Deborah Mack speaks during the fifth annual Women's Leadership Colloquium at Brenau University on Friday, March 16, 2018. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Colloquium Speakers Prove Women Can Handle Any Challenge, Personal or Professional

Mar 16, 2018
Kristen Bowman

Four remarkable women shared their defining moments as pioneers in their different fields, competing with and leading men in the workforce with few women to show them the way, in front of a crowd of more than 300 at the Hosch Theatre at the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts at Brenau University.

The Women’s Leadership Colloquium on Friday, March 16, hosted by the Women’s College at Brenau University, brought together Carole Ann Daniel, a family-owned business executive, Deborah Mack, a community activist, Lydia Sartain, a legal leader in the state of Georgia, and Linda Nelson, a president of a $61 billion company to share their stories, advice and insights at the annual event.

“As I often say to my students, there is nothing more powerful than when a group of women come together over a shared purpose,” said Debra Dobkins, dean of the Women’s College and emcee for the colloquium.

Dobkins introduced Nelson, UPS president of customer experience, who began her career with the $61 billion company as a part-time package handler in 1986. Nelson addressed the theme of the event, which was “Defining Moments,” saying she was “struck by the simplicity of that theme.”

“I remember thinking about my life and my career in terms of those moments,” Nelson said. “The more I sat and thought about those moments, what occurred to me was that defining moments, for the most part, aren’t recognizable in the moment. It’s often only when you look back on events, those seemingly inconsequential moments, that you understand how that moment would shape our present circumstances.”

Emmie Henderson Howard listens during the fifth annual Women's Leadership Colloquium at Brenau University on Friday, March 16, 2018. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Emmie Henderson Howard listens during the fifth annual Women’s Leadership Colloquium at Brenau University on Friday, March 16, 2018. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

In her 31 years with UPS, Nelson has served in a number of assignments in human resources and operations. This included key operational assignments in Minnesota, California and Kansas before being promoted to and serving as president in the Ohio, Alabama and Illinois districts. In her current role, Nelson is responsible for leading a corporate team in the creation of a culture at UPS that focuses on improving the overall experience of customers globally.

She shared her highs and lows, including a 2011 breast cancer diagnosis that she was proud to have faced head-on and without fear. But said the most poignant and painful defining moment for her was in 2014, while she was assigned to a UPS facility in Birmingham, Alabama.

A disgruntled former employee entered the facility and shot and killed two men – both on Nelson’s team.

“It was a moment unlike any other I have experienced in my life,” she said. “It was both personal and professional, all wrapped up in one horrible event.”

She said nothing in her education, experience or training could have prepared her for that day, which is never far from her thoughts.

Daniel is a 1968 graduate of the Brenau Women’s College and the business development executive of the more than 70-year-old family business, Carroll Daniel Construction Company, based in Gainesville, Georgia. Mack is a well-known activist and servant leader in her native Gainesville and a retiree after 31 years with the Georgia Department of Labor. Sartain, a partner at Stewart, Melvin & Frost, directs the family law practice of the firm. She and Daniel both serve on the Brenau Board of Trustees.

Sartain was in 1986 elected the first female and then-youngest solicitor in Georgia for the State Court of Hall County. She subsequently won re-election without opposition and served until then-Gov. Zell Miller selected her as director of the Office of Children and Youth. In 1993, she was appointed district attorney for the Northeastern Judicial Circuit and was re-elected twice. She served as president of the Gainesville-Northeastern Bar Association and was named by Chief Justice Norman Fletcher to the State Bar Disciplinary Committee, where she served two terms. She was in 1999 appointed to serve on the State Board of Public Safety by then-Gov. Roy Barnes.

“One of the things I found for women getting into positions of authority, if you were in a position that was not quite as much authority, you were kind of OK,” she said. “But as you move into move authoritative areas, it becomes a little more difficult. I noticed a big difference in how I was treated in this male-dominated world as I moved up in it …. But I could handle it.”