August 25, representatives from the Coalition of Women’s Organization awarded six recipients the Vivian V. Conley Award in Muncie City Hall. The awardees are as follows: Bria Zolman, Courtney Jarrett, Janet Stratton, LaTasha Mardis, Suzanne Clem and Krista Garrett.
Vivian V. Conley was a non-traditional Ball State University student who enrolled at 61 years old. She was at the forefront of women's and civil rights, and was a leader of the Muncie community.
“It is a huge honor,” WaTasha Barnes Griffin, Chief Executive Officer of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), said. “Vivian Conley, of course, was a local ‘Muncarean’ who was instrumental in starting that non-traditional student program at Ball State.”
Barnes Griffin spoke on the honor from first-hand experience.
“For me, I grew up with Vivian Conley, she and my grandmother were really good friends,” Barnes Griffin said. “Growing up under Vivian Conley and seeing the work she did in our community around education and civil rights, she was very instrumental in a lot of inaugural things in our community.”
Women are nominated by members of the local community. The nominees are then selected by women's organizations in Delaware County. Members of the Coalition of Women’s Organizations also nominate women, but a large majority of those nominated are received through community outreach.
Reaching the winners is based on a rubric, scored one through five, in which a committee fills out rubrics based on characteristics.
Zolman is the program manager of the Guardian Scholars Program at Ball State, where she works with students who have experience in foster care.
Jarrett was awarded due to her distinction in Civic Engagement and Inclusion. She directs Ball State’s disability services and oversees 3,500 students with disabilities and teaches in womens and gender studies.
The National Organization for Women honored Stratton for her distinction in Arts and Culture. She has served at the David Owsley Museum of Art, ushered at John R. Emens College-Community Auditorium, sings in her church choir and volunteers her time to read for students at South View Elementary School.
Mardis was awarded for her distinction in community service, in which her staple is helping others and getting involved in the community.
The American Association of University Women nominated Clem, vice president for Open Door Health Services, for public health and community engagement. Clem was a large help in the suppression of COVID-19 and the pandemic in the Muncie community.
The Coalition of One Hundred Women nominated Garrett, who is the Office Director through the Indiana Department of Child Resources, for her distinction in child protection.
Mryna Robertson, daughter of Vivian V. Conley, reflected on the legacy her mother left.
“I never felt like anything was ever lacking,” Robertson said. “She would give most of her time to other students or other kids, whatever it was either going to school, or jail to visit people. She never, to me or my brothers or sisters, show anything lacking with her love. Nothing was ever lacking, in fact, it made us closer as a family.”
Robertson said Conley’s actions influenced her and her siblings to act similarly to their mother.
“Watching her made us feel we should be servants,” Robertson said. “We have always looked at it as being servants to others and helping others. She looked not if they were higher or lower, but where those people were at. Nobody was better than anyone else.”