In her first diplomatic tour as U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Ewha Womans University in Korea, an institution closely connected with the history of United Methodist Women.
On Feb. 20, Clinton, a United Methodist, met with the university's top leadership, as well as other Korean women leaders. More than 2,000 people attended the "town hall meeting" at Ewha where Clinton emphasized women's empowerment.
In receiving a "Distinguished Honorary Ewha Fellow" certificate, the Secretary of State was recognized for opening a new era in women's participation in public affairs that led to her extraordinary contributions to the cause of human rights and the protection of the interests of women, children, and the family, according to a Ewha University release.
"Ewha was started by Mrs. Mary Scranton, an American Methodist missionary, 123 years ago with just one student, but today Ewha has grown to be the largest women's university in the world with 170,000 graduates," Lee Bae Yong, the university's president, said in her welcoming speech. "The history of Ewha may be the most successful fruit of all the seeds that American Methodists have sown overseas."
Currently, Ewha has more than 23,000 enrolled students, 65 majors, 11 colleges and 15 graduate schools, one of which is Scranton College, named for Scranton.
Scranton was sent by the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society, a predecessor organization to United Methodist Women, to build a school for impoverished girls in Korea. Ewha Haktang, or "Pear Blossom School," subsequently opened in 1886.
Connections to Ewha
"I have three connections with Ewha University," Clinton said in her first words to the audience. "One, I am a Methodist; two, my family on my father's side came from Scranton, Pennsylvania; three, I am a graduate of Wellesley College which has a sister relationship with Ewha University."
Staff at the Women's Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, considered the recognition of Clinton to be a fitting tribute.
"Ewha University stands as testimony to the power of women following their faith and changing the world," stated Harriett J. Olson, the division's top executive.
"Ewha sees education through empowerment, which has always been an emphasis in the Women's Division as well, including leadership empowerment of women," added Louise Fawcett, former Women's Division executive for international ministries.
In a question and answer session after the speech, students asked Clinton a number of personal questions on issues like juggling family life and professional life, being a mother, her relationship with her husband, and being a woman in the political world.
"It was a very exciting, uplifting and fun event," said Heasun Kim, a Women's Division representative who attended the event. "(Clinton) answered (questions) in such an honest, empowering and genuine manner. Everyone was really impressed by her presence."
The Women's Division retains close ties with Ewha's alumni association. Ewha is a current member of the Women's Division's International Ministries Higher Education Initiative, which was recently involved in a Leadership Development Institute for Women Students held in Manila, Philippines, in December 2007.
The Higher Education Initiative, started in 2000, opened with a consultation of schools associated with the Women's Division, in which Ewha was involved. Ewha is one of nine schools in Asia currently a part of the Initiative.
Andris Salter, a Women's Division executive, sits on the board of the International Foundation for Ewha Womans University, whose goal is to produce women leaders through higher education.
"We are proud of our connection to (Ewha's) work and pray for (its) continued work as an institution of global stature educating women and girls," Olson said. "Their students will help shape our future and this gives us great hope."
*Rogers is a public relations executive with the Women's Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or [email protected].