Yale Corporation fellow Maya Lin ’81 ARCH ’86 and Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton LAW ’73 were named to the National Women’s Hall of Fame last weekend in a ceremony in Seneca Falls, N.Y., where the first known women’s-rights convention was held in 1848.
Lin, an internationally renowned architect who first gained fame in 1980 for her design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and Clinton, the junior senator from New York and former first lady, were among the 10 new honorees selected from a pool of over 200 nominees for their lasting contributions to society, said Billie Luisi-Potts, the Hall of Fame’s executive director.
“Judges are looking for women who have done outstanding work of enduring significance with depth and breadth of impact,” Luisi-Potts said. “These are the most influential women in America.”
Luisi-Potts said Lin and Clinton were selected two years ago, but could not go through the induction ceremony until last weekend, when they officially gained membership to the Hall of Fame, because of prior engagements.
Lin said she was flattered to be selected for the award in the company of accomplished women like Clinton.
“I was extremely honored to be inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame,” Lin said yesterday. “I felt very humbled, actually, to be included with … the other women who were being inducted.”
Luisi-Potts praised Lin for her ground-breaking architectural designs. Although Lin’s design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial — which she designed as a 21 year-old senior at Yale — at first provoked an outcry from some veterans, who objected to its color and unorthodox, non-representational construction, the monument was eventually erected.
“Maya Lin has become the outstanding interpreter of commemorative sculpture,” Luisi-Potts said. “But her career has been much broader than memorial sculpture. She is someone who has defined an entire avenue in sculpture.”
Lin’s other works include the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala., The Wave Field at the University of Michigan and the Women’s Table in front of Sterling Memorial Library.
Lin’s 2002 election to the Corporation, the University’s highest decision-making body, was the most controversial in Yale’s history. That year, the Corporation’s alumni fellow nominating committee selected one candidate, Lin, for the vacant post. But the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93, who began actively campaigning for the spot before the nominating committee chose Lin, gained a spot on the ballot by collecting signatures from more than 4,500 Yale alumni. The highly unorthodox election resulted in sparring alumni groups shelling out as much as $80,000 for or against Lee. Lin ultimately won the seat.
Clinton, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000 and is said to be considering a run for President in 2008, earned induction into the hall for her political trailblazing and championing of women’s issues, Luisi-Potts said.
“Clinton is the first former first lady to achieve a national office in her own right,” Luisi-Potts said. “And, even though the first women’s-rights convention was held right here [in New York] in 1848, she is also the first woman senator from the state of New York.”
Clinton said she hopes her new award will help her in her quest to draw attention to women’s issues.
“I am extremely proud to help highlight the contributions of women to our great nation throughout our history,” Clinton said in a press release. “Not just the heroines who blazed the trail before us, but also the women whose stories have yet to be told, who are holding families together, lifting up communities and performing heroic acts everyday across America.”
The 10 new inductees included Betty Bumpers, former first lady of Arkansas and health and peace advocate, and Dr. Rita Rossi Colwell, the first woman to head the National Science Foundation.
The hall accepts nominations from all members of the general public and the inductees are chosen over a period of eight weeks by a panel of about 35 to 50 judges who are experts in their fields, Luisi-Potts said.