It was a special evening for Board members, some key supporters, a few of the YW staff and other past board members and guests! We gathered at Eve Guernsey’s apartment in New York to meet the newly chosen CEO of the YW, Dr. Danielle Moss Lee, who has been head of a Harlem Educational Activities Fund for the past ten years. As she told us, she is coming to her new role full of energy and delighted to be joining this organization with its 154-year-old history and ardent core of friends. “Everyone wants to know what the YW is doing now,” she said, adding that some even think the YW is still at 53rd Street and will need to be enlightened.
Dr. Moss Lee’s background is impressive. In addition to being president of HEAF, she has had many years in the field of education and youth development, having served as an Assistant Principal of the Grace Lutheran School and director of several other afterschool partnerships and other programs geared to expanding education for underserved students. Since the YW runs outstanding afterschool programs in three New York high schools as well as seven preschool ones in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island, her experience will be an asset to this important work. Then, as she told some of us, she is interested in the YW mission to empower women and end racism and hopes to bring leadership to ongoing YW efforts to honor women in business and those seeking employment. She added, “ I could have taken a position with other large established organizations, but I felt that I was needed here and this is where I belong.”
Marsha Sells, current chair of the Board of Directors and a Vice President of Columbia University, introduced Dr. Moss Lee and welcomed her to her new position which will start officially in mid July. YWCA Treasurer Kathryn Casparian and Secretary Mary Crawford joined in the welcome along with Board members Bonnie Howard, Janet Larose, Tracey Heaton, Tracy High, Dora Mendez, Jean Walshe, and AWL Chair Claire Gutekunst. Several past Board members also attended, including Mary Wolf, a past Chair of the West Side Branch from earlier days when the YW started the famous Playwrights Horizons there, as well as former Board Presidents Connie Tate and Grace Richardson.
In addition to all the YW Board and staff, there was one international guest of interest to many, a young woman friend of former Board Member Kerry Healey and Connie Tate’s whose name is Tabasum Wolayat from Afghanistan. Tabusam has just graduated from Middlebury College and will be going to Oxford in the fall to continue her work in women’s studies and anthropology in an effort to prepare herself for helping the women of Afghanistan. The World YWCA has helped sponsor a movie by Abigail Disney about Afghanistan women, and we are all hoping that a YWCA can start in that country. Tabasum got many ideas and connections for her future efforts, and was a fitting addition to this celebration for the work of the YW in New York City where the organization started 154 years ago and now has a new director for the challenging years ahead.