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Alumnae of Westhampton College, the women’s undergraduate coordinate division of the University of Richmond, have joined forces to create an academic chair in the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) program.

The chair will be named in honor of Stephanie Bennett-Smith, former Westhampton dean who created the Women Involved in Living and Learning (WILL) program 30 years ago. WILL is a nationally recognized program for women interested in exploring diversity issues in and out of the classroom.

Current Westhampton dean, Juliette Landphair, said “This chair represents for Westhampton the continuing importance of women’s education, beginning with the extraordinary May Keller and her never-ending wish to see women succeed at their highest potentials and continuing with WILL and, of course, Westhampton’s constant devotion to women’s education in the 21st century.”

Keller was the first dean of Westhampton when the college was created in 1914 at the time the university moved from its downtown location to its current suburban Henrico County campus.

Landphair said that many alumnae and friends of Westhampton provided broad-based support for the chair’s creation. They also helped fund the Westhampton Center, which opened in 2009 and provides more than 5,000 square feet of space for events, socializing, study and offices.

The university will conduct a nationwide search next year, culminating in the hiring of a faculty member to hold the chair in 2012–13. WGSS is an interdisciplinary major and minor that focuses on the history and social and political meanings and ramifications of gender and sexuality and the history of associated political movements.

Bennett-Smith served as Westhampton dean from 1976-84. In addition to creating WILL, she developed programs in residence life, student governance, academic advising and alumnae relations, enhanced the college’s overall reputation, and built business and government relationships to assist graduates in job placement. In 1985, she became president and CEO of Centenary College in Hackettstown, N.J., retiring as president emerita in 2001.