BETHANY, W.Va. – Poet and author Maggie Smith offered an inspirational talk of hope and resilience as part of her closing address Saturday at the sixth annual Ann Wilkin Trombadore Women & Leadership Symposium at Bethany College.

“Hope requires us to imagine a future that is better than the present,” Smith said “It’s actually creative thinking. You can’t hope without an imagination. What you see around you might not feel like much, but what do you see ahead? Hope requires us to dwell in possibility.”

All attendees received a copy of Smith’s “Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity and Change,” which she referenced throughout her talk.

She said she wrote the book of inspiration during the darkest time of her life. “Keep Moving” began not as a book but as notes Smith wrote to herself each morning to help cope with the end of her marriage.

She called herself a recovering pessimist, offering this advice: “At least as many things can go right as can go wrong. And because we’re all sitting here together, chances are more things have gone right for all of us – exponentially more things have gone right for all of us than have gone wrong. So, why do we let the wrong things get the loudest voice in the room? A lot of what’s coming will be good. … And we don’t know how good until we get there.”

She also encouraged women to ask for help when they need it rather than trying to do the hard things in life alone – an idea at which she admits to being terrible.

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“Why don’t we tell people what we are going through?” she asked. “Why don’t we ask for help? Because we don’t want to be a burden? We don’t want to bother anyone with our problems? Or maybe not wanting to be caught not having it all together all the time? … You would not want your mother or your sister or your best friend to go through something difficult alone. You’d want to know so you could help. And we need to keep that in mind ourselves: Our people want to help us, and needing help is not a sign of weakness.”

Saturday also featured a panel discussion on habits for success. Lisa Callamaro ’87, owner of Story & Voice; Sally Dorwart, Bethany’s first women’s athletic director and a former assistant professor of physical education; Melinda Elliott ’80, chief medical officer of Prolacta Bioscience; and Kelly Kowalski, CFA, ’10, portfolio manager at MassMutual in Boston, served as panelists. Jena Martin, a professor at West Virginia University College of Law, moderated.

Their discussion featured advice and lessons from personal and professional success.

They addressed positive habits for leadership, time management, positive work-life balance, bad habits that they learned from, how habits can change over time, and the importance of maintaining connections and community and venturing from your comfort zone.

More than 180 students, alumnae, faculty and staff attended the first two-day Women & Leadership Symposium since 2019. Alumnae Elizabeth Chewning ’79, Scarlett Foster ’79, Kaye Hearne ’72 and Kathy Tucker ’85 sponsored the event.

The symposium is named for distinguished Bethany alumna Ann Wilkin Trombadore, a native of Wheeling, 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 after the 1998-99 school year.

The goal of Women and Leadership weekend is to unite students and alumnae to promote the role of women and leadership and to create mentorship opportunities.


Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.