BETHANY, W.Va. – The 8th annual Ann Wilkin Trombadore Women & Leadership Symposium kicks off April 21 in our beautiful Commencement Hall and will feature speakers and panel discussions focused on breaking the glass ceiling, pivoting careers, being successful in male-dominated fields, and showing courage in the face of adversity. 

This year, keynote speaker and Senior Director of Corporate Communications at Kaléo Caryn Foster Durham will start the event after appetizers and networking. Durham has a reputation for her ability to solve high-profile, complex problems with pragmatic and effective messaging across a wide range of audiences. She has facilitated national exposure through her media relationships, been recognized countless times for creative and strategic excellence, and proven steadfast in situations requiring crisis communications. Durham is a seasoned leader with a proven track record of developing and implementing successful communication strategies, improving brand reputation, and building strong relationships. Dinner will begin at 7 p.m. with Durham’s address following the main course!  

On Saturday, Women & Leadership guests can expect breakfast and a panel discussion, “Be Courageous,” before closing the day with lunch and our keynote speaker Julie Keehner at noon.  

Keehner served as an administrator in higher education for 37 years, prior to becoming a consultant in 2016. Keehner joined West Virginia Wesleyan College as the vice president for student development and enrollment management in 2005, where she taught ‘Women in Leadership’ as part of the first-year seminar courses for over a decade. Shortly after departing from higher education, she began researching and sharing about toxic work environments and how to make them healthier and more productive. This led to the founding of her consulting firm, Keehner Consulting, LLC. 

Some other notable women will also be featured as panelists during the weekend. 

Leading our panel is moderator Melinda Elliott ‘80, chief medical officer for Prolacta Bioscience. In her role, she serves as the voice of the patient, working to ensure that the needs of premature infants are being articulated and that relevant treatment and product opportunities are identified. She also continues to serve as a clinical neonatologist with the Pediatrix Medical Group. A champion for babies since the inception of her medical career, Elliott trained and taught extensively at the University of Florida, including residency training in pediatrics, a faculty position as chief resident in pediatrics, and fellowship training in neonatal-perinatal medicine.  

Jill Willson, founder and president f Double L Consulting, and special advisor to the president at Bethany College, has improved just about every segment of NCAA Division II in her more than two decades of service. Most notably, she spent 15 years with the Texas A&M-Kingsville athletics department, including five as athletics director, and two before that as associate athletics director. 

Joyce Chernenko ‘78, judge of the family court for the First Family Court Circuit, has been on the vanguard of family court judicial administration, with the goal of making better the lives of children and families. Known in professional circles as a trailblazer, she implemented a family court parenting mediation program two years before it was mandated statewide by the West Virginia Legislature. She also adopted a parent education program in her circuit prior to the legislature having implemented such a program statewide. Chernenko and her husband continue to be active members of the Bethany community as well.  

Sara Wittman Witmer ’13, owner of Return to Rhythm LLC- Magnawave PEMF and RevitaVet Red Light therapy practitioner, is a member of the Lehigh Valley Dressage Association, a member of the AOPP, a board member of Plainfield Riding Club, and volunteers as an announcer, show committee member, and sponsor. She also has her own ambassador program for her small business.  

The Women & Leadership conference is named for distinguished Bethany alumna Ann Wilkin Trombadore, a native of Wheeling, W.Va., who grew up in Wellsburg, W.Va. She graduated magna cum laude from Bethany with a degree in economics in 1951 and received her law degree from the University of Michigan in 1954. 

Trombadore was an active member of the Bethany College Board of Trustees for more than two decades, was the recipient of the Distinguished Service to Alma Mater award in 1996, and was made an Emeritus Life Trustee member following the 1998-99 school year. 

The goal of the Women & Leadership Symposium is to unite students and alumnae in promoting the role of women and leadership and creating lasting mentorship opportunities. 

To register for the event, alumnae can click here, and students here. While admission is free, donations are encouraged.