Schmertzler Leadership Seminar

The Peggy Schmertzler Leadership Seminar brings transformative leaders working to advance equity for women to share their knowledge and experience with our community. 

Sara Hurwitz presenting the Peggy Schmertzler Leadership Lecture to an audience of over 100 in the Phillips Brooks House Parlor Room on March 28, 2017.

Peggy Schmertzler

Peggy Schmertzler was a strong advocate, and one of the reasons we have a Women’s Center at Harvard College today. A graduate of Radcliffe, at her 35th reunion, Peggy began to inquire about what Harvard was like for women and her inquiries uncovered a reality that motivated her to ensure that the Harvard to come would be closer to it’s aspirations than the Harvard she knew. Through her leadership, the Committee for the Equality of Women at Harvard was founded to continue to challenge the status quo of inequality for women on campus.

This group was charged with supporting the administration to increase the number of tenured women faculty and advancing equity and access for women across the
university. Peggy’s continued presence and support helped to advance this group’s charge throughout its 30-year existence.

Her tenacious spirit, unwavering vision, and dedication to women’s advancement inspired many and prompted her former colleagues, and husband of 44 years, to partner with the Harvard College Women’s Center in honoring her legacy through this leadership seminar.

Previous Lecturers

2021 - Terisa Siagatonu

The Women's Center and the Office for the Arts hosted award-winning poet Terisa Siagatonu for the 2021 Schmertzler Leadership Seminar on Thursday, April 29th at 7pm EST. There was amazing spoken word poetry, a Q&A portion, and an opportunity for participants to think about their own writing. A recording of the seminar is available on the Women’s Center Youtube Channel. Terisa also provided a workshop on the power of storytelling and personal narrative on Tuesday, April 27th at 8pm EST, focused on what it means to tell our stories in the midst of all that we're holding (in school, in our personal lives, in our communities, COVID, white supremacy, hate/violence, etc.) and all that we are.

Terisa Siagatonu on poster for Schmertzler Seminar 2021; "Join the Women's Center and award-winning poet Terisa Siagatonu for the 2021 Schmertzler Leadership Seminar April 29th at 7pm - link - Interested in writing your own poetry? Come to Terisa's workshop on the power of storytelling and personal narrative on April 27th at 8pm RSVP - link"

2019 - H.E. Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado

The 2019 Peggy Schmertzler Leadership Seminar speaker will be H.E. Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado.  The Former Vice-President of the Republic of Panama and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Isabel Saint Malo, has over 25 years of experience in consulting, development and implementation of public policies in Latin America. Following her election in 2014 as Vice-President and her appointment as Foreign Minister, she became the first woman to be elected to the Vice Presidency in Panama as well as the first woman appointed as Foreign Minister in the history of her country. Ms. Saint Malo started her diplomatic career occupying different posts between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama and the Panama United Nations Permanent Mission in New York (1990-1992), where she served as Alternate Permanent Representative. She also worked for 15 years with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Panama, occupying different positions, including Assistant Representative and Program Manager.H.E. Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado

Ms. Saint Malo is a champion in sponsoring issues related to transparency, the fight against corruption and gender equality. As the Latin American and Caribbean Champion for the UN Women-ILO-OECD initiative “Equal Pay International Coalition,” and the leader of the IDB-WEF Panama ́s Gender Parity Taskforce, she has been instrumental in promoting the implementation of policies to ensure gender equality for Panama and internationally.

For her contributions in building national consensus over two decades, she received the Woman of the Year award (2012), by the Panamanian Business Executives Association (APEDE), and was also distinguished by the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace of the Hebrew University of Israel, for the role played by the Government of the Republic of Panama preparing the stage for the historic meeting between the presidents of Cuba and the United States, during the VII Summit of the Americas (April 2015). She is the first person in Latin America to receive this recognition. She was also honored by the Council of the Americas with the Bravo Awards 2018.
Recipient of national honours by Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama.

She has been a member of different boards of directors including Banco BBVA and Fundación Democracia y Libertad, was founding member of Women Corporate Directors Association of Panama, and is a fellow of the Central American Leadership Initiative ("CALI") and the Aspen Institute (2008). Founder of the Global Shapers hub of Panama City, an initiative of the World Economic Forum to develop the potential of young leaders, and was appointed as an expert to the Global Agenda Council on Transparency (2014) by the same organization.

2018 - Symone Sanders

The 2018 Peggy Schmertzler Leadership Seminar featured Symone Sanders, who spoke on Shifting Perspectives on Policy. CNN political commentator, strategist for Communications and Political Outreach at Priorities USA, and principal of the 360 Group LLC. She was the youngest person to serve as a national press secretary to a presidential candidate during her tenure with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign. 

2017 - Sarah Hurwitz

We were delighted to honor Peggy's memory in Spring 2017 with our first leadership lecturer, Sarah Hurwitz. Sarah Hurwitz was a White House speechwriter from 2009 to 2017, serving as a senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama and then as chief speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama.  Sarah was previously a senior speechwriter on the Obama Campaign; chief speechwriter for Hillary Clinton on her 2008 presidential campaign; deputy chief speechwriter on the presidential campaigns of General Wesley Clark and Senator John Kerry; a speechwriter for Senator Tom Harkin; and an attorney at the Washington, DC office of WilmerHale.  Sarah is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School.