Linda Rabbitt: “Washington Woman of Genius”
Good afternoon and welcome to Trinity College’s celebration of Women’s History Month!
We are so pleased to have the opportunity to observe this important month by honoring one of the women who is truly writing the new chapters of women’s history in Washington, our friend Linda Rabbitt. The Trinity College Washington Women of Genius Awards began two years ago on the occasion of Trinity’s Centennial, when 100 distinguished women of Washington gathered to help this great college celebrate 100 years of life as the first, and now only, undergraduate college for women in the nation’s capital. Trinity today is a comprehensive university with extensive coeducational programs in our two schools that serve the workforce, the School of Education and School of Professional studies. But our historic primary mission to women continues in the College of Arts and Science, and influences all that we do on this campus.
We are grateful to our friends from the business community who have taken a few minutes from your busy days to share this celebration with Linda and the students and faculty of Trinity.
Over my 13 years as Trinity’s president, I have had the privilege of getting to know so many terrific leaders in Washington, and I have felt a special kinship with the women who are the builders of organizations, the sustainers of so many human communities, the public figures and quiet motivators behind the scenes. I have learned from all of these great role models — the need for role models does not stop when you graduate from college, but rather, it continues throughout your entire life.
We gather today to honor someone who is truly a great role model for all people looking for inspiration and a model of determination, excellence and success. Linda, we are so pleased to be able to recognize all that you have achieved. You are truly a Washington Woman of Genius!
The phrase “women of genius” emerges from a darker social and intellectual history that denied the ability of women to have anything remotely resembling genius. Rousseau himself said flat out that there was no such thing as a woman of genius, and throughout history we see that attitude reflected time and again in the words of male philosophers and pundits. But women always knew differently, and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, women’s rights advocates, philosophers and writers began to take up the question of why history denied women’s genius. The answer provided by such thinkers as Virginia Woolf or Anna Garlan Spencer was that women had been denied the time, the space, the money and financial support, to cultivate their creative powers. Spencer wrote, pungently, that no woman would be hailed as a genius who wrote books and plays but appeared to neglect her primary duties to husband and children. Woolf said that a woman needed “A Room of One’s Own” to provide the creative space and support for her genius, a point that women’s colleges celebrate every day.
All of this may seem quaint in the fast-paced life of 21st Century Washington, a place where many would say that women have truly displayed their genius and power for decades, where the idea of equality is hailed as, of course, correct, unquestioned, a given. Some might even dare to say that the revolution is over, that we’ve made it. So, why celebrate women’s history? Why lift up and honor women of genius?
If we forget the past, we will repeat its mistakes. If we do not recognize the hard work and determination of those on whose shoulders we stand, we may well collapse from neglect of our foundation. Women’s history month gives us an opportunity to celebrate all that has come before us, and to set our sights on all that can still be achieved to ensure equality and freedom for women, not only here where so much as already been done, but around the world where we see the majority of the world’s women still living in conditions that manifest the ancient prejudices and oppression of women.
I am so pleased and grateful that another great Washington Woman of Genius is going to join me here at the lectern to read the citation for Linda Rabbitt. Catherine Meloy is one of Washington’s greats, with so many honors to her name, including, notably, the most coveted award in the business community, the Washington Leader of the Years. Catherine is senior vice president at Clear ChannelCommunications, and she is one of the most influential women in communications and media in this town. She is a leader of the Board of Trade, and active in numerous organizations. And, I’m most proud to say, she is a Trustee of Trinity College
Citation Honoring Linda Rabbitt
Linda Rabbitt is the expert on the relationship between hard work and success. Her elegant style and effervescent approach to leadership reveal that she’s also having an enormous amount of fun enjoying her success. Her resume shows that Linda’s pathway to power and prestige did not follow a straight line; but her laser-like ambition to achieve as much as her talent and brainpower would permit ensured her steady rise from a position as a secretary with a major accounting firm to chairman of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, one of the most influential business leadership positions in the nation’s capital.
Along the way, Linda gave new meaning to the idea of networking, honing this essential business skill as she wove the web of critical relationships that sustained her through business challenges, personal crises and ultimate triumph. She became an outstanding volunteer, involved with the Washington Building Congress, CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women of Washington) and the International Women’s Forum.
Founder and owner of Rand Construction Corporation, the fourth largest woman-owned general contractor in the nation, Linda Rabbitt and Rand have won numerous awards for the company’s high quality building renovations. A graduate of the University of Michigan and George Washington University, Linda had no prior background in construction when she founded the company, but she soon became an expert in reading blueprints. Rand became one of the top interior construction companies in the Washington region, thanks in no small measure to Linda’s relentless pursuit of excellence all details of the work, combined with her remarkable talent for generating business. Along the way, she also became a mentor to many other women in business who admire her as a role model for achievement in a highly competitive market.
Success has many dimensions for Linda Rabbitt. Diagnosed with breast cancer in the Year 2000, she brought the same laser-like focus to bear on beating this disease that she applied to all of her business triumphs, and she won. She drew strength from her web of relationships, and most importantly from her family including her daughters Ashleigh and Lauren, and husband John Whalen.
Linda Rabbitt stands out in the Washington community today as an exemplar of courage, excellence and leadership. Her accomplishments and success are surely worthy of their own chapter in the book of women’s history in the Washington community, and on the occasion of the 2002 Women’s History Month, Trinity College is proud to honor Linda Rabbitt as a Washington Woman of Genius.
Congratulations, Linda! You are truly a Woman of Genius! I invite our guests to take a moment as you leave campus to take a stroll or drive out back to see the new Trinity Center for Women and Girls in Sports rising in the middle of the campus. We’ll invite you all back in November for the opening ceremony, and this time next year, we’ll be swimming in the new pool!