Equal pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter was awarded Athens State University’s President’s Medal during the University’s Summer Commencement ceremony on July 29, 2023. The President’s Medal is the highest honor approved by Athens State University and is awarded to individuals who have distinguished themselves in one of the following areas:
- Outstanding scholarly activity in the arts and sciences, education, business, letters, or theology;
- Outstanding service to humanity, their community, church, country or educational Institution;
- Outstanding vision, success, and achievement in their chosen profession; or
- Outstanding leadership, dedication and generosity in support of Athens State University.
“Lilly Ledbetter is being honored with the Athens State University President’s Medal in recognition of her relentless advocacy and transformative contributions towards establishing fair pay standards across the nation,” said Interim President Dr. Catherine Wehlburg. “She is a role model for us all.”
Ms. Ledbetter has dedicated the last 25 years to fighting for equal pay for women. She was hired by Goodyear in 1979 as a supervisor, and after working there for 19 years, received an anonymous note revealing she was making thousands less per year than men in her position. Only as she neared retirement did she learn she was being paid significantly less than male colleagues with similar seniority and experience. This letter led her to file a sex discrimination case against Goodyear, which eventually resulted in legislation known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Since then, Ledbetter has received national acclaim for her work in gender discrimination and pay equity, raising awareness of the issue and taking a stand for women across the country.
Ms. Ledbetter also delivered the commencement speech to the graduates, saying, “Justice is worth standing up for. It’s worth fighting for. As you go forward, never forget your beginnings. Always remember where you came from, because your history is your strength. It will help you.”