Volunteer Appreciation Week Spotlight: Sharon Henson, Delta Eta (Georgetown College)

As we wrap up National Volunteer Appreciation Week, we are pleased to highlight one of our longest-serving Phi Mu volunteers, Sharon Henson, Delta Eta (Georgetown College). Sharon received the Outstanding Alumna Achievement Award – Contribution to Phi Mu at the 2020 National Convention and earlier this month, celebrated 50 years of membership in our sisterhood. Read more about how Sharon got involved and how she has continued her impact on generations of Phi Mus.

Sharon (far left) and members of the Gamma Area volunteer team in the 1980s.

How did you become involved as a Phi Mu volunteer?

Right after I graduated from Georgetown College, my Chapter Adviser, Clara Marz, Delta Eta, recruited me to serve on the Delta Eta Advisory Council and House Corporation. Clara was also a District Officer for Phi Mu in the late 1970s-early 1980s and she encouraged me to stay engaged with the chapter as an alumna since I lived less than an hour away.

In 1980, Phi Mu’s national convention was in Indianapolis, Ind., a relatively short drive for us. Clara asked me to attend as House Corporation President for Delta Eta and said the chapter had the money to pay for most of my costs so I could also attend some of the Chapter Adviser programming.

Clara also asked me to do a workshop on chapter finances at a Phi Mu Kentucky State Day. She wanted me to explain to members where their money went, why staying paid up was necessary and how delinquent accounts affected their chapter operations and things they got to do such as socials and other fun events.  

I wrote Pat Catlett, Alpha Psi (Southeastern Louisiana University), the then-National Collegiate Finance Director, to explain my format and thoughts on the workshop, and asked if there was anything that she wanted me to include in it. Pat replied, and in 1981, I got a call from her asking if I was interested in becoming an Area Finance Director. She offered to send me to the Gamma Area Leadership Conference so I could sit in on all the meetings as my “training.”

At that point in time, the Gamma Area stretched from Kentucky to North Carolina to Maine and included more than 30 chapters. I don’t think I would have caught Pat’s attention without Clara Marz’s influence and putting me in position.

Pat Catlett and Clarice Shepard, Beta Zeta (Syracuse University), National Council Finance Director, were wonderful people to start out my next phase of volunteering. They each provided encouragement and always had both time and patience to answer my “umpteen questions.” 

Sharon (left) and the late Lynn Royals, Beta Pi (Gettysburg College), at the 1996 national convention. Sharon served as the Kappa Area Coordinator and Lynn served as the Gamma Area Coordinator. They roomed together at leadership conferences for 15 years and were dear friends.

What volunteer positions have you held in Phi Mu?

Delta Eta Volunteer Positions:

Chapter Finance Adviser

Chapter Membership Adviser

Chapter Provisional Member Adviser

Chapter Adviser

House Corporation Treasurer

House Corporation President

House Furniture & Maintenance Committee Chairwoman

40th & 50th Delta Eta Anniversary Committee Chairwoman

Area and National Volunteer Positions:

Gamma Area Finance Director – 9 years

Kappa Area Coordinator – 8 years

National Discipline Chairman

National Provisional Member Coordinator

National Special Projects Chairwoman

National Advisory Council Committee

Gamma Area Operations and Finance Director

I cannot remember the name, but I participated in a committee that studied the Commitment to Excellence in the 1990s. I may have left out something, but this is the bulk of it!

Sharon (far right) and all Delta Eta Chapter members attending the 2016 national convention in Chicago.

Which Phi Mu volunteer experiences have had the greatest impact on you?

I enjoy the teamwork of being an Adviser and working with each Executive Committee – getting to know all of these women and seeing measurable progress. I also enjoy the teamwork on an Area Team with other area volunteers, Headquarters staff and other Executive Committees.

Sharon (center) with two former Delta Eta Chapter Presidents from her hometown of Cynthiana, Kentucky: Jamie Howard Kinsey and Lori Mitchell Gaunce. Sharon also was Lori’s 3rd grade teacher!

Who has had the greatest impact on your volunteer experience within Phi Mu?

I would love to “name names” of the people who have been so important to me along the way, but that would be an article in itself! So, rather than give you a list, and those close to me already know I treasure their friendships, I will say this: I have learned from and also been encouraged by some of Phi Mu’s very best. I value those friendships that have grown over time and Phi Mu benefits when I can take what I have learned over time and “pay it forward.”

Sharon (left) served as Chapter Adviser for two members of National Council, including current National President Andie Kash, pictured at her first national convention in 1994.

What have you learned through your various volunteer experiences?

I spent 36 years as an elementary school teacher for Harrison County Schools in Kentucky. One of the things I developed both as a teacher and from working with collegians is observation skills. You have to watch but you also have to listen: to what people say and to what they don’t say, their tone of voice, etc. You also have to be aware that perception and reality have to be dealt with in any situation. In many ways, working with the Delta Eta Chapter was a second teaching job – and they wanted to be taught! Above all, I’ve learned that being present matters – people just want to know that you care. And also, the Creed of Phi Mu covers just about any issue!

Sharon (left) and Carri Metcalfe, Delta Iota (Baldwin Wallace University) served together on the former Kappa area volunteer team.

Why do you continue to volunteer?

It has given me something to do during the pandemic and I enjoy mentoring! I am the first connection many collegians have to the National organization so I want to be helpful and available to them. Our collegiate officers want to do a good job and it is fun to help guide them!

Sharon (front left) and the Delta Eta Chapter alumnae who have served as Area and National Volunteers. This photo was taken at Delta Eta’s 50th anniversary.

What advice do you have for Phi Mu alumnae who might be interested in getting involved but aren’t sure how to do it?

Know what you’re interested in and determine if you’re willing to learn something new. Contact the collegiate chapter closest to you to see if there’s a way you can be involved. There might be an opportunity that aligns with your vocational interest or area of expertise.

Sharon (left) and Delta Eta alumna Jami Dale. Sharon was Jami’s Chapter Adviser and now Jami serves at the Rho Iota (University of Kentucky) Membership Adviser and as a Gamma Area Membership Director.

Sharon’s Outstanding Service to Phi Mu

Sharon Henson is truly an exemplary example of what it means to be steadfast in sisterhood. Beth Denney Ward, Delta Eta, Past National Vice President and one of Sharon’s collegiate mentees, wrote this about Sharon in her nomination for the 2020 Outstanding Alumna Achievement Award:

“How do you measure one’s Phi Mu legacy? If you are Sharon Henson, you simply ask for a raise of hands. A raise of hands by those Phi Mu sisters who continued to serve our Fraternity after graduation due to her guidance, example and confidence in each of us. Sisters who witnessed Sharon’s unwavering devotion at the local, area and national level, no matter the task. While many seek position and influence, or a ‘big badge’ or ‘big moments,’ Sharon has only sought to serve the ideals of our Fraternity. She inspires with quiet confidence and an endless commitment to contribute to Phi Mu’s endurance in nearly five decades of fulfilling our promise made in the Oath of Allegiance. Countless miles driven, infinite correspondence with collegians, staff and volunteers, and unlike scores of other volunteers, an incomparable willingness to lead in less than desirable circumstances … Sharon’s contribution to Phi Mu is more than outstanding. She is the measure by which we should recognize our volunteers and deserves to be recognized for her outstanding contribution to Phi Mu in her 50 years of membership.”

Thank you, Sharon, for your steadfast service.