By Lauren Kross – Staff Writer
Lynn Hayes-Freeland’s entrance on Jennie Carter Day reflected the perseverance shown by Elizabeth “Jennie” Adams Carter. Although Hayes-Freeland tripped on her way to her seat, she reacted as if nothing happened.
“I was going to take these shoes off anyways!” Hayes-Freeland said as she stood up and laughed.
That stumble exemplified the barriers that both Freeland and Carter have forged throughout their lives.
Hayes-Freeland’s witty, carefree and confident attitude carried throughout her visit at Cal U, making it was obvious why she was chosen as the recipient of the inaugural Jennie Carter Leadership Award.
The Jennie Carter Leadership Award is given to a community member exemplifying the character of Jennie Carter and making a difference in the community.
Hayes-Freeland is locally and nationally recognized for her excellence in reporting for KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. In addition, she is producer and host of “The Lynne Hayes-Freeland Show,” airing weekly and focusing on local issues.
Hayes-Freeland delivered the Keynote address at the Jennie Carter Day celebration inside Steele Hall Oct. 9. She began by providing examples of African American women that have been firsts. Freeland found it surprising that African American women are still being firsts in the present day.
“When you start looking at women that are firsts, women that open doors, what makes them special?” Freeland questioned.
“It’s not so much the fact that they are first, but it’s the qualities that make them first; the characteristics that they have to possess to risk being the first,” she continued.
“They have to have courage, they have to have guts, they have to persevere… and they have to be leaders.”
In addition to Freeland’s Jennie Carter Leadership Award, the Black Student Union received an award to be displayed in the Multicultural Center in Carter Hall and Carole W. Hancock received an award for her studies and support to the Carter family. William Carter, a descendent of Jennie Carter, presented both awards.
Carter, class of 1881, was the first African American graduate of Southwestern State Normal School, known today as California University of Pennsylvania. Carter was a female, minority, teacher, and, most importantly, a leader. Not only did she change the way African American women were viewed in the 1800s, but she shaped the way African American females are viewed today.
“Jennie was a career woman before the concept was popular,” said Carole W. Hancock, a professor at Washington State Community College who did part of her doctorate dissertation on Carter.
According to Hancock, Carter has been placed in a rare category because she taught more than 20 years when the average for female teachers was four to six years. In addition, she married late in life and continued teaching after she tied the knot.
The most unique aspect of Carter’s career is the fact that she was an educated African American woman teaching just 16 years after the civil war.
Just like Carter, Hayes-Freeland began her career at a time when not many African American women were in the same line of work as she was.
Both women have proven that they attain the skills, qualities, and characteristics of an influential leader. Although Carter has left the earth and Freeland remains, both have legacies that remain and both are associated with the many African American women that have and are making an impact on the world.
Cal U’s Director of Multicultural Affairs LaMont Coleman compared Jennie Carter Day to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day in which we remember one who has made a difference in the past, those who are making the difference now, and those who will make a difference in the future.
“We want [students] to look back, but also be aware of the present moment,” Coleman said. “We want to empower and inspire students of all backgrounds to achieve academically and in the community.”
William Carter and his wife Kay have been working with the university since the BSU approached them in 1985. Since then, they have been working to keep Jennie Carter’s legacy alive at Cal U. In her honor, the Carter’s have helped establish Jennie Carter Day, endowed the Jennie Carter Scholarship and created the Jennie Carter Leadership Award.
“We can all be leaders in one way or another,” William Carter said. “We can all do something to leave a lasting legacy and you don’t have to be Barack Obama to do that.”
The annual celebration was established last year when President Angelo Armenti, Jr. declared everyday on Oct. 9, Carter’s birthday, Jennie Carter Day.
“[Carter is to be] respected as an exemplary human being with special and rare gifts, who was committed to serving students to the best of her ability and who exemplified the University core values of integrity, civility, and responsibility,” stated in the Proclamation, delivered Oct. 9, 2008.