From the President Beth Nienow
April 9, 1925 -September 30, 2012
We’ve all had women role models who influenced our lives, perhaps our mother, a teacher, a professor, a mentor in our workplace. On Sept 30, many of us lost a role model in Pauline Utzinger.
I first met Pauline when I was a college student interning at the Rochester Public Library. A few years later, I visited RPL to inform my friends there that I had just been offered my first professional library position in a university library, but unfortunately, in my mind, anyway, I was going to have to move to North Dakota for it. Instead of groaning or making a vague statement like “North Dakota is God’s Country!”, the two responses I had become most accustomed to, Pauline simply said “You will enjoy Grand Forks. It is a lovely college town”. Thanks, in large part to Pauline’s comment, I moved to Grand Forks with a positive attitude and spent five happy and professionally fulfilling years at the University of North Dakota.
A few years later I found myself back in Rochester working as a reference librarian at RPL. Although Pauline had retired, I benefited from her efforts to organize a union affiliate for library workers and her work toward ensuring comparable worth compensation for city employees. As a result of Pauline’s legacy I have been able to be compensated generously and fairly for work that is my passion for almost 19 years.
It was Pauline who introduced me to the Rochester branch of AAUW, an organization in which she had been very active for many years already, and later nominated me for program co-vice president. Since that time, I have been on the board of our branch almost continuously.
Watching the documentary series Half the Sky which recently aired on PBS, emphasized for me the importance of role models and women helping women. Women and girls are still being exploited and abused worldwide but tremendous efforts are being made to help females escape brutality and poverty through health care, education, and economic advancement. These efforts are often lead by women who were once in similar situations, as well as celebrities who use their status to call attention to the conditions of these women’s lives in order to make a difference.
As AAUW members, we can honor our women role models and we can be role models – as Pauline was for me.