Meredith College’s 2015 Woman of Achievement is Sarah Parker, who has 30 years of experience on the bench and was only the second woman to serve as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Parker attended Meredith College from 1960-62, and has remained an active supporter of the College. She has recently been selected to serve on Meredith’s Board of Trustees, beginning in July 2015.
“Meredith is a very special place that captures your heart and stays with you,” Parker said.
Parker was presented with the award on March 26, by President Jo Allen.
“On behalf of the entire Meredith community, I am pleased to present the Woman of Achievement Award to an individual whose career and life embody the characteristics this award seeks to honor,” Allen said. “She has been a true pioneer in her field, paving the way for other women.”
As part of the award presentation, Parker discussed her legal career, her experience on the Court and in political campaigns, and more in a conversation moderated by Assistant Professor of Political Science Whitney Ross Manzo.
Parker said the qualities that make a good justice are a “strong work ethic, integrity, and a willingness to listen.”
After attending Meredith, Parker earned her baccalaureate and law degrees at UNC-Chapel Hill. She served as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 2006-14, after first being elected to the Court in 1992. She had a distinguished career in law and as a lower court justice before joining the Supreme Court.
Parker said it had been a privilege to serve the people of North Carolina. “What is decided in a court of law has a profound effect of the lives of the citizens of the state,” Parker said.
Manzo asked Parker if she believed the glass ceiling still existed for women in the legal profession.
Parker believes the glass ceiling has been broken, noting how much had changed since she began in law, when “you could count the number of women in the Mecklenburg County Bar on your fingers and have fingers left over.”
There are now three women on the United States Supreme Court, there have been women presidents of the N.C. and American Bar Associations, and at one time the chief justice of state supreme courts in North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee were all women.
“There are still disparities. Many women find difficulties in becoming partners and having equal pay,” Parker said. “Progress has been made, but we must be vigilant so that we do not go backwards.”
The Meredith College Woman of Achievement Award recognizes women who are inspirational role models. The award celebrates professional and personal accomplishments, visionary thinking, entrepreneurial spirit, leadership, community service, and philanthropy that have significantly enhanced the intellectual climate and the quality of life on a national or international scope. This was the ninth presentation of the award.