Award presented by Liza Jacobsen, YWCA board member
Every year since 2000, YWCA Walla Walla has presented the Leader of Distinction award to someone whose life and work exemplifies the YWCA mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity to all.
In spring 2020, though, thinking we could be having an in-person luncheon later in the year, we delayed the presentation for a few months. And we all know how that worked out.
So today, it’s finally time to introduce our 2020 Leader of Distinction. I’m excited about presenting this award because I’m the product of a school system she cares about very much.
And when she decided back in 1980 that Walla Walla schools needed a stronger commitment to meeting children’s needs, she campaigned for school board. She adopted the slogan, “Mulkerin for Kids,” and spent the following 12 years working to represent their interests.
Winning elections was never a challenge, but it was sometimes frustrating. She once ran against a man who argued, “There are already too many smart women on the board.”
Word got around that she knew about school boards. So when Catholic Schools decided to set up their board of directors, they called on her for advice.
One of her happiest undertakings – after marriage and motherhood – was chairing the YWCA Building Campaign along with her friend Jim McCarthy.
There were those who said, “Those women will never reach that goal,” and that’s the truth. They surpassed it, and celebrated with a ribbon-cutting in 2001 (pictured above).
She was also involved at Walla Walla Community College, serving on the Foundation and Board, and assisting in establishing the enology & viticulture center.
And she continues to exceed expectations. In 2016, she applied for the first time for a permit to hold a march. She expected a couple hundred or so to show up and march for women’s rights. Instead 2,000 arrived, making the women’s march one of Walla Walla’s largest ever.
She loves this community and wants the very best for everyone in it. She has always devoted her tremendous energy, big heart, and generous spirit to Walla Walla and its people.
Today we are proud to present the YWCA 2020 Leader of Distinction Award to a dear friend of the YWCA, Judy Mulkerin.