About The Sunflower Initiative

Women's colleges build strong, confident, independent leaders of tomorrow.

We support their mission and the next generation of young women.

We are the nation’s only independent organization fully dedicated to providing scholarships to students who choose to attend a women’s college. The Sunflower Initiative is uniquely positioned to provide the additional financial support and encouragement young women need to succeed at the college of their choice. Our scholars join an alumnae network of accomplished women and a lifelong connection to our community.

As we enter our second decade, The Sunflower Initiative continues to promote the value of women’s colleges through our members and scholars. We will support women who seek that unique environment where they can find their voices, speak their minds and tell the world. And we’ll explore new ways to inspire the next generation of women leaders as they seek their places in the world and prepare to live more abundant lives.

The Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship

The Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship is awarded annually to two students who are committed to attending women’s colleges.  The award is an unrestricted $10,000 gift and is renewable for four years.  The Scholarship, named after Harriet Fitzgerald, a distinguished alumna of R-MWC, provides a promising young woman with financial support to attend a women’s college where her intellect and talents will be nurtured and where she will receive an education preparing her to participate fully in public life.


Harriet Fitzgerald was an artist, exhibitor, and esteemed lecturer. A Virginia native, she attended high school at Stratford Hall in Danville VA and graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia. After graduation she studied at The Art Students’ League of New York followed by independent study in Europe. Her concern for the social significance in human relationships began during the Great Depression of 1929. Returning to her home in Danville she developed her individual technique using African Americans, children, and the elderly as models.  During her career she directed the Abingdon Square Painters in New York City, served as a lecturer for the Arts Program Association of American Colleges and the Virginia Area University Center, and was the visiting lecturer at Stratford College. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Gamma Mu, the Women’s Press Club of New York City, and the Artist’s Equity of New York. She is listed in Who’s Who in American Art, Artists/USA, and Who’s Who of American Women.


The Elizabeth Gordon McCrodden Leadership Award

The Elizabeth Gordon McCrodden Leadership Award honors the astute and steady leadership of Elizabeth (Betsy) Gordon McCrodden, who served as President of TSI for our first ten years.  At the discretion of the TSI Scholarship Committee, this award will be presented to a student who matriculates at a women’s college and who, like Betsy, demonstrates strong leadership and vision.

Betsy Gordon McCrodden, a 1966 graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College with a degree in economics, received a law degree with honors from the University of North Carolina, practiced law in Raleigh, and was appointed a Court of Appeals Judge by N.C. Governor Jim Hunt in 1993.  An avid gardener and reader, Betsy also continues to be active in community and political endeavors.  Her indomitable spirit has been crucial to the current national status of TSI as an organization supporting women who choose to attend a woman’s college.  When The Sunflower Initiative was incorporated in 2009, it was Betsy’s determination, energy, and vision that corralled and directed our goals.  Betsy was instrumental in raising the funds to create our strong endowment and in fostering positive relationships with our scholarship recipients and supporters, as is evident in our large applicant pool each year. 


Meet Our Board of Directors

With the exception of one part-time staff member and select specialized resources, The Sunflower Initiative is an all-volunteer organization that ensures careful financial stewardship, maintains low overhead costs and maximizes each financial contribution to directly support our scholarship recipients. Our directors are supported by committees that focus on Finance, Communications, Scholarship, and Development.

Ellen James Ramsburgh


AB, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College


Homemaker and Community Volunteer


Ann Arbor Historical Commission (past Chair), Ann Arbor Historical Foundation (past President), Cobblestone Farm Museum, Anns’ Arbor Questers

 “As a women’s college alumna, I have experienced the lifelong benefits of that unique educational environment. The Sunflower initiative allows me the opportunity to support women of this generation who also seek an environment where they are at the center; where they will be nurtured, encouraged, and challenged.   

Ruth Barnes Kinsolving


AB, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College; JD, University of Florida College of Law


More than 45 years as a commercial real estate lawyer (now retired); Member and former Chair, The Florida Bar Real Property and Trust Law Section; Fellow and former governor of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers; former member Florida Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism.


Former member and president of the Athena Society of Tampa Bay; past chair, Tampa Bay Business Committee for the Arts; former member of advisory board for the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum; past chair, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Cultural Affairs Committee; member, Tampa Bay Committee on Foreign Relations; co-chair, North Florida Society of St. Andrew (gleaning for food banks); Florida Master Gardener.

“Attending a liberal arts women’s college shaped my core beliefs and confidence to pursue careers that encourage women to reach their full personal potential and to treasure the qualities inherent in the female character. Women’s colleges nurture a culture that combines independence and ambition with compassion, courage with patience, confidence with humility, and a passion to help other women recognize and develop their full lives as gifted, grateful and caring members of their communities and societies.”

Nahid Hamzei


AB, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College; CPA


Former Director of Asset Management; Westmont Hospitality Group. Over 30 years of experience in real estate asset management.


Ronald McDonald House; Habitat for Humanity

“I am privileged to continue serving as the Treasurer of The Sunflower Initiative. I have had the pleasure of witnessing our scholars’ achievements during the past decade. And we shall continue to provide the life-changing experience of a women’s college to our future scholars.”

Elizabeth-Latta Brother  


AB, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College; MA and PhD in English, Indiana University


While I have not (yet) fulfilled my original career plan of becoming an English professor like my R-MWC mentor, Carolyn Wilkerson Bell, I have spent most of my career teaching adults, first as a technical trainer and now as a learning and development coordinator for local government employees.


Westminster Presbyterian Church, Girl Scouts

“Randolph-Macon Woman’s College changed my life trajectory by empowering me with the knowledge that I can and should make a difference in the wider world around me; I’m so grateful to be engaged in this work and helping other women find themselves and their voices at a women’s college.”

Gretchen Butler 


AB, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College; MFA, Wayne State University 


Senior Associate Director of Advancement and Alumni Services for Regional Advancement at Emory University.


Atlanta Woman’s Club (Treasurer and Chair, COVID Relief Fund), Kingswood United Methodist Church (Chair, Staff Parish Relations Committee)

“Attending a woman’s college prepared me for success in more ways than I ever imagined possible.  I’m honored to serve on the board of the Sunflower Initiative and to help create opportunities for the next generation of women to grow and flourish through a women’s college education."

Cheryl Lee Hoffman Marks


AB (Chemistry), Randolph-Macon Woman’s College; MS (Analytical Chemistry), Southern Connecticut State University; PhD (Biochemical Genetics), George Washington University 


Chemist with 21 years of laboratory research in the private sector and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Scientist administrator with 30 years’ experience managing Federal research grant, cooperative agreement, and contract programs for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the NIH. Retired in 2018.  


Leadership of the not-for-profit Washington, DC section of the American Chemical Society; chairman of the Women in Cancer Research Council of the American Association for Cancer Research; member of the scholarship committee of The Sunflower Initiative.  

“Through service on the scholarship committee of The Sunflower Initiative, I am continually reminded of the value of my Randolph-Macon Woman’s College education in the 1960’s as the steppingstone to a career in science.  I am gratified that many Sunflower applicants strongly aspire to a STEM career at a time when women continue to be under-represented in these fields a half-century after I started my life-science career.  The Sunflower Initiative provides an essential opportunity for today’s young women to experience a unique and important alternative living and learning environment that differs from a coeducational college.”

Margaret McKean


BA, University of California at Berkeley; MA, Harvard University; PhD, University of California at Berkeley


Professor Emerita of Political Science and Research Professor of Environmental Policy in the Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University. Japan specialist. An original member of the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Common property, and in 1989, co-founder with others, including Elinor Ostrom — first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics (2009) — the International Association for the Study of the Commons.


Carolina Ballet, Boundary End Archaeology Research Center, Maya Field Workshops, SCOT [Scottish Cultural Organization of the Triangle]

“My two daughters chose to attend Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and Smith College, and through their experience I was continually struck by how strong and capable the students at the women’s colleges were, and what a vibrant intellectual atmosphere they provided. I am delighted to support The Sunflower Initiative, to enable more women to benefit from attending a women’s college where they can challenge themselves to the fullest and discover all of their talents and abilities.”

Aastha Sharma 


BA, Wesleyan College; PhD, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign  


PhD in Materials Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) specializing in renewable energy research. Interested in pursuing career in clean technology to mitigate the effects of climate change. 


Women Chemists Committee, UIUC 

“I am privileged to be the newest board member of The Sunflower Initiative. It has always been an honor to be the first Harriet Fitzgerald Scholar, and words are not enough to thank you for your support throughout these years. My women’s college experience was life-changing and I am passionate about supporting The Sunflower Initiative’s mission in any way I can!”

News + Announcements

Ready to experience what a women’s college has to offer?

You’ll find…

  • an academic community dedicated to building your self-confidence and leadership skills.
  • a place where your opinions are valued and you are encouraged to express them.
  • a supportive environment to prepare you for a more abundant life.

The Sunflower Initiative may help give you the resources to get there.