health and well-being of senior citizens. Becky Parker is readily recognized by many as the organizational force behind the many Friends of the Library book sales that provide needed funds for the Macomb Public Library, and Debbie Maguire brought her dual passions, children and community theatre, together through the many children’s theatre productions she directed.

Previous honorees include Wanda Black, Mary Ellen Graff, Rosa Julestrom, and Beth Stiffler (2010); Connie Berg, Marcia Moll, and Ruth Parks (2011); Maria Dunstan, Judith Kohler, and Donna Werner (2012); Josephine Johnson, Elizabeth Kaspar, and Janice Welsch (2013); Gordana Rezab, Alice Swain, and Mary Warnock (2014); Lois Ganyard, Margaret Ovitt, and Suzan Nash (2015); and Alice Henry, Alta Sargent, and Peggy Scharfenberg (2016).

Each of these women have had a story to tell about how and why they came to commit so much of their energy, time, and effort to the activities that help define them.  This year’s award recipients–or the person who nominated them for the Writing Women into History Award–will share their stories during the reception on March 4. The reception is scheduled from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. in the Multicultural Center at Western Illinois University.  The public is invited.  For further information contact Maria Dunstan at dunstanm@comcast.net.

More detailed descriptions of the 2017 award recipients follow.

Lorraine Epperson, a lifelong resident of McDonough County, has contributed much to the well-being of our community through her leadership and service.  After a career as a high school teacher and counselor, she became a realtor and broker, earning multiple awards, including Century 21’s Realtor of the Year and the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce 2015 Business Leader of the Year. Throughout her career, Lorraine has mentored other women and has helped to transform the local realty business from one dominated by men to one where she and other women have excelled. In addition, Lorraine has remained a loyal and active WIU supporter.  She serves on the WIU Foundation Board and the Advisory Board for the College of Arts and Sciences. She is a Past President of the WIU Alumni Council and of the WIU Performing Arts Society. After serving on the Board of Governor’s Universities, Lorraine served on WIU’s Board of Trustees for ten years, three years as Chair. She has received the Distinguished Alumni Award and College of Business Distinguished Alumni Award and is a Sigma Sigma Sigma Society National Woman of Distinction. Lorraine helped initiate the Community Quality of Life Awards and earned the Isaac and Ethel Leighty Community Award from the McDonough County United Way.

Debbie Maguire spent more than two decades working with young people in McDonough County. She was especially active in two venues:  the Cub Scouts and the Macomb Community Theatre. Debbie was a scout leader before she had children and continued that work after her three sons, Tom, Tim, and Ted, were born. In addition to working with the St. Paul Pack, she worked with scouting programs throughout McDonough and nearby counties. Her interest in children meshed with her love of theatre and was evident in that 14 of the 33 plays she directed for the Macomb Community Theatre (MCT) showcased local children. Her involvement with community theatre was so important that Patrick Stout, in a Macomb Journal editorial at the time of her death in 2004, called her Macomb’s “first lady of community theatre.” To insure the theatre’s success, she not only directed plays but also took on countless backstage and administrative responsibilities, including maintaining the MCT website. She received a Quality of Life Award in 1998, a Performing Arts Society Award for Development of Children’s Theatre in 1994, Catholic Youth Services Award in 1988, a St. George Medal and District Award of Merit in 1984 from Boy Scouts of America, and the McDonough County Youth Service Award in 1990.

Pamella McLean’s volunteer activities, though varied, reflect what she enjoys as well as years of dedication to community health, especially of senior citizens.  She has served as a YMCA board member and has offered yoga and line dancing instruction at the Y for many years. Though participants in her early yoga classes were not usually seniors, the line dancing has been offered primarily through the Y’s senior center and has incorporated performances at local senior living facilities. Beyond the YMCA, but also reflecting her commitment to seniors, is Pam’s participation in 16 Walk to End Alzheimer’s events and her many activities at Wesley Village. Besides serving as a member and president of the Wesley Village board and as a member of the Steering Committee for Household Transformation, Pam has taught chair yoga there and regularly plays the piano for residents. She is one of only two volunteers who have received Wesley’s Excellence in Service Award. She prepares and broadcasts a weekly Health Is Wealth program for WIU’s Audio Information Service and earlier community activities include library and classroom reader at Lincoln School and GED tutor at Spoon River College. Her personal interest in the people with whom she interacts adds significantly to the value of her volunteer activities.

Rebecca “Becky” Parker is probably best known for her very successful Friends of the Library book sales, sales that have earned over $100,000 for the Macomb Public Library and reflect her creative organizational skills as well as countless hours of behind-the-scenes work.  With the help of her husband Sam and several other volunteers, Becky sorts thousands of donated books, DVDs, and CDs into user-friendly categories for the multiple sales scheduled each year. Under her guidance the book sales have increased in quality and quantity, have become a major source of library funds, and provide a rich source of reading material for the community. Becky is on the boards of Friends of the Library, the Anna Parker Club, and the Macomb Feminist Network (MFN).   She also reads for the Radio Information Service and has taught several LIFE classes. Before she retired, Becky taught courses in public speaking, interview techniques, and human communication in Western Illinois University’s communication department and was recognized as an outstanding teacher. An active union member, she represented her University Professionals of Illinois constituents for seven years. She enjoys board and card games of all kinds, perhaps for the social dynamics they involve as well as their intellectual challenge.

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