They advocate for an array of causes — such as philanthropy, social change, historic preservation and environmental education — and hail from different parts of the county.
But the three women who will be inducted this year into the Howard County Women’s Hall of Fame share one common bond: unwavering devotion to strengthening their communities.
Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, Georgia Eacker and Cathy Hudson will join the roster of 107 women recognized for making a difference since 1997. They will be honored March 28 by the Howard County Commission on Women.
The awards are presented each March to coincide with National Women’s History Month. The 23rd annual induction ceremony and reception will be held at 7 p.m. in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building and the public is invited. Student winners of the 2019 Women’s History Month Essay Contest will also be recognized.
Kashonna Holland, chairwoman of the nine-member commission, said the world has changed quite a bit since the first Howard County awards were given out more than 20 years ago.
More women are running for — and being elected to — political office, for instance, making “the idea of a woman President of the United States something the country is finally embracing,” she said.
“It’s a great time to be a woman,” said Holland, who will give an address at the event.
And yet, more change is needed, said County Executive Calvin Ball.
Ball will speak at the ceremony and hand out inscribed glass trophies on what will coincidentally be his 21st wedding anniversary this year “because it’s that important,” he said.
“Howard County elected one of the first female county executives,” Ball said of Elizabeth Bobo, who served from 1986 to 1990. “But we have still only had one.”
Across the country, women continue to fight discrimination on a number of fronts, he said, and that’s why the county needs to recognize its great women leaders.
Ball commended Beaudoin-Schwartz for giving of “her time and treasure as a caring philanthropist” and described Hudson as “a preservationist extraordinaire,” adding that “even though we haven’t always agreed on the issues, I think the world of her.” Eacker is well-known for her passion for environmental education.
“We need to celebrate excellence,” he said. “This [hall of fame] tradition exemplifies our commitment to empowering all women.”
Holland said nominees must have resided in Howard County for at least 10 years and be nominated by at least three people. Seven women were nominated by the community for 2019 and the commission chose three to receive the honor. A maximum of five inductees is permitted each year.
Collaborating for greater impact
Beaudoin-Schwartz vividly recalls the dark, cold and rainy night when she joined with 16 other Howard County women to organize a meeting in February 2002 to gauge interest in forming a women’s giving circle.
Nearly 200 women showed up.
“I was inspired by all the women who came to talk about the power of women’s philanthropy,” recalled the Ellicott City resident, 52.
Since that first meeting, the Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County has donated more than $1 million to causes that support women and girls.
A native of New Town, Conn., where the deadly 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School occurred — Beaudoin-Schwartz is also a co-founder of Howard County Women Against Gun Violence and Howard County Sandy Hook Promise.
“I’m hopeful that we’re on the precipice of change nationally,” she said of gun violence prevention.
Beaudoin-Schwartz is president of her own firm, BBS Consulting, and is a co-author of “Women & Philanthropy: Boldly Shaping a Better World.”
Empowered women can change the world, she said.
“Our ability to come together to learn about important issues and pool our dollars for greater impact is still so exciting to me.”
Working on a shared goal
An employee of the University of Maryland Extension Howard County since 1992, Eacker is devoted to many projects, such as the Watershed Stewards Academy.
“We have made great progress and have trained 34 stewards” since the program’s inception, said Eacker, who also serves on the county’s Environmental Sustainability Board, a 13-member body that assists in the implementation of the county’s environmental agenda.
But visibility has been an issue recently for the organization, so the academy is now collaborating with Howard Community College to offer classes, she explained.
Like her fellow nominees, Eacker underscores that any success she’s had should be attributed to being part of a hard-working team.
I’m so fortunate to work with dedicated, highly motivated people,” she said. “Everybody’s involved in a shared mission and that’s very rewarding.”
A registered occupational therapist when she moved with her husband to Howard County from Massachusetts in 1979, Eacker had employed horticulture therapy in her work. Perhaps it was watching plants grow from small seeds that later inspired the philosophy she embraces on the job.
“I like to say, ‘If you have an idea, let’s go for it,’” she said of encouraging colleagues’ innovation. “We need to find solutions to environmental problems.”
Community-building is key
Hudson said helping to preserve Belmont Manor – a 1738 manor house that sits on 85 acres of parkland in Elkridge – is one of her proudest achievements.
But, she’s mostly concerned with building community.
“I like to look at the community and think, ‘How can I make it better?’” said the Elkridge resident, 65.
Hudson formed a coalition of local environmental groups to develop the Howard County Green Central Station website in 2007. Two years later, the group launched Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment, which has trained 146 environmental activists.
During the most recent comprehensive rezoning process, which occurs every 10 years, Hudson advocated for the right to farm in eastern Howard County.
“I’ve always wondered if it’s a blessing or a curse to be able to read and understand zoning regulations,” said Hudson, who operates Myrtle Woods Farm in Elkridge with a friend. “People get upset when they see the bulldozers come, but they should get involved when regulations are being written or rewritten.”
Hudson said she has attended the inductions of other women into the hall of fame and it’s humbling to now be counted among those honored as positive role models.
“I love connecting people and bringing out their passions, but I’m only as good as the community that surrounds me,” she said.