Four Forward

Four Forward is an enduring circle of support, honoring the rich history of women’s achievements at Denison while envisioning the limitless potential of our future.

As a platform for philanthropic leadership, Four Forward challenges members to amplify our influence; foster meaningful relationships and resources; create opportunities to uplift one another; and weave strong ties of support and connection at every stage of our Denison journey.

Our mission is to establish, with purposeful intention, an inspiring network of leaders, doers, and philanthropists, to embrace and epitomize the power of women, profoundly impacting the Denison community.

Women have already contributed so much to Denison…imagine what can happen next.

make your pledge and join today!

“When women come together, it creates a unique energy and a call to action for many who might not otherwise engage. If we can harness that energy, we can collectively do so much more for the college than we could do individually.”

— Michelle Warner ʼ88, Four Forward Co-Chair, Denison Board of Advisors Member

The first four

Anna May Patt

Anna May Patt

From their humble beginnings in a church basement to their rightful reach atop The Hill, the roots of women’s education run deep at Denison.

While many colleges were segregated by gender until well into the 1960s, Denison became a co-educational campus in 1900, when all-female Shepardson College merged with all-male Denison. That year, female students Eva Virginia Johnson, Anna May Patt, Myrtle Ignitian Gibson, and Grace Lyon Seasholes became the first four women to receive a Denison bachelor’s degree.

Myrtle Ignitian Gibson

Myrtle Ignitian Gibson

These four and the Shepardson women who attended classes at Denison as far back as the 1870s set into motion a forward momentum that continues today.

From barrier-breaking academic achievements and extraordinary career trajectories, to tightly woven alumni connections and transformative gifts that make evolution possible, Denison women have done and keep doing amazing things. Their contributions drive Denison along roads of possibility, a wheel powered by the women who set the course and those who continue forging ahead.



We welcome everyone who supports Four Forward’s full-spectrum mission
of access, achievement, connection, and philanthropy.

Click here to learn more about women's impact at Denison >

  • The first girl to attend classes at Denison was Fannie Parker Currier, a student at the Young Ladies’ Institute (later renamed Shepardson College) in 1866.
  • Bessie Jones is believed to be the first black woman to graduate from Denison in 1906.
  • Dr. Laura C. Harris ʼ16 established a lecture series to carry on the pioneering spirit of women students at Denison.
  • Considered a trailblazer in the expansion of women’s college-level athletics, Helen Barr served as director of Denison’s Department of Physical Education for Women for 25 years, from 1924-49.
  • Thanks to a nearly $50,000 donation by Mrs. Charles F. Whisler, Whisler Hospital was founded in 1929 in memory of her daughter, Helen Whisler ʼ20.
  • Denison’s first two female trustees, Prudence Sherwin and Harriet Hunt Richards, began their terms in 1936.
  • In honor of Jeanne Vail ʼ46, Mary and Foster McGaw fund the Vail Series, which brings well-known performers to Denison every year.
  • Mary Jane McDonald ʼ59 was Denison’s first female vice president.
  • In 1972, Ann Fitzgerald and Joan Straumanis, with help from Peggy Gifford ʼ75, began Denison’s Women’s Studies Program.
  • Nan Carney-DeBord ʼ80 was hired as the first female athletic director at Denison.
  • Denison’s first female president, Michele Tolela Myers, served from 1989-1998.
  • Denison’s first female provosts were Janet Hyde (acting provost, 1985) and Barbara Hill, who served from 1986-90.
  • In 2020, Sue Douthit O’Donnell ʼ67 gave a transformational gift for the Denison Libraries.
  • Denison Trustee Sharon Martin ʼ65 provided support for the Eisner Center’s 400-seat proscenium theater, Sharon Martin Hall.
  • Teckie Shackelford ʼ56, along with husband Don ʼ54, created a $21 million endowment to help Columbus City Schools students attend Denison.
  • A 2023 gift from Marilyn P. McConnell Pʼ92 transformed Denison’s planetarium, featuring state-of-the-art technologies and expanded programming.

A circle of giving

circle graphic: into, through, return, venture

Four Forward is a circle of giving aimed at connecting and uplifting Denisonians at all stages of their lives. Prospective students, current students, recent graduates, seasoned alums, and philanthropic leaders can all see themselves and participate anywhere within the circle’s four arcs:

decorative right facing grey arrow  Into

Denison women in classHelping Denisonians get here

From that first step onto campus during a tour, through the application and acceptance process, to the ability to remain enrolled regardless of financial constraint, Four Forward recognizes that the Denison journey begins well before the first day of classes. We champion access and affordability for all qualified students, centering scholarships as our top fundraising priority.


decorative green arrow right  Through

Denison women studyingEnsuring Denisonians thrive here

A student’s years of study, inquiry, and discovery at Denison lay the foundation for what comes next. Four Forward offers pathways of support for study abroad, internships, career services, and entrepreneurial explorations, to ensure students make the most of their undergraduate experience and prepare them for a stratospheric launch into the next phases of life.

decorative blue arrow right  Venture

two Denison women taking a graduation selfieLetting Denisonians soar from here

With an expansive alumni network, touching into myriad professional sectors, recent graduates can feel supported after their time on campus ends. Four Forward facilitates meaningful connections among Denisonians those who are just starting their career journeys, those who have mentorship and guidance to offer, and all those in between.


decorative yellow right arrow  Return

Denison women celebrate their reunionWelcoming Denisonians back here

As alums explore life after Denison, many seek reasons to come back to The Hill, to engage with current students, connect with other alums, and witness the exciting progress that keeps Denison charging ahead. Members of Four Forward enjoy exclusive opportunities to enhance those connections, through meaningful engagement and life-long learning with one another.

Membership benefits

Denison women speak at an event

Four Forward is a caring community of women who prize relationships above all else. We’re raising money but we’re also raising spirits, providing support for Denison students during and well beyond their years on The Hill. Students become alums, alums turn into mentors, mentors rise as leaders, leaders give back as donors, and the circle continues. Benefits of joining this influential corps of service-minded, progress-focused leaders, doers, and philanthropists include:

  • Meaningful, vibrant engagement with other Denison women, representing a diverse swath of ages and stages yet all similarly called to action.
  • Access to exclusive Four Forward programming, including hillside chats on campus, regional salons across the country, and lunch and learns with academic leaders.
  • Invitations to events that provide special networking and growth opportunities, such as ReMix + Women.
  • Connections with current students and recent alums through mentorships, speaking engagements, and interactions with campus groups.
  • Sustained and insightful communications about the impact of your gifts.
  • Opportunities to shape and grow the future of women’s leadership, philanthropy, and volunteerism at Denison. 

Participation goals

As part of your participation in Four Forward, you’ll contribute your talents, time, trust, ties, and testimony — but treasure is an essential component of this women’s philanthropy program.

Four Forward has established the following donor participation goals, to be achieved over a five-year period:

Image for Transformational gifts

Transformational gifts

Transformational gifts

55 extraordinary women demonstrating extreme generosity, securing their place as impactful philanthropic leaders for all of Denison.

Image for Annual Fund giving

Annual Fund giving

Annual Fund giving

500 women, particularly younger alums, just beginning their philanthropic journey, pledging annual gifts in support of their passion areas.

Image for Endowed fund support

Endowed fund support

Endowed fund support

200 women committing to substantial and sustained gifts to Denison's endowment, in support of purpose-shaping opportunities for current students.

Join today

Secure your place within the arc of women’s history at Denison by joining Four Forward today! Membership in Four Forward requires a 5-year pledge commitment, toward the priority level of your choice:

  • scholarship endowment to support access and affordability
  • endowment to support career services and entrepreneurial endeavors
  • endowment to support off-campus study
  • Annual Fund to support Denison’s area of greatest need

While gifts of all sizes are appreciated and will advance the Four Forward mission, suggested pledge amounts are $100,000 for leadership giving; $25,000 for substantial and sustained commitment; or $1,000 for those just beginning their philanthropic journey. Those who join before June 30, 2025, will be acknowledged as Founding Members of this exciting new Denison initiative.

make your pledge and join today!

Gifts may also be made in a single installment, for donors who are inspired to make an immediate contribution to Four Forward.

Donors who want to make a one-time gift or a five-year pledge but would rather do so offline can print a gift/pledge form PDF and mail or fax it to Denison following the instructions on the form.

“Four Forward is a dynamic program that will create supportive avenues for Denison women to harness our superpowers. We have every opportunity to continue to propel the college.”

— Kathryn Correia ʼ79 Pʼ20, Four Forward Co-Chair, Denison Trustee

Click here to meet the Four Forward Advisory Council Co-Chairs >

Kathryn Correia ʼ79 Pʼ20
President and CEO, Legacy Health
Denison Trustee

Why are you involved in Four Forward?
Lots of reasons, but mainly because it is a continuation of a story that started in 1975. I came to Denison post-Roe v. Wade, and during the years of the quest for the Equal Rights Amendment. I was admittedly naive about the biases I would face as a young female, especially in the work world. The women faculty and staff that I met at Denison helped open my eyes, but importantly, they simultaneously supported my growth and courage. Four Forward is a dynamic program that will create supportive avenues for Denison women to harness our superpowers.

What appeals to you about working with — and giving as part of — a larger group?
I have been fortunate to have been professionally involved in successful foundations. I know that philanthropy can serve as a strong platform to grow capacity for people, their organizations, and ultimately our communities. Denison is an incredible organization that pulls us toward each other through shared experience. I love considering the possibilities of our collective impact.

What excites you about Denison’s future?
Just about everything. I have seen how Denison, under President Weinberg’s leadership, has evolved in ambitious, but thoughtful, ways. I have seen simple gifts from individuals, combined with bigger grants, nurtured by top-notch faculty, turn something small into something big. The value of my degree has appreciated, and we have every opportunity to continue to propel the college.

Michelle Warner

Michelle Warner ʼ88
Executive Director, CEO Perspectives
Member, Denison Board of Advisors

What is special about Four Forward?
Four Forward benefits recipients, and members, at different points in their Denison journey. We must get someone to Denison for them to benefit from Denison. Once they are at Denison, we want them to explore the world through internships and/or study abroad. This is where they will find their future selves. And then we need to support them as they launch into the world. How amazing will it be to have a diverse group of mentors and advisors to share experiences, provide guidance, and make connections? Four Forward will create a virtuous circle, while inspiring future Four Forward members.

Why do you give back to Denison?
I received an incredible education at Denison, and it opened my eyes to a world beyond the one I grew up in. It revealed opportunities I would not otherwise have had. I also believe in the value of a liberal arts education as a differentiator in enabling long-term success and creating the types of people who can solve difficult problems, navigate different opinions, and see beyond where they are now. The new majors and practical skills that Denison is offering in support of and as a supplement to a liberal arts education are very smart, and set Denison apart from other liberal arts colleges.

What appeals to you about creating a community like Four Forward?
We can do so much more collectively than we can do individually. While our goals are primarily financial, they create a snowball effect that means so much more. When women come together, it creates a unique energy and a call to action for many who might not otherwise engage. If we can harness that energy, we can collectively do so much more for the college than we could do individually.

Vivian Quaye ʼ03
Director, Public Funds & Taft-Hartley Plans, Northern Trust Asset Management
Denison Trustee

Why did you choose to become involved with Four Forward?
Denison played a pivotal role in shaping the course of my life. The invaluable support and guidance from the women faculty and staff during my years as a student were instrumental in helping me overcome challenges. This support didn’t cease after graduation. My decision to become involved with Four Forward stems from a deep resonance with its mission and my personal journey. My engagement allows me to be a part of something impactful.

What drives your philanthropy and motivates you to give back?
From an early age, I learned the importance of giving whenever possible, with the guiding principle of leaving the world better than I found it. My commitment to philanthropy is firmly grounded in the desire to contribute to the welfare of others and the broader community. I place a high value on scholarship, influenced greatly by my upbringing and the transformative collegiate experience provided by Denison. When there is a personal connection to a cause or a clear understanding of how it directly impacts individuals, it becomes more compelling and natural to contribute.

When you look ahead and think about Denison, what do you see?
I am enthusiastic about Denison’s future due to its proven resilience and ability to adapt to an ever-changing world. Contributing to this institution at all levels has yielded numerous positive outcomes, from enhanced programming to campus development, all while establishing a strong reputation. These initiatives have generated lasting benefits that extend far beyond our own lifetimes.

Kathleen Shelton

Kathleen Shelton ʼ85
Senior Advisor, Impact Philanthropy, World Resources Institute

Biography coming soon!


To learn more about Four Forward, please contact:

Laura Frame '83

Laura Gray Frame ʼ83

Director of Principal Gifts

Hallie Parker

Hallie Parker

Assistant to the Director