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CCU Atheneum: Leeza Gibbons
Leeza Gibbons

WIPL conference: Lead the Change in 2015

by JoAnna Dalton
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Did you know that South Carolina ranks second in the nation in the number of women murdered in domestic violence incidents and last in the nation in women in public office? Are you aware that women in South Carolina make 76 cents on the dollar in comparison to men? These are startling, if not staggering, statistics on the status of women in South Carolina – statistics that Women in Philanthropy and Leadership (WIPL) for Coastal Carolina University strives to improve upon by providing financial assistance to deserving Coastal Carolina students to increase access to education and by offering leadership training opportunities to students and women in Horry County, the state and the nation.

“We hope that providing scholarships for our students will allow education to be a focus because the better educated we are, the better prepared we can be to understand the issues that face us and look for opportunities to be effective in dealing with the problems,” says WIPL President Marjorie Thompson.

Begun in 2007 by Coastal Carolina University’s First Lady and current WIPL Executive Director Terri DeCenzo, WIPL has awarded $140,000 in scholarships to 102 Coastal Carolina students to date. Financial assistance with education is key to WIPL’s vision of “the advancement of leadership and philanthropy to enrich the unlimited potential of women to transform society.”

The cornerstone of WIPL’s leadership component is the Women in Philanthropy and Leadership Conference and Celebration. This year’s fifth annual two-day meeting, the theme of which is “Lead the Change,” is scheduled for Feb.12 and 13, 2015, and promises to continue its tradition of excellence by presenting yet another panel of inspiring, accomplished women who will share their stories, their struggles and their successes with attendees. The pre-conference on Thursday, Feb. 12, will feature sessions designed to offer encouragement, insight and real-life examples centered on women’s entrepreneurship. During the day on Friday, Feb. 13, high-profile presenters will inform, empower and entertain attendees.

The many notable speakers include Claire Shipman, a regular contributor to “Good Morning America” and co-author of The New York Times best-selling book “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know”; renowned singer Gloria Gaynor, whose disco-era hit, “I Will Survive,” became an anthem for social survival and the inspiration for her books; Leeza Gibbons, former television host of “Entertainment Tonight,” businesswoman and author of the book “Take 2: Your Guide to Creating Happy Endings and New Beginning”; and Laura Schroff, a former media executive and author of the book “An Invisible Thread.”

Conference participants attend breakout sessions of their choice during the afternoon. Subjects covered at past conferences included achieving your full potential, health and wellness, work/life balance and making a difference.

“The conference is a great opportunity to bring together nearly 1,000 people who are excited to learn, to network, to be educated, to be inspired, to be in a supportive environment and to have speakers from across the nation tell their stories,” says Thompson. “We want to inspire people to take that extra step, to venture outside the box or to pursue something that they have been thinking about. We want to bring to the forefront options and opportunities for resolution and hope regarding the problems in our society.”

The WIPL Celebration of Inspiring Women, to be held in the evening on Friday, Feb. 13, recognizes and commends remarkable women who are from South Carolina or have made the state their home and celebrates their contributions to our region, state, nation and world. Past honorees include Paula Harper Bethea, Mignon L. Clyburn and Mamie “Peanut” Johnson.

Even if you have attended one or more past conferences, Thompson encourages attendance at this year’s conference. “Our speakers change every year, and we bring in different people who represent different industries, who represent different eras in history. Part of the allure of being at the conference is that you don’t know what you are going to hear, you don’t know what you are going to learn, until you have been there,” states Thompson. “The vision of Mrs. DeCenzo is coming to fruition now, and it is due to her efforts and her leadership that we are accomplishing the mission of making this a premier conference – nationwide.”

For more details about this year’s speakers and celebration award winners or to register for conference events, please visit 2015 WIPL Conference and Celebration.

JoAnna Dalton is a past two-time recipient of a WIPL scholarship, a long-standing member of WIPL and current secretary of the organization.


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