A Message From The Creator

A Message From The Creator

Women Making A Difference

Women Making A Difference

Inspiration Of Motherhood: Mom Fights For A Daughter Lost

Inspiration Of Motherhood: Mom Fights For A Daughter Lost

Inspiration Of Style

Inspiration Of Style

Women In The News: Women On Submarines

Women In The News: Women On Submarines



A Message From The Creator

Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.
-Tony Robbins

Inspirational Woman Of The Day: Camille Cosby

Camille Cosby

Full name, Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby; born in 1945, in Washington, DC; daughter of Guy and Catherine Hanks; married Bill Cosby (an entertainment personality), January 25, 1964; children: Ericka, Erinn, Ennis (deceased, 1997), Evin, and Ensa.
EducationUniversity of Massachusetts, M.Ed., 1980, Ph.D., 1992.
Memberships: Board member, National Council of Negro Women, National Rainbow Coalition; honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta.


Business manager for her husband, comedian, author, and television actor Bill Cosby; oversees all financial, philanthropic and staffing matters. Also president of COC Productions, a film production company, and C&J Productions, a stage production company. Board member, Essence Communications.

Life’s Work

Camille Cosby is married to one of the most recognized faces in the entertainment industry, yet has been a surreptitious public presence throughout much of husband Bill Cosby‘s career. Instead, she prefers to work behind the scenes–she has raised five children while returning to school to finish her own education. She also plays an active role in the management of her husband’s career and estimated $300 million fortune. A large portion of that fortune has been given away to historic African American colleges and universities in an ongoing, one-family philanthropic mission. In recent years Camille Cosby has undertaken some significant projects of her own, including a stage play based on a best-selling book and a film documentary about a mentoring program. Tragically, the publicity-shy Cosby family’s private life was shattered in early 1997 with the murder of their third child and only son, Ennis.

Camille Olivia Hanks was born in Washington, DC, in 1944, the eldest of Guy and Catherine Hanks’s four children. After attending Catholic schools, she enrolled in the University of Maryland as a psychology major. During her sophomore year friends convinced her to go on a blind date. Her escort to the movies was a 26-year-old comedian named Bill Cosby. She eventually dropped out of school and married the rising star in 1964. Camille began traveling with Bill every few weeks as he performed throughout the country. Less than a year after their marriage, Bill Cosby’s appearance on the Tonight Show landed him a role on the prime-time television show, I Spy. As Alexander Scott, Bill Cosby became the first African American to star in a leading dramatic role on a television series.

The Cosbys soon began a family that would number five in all– Ericka, Erinn, Ennis, Evin, and Ensa. Yet fame also came with a price tag. “We moved to California, and all of a sudden we were successful people,” Camille Cosby recalled in an interview with Stephanie Stokes Oliver of Essence. “All of a sudden we had money coming in, and it changed our lives…. Bill is seven years older than I am, but neither of us had the experience of managing money, of dealing with beggars, and of saying no a lot.” Following the dismissal of a dishonest financial manager, Cosby realized that she was perhaps the best person to manage her husband’s money. “When Bill released his manager, I realized that I had to become a participant,” Cosby recalled in an interview with American Visions’s Sharon Fitzgerald. “In this kind of business, you have to protect each other. I think it is difficult for a performer to totally immerse himself or herself in creativity and watch everything else, too.”

In the 1970s, the Cosbys moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, and once several of her children were in school Camille decided to return as well. By 1980, she had earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. “Education empowers you,” Cosby told Fitzgerald. “It places you in a position to verbally challenge people who are giving you a whole lot of nonsense.” Her dissertation focused on historically black educational institutions, such as Washington, D.C.’s Howard University, which her mother had attended, and Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, from which her father had earned his master’s degree.

Over the years, Cosby has played an integral role in working with her husband on the details of his various projects. These projects have included comedy recordings and videos, stand-up engagements across the country, Bill’s role as a spokesperson for Jell-O products, and the phenomenally successful NBC-TV sitcom The Cosby Show and its spin-off, A Different World. The role of Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show was based, in part, on Camille Cosby. The mother of the fictional Huxtable family was cast as an attorney, opposite her obstetrician husband, and the show made important leaps in showing a side of African American life not often seen on television. The Huxtables were a financially successful, educated African American family that was as proud of their heritage as any other American family. The show stressed several important ideals: respect your elders, take pride in your race, and have a serious attitude toward your education. The set of the Huxtable home was also adorned with the works of African American artists. The Cosby vision behind the show was a carefully presented one, “There are zillions of wonderful stories to tell, but they–meaning television’s controlling, hegemonic strata–won’t deal with those stories,” Camille Cosby told American Visions. “They only want to perpetuate what they have always perpetuated: that we are buffoons and mammies and lazy.”

While at work on her master’s degree, Cosby visited eight historically black colleges and universities. In the course of her research, she found that many of these venerable institutions were suffering from dwindling enrollment and severe financial difficulties. A majority of alumni were uninterested in making financial contributions or sending their own children to African American institutions. Civil rights gains had made it easier for African Americans to attend traditionally white colleges and universities. The Cosbys began working to remedy this situation by promoting historically black colleges and universities on The Cosby Show. Their support was first evidenced in the college and university sweatshirts that Dr. Huxtable wore on episodes of the program. Eventually, the eldest Huxtable daughter enrolled in an African American college, resulting in the campus-based spin-off A Different World.

In addition to championing African American colleges and universities on television, Camille and Bill Cosby began making large financial contributions to individual African American colleges and universities. “We were forgetting about the history of black institutions and the fact that they had educated so many of our prominent leaders,” Camille Cosby explained to Fitzgerald in American Visions. “So my husband and I were inspired to contribute and to make those contributions public so that the importance of the schools would be known.” They began making large bequests in 1986, including a $20 million gift to Atlanta’s Spelman College, which one of their daughters had attended. In total, their contributions were estimated to have reached over $70 million by 1994. In return, Spelman designated a “Camille Cosby Day” in 1989 and invited her to give the commencement address. A large part of the donation was used to construct the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Academic Center on campus. The Cosbys also sponsor scholarships and pay tuition costs for over two dozen individual students.

The concept of mentoring is an important one to Camille Cosby. When she hired an Atlanta couple for a catering job, she learned that they were using their business to mentor several at-risk male teens. The story of Wesley and Thelma Williams became the 1994 documentary No Dreams Deferred, produced by Camille Cosby’s production company. Camille took a hands-on role in the project aside from simply financing it. “I wanted to put something on film that would project positive imageries of young African-American males,” she told Fitzgerald in American Visions. “The idea was also to show what one can do in an environment that is affirming, an environment that has discipline with love.”

Over the next several years, Camille Cosby pursued a Ph.D. By this time, some of her own offspring were college-age. “The children have been very supportive,” Cosby told Jet’s Robert E. Johnson, “And I suspect, as a matter of fact, I think that because I was in school hitting those books diligently that it made my children more diligent students.” She has publicly spoken about dyslexia, a reading disability which affected three of her five children, and the need to recognize differing developmental processes. As she told Johnson, “I think that the educational system as a whole has not been established to educate all children. That’s one of the problems and that is why they will not acknowledge people with different learning styles.”

In 1992, Cosby completed her Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts. Her dissertation was published in 1994 in book form, Television’s Imageable Influences: The Self-Perceptions of Young African-Americans. It is a topic that is one of Camille’s most passionate pursuits. Her book examines the influence the media has over young African Americans aged 18 to 25. Cosby asserts that the American entertainment industry, especially television, has not ventured very far from the stereotypical, racist minstrel images of the early twentieth century. “If you project blacks as human beings, then it makes it difficult to come up with a reason why they should be oppressed,” Cosby told New York Times reporter Lena Williams.

Camille Cosby has worked diligently to alter perceptions about African Americans and their culture. The 1992 biography of two North Carolina centenarians inspired her to acquire the stage rights. Cosby’s production company, C&J Productions–a venture between her and friend Judith Rutherford James–brought the Delany sisters’ rich story, Having Our Say, to Broadway in 1995. Other plans include a film biography of South African political figure Winnie Mandela. “I want to do my part in helping people to change their negative attitudes about us as a people,” she asserted in the American Visions interview. “And hopefully, if we have any negative attitudes about ourselves, I want to help change those too.”

Sadly, Camille Cosby’s efforts to identify and address the wrongs in American society may be put on hold following the murder of her 27-year-old son, Ennis, in January 1997. Although diagnosed with dyslexia in college, Ennis was working toward a Ph.D. in special education at Columbia University and hoped to open a school for children with learning disabilities. To the disadvantaged children he tutored, Ennis served as a mentor and role model. Immediately following the murder of their son, the Cosby family released a statement to the media that again demonstrated the selflessness which Camille and Bill Cosby try to instill in their children: “Our hearts go out to each and every family that such an incident occurs to. This is a life experience that is truly difficult to share.”


Honorary doctorate, Spelman College, 1989.



  • Television’s Imageable Influences: The Self-Perceptions of Young African-Americans, University Press of America, 1994.

Further Reading


  • Notable Black American Women, Book 1, Gale Research Inc, pp. 228-230, 1992.


  • American Visions, December 1994, pp. 20-25.
  • Essence, December 1989, pp. 62-64, 114, 118.
  • Jet, June 15, 1992, pp. 12-17; May 1, 1995.
  • New York Times, December 15, 1994, p. C1.
  • Time, January 27, 1997, pp. 22-27.

— Carol Brennan

Women Making A Difference


From small groups to larger gatherings, women are joining forces to help others. Here are a few such events that took place recently.

The 9th Annual Crosby Award Luncheon under a giant tent in Toledo Botanical Garden recently recognized women who make a significant difference in the community through gardens, the arts, nature, or education. Ladies, most all in lovely hats, sat at tables each decorated by different vendors. I sat at a colorful garden-themed table set with Jan Pugh Pottery. Men took time off their day jobs to serve the ladies. Nothing like a handsome gent pouring wine!

Paula Fall, lovely in a beautiful black-and-white striped hat, introduced the awardees, Lucille “Luci” Gorski and Molly Reams Thompson.

Mrs. Gorski, a native of Maumee and a Central Catholic alum, is a retired registered nurse and a community philanthropist. She and her late husband, Ted, started NAMSA, a local medical devices business. Mrs. Gorski, who lives in Perrysburg, has served on several community boards, given generously to organizations such as the Valentine Theatre, created scholarships to local schools, and continues with the Toledo Opera, where she has been a member since its inception 50 years ago. She and her husband gave the opera a $1 million grant in 1992 through the Gorski Family Foundation.

Mrs. Thompson, raised in Ottawa Hills, came back home in 2009 after college and work kept her away. She and her husband, Scott, reside in Perrysburg with their children. She is on a mission to educate people about nutrition to promote healthy lifestyles and to sustain a community. As the youngest person to receive this award, she said she is still growing and sees all the former recipients including her mother, Susan Reams, as inspirational role models. Mrs. Thompson founded Feeding Creativity, an organic consulting firm, and is employed at Veggie U, a nonprofit organization that “introduces the concepts of sustainable agriculture, good nutrition, and culinary arts to elementary schoolchildren.” She volunteers on community boards, including Women’s Initiative of United Way and is on the advisory committee of Owens Community College’s Urban Agriculture program.

The Zeta Alpha Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. hosted its Second Annual “In Her Shoes” charity luncheon June 9 at Brandywine Country Club. In keeping with the theme, guests were encouraged to wear their most fabulous shoes, and the winner of the shoe-walk-off won a gift card to DSW Shoe store. The event benefited the Polly Fox Academy, which assists teen mothers with their education and guides them to become responsible citizens, according to chapter president Deborah Washington. Event attendees provided gifts estimated at more than $1,000 in value.

“Come Fly With Me,” a benefit for Camp Courageous for children with special needs, was started by a few generous ladies and they recently hosted their fifth annual event in the E.S. Wagner Co. hangar at Metcalf Field. More than $21,000 was netted, according to committee members Alicia Wagner, Debbie Paul, and Phyllis Deaton.

Special guests were annual campers Maggie Hunt, daughter of John Hunt, president of the board of Camp Courageous, and Vijay Seth, son of Ann Seth.

Women’s Initiative of the United Way, which goes by its motto “Mobilizing Women to become leaders, philanthropists, and advocates on issues that concern us as women,” has invested more than $1 million in community programs since its inception in 2001.

The group’s spring event, “Gather Give Grow” presented by Health Care REIT, featured speaker Stacey Bess, teacher, author, and advocate for the educational rights of impoverished children. Her book Nobody Don’t Love Nobody focuses on the importance of teaching self-worth, personal power, and courage and was the inspiration for the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie Beyond the Blackboard.

The event, held at Notre Dame Academy Performing Arts Center, raised $11,000.

Among the nearly 250 attendees were event chairman Meg Ressner, co-chairman Adrienne Green, and Sara Jane DeHoff, Carol Gee, Mary Kennedy, Kate Keating, and Erika Rizzo. A private dinner was held after the event at Health Care REIT. Seen were Rita Mansour, Cindy Dana, Margy Trumbull, Judy McCracken, Leslie Chapman, Christy Stone, and Margaret Danziger.

The totals are in for the Cherished Friends of Ahava eighth annual Charmed & Cherished Wine Tasting and Silent Auction: An Evening to Celebrate Why Hearts Matter held at the Toledo Club. More than $21,100 was netted to help restore hope and healing for individuals with cancer, said treasurer Carol Schwartz. That’s thanks to the more than 300 attendees and the committee of all women, including event chairmen Stacey Rycheneer and Mary Lou Nadaud and the many sponsors.

The Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center’s 12th annual spring luncheon at Inverness Club raised $24,000. Emcee Sashem Brey of WTVG-TV, Channel 13, kept the event on target while the featured speakers offered inspiring stories of their road from despair to success. Event chairmen Jonna McRury and Martha Wheeler were assisted by a host of ladies passionate about the cause.

Inspiration Of Motherhood: Mom Fights For A Daughter Lost

By Anna Halkidis

WeNews correspondent

Monday, June 11, 2012

Grieving Mom Lobbies for Mandatory Drug Rehab

Sharon Blair lost her daughter to an overdose of painkillers, an increasingly common cause of death in the U.S. She has successfully lobbied for an Indiana law that forces abusers into treatment programs and wants to do the same in Florida.

WOMENSENEWS)–For 13 years Sharon Blair fought to get the help her daughter needed to prevent death from an overdose. She lost this battle in 2009 when her daughter died at the age of 29 in Clearwater, Fla., their hometown, from abusing prescription pills.

Today Blair is struggling to have Florida lawmakers pass The Jennifer Act to enforce current laws that allow relatives to force addicts into long-term treatment despite their objections.

“It is a life preserver,” says Blair. “It’s to help addicts by intervening because they can’t stop on their own.”

Florida’s current commitment laws provide a detox program of up to 72 hours if a loved one has demonstrated the addict’s need for it. A petition, which requires a fee, must then be filed for a judge to hear the case. For years, Blair begged the Florida court to place her daughter, Jennifer Reynolds, in rehabilitation, but Reynolds was never forced into treatment for more than a few days.

“Long-term treatment is needed,” says Blair. “There is no drive-through drug treatment.”

But involuntary commitment isn’t so simple. “The concern right away would be somebody’s civil rights,” says Dr. Art Thalassinos, a psychiatrist based in Columbus, Ohio. And if the person is not willing to receive treatment, it’s a waste of time, he says. “If you don’t understand what you’re doing to yourself or to your loved ones, you will end up doing the same thing once you’re out.”

A judge has the ability to order treatment, says Thalassinos, “but they don’t usually mandate that you get treatment unless you break the law.”

Since Reynolds’ most serious crime was driving under the influence, she was forced into only brief periods of rehab.

Everyday Problem

Prescription pill abuse grabs headlines when sports and entertainment celebrities are involved, but the problem is becoming an increasingly lethal face of everyday life.

The number of people who die from abusing painkillers more than tripled in 2008 from 1999, finds a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These deaths, which are close to 15,000 a year, have surpassed the number of addicts who die from heroin and cocaine, collectively. The same study indicates that these medications are being prescribed at a higher rate than 10 years ago.

Women are a big part of the problem.

The number of pregnant women using opioids, or painkillers, was five times greater in 2009 than in 2000, reported a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The number of babies being born with addiction has also tripled.

Women are more susceptible to pill abuse because they receive prescription medication almost 50-percent more than male counterparts, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. Women are also considered vulnerable to abuse of prescription medication because of their higher rates of doctor visits, which provides more opportunities to tell a doctor about stress or depression.

Women are prescribed anti-anxiety pills at twice the rate of men, says a study by Medco Health Solutions, a U.S. health care company headquartered in St. Louis, Mo.

If you become addicted to anti-anxiety pills, withdrawal can cause a seizure and high blood pressure, says Dr. Angie Stergiou, a psychiatrist in Columbus, Ohio. “An overdose can happen if an addict combines alcohol with anti-anxiety medication.”

Lethal Potential

Stergiou adds that painkillers can be lethal on their own. “You can take three pills and die if you don’t have tolerance.”

This is what happened to Reynolds, who at the age of 16 started going to rave clubs and began experimenting with opiates. She quickly became addicted, recalls her mother.

When she turned 18 all she had to do to fuel her addiction was show her doctor her scar from a spinal surgery and say she was in pain.

“In Florida, my daughter could go to any pain clinic she wanted,” says Blair.

Florida has one of the highest rates of drug-related deaths in the country. This rate is 13.4 deaths in every 100,000 people, according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 40 percent of these deaths are from opioid analgesics, or painkillers, the same prescription drugs that killed Reynolds.

Blair says addicts will rarely commit themselves to rehabilitation, because they are usually in denial about their condition or are afraid of withdrawal. She believes if her daughter was given involuntary treatment she would still be alive.

While lawmakers are still reviewing The Jennifer Act in Florida, in March it was passed in Indiana, where Blair relocated after her daughter’s death. She dreams of having the bill passed nationwide.

“If you ask any mother whose child is dead if they would want the judge to force them into a treatment center, they’d say yes, rather than have to grieve their death,” says Blair.

Anna Halkidis is a freelance journalist from Queens, N.Y. She also runs a music blog, www.musicnlove.com.

%d bloggers like this: