Vero’s ‘University Women’ celebrate 60 years of trail blazing

Beverly Newland, Barbara Mandell and Linda Barker. PHOTO BY STEPHANIE LABAFF

The Vero Beach Branch of the American Association of University Women marked six decades of empowering women through education, advocacy and community engagement with a 60th anniversary celebration at the Vero Beach Country Club.

The atmosphere buzzed with excitement and nostalgia as attendees shared fond memories, recounted milestones, and celebrated the countless achievements that have defined the organization’s legacy.

“An anniversary is a day to remember and celebrate because a special event happened on that date in previous years,” said Lois Miles, event chair, pointing out that the symbols for the 60th anniversary are silver, diamonds, and the white rose.

“A diamond is known as the toughest mineral in nature. It is marked by strength and resilience. Its name is derived from the Greek term adamas, which means invincible and unbreakable. How fitting that today we honor the women who founded AAUW, the Vero Beach Branch, and that includes ourselves, who are carrying the torch forward,” she added.

After a lovely luncheon, members were recognized for having branch memberships of 30 to 60 years. Speakers shared insights into how the AAUW made its mark in education, public policy, philanthropy and community collaboration, employing poetry to underscore their point.

Founded in 1964 by Lenore Feibel and Dorothy Forbes, the AAUW Vero Beach Branch has grown to become one of the largest chapters in the state. It has remained as a beacon of progress and solidarity in Vero Beach, advancing equity and inclusion in education and the workforce.

From its start, the mission of the local branch has been to empower women and girls in Indian River County through scholarships and programs. They have also provided funding to local nonprofits and national endowments, and in 2022 they assisted the Treasure Coast Girls Coalition to secure its first national grant from the AAUW-National organization in Washington, D.C.

Additionally, the group planted the seeds for the Senior Expo, running it for two years before turning it over to the Senior Collaborative because of its rapid growth.

Its members volunteer throughout the community as mentors for college-bound girls, and as tutors for children and adults. Believing that education should start early, they stock four Little Free Libraries at early learning sites with books that children and families can take home and keep.

In addition to fundraising events, they host five book review breakfasts annually that are free to the public.

As the organization embarks on the next chapter of its storied history, it does so with a renewed sense of purpose and determination, fueled by the timeless values of integrity, perseverance and solidarity.

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Photos by Stephanie LaBaff

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