Pictured are the winners of the Meridian Society’s hat contest: biggest hat was Bobbi Ault; best hat was Marcy Pinnell.
It might have been an easier job to pick a winning horse Tuesday than to select two top hat contenders out of the nearly 160 women who came to the Meridian Derby at Fairmont Park Racetrack in Collinsville. The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Meridian Society sponsors the annual Derby at the Top of Turf clubhouse.
“I knew I would see some great hats, but you’ve outdone yourself,” said SIUE Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe, who wore a white straw hat with a black and white brim. “I also want to congratulate the Meridian Society on its 10-year anniversary.”
Outgoing Meridian Society President Elizabeth Keserauskis welcomed the exquisitely adorned crowd to the Third Annual Meridian Derby. Keserauskis has served as president since 2012 and will end her term June 30.
“As an auxiliary organization of the SIUE Foundation, the Meridian Society promotes women’s leadership and invests in SIUE community-based projects,” Keserauskis said. “Through pooled resources and collective giving, the women of the Meridian Society demonstrate a spirit of philanthropy and a commitment to making a positive impact in the community.
“The Meridian Society accepts funding applications for projects benefitting SIUE community-based projects. Bringing together the financial power, influence and voices of women since its inception in 2003, the Meridian Society has given 118 awards totaling over $225,000.”
The derby is the Meridian Society’s annual spring social where members celebrate what they have done for the community, while also having fun.
The prize for the best hat went to SIUE alum Marcy Pinnell of Edwardsville.
The award for the biggest hat went to SIUE alum Bobbi Ault of Glen Carbon.
Cheryl Brunsmann, assistant director for SIUE Community Education Programs and recent Meridian Society member, didn’t think she’d be a winner. However, Brunsmann said she was glad to be among the wonderful group of women. She sported a white straw hat with pink roses that belonged to her late mother, Catherine Biver. Brunsmann graduated from SIUE in 2002 with a master’s in public administration.
Huaibo Xin, assistant professor in SIUE’s Kinesiology and Health Education Department, wore a turquoise hat that she wore to the Kentucky Derby.
“This is my first Meridian Derby,” said Xin, who is considering joining the Meridian Society. “It has been a very elegant experience for me. I enjoy seeing all these hats. It’s also good to communicate with one another and dedicate money for a good cause.”
“I’m loving it,” said Jo Anne Holt of East St. Louis. “It’s enjoyable to see the women in different styles of dress and hats. It’s also great to see some SIUE alumni that I haven’t seen in such a long time.”
Holt graduated from SIUE with a bachelor’s in elementary education in 1975. Holt, who is not a member and brought two guests with her, is also contemplating being part of the group.
If there were a prize given to those bringing the most guests, it may have gone to Deborah Hunt of East St. Louis and Barbara Green of Fairview Heights. Between the two, the clubhouse held about 40 of their guests.
“I invited my church members, my friends and my family,” said Hunt, a Meridian Society member for the past three years. Hunt graduated from SIUE with a bachelor’s in elementary education and special education in 1976 and a master’s in special education in 1980. She serves on the group’s Grants Committee.
“The Meridian Society is important because of all the good projects they help fund, like the Grit program at the SIUE East St. Louis Charter High School,” Hunt said. “The Grit program teaches students perseverance, so they can stay in high school and hopefully go to college. It’s designed to raise their expectations.”
The Meridian Society’s commitment to awarding students with scholarships is the most important thing the group does, according to Bev George, past president of the SIUE Alumni Association, current SIUE Foundation board member and Meridian Scholar member for the past three years.
“This is my favorite event,” said George, owner of Bev George and Associates Realty in Edwardsville. “I brought about six colleagues to introduce them to the Meridian Society.”
The event is a social networking and recruiting opportunity for the Meridian Society, according to Julie Babington. Registered guests totaled 160.
“This is an exciting time for the SIUE Meridian Society,” Babington said. “We are currently at 45 members, our largest membership yet. We hope to by the end of the Meridian Derby to be over the 50-member mark.”
The Meridian Society is a significant group, according to Rachel Stack, SIUE vice chancellor for University Advancement.
“Nothing is as powerful as a group of women committed to helping others,” she said.
The Meridian Society’s new president is Alicia Lifrak, CEO of Boy Scouts of America. She will assume her duties on July 1.
For more information or to join the Meridian Society, visit www.siue.edu/meridiansociety or contact Babington at (618) 650-2378.
This article is from http://www.siue.edu/.