An Evening Of Science With The Petit Family
by Margaret Waage | Nov 18, 2011 12:46pm
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to: Business, Jobs, Nonprofits
Burch Ford, President at National
Coalition of Girls’ Schools and Head of School at Miss Porter’s School
(1993-2008) is welcomed to the microphone by Dr. William A. Petit Jr. Ford spoke
about the importance of educating young women.
There was no talk about things in the past Thursday at the
Science Center. The inaugural “Evening Honoring
Women in Science,” sponsored by The Petit Family Foundation, was about looking
forward. Dr. William A. Petit Jr. spoke of how science had always been a part of
his life and that of his family.
The science of
medicine was a big part of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, Hayley and Michaela Pettit’s
lives. Jennifer was a gifted pediatric nurse, Hayley had a goal to study biology
College and Michaela showed
an affinity toward plants and nutrition.
It is through the
memory of these three gifted young women that The Petit Family Foundation sought
to acknowledge their accomplishments and recognize women who are working in the
fields of science today.
The Women In Science event set out to honor two women in particular who
have each excelled in their respective professions.
Villalobos, VP Neuroscience and Antibacterials Chemistry at Pfizer, and Jennifer
Whiffen, Senior Biomedical Design Engineer for Covidien Surgical Devices were
the two honorees chosen for the inaugural event.
Villalobos acts as a
mentor to young scientists at Pfizer and also works to encourage both women and
people of Hispanic descent to pursue higher education and careers in the
sciences. Her work includes her sponsorship of the annual Career Women in
Chemistry event, which is held with a goal of connecting students ranging in age
from high school to postdoctoral with female chemists at Pfizer to serve as role
As an inventor
listed on three patents with twelve patents pending, Whiffen has authored six
articles for scientific publications. A 2011 Women of Innovation finalist for
the Connecticut Technology Council, Whiffen is a leader within Covidien’s
Women’s Leadership Initiative group, which creates development and networking
opportunities for its members.
“We chose to honor
these two outstanding scientific contributors to highlight our mission of
supporting the education of young people, especially women in the sciences,”
says Dr. William Petit. “There is a huge need nationally for more scientists,
especially women. We are honoring these women to demonstrate our great respect
for their contributions to science and to showcase their success as role models
for young women throughout Connecticut and the
event invited attendees to a symposium format that featured Jeffrey Immelt,
chairman and CEO of General Electric, as honorary chair and speaker, and John R.
Rathgeber, President of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association
(CBIA). The two engaged in a dialogue that covered the state’s education system
and where it is lacking in math and science. They also discussed the condition
of the economy and what might help it get back on track.
Jeff Immelt, Honorary Chair and Chairman
& CEO GE talked about a slow growing economy that would take time to
recover. “Jobs are what everyone wants, and what the country needs,” said
Immelt. “All the more reason why it’s so important to encourage women in the
sciences and encourage students to finish an engineering degree,” said
Immelt regarded the sluggish economy as a direct result of
the events that played out from banking and financial industries.
“The need for growth
through areas of research and development, are crucial in order to keep up with
China and other developing
countries whose engineer graduation rate is triple to that of the
U.S.,” Immelt said. Politics were
treaded upon lightly during the conversation between the two speakers. “A 4
trillion dollar deficit reduction is going to take over 10 years to accomplish,”
Immelt said. “We all have to come together to make it possible, and I think a
lot of people want to be led.”
Immelt is the chair
of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
On a question from
the audience regarding how to achieve a work-home balance for professional
women, Immelt said, “The days of punching in at 7 a.m. and out by 7 p.m. should
be over. That kind of thinking is really a generational overture. Life isn’t
tidy, and women today appreciate those kinds of employers that have choices. The
workplace today really calls out for flexibility.”
A live auction
conducted by Master of Ceremonies Denise D’Ascenzo of Channel 3 Eyewitness News
garnered bids up to $1,000 on a custom made necklace comprised of over 55 cts of
Swiss Blue Topaz designed by Cynthia Alexander. Additionally, a silent auction
was held with proceeds benefiting the organization’s many philanthropic
The Petit Family
Foundation is a 501c3 organization and all contributions are tax deductible. The
foundation honors the memories of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, Hayley Elizabeth Petit,
and Michaela Rose Petit by continuing the kindness, idealism, and activism that
defined their lives. The foundation’s funds are dedicated to fostering the
education of young people (especially women in the sciences), improving the lives of those affected by chronic
illnesses, and supporting efforts to protect and help those affected by