REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (March 20, 2019) - Female leaders from Redstone Arsenal and the surrounding community joined forces March 20 for a panel discussion in honor of the 2019 Women's History Month observance.

Hosted by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center, the program centered on the theme "Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence." The panelists chose an honoree whose life, legacy and efforts impacted them in some way.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic nun who devoted her life to serving the poor and destitute around the world. She spent many years in Calcutta, India, where she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation devoted to helping those in great need.

"The things that I admire most about Mother Teresa's life are her faithfulness to what was important to her and her servant leadership," said Lisha Adams, U.S. Army Materiel Command executive deputy to the commanding general.

In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and became a symbol of charitable, selfless work. In 2016, Mother Teresa was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church as Saint Teresa.

"Mother Teresa gave us the example of leading with love... and this is something we should, and can, do for our workforce and our customers," said Adams. "Success has nothing to do with what you do for yourself - it's what you do for others. Mother Teresa was successful because she was faithful and demonstrated being faithful as a servant leader."

Maria Corazon Aquino

Maria Corazon Cojuangco Aquino was a Chinese Filipino politician who served as the 11th president of the Philippines, becoming the first woman to hold that office. Aquino ran for president in 1985; Ferdinand Marcos was named the winner amid allegations of electoral fraud. Aquino called for massive civil disobedience actions and was the most prominent figure of the 1986 People Power Revolution, which toppled the 21-year rule of President Ferdinand Marcos.

"I was drawn to Maria Corazon Aquino because she also went against the odds," said Dr. Juanita M. Christensen, CCDC AvMC executive director. "As the first female executive director of the CCDC Aviation & Missile Center, I really aligned with her. I saw a lot of the things and challenges she took on but, yet, persevered."

Aquino was named Time Magazine's Woman of the Year in 1986. As president, Aquino oversaw the declaration of the 1987 constitution, which limited the powers of the presidency and re-established the bicameral congress. Her administration placed strong emphasis and concern for civil liberties and human rights, and on peace talks to resolve the ongoing communist insurgency and Islamist secession movements.

"Maria Aquino was strong, resilient, determined, and resolved, which is what we must be to create change," Christensen said. "I really look up to her and honor her."

Dr. Virginia Ponds Kobler

In 1979, Dr. Virginia Ponds Kobler became the first woman to ever earn a doctorate degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. With her Ph.D. in systems engineering, she soon began working for the U.S. Army, where she established the command and control program for the National Ballistic Missile Defense of the Strategic Defense Initiative.

"I asked (Virginia), 'What are your words of wisdom?', and she told me, 'Always be positive. Take advantage of every opportunity that crosses your path and never give up', and that's exactly what she did," said Kim Tycer, U.S. Army Materiel Command chief counsel, command legal center.

Kobler was the first person to assume responsibility for ground-based command and control in Huntsville, where her algorithms are still being used in the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system.

"She spent 36 years here at Redstone Arsenal as a true pioneer for women," said Tycer. "I'm really pleased to have Virginia as my friend, and let you all know more about her. I think she's a fascinating individual."

Among her many accomplishments, she received the Pioneers in Space Award during the 1995 General Convention, for her technologically advanced tools used in NASA and Air Force space programs.

"We (as leaders) need to step up to the plate and be mentors to people," Tycer said. "Not just mentors in our fields, but anybody that comes across our path that is interested in being a leader - we can give them guidance, and we can help them."

Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King, an Alabama native, attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston on scholarship. It was there that she met a doctoral student, Martin Luther King Jr., and married him in 1953. After moving back to Alabama, the couple focused on progressing the Civil Rights Movement.

"Coretta Scott King once said that the greatness of a community can most accurately be measured by the compassionate acts of its members," said Angelia Walker, NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center deputy manager of space craft and vehicle systems department. "She had a heart of grace and love, and lived a life committed to social justice and peace."

Scott King openly criticized the movement's exclusion of women and made it her mission to continue fighting against injustice. She began speaking internationally and, in 1969, became the first non-Italian to receive the Universal Love Award.

"I admire her for her many gentle but mighty lessons that she's taught me through her life, her love, and her pursuit of justice" said Walker. "She's an example to me in how to live out devotion and love for people."

Emma Watson

Emma Watson may be best known for playing the character Hermione Granger in the hugely successful Harry Potter film franchise. After committing to the Harry Potter series for a decade, as an adult, Watson has transitioned into a popular model, actress and activist.

"What stands out so well about Emma is that she had every opportunity as a young person to do things the way that they were always done, (but) she chose to use that platform of success to pursue something that she was passionate about," said Toni Eberhart, Urban Engine executive director.

In 2014, Watson was appointed as a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations and helped launch the UN Women campaign HeForShe, which campaigns for gender equality. As part of the campaign, she gave a speech that garnered widespread international coverage and received widespread praise.

"So often, gender equality and that conversation is (one) that is just between women... I'm so proud to see so many men in the room today," said Eberhart. "Part of what we can see is the HeForShe movement happening right here, where it is a conversation that includes everyone."

Dr. Frances Roberts

Dr. Frances Roberts began her teaching career in the 1930s. Roberts became the first woman to receive her Ph.D. in history from the University of Alabama. When the university opened an extension in Huntsville, Roberts became the first full-time faculty member and the history department's first chairman, a position she held until 1970.

"She's someone who actually impacts and influences most of our community that we are a part of every single day," said Lyndsay Ferguson, Leadership Greater Huntsville president and CEO. "She really has been a piece of many important aspects of Huntsville from the point in time that she started teaching in Huntsville City Schools in 1937 to her passing in the year 2000."

She is considered to be the founding force behind Huntsville's Old Town and Twickenham Historical District, Constitution Hall Park, the Huntsville Historical Society and the Huntsville Preservation Society. Dr. Roberts' work with Huntsville historic preservation has been a model for the state of Alabama.

"As I began to hear about Frances Roberts and learned all of the things that she impacted, I became more and more inspired," Ferguson said. "She was a leader in her work; she was a leader in the way that she brought people together."


Dr. Deborah Barnhart, U.S. Space and Rocket Center chief executive officer, spoke on the background of Women's History Month. "In 1987, Congress passed the Women's History Month (legislation), and we celebrate it every March since that time," said Barnhart. "But truthfully, none of that is what's important here today. What's important ... is what we do and what we say and what we change about the way we behave."

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The CCDC Aviation & Missile Center, formerly known as the Aviation & Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, which conducts responsive research, development and life cycle engineering to deliver the aviation and missile capabilities the Army depends on to ensure victory on the battlefield today and tomorrow. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our Nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.