Four Forward shows the enduring power of women

issue 01 | summer 2024
Four Forward event

When Laura Frame ʼ83 first read Gender Matters: A Guide to Growing Women’s Philanthropy by Kathleen E. Loehr, a vision she’d had for years started to crystallize. Frame’s sustained relationship with Denison, including in her role as Denison’s director of principal gifts, connects her with some of the university’s most passionate, visionary, and generous donors.

But she felt like something was missing. Fundraising seemed like a time-tested process, but the book asked critical questions such as, “What role does gender play in philanthropy? Is there something different about how women give?”

As Frame dug deeper and learned about the often unsung but rich history of women’s achievements at Denison, the concept of Four Forward was born. Frame contacted Loehr directly in 2021, and soon the author was helping to establish a philanthropic community of women at Denison. Frame convened eight focus groups in 2022 and formed a volunteer task force and advisory council in 2023.

Several university luminaries — Denison trustees Kathryn Correia ʼ79 and Vivian Quaye ʼ03, Denison board of advisors member Michelle Warner ʼ88, and Denison’s former director of major gifts Kathleen Shelton ʼ85 — stepped forward enthusiastically as co-chairs.

“My decision to become involved with Four Forward stems from a deep resonance with its mission and my personal journey,” Quaye says. “Denison played a pivotal role in shaping the course of my life. The invaluable support and guidance from the women faculty and staff during my years as a student were instrumental in helping me overcome challenges.”

“We can do so much more collectively than we can do individually,” Warner says. “When women come together, it creates a unique energy and a call to action for many who might not otherwise engage.” Loehr’s research supports this sentiment, finding that many women prefer to collaborate as part of a group effort rather than contribute solely as individuals.

So what’s in a name? University records hold that the first four women to graduate from Denison received their degrees in 1900. “Four Forward honors these remarkable women — Eva Virginia Johnson, Anna May Patt, Myrtle Ignitian Gibson, and Grace Lyon Seasholes — whose unwavering determination and persistence for equal education opportunities paved the way for countless others,” Frame says.

The concept of four also pays homage to the four years a student typically studies at Denison and is echoed in the concept of four arcs — into, through, venture, and return — that, when combined, form an enduring circle of support for all stages of a Denisonian’s life.

The money raised through Four Forward supports students on their journey “into” Denison by championing access and affordability. While they move “through” their education, Four Forward supports off-campus studies, career services, and entrepreneurial explorations. After graduation, Four Forward encourages network-building and the formation of nourishing connections as new alums “venture” into their lives. Four Forward also fosters meaningful engagement opportunities for Denisonians when they “return” to campus, paying it forward for the next generation.

Four Forward welcomes all women and everyone who supports Four Forward’s full-spectrum mission of access, achievement, connection, and philanthropy.

“Denison is an incredible organization that pulls us toward each other through shared experience,” Correia says. “I love considering the possibilities of our collective impact.”

Published May 2024
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