Skip to content

SIUE Meridian Derby celebrates philanthropic women

siuemeridianderbyMagnificent hats and fascinators in a full array of colors, styles and sizes were showcased during the 6th Annual Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Meridian Derby held Tuesday, May 9, at Fairmount Park Racetrack’s Top of the Turf in Collinsville.

Approximately 230 attendees dazzled in their vibrant derby attire, engaged in camaraderie and celebrated the SIUE Meridian Society.

“We were delighted to have a record crowd of fantastic women, and a few great men, at this year’s derby,” said Julie Babington, director of annual giving with the SIUE Foundation. “The event celebrates the SIUE Meridian Society, which is a philanthropic organization committed to the promotion of women’s leadership and investment in SIUE community-based projects.”

Photo: Mary Trice’s (left) ensemble showcased SIUE pride with red and black accents, and earned the best hat award. She stands with Vice Chancellor for University Advancement and CEO of the SIUE Foundation Rachel Stack.

Through collective giving, the women of the Meridian Society demonstrate a spirit of philanthropy and a commitment to making a positive impact in the community. To date, the Meridian Society has supported 112 projects totaling more than $275,000.

“The hats this year are incredible. I haven’t seen a duplicate,” said Kay Werner, first lady emeritus and founding member of the SIUE Meridian Society. “This organization offers a wonderful way to express my philanthropy. This event in particular, is not about donations, but rather offers a fabulous opportunity to have fun with great friends and make new connections.”

“We’ve come every year from the start,” added Antoniee Mann, of St. Louis. “We enjoy putting on our hats, watching the races and socializing with friends. The atmosphere is festive, and we are proud to celebrate the great work of the Meridian Society.”

“This group of influential women continues to outdo themselves with their fantastic attire, which further enhances their already vibrant spirit,” said Vice Chancellor for University Advancement and CEO of the SIUE Foundation Rachel Stack. “Private support is increasingly important in education, and we greatly appreciate this group’s strong desire to make a positive difference. Our membership continues to increase, as does the significant impact this organization makes in the community and at SIUE.”

Also in attendance at this year’s derby were SIU Trustee Dr. Shirley Portwood, SIUE Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Denise Cobb, Associate Chancellor for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion Dr. Venessa Brown, School of Nursing Dean Dr. Laura Bernaix, School of Business Dean Dr. Timothy Schoenecker, and School of Education, and Health and Human Behavior Dean Dr. Curt Lox.

Awards were presented to a few extraordinarily dressed attendees. Mary Trice was praised for her ensemble, which demonstrated SIUE pride with red and black accents and earned the best hat award. Brenné Issa was the best member hat award winner, donning a red floral hat. Jackie Keller Smith earned the biggest hat award, receiving applause for her show stopping purple hat.

“I was in Las Vegas and this whole outfit just called to me. I knew it had to be winner,” Keller Smith, an SIUE alumnus, said. “I love this racetrack event. This year is even more fabulous than the last.”

“I’m a new member of the Meridian Society, and I love the philanthropic work our organization does,” added Issa, also an SIUE alumnus. “We can do more together than we can as individuals, so I am proud to partner with these ladies and accomplish great things.”

For more information or to join the SIUE Meridian Society, contact Babington at (618) 650-2378 or

The SIUE Meridian Society officially launched its philanthropic mission in October 2003 with its first official meeting. It is an organization of women dedicated to supporting a variety of SIUE programs. The Society’s name is based on the fact that the 90th Meridian, exactly one-fourth of the way around the world from the Prime Meridian, runs through the SIUE campus. The Meridian Society educates members on personal finance and philanthropic goals, inspires women to become leaders in supporting SIUE and community causes, enhances understanding and knowledge of women in philanthropy including their charitable support priorities as well as community influence, participates in influencing SIUE and the community via annual Impact Fund Awards, and supports SIUE’s long-term goals for active community engagement and excellent reputation.


Leave a Comment