Dr. LaVerne T. Harmon Honored as a Great Dames Icon

All-Star Lineup Introduced Honorees at Nonprofit’s 10th Anniversary Bash

From left: Wilmington University President Dr. LaVerne T. Harmon, Great Dames President Sharon Kelly Hake, Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki

(New Castle, Delaware) – Wilmington University President Dr. LaVerne T. Harmon, as well as Bebe Coker and Anna Welsh, were recent recipients of the first Great Dames Icon Awards. Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki, Delaware State University Provost Dr. Tony Allen, and entrepreneur Jen Groover introduced the three inspirational women at the Great Dames 10th Anniversary celebration.

The luminaries have special connections to the honorees. Purzycki welcomed Dr. Harmon, his longtime friend and colleague. Allen introduced Bebe Coker, since both are civic leaders, educators, and champions of education equality. Groover, the media star who created the “Butler Bag,” brought Philadelphia-based entrepreneur Anna Welsh to the stage. At 13, Welsh transformed her passion for sewing into the sustainable handmade bag company, littlebags.BIGIMPACT.

All proceeds from the event went toward the newly formed Great Dames Foundation, which supports women, girls and women-focused organizations. One of the first gifts from the foundation included scholarships to three girls in the names of the three women icons. Dr. Harmon surprised the audience by awarding two full undergraduate scholarships to Great Dames. The nonprofit will select the beneficiaries.

“It was humbling to be called an icon, and an honor to share the stage with Bebe Coker and Anna Welsh,” says Dr. Harmon. “But the evening wasn’t really about the icons; it was a celebration of Great Dames’ tireless efforts to help women create authentic connections with each other, and to inspire girls to believe in themselves.”

Former DuPont executive Sharon Kelly Hake started Great Dames 10 years ago. Its focus has been to unite “kindred spirits with purpose” across cultures and ages through programs promoting conversation, innovation and inspiration. “Dr. Harmon, Bebe Coker and Anna Welsh truly embody what it means to be a ‘Great Dame,’” says Kelly Hake. “They have claimed their power and purpose and have each had a powerful impact on our communities. We are honored to recognize them for their enduring example and their exceptional work.”

To date, more than 8,500 women have made meaningful connections attending Great Dames programs; 600 women have invigorated their lives and careers through mentorship and peer-to-peer advising; 450 women entrepreneurs have been supported with funding and expert advice; and 210 nonprofits have received grants or volunteer assistance. Great Dames plans to expand chapters to other cities and work with strategic partners to help provide an environment of safety, support and growth for women of all ages and backgrounds.