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March 29, 2006
DH 06 RH27
Contact: Russ Hudson,
Media Relations Coordinator
CSUDH V.P. Justine Bell-Waters one of Six Magnificent Women
Five others honored March 29 at Carson Community Center
Carson, CA— Justine Bell-Waters, acting vice president of University Advancement and a 20-year professor of public administration at California State University, Dominguez Hills, was honored March 29 as one of the Six Magnificent Women of 2006 by the Carson Coordinating Council.
Bell-Waters’ introduction was given by Jean Adelsman, former managing editor of the Daily Breeze newspaper in the South Bay and one of the Six Magnificent Women of 1997, the first year the honor was bestowed.
Carol Keen, director of the Carson Coordinating Council, said selecting Bell-Waters for the honor was something that built over time until she felt the honor was simply due: “I’ve quietly watched Dr. Justine Bell-Waters for many years and am truly humbled by her,” Keen said, citing Bell-Waters’ years of teaching, mentoring students, her community volunteer activities, her outreach work with prisoners, and statewide activities to help others and to promote education.
“As one example, I’ll say this: A few years ago, someone I know, Christine O’Neal, earned her B.A. then her M.B.A. from Cal State Dominguez Hills. Justine was one of her professors. One night I picked Christine up from class for some downtime, to go to the movies. When she got into the car, she was almost in tears,” Keen said.
“I asked her why. She said, ‘Dr. Bell-Waters is one of the toughest professors I’ve had.’ Then she hesitated, and said, ‘But I’ve learned more from her than from any other professor. I’m so glad I’ve had this opportunity.’
Keen said, “I asked Justine if she would be one of our honorees, and she questioned it. She said, ‘Why me? Why would you choose me over some of the other women?’ Then I told her about Christine, and Justine’s eyes got moist. She said, ‘Well, then, I accept. This—teaching—is what I’ve wanted to do all my life.’”
At the very beginning, Bell-Waters told Adelsman, who then related it from the microphone when introducing her, Bell-Waters didn’t know that teaching was what she wanted to do. She did know that making a difference was what she wanted, though. She first thought of community service, a position from which she could help others develop their skills and themselves. But it wasn’t always easy to get to where she wanted.
“I was in a doctoral program. I had children and my husband was both physically and emotionally abusive. I found myself raising children and having to have an income. I didn’t care what I did, I had to support them and finish my doctorate.” She did some searching and found and opening as a maid and offered to work for a day to prove she could do the work. “I got the job. I remember I had 16 bidets to clean and 16 beds to make. There were occasions when I had to take my four-year-old son with me. My son was so impressed by my doing that he remembers it to this day.
“But,” the honoree said, “it didn’t matter to me. I didn’t mind [what others saw as] humbling myself, a doctoral student cleaning bidets. It meant nothing to me if I could achieve my goals. I learned that what matters is not that sort of thing, but how and who you help. The rest of it doesn’t mean anything.”
That, she said, is one of the lessons she tries to teach her students.
Opportunities are the chief factor in the selection the Six Magnificent Women each year. The women honored have stories of their own to tell of those who encouraged them as they grew up, showed them the possibilities, and told them they could achieve their goals. And these women, in their turn, have done the same for other girls and women, Keen said.
Bell-Waters said her most inspiring women were her mother and her grandmother. Her grandfather was an entrepreneur when she was growing up and ran a trucking business in Detroit. Her mother and grandmother helped and, because their family had more than some others, “they were in the helping business. They had it and they shared it, and that model growing up greatly influenced my values and desire to help others.”
She earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Ecology at Michigan State, then an master’s degree and a doctorate in community health education at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. She spent the next several years working in the private sector, with one of her jobs—director of the wellness program, in human resources, and in marketing for Union Oil Company, now Unocal—bringing her to Southern California. She landed a position as an associate professor of public administration at CSU Dominguez Hills and began teaching health-care management.
The two women in her life also doled out wisdom. One day when a very young Justine went to the home of her best friend, Jean, to play, Jean’s mother told Justine—a member of the only non-white family in the neighborhood—that Justine couldn’t come to the house any more. Jean’s grandfather was staying with them and wouldn’t like it.
A confused and saddened Justine told her grandmother about it, and her grandmother—“Big Mama”—told her, “If someone doesn’t want you around, don’t be around. Just keep a clean mind and a clean heart.” Fortunately, Bell-Waters said to laughter, “my mother was there to translate things Big Mama said. My mother said it meant to not judge others and to keep true to yourself.” Wisdom like that, she said, is why she didn’t mind doing any work she had to do to support her children and achieve her goals.
To be honored with Bell-Waters are Lula Davis-Holmes, Carson recreation superintendent; Mary Elizabeth Little, chair of the City of Carson Sister Cities Association; Teri Rotter, proprietor of Alpine Village in Torrance; Julie Ruiz-Raber, Carson mayor pro-tem; and Itelia Walker, past president of the Carson Women’s Club.
Past honorees include Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-37th); Los Angeles County Supervisor and former Congresswoman Yvonne Brathwaite-Burke; California Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza (D-55th); California Assemblywoman Betty Karnette (D-54th); Mary Anne O’Neal, retired Carson City Council member, member of Cal State Dominguez Hills President James E. Lyons, Sr.’s Advisory Board, and member of the Los Angeles County Board of Education; Hope Witkowsky, Torrance City Council member; Jackie LaBouff of the Los Angeles County Children’s Planning Council; and Myrna Rivera, superintendent of Region K of the Los Angeles County Board of Education.
For more information on the Carson Coordinating Council’s Six Magnificent Women honors, call (310) 515-5563.
California State University, Dominguez Hills
University Communications & Public Affairs
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