Judith Gold Stitzel
In 1889, 22 years after West Virginia University opened its doors to students, the first 10 women entered the University as degree candidates. Among them was Harriet E. Lyon, who had transferred from Vassar College. She would become WVU’s first female graduate in 1891, finishing at the top of her class. 

Ninety years later, English professor Judith Gold Stitzel founded what is today known as the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. 

In honor of Lyon and the rich legacy of women students at WVU, Stitzel has established the Harriet E. Lyon Endowed Professorship for Women’s and Gender Studies, a first-of-its-kind professorship that recognizes and supports the interdisciplinary role of women’s and gender studies. 

“Our country is at a time where there is a renewed relevance to feminism and a heightened need for passionate advocates,” said Gregory Dunaway, dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. “(Stitzel) embodies the passion and energy needed to take the value of women’s and gender studies into the world. She understands that to move our country forward, we have to address the contributions and struggles of women over centuries while celebrating new achievements in the present and sharing new perspectives for the future.” 

The Harriet E. Lyon Endowment Committee, comprised of women from around West Virginia, hosted a reception on May 18, 2017, in support of the professorship. 

More than 50 individuals from around the state attended the event, held at the West Virginia Humanities Council’s office in the McFarland-Hubbard House in Charleston, West Virginia. Reenactors impersonating Colonel Ruby Bradley and Pearl Buck shared early 20th century perspectives as professionals trying to make it in a man’s world. 

The professorship allows faculty from any department or program in the WVU system to contribute to women’s and gender studies through teaching and research within the Center while integrating their work within their own disciplines. 

Faculty can apply for a two-to-three-year, part-time appointment to teach and conduct research as part of the Center. The professorship provides a salary supplement, discretionary funds for travel and other related expenses and support to their home department. 

Stitzel’s commitment to the discipline has benefitted hundreds of students over the years. With the establishment of the professorship, her commitment will have a lasting impact for years to come. 

“Women’s and gender studies truly touches on all disciplines. The professorship is an innovative concept that speaks volumes of (Stitzel’s) belief in the mission of the Center and its critical value to important conversations,” Dunaway said. “The Eberly College is lucky to have her as an important part of its history and, through the creation of this professorship, as an integral part of its future.” 

The Eberly College of Arts and Sciences will introduce the first Harriet E. Lyon Endowed Professor for Women’s and Gender Studies in fall 2018. 

You can be a part of the interdisciplinary collaboration, research and teaching at WVU. To make your gift to the Harriet E. Lyon Endowed Professorship fund, visit: give.wvu.edu/ecas-WomenandGenderStudies