Two Alpha Chi Omega alumnae from William Woods University are among eight women profiled on the sorority’s official website as Real. Strong. Women.
The two from WWU are Jessica Gabrian, a 2007 graduate originally from St. Louis, and Sarah Chatham, a 2008 graduate from Springfield, Ill. While at William Woods, they were members of Delta Chi chapter, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year and is one of more than 130 Alpha Chi Omega collegiate chapters nationwide.
Gabrian is a peace activist and an American Sign Language interpreter. She recently completed her master’s degree in American Sign Language Interpretation at Gallaudet University, where she lived in the minority—a person with hearing among a student population of mostly deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
“This has been the best place for me to learn, but I’ve had to work to be recognized as a member of the group. Having a good attitude and respecting the culture of the Deaf community has helped,” she says.
Those are qualities she learned as an Alpha Chi Omega. “Being a part of the sorority taught me how to communicate with others and how to work with different types of people,” she says.
Her work helping the victims of domestic violence as an Alpha Chi Omega led her to take a special interest in the lives of women and children around the world.
After participating in PeaceJam at William Woods and meeting Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, she has began speaking out against the rape of women in Darfur. In the summer of 2007, her actions raising money and awareness were filmed for a documentary series titled “Simple Acts of Peace.”
Gabrian has set her sights on a future making a difference in people’s lives, not only as an interpreter, but as an advocate and activist.
“Being a member of Alpha Chi was the best part of college for me. I can’t put it into words. The community service and philanthropic work that was encouraged, it really affected me. It made me realize, ‘Okay, I am really fortunate. I can give some time.’”
The second WWU alumna profiled is Sarah Chatham, a photographer who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma during her sophomore year at William Woods.
She credits her Alpha Chi sisters, as well as her art, for keeping her going through the long days of hospitals, doctors and treatments. Even when they couldn’t be there in person, her sisters let her know they were with her through cards and e-mails.
“I don’t know what I would have done without them,” she says. “The outpouring of love was very special to me.”
Chatham documented the stages of her cancer with black-and-white photography, full of shadows and light. These photographs have been exhibited at a cancer center, as well as on the WWU campus.
Now the owner of her own photography business, appropriately called New Beginnings Photography,
Chatham focuses on snapping pictures of people in times of transitions—weddings, senior portraits—and of families.
“I just love being behind the camera. And it is amazing to show pictures to people and hear them say ‘you really captured my son, daughter, family… You really captured their spirit.’”
“These two young women imbue the spirit of two worlds that combined to lift them to the heights,” Judy Schmuck, Chapter Advisor for Delta Chi chapter of Alpha Chi Omega, said. “They came to William Woods to grow and much of that growth took place with Alpha Chi Omega. The concept of “Real. Strong. Women.” has taken flight in the lives of these two young women. I am very proud of them and their accomplishments.