August 3, 2011 Edition

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Shelton completes term
as state BPW president

Diana Shelton of Walnut Ridge, who recently completed her term as president of the Arkansas Business and Professional Women, gives a "Wonder Woman" sign during a meeting. The Wonder Woman theme was used to help raise money for the Arkansas Business Woman magazine.

Gretchen Hunt

For Diana Shelton the last year has been one of learning and excitement, but serving as president of the Arkansas Business and Professional Women was definitely not something she had ever planned to do.

"I believe I grew as a person by stepping out of my comfort zone," Shelton said. "I'm glad I did it and hope I made a difference along the way.

She said fellow Walnut Ridge BPW member Sue Sullens had encouraged her for years to consider serving as state president.

"She always told me she wanted me to be state president," Shelton said. "I would say 'Sue, you know I'm not going to do that.'"

But in the end, that is exactly what she did.

"I learned so much from it," Shelton said. "I also enjoyed all the traveling to visit all the other local chapters."

Sullens said she couldn't be prouder.

"She will be a hard act to follow," she said. "She did a fantastic job. She made Walnut Ridge proud and made the state proud. We are very fortunate that we have her kind of leadership at both the state and local level."

Shelton's message for the year was the need to remember and continue the legacy of professional women of the past, present and future.

"Having come through a couple of years of change it seemed the time was right to remember our legacy and focus on continuity, especially for newer members and young women in general," she said.

To express that, she chose the theme "Our Legacy Shines On," and to represent that theme, she chose a diamond.

"The diamond is a strong enduring gem and is representative of strong women," she said. "That is one reason I chose to use it."

Continues fight for equal rights

In one of her President's Messages, Shelton shared a quote from past State President Penny Choate with fellow BPW members: "Our worst enemy is finding comfort in the work of our foremothers' efforts and doing nothing to ensure that our daughters, granddaughters and nieces will have equal pay for equal work, affordable child care, Social Security, pensions and abundant opportunities to seek higher education."

Shelton said watching the film "Iron Jawed Angels" made her realize how much women went through just to obtain the right to vote.

"That movie really touched my soul," she said. "Part of my idea through Camp BPW has been to educate the students on what our foremothers went through and not to take the rights we have for granted."

She said during her year as president she also encouraged other local clubs to educate their young people, as well.

Shelton said BPW USA and BPW Foundation merged in 2009, and new bylaws for the joint organization were completed during Shelton's tenure.

"I was proud we could get that accomplished, because it's such a big job," she said.

She will remain on the bylaws committee, as well as serving as state corresponding secretary and past president for the upcoming year. As past president, she will organize a luncheon at the state convention.

The new state president is Robin Powell of North Little Rock, and Sarah Akin of Jonesboro, who traveled with Shelton often during her year as president, is serving as president-elect.

Shelton will also serve as president of the Walnut Ridge organization this year. She expressed her appreciation to the local members for their support over the past year.

"They are a great group of women who have stood behind me this year and supported me during my presidency," she said.

Sullens said Shelton's contributions to BPW, as well as the Lawrence County Walk of Hope, are invaluable.

"Wherever she is or whatever she does, she will do a fantastic job," Sullens said.

Shelton said in addition to her "Legacy" theme, she and Debbie Green, editor of Arkansas Business Woman, came up with using Wonder Woman as a fun way to sell promotional ads for the magazine.

She said part of the inspiration came from the TV series, Wonder Woman, which was a favorite for her daughter, Lara, as well as a Wonder Woman book she had purchased for Lara.

In her state president's speech, Shelton shared the following with her fellow members:

"It is naturally ingrained in women to serve, and we do that very well What we also need to do is make sure to share our knowledge, share our experiences and wisdom and share the legacy left to us by our foremothers, pay it forward and give something back.

"We can't all be Wonder Woman, but I think we can get pretty close. All we have to do is think about ways we can help the next generation of women be even better and then set out with the purpose in mind to be someone who can help achieve that goal."

A highlight of the year for Shelton was attending an ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) rally at the state Capitol in Little Rock.

"I was happy to be there and add my voice to the legacy of so many others before us who have been fighting to get ERA ratified," she said. "The historical spirit was present, and I think we all had goosebumps as we added our voices to those who have spoken before us."

For Shelton, that is what BPW is all about.

"BPW is important to me because I want to help continue the legacy and fight for women's rights, but also because it is a sisterhood of women helping women, not only in the workplace but in other phases of daily life personally, professionally and politically," she said. "I just feel the need to give back when I can especially to help educate younger women and carry our legacy forward."

Shelton is a commercial relationship assistant with iBERIABANK in Hoxie. She and her husband, Mike, live in Walnut Ridge. Their daughter, Lara, resides in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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