Sharon Gates Rees, ’53
Getting women out of their shell
Sharon Rees, ’53, believes women can have an impact on politics in high-level jobs. So, for the last five years, the Sharon Rees Annual Fellowship for Women in Public Office has been funding expenses for Albion College female students to participate in political internships in Washington, D.C. Rees believed that if female students interned in Washington, D.C. during their college years, they would develop skills and contacts that would benefit them far into the future. “I really felt women should be encouraged to become more active in the political scene early,” Rees says.
Rees did not dream that her fellowship would make a difference so quickly. The first Fellowship for Women in Public Office was awarded during the 2006-07 school year to Alexandria Judson Walker, ’07. A rising senior at the time, Walker completed her internship in the summer of 2007 at Congressman Dave Camp’s personal office. She used that experience to become a staffer in that same office on Capitol Hill immediately after graduating. “I thought it might take a decade or more,” says Rees. Instead, her gift had an immediate impact.
Walker’s fellowship enabled her to afford to live in Washington, D.C. during her internship, but Rees’ advice was the first fellowship recipient’s most important takeaway. “She gave me a small turtle sculpture and explained that turtles can never get anywhere unless they stick their heads out of their shell. Women, especially in politics, need to stick their heads out to make an impact,” says Walker, whose turtle still stands on her dresser.
A member of Delta Zeta sorority and the Albion College Players, Rees played leads in several plays and won two oratorical contests while in college. When she told a faculty member that she wished there were a classical music program on the radio, a radio show came about promptly—with Rees as host. She also produced a dance recital. “At Albion, we were taught we could do anything,” she says. “And we went ahead and did it.”
Rees became traffic manager of ABC TV in Detroit, where she met her husband, a producer. Later, she developed her own marketing and public relations company. Two of her three children are working in the arts, her early passion; the third followed in her footsteps in marketing. Her granddaughter, Hollis Andrews, ‘11, who studied theater and creative writing, “is already in the cast of a movie about the Wizard of Oz,” says Rees.
Not only did Rees establish this annual fellowship to provide immediate support for female students, she also included Albion College in her will. Through her bequest, Rees will continue to support Albion College women in politics. Rees is glad she began giving early. “I love to meet the recipients,” she says, “and give them their turtles.”