Persistence. If you have a dream, the most important thing is to make sure you persist. Do not give up.
Those were words of encouragement from Marilyn I. Walker that Rosemary Hale took to heart.
Hale, who was instrumental in relocating Brock University’s arts faculty downtown, said she’s had a lot of strong female mentors over the years, with Walker being one of the greatest.
Women can empower each other, Hale said.
“There’s a lot of sisterly work that has to be done with women in leadership positions, so that we can help each other to really understand that there’s empowerment in our solidarity.”
Hale said she had that support from colleagues as Brock University’s first female dean and it will always be critical.
“There is something really important in that feeling of sisterhood,” she said, pointing to recent pink hat marches. “The language may feel like it’s a throwback, but the essential need for that kind of sisterhood solidarity is still very true and very strong.”
Hale has been named recipient of the 2017 International Women’s Day Award from the Women in Niagara council.
The award, in concert with Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, recognizes local women who exemplify all the best qualities of leadership and whose strength and ingenuity inspire others.
The award will be given on March 3 at Club Roma in St. Catharines during the 16th annual International Women’s Day Luncheon, which features guest speaker Teresa Cascioli, the former CEO of Lakeport Brewing Co.
Hale, 73, said she was “shocked and stunned” to learn she’d receive the award.
“When I think about all of the things that International Women’s Day stands for, it’s a pretty phenomenal honour to be associated with it,” she said.
Hale, who has a PhD from Harvard in comparative study of religion, arrived at Brock on July 1, 2000, from Concordia where she’d been since 1992.
Being a woman in charge did mean many challenges, she said, including the way strong women are characterized compared to men.
“There are certainly things that I experienced as a woman that would have been very different had I been a male dean. I learned a lot about myself and leadership,” she said.
She said she found a life-saver in the Senior Women Academic Administrators of Canada, which allowed her to connect with other women about their experiences and how they deal with issues, from what to do if you’re constantly interrupted to how to make yourself heard without developing “male” characteristics.
Hale had no trouble making her voice heard when she advocated for the relocation of Brock’s art school.
“She was instrumental in getting the Marilyn I. Walker school of arts downtown and worked tirelessly with politicians and everybody that she could in order to get that downtown and, as we know, it’s changed the face of our downtown,” said Ruth Unrau, past chair of Women in Niagara.
Hale said she feels joy from the triumph and partnership with the city, which built FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in conjunction with the school.
“I make pilgrimages frequently to Marilyn’s beautiful quilt in what they now call the school, The Marilyn. It is just sheer joy to experience it and to also experience the downtown,” she said.
“When the weather is amenable you can sit outside in a cafe and you really feel the city alive.”
Hale is retired and has found a new passion in addition to the arts, volunteering at Hospice Niagara. She’s part of a legacy project in which she listens and records the stories of people’s lives for them.
She said it’s been an extraordinary transition from soul-satisfying administration and teaching at Brock to something that is amazing.
Chamber CEO Mishka Balsom said Hale’s list of community engagement is long, including having been president of the Bicentennial Legacy Council and past co-chair of the Regional Cultural Committee, along with involvement in numerous arts organizations. She’s been a tireless champion for the arts and an enthusiastic champion of the Niagara region.
“It is individuals like Rosemary that define Niagara,” Balsom said.
As she gets ready to accept the award, Hale said she’s been thinking a lot about International Women’s Day values of justice, hope, equality, and more and how to bring them to the forefront in terms of leadership for a better world.
The International Women’s Day theme this year is “be bold for change.”
“I feel there’s a real boldness among women here,” she said. “For me, it’s like, let’s shine that bold.”
16th Annual International Women’s Day Luncheon
When: Friday, March 3, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Club Roma, 125 Vansickle Rd., St. Catharines
Featuring: Guest speaker Teresa Cascioli, former CEO of Lakeport Brewing Co. and author of M is for Money
Tickets: $60 plus tax for members of Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce. Non-member tickets are $75. Table rates available.
Details and registration: www.gncc.ca