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Spotlight On … Cheryl Warfield Mitchell ’71

Cheryl Warfield Mitchell ’71 is the recipient of the 2017 Kimberly Krans Women Who Change the World Award, presented by WomenSafe for work that betters the lives of women and children.


What does this honor mean to you?

It meant feeling totally included with a group of women who have worked so tirelessly in our county to make this a better place for women and children. Some of them are my mentors, one is my mother, all are women I admire. The Work of WomenSafe continues to highlight how important it is that we all work together to improve the culture our children and grandchildren will experience.

How has Swarthmore shaped your career—and your life?

Swarthmore had a huge impact on my life. I met my husband Don there and together we have raised a family, tended a farm, and created opportunities to share our life with others. The Quaker values of simplicity, equality, community, peace, and connection to the Spirit and the Earth shaped my approach to social justice work. I have tried, as a teacher, to be as respectful and challenging as the Swarthmore faculty were. Swarthmore taught me what good education looks and feels like. It was where my social and political consciousness developed. The incredible beauty of the Crum, the well-tended buildings and grounds, and the luxury of a great library are still things I value deeply.

What advice would you give current Swarthmoreans hoping to follow in your path?

A Swarthmore education prepared me to think and act, to seek out the additional learning I would need to do the things I felt were important, and to find colleagues with whom to do it. The actual content (I was an English Major) has less to do with it than the gift of four years to think before you have to start washing dishes every day. Enjoy the time: make good friends, read a lot, discuss a lot, dream a lot.  Believing that you can change the world (or at least a small part of it) is the first step, and then taking a lot of chances to put your ideas into action comes next. Sister Janice Ryan, one of my mentors, said, “No matter what you are trying to accomplish, you need a place to stand.” Swarthmore helps you develop great values and skills that can be your solid ground.

Anything else you’d like to say?