Robust initiatives in e-learning, training, fund development, and Action Learning are shared; Nicholas Kristof delivers keynote on human trafficking and women’s empowerment;  and delegates pass dues increase— first in 10 years


Overcast skies failed to dampen the mood inside Philadelphia’s Downtown Marriott during AJLI’s 89th Annual Conference, May 12 to 14, which drew a total of 645 attendees.


Thursday’s opening session began with AJLI’s new inspirational video entitled “Transformation,” which played on twin screens as delegates processed into the grand ballroom and likened
The Junior League to the “most relevant and meaningful organization of women history has ever seen.” (

After the presentation of the colors, the singing of the national anthems and the reading of greetings from the heads of state of Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States, AJLI Board President Delly Beekman opened the meeting on an optimistic note, recalling her history with the Junior League of Monmouth County, N.J., the approval of the new Vision Statement, the achievements of Leagues throughout the Association, and the mandate to revitalize.

The first day ended as Executive Director Susan Danish and the senior staff shared progress on the Strategic Roadmap and plans for the coming year. Danish elaborated on the genesis of the
Transformation theme and explained how it takes its place as the next phase of the Association’s Strategic Plan, using as a visual aid the illustrated story of a caterpillar who longs to be a butterfly, the icon AJLI developed to symbolize its transformation.


Danish then turned the discussion over to the senior staff including Chief Financial Officer Martha Ferry; Chief Officer for Strategic Initiatives, Anne Dalton; Director of Marketing & Communications, Laurie Dodge; Carol Scott, chair of AJLI’s Diversified Fund Development Task Force; Janine le Sueur, Director of Education & Programs, and Becki Fleischer, AJLI’s E-Learning Consultant. Individually they provided important updates and discussed several new initiatives including Action Learning Teams (ALTs); the findings of AJLI’s Diversified Fund Development Task Force; the new Help Desk; Webinar Wednesdays, crowd-sourcing, and the online civic and community leadership curriculum; upcoming All Member emails; AJLI’s website redesign; and the AJLI budget. Thursday evening brought a lively outing to the Reading Terminal Market.


With one zinger after another at Friday’s lunch, 90-year-old Mary Harriman Community Leadership Award-winner Shawsie Branton proved that Betty White is not the only woman over 85 who can leave an audience hooting and hollering for more. With props including white gloves and a double strand of large pearls, the self-deprecating Branton called herself a “leveler” and dispensed the wisdom that “laughter is the shortest street to having a friend.”


AJLI’s 89th Annual Conference Recap



Twenty-one workshops, 11 of them completely new, were offered throughout the course of the three-day conference. They focused on a broad variety of topics including fund development, issue-based community impact, collaborative decision-making, diversity and inclusion, financial awareness, leadership opportunities beyond League activities, parliamentary procedure, and social media for social causes, among many others. Top draws included “Keeping Teams on Track,” “Maximizing Community Impact Through Creative Fund Development Partnerships,” “Elected Office: An Avenue of Choice for Women’s Community and Civic Leadership,” and “Meetings That Engage, Excite, and Motivate: Building a New Paradigm.”


On Saturday morning, keynote speaker Nicholas Kristof took the stage. A Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist and author of the best-selling Half the Sky, which he wrote with
his wife Sheryl WuDunn, he acknowledged the collective power of The Junior League and then discussed a host of issues confronting disenfranchised women both domestically and abroad, including in addition to human trafficking, reproductive health, and female genital mutilation—as well as the hope he sees in girls’ education and women’s empowerment.

Emphasizing the important role of individual and community advocacy, Kristof said, “Only when our national interests, rather than our national values, are at stake, do politicians get involved. Otherwise it has to be a grassroots effort.”


Lively discussion and commentary characterized the two-part Association Dialogue, which took place on Friday, and was followed by Saturday morning’s Annual Meeting at which 182 out of 241 voting delegates voted to pass the $8 increase in Association dues per capita, and 214 out of 235 passed an equivalent percentage increase for the capped Leagues. In addition, the motion advocating that the Board review dues at least every five years received 161 votes out of 232. The dues increase becomes effective in stages beginning in 2012-2013.


The conference culminated in the Saturday night awards banquet at which the Junior League of Boca Raton took away the Community Impact Award and the Junior League of   Minneapolis won the Leadership Development Award. Other award-winners included Rising Stars September Hill of the Junior League of Los Angeles and Aimee Dawson of the Junior League of Halifax.

At the close of the meeting, Toni Freeman, President-Elect for 2011-2012, stood side by side with Delly Beekman at the podium, just before official conference hosting responsibilities were transferred from The Junior League of Philadelphia to The Junior League of San Francisco, site of the 90th Annual Conference in April 2012. (See Awards recap)