THE STARS AMONG US–Featuring Virginia Franklin Campbell, Past National President

“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence, and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about speaking the passion you have for our work… (Robin S. Sharma) 



By Virginia Franklin Campbell, National President for 2016-2018.

Virginia Franklin Campbell, as National President

As I contemplated penning this final message during my term of office as President, I was influenced by the 2018 Winter Olympics conducted in South Korea.  One of the recurring themes at this international event that captured my attention was the thought that “it’s not who we are, but most importantly who we can become.”

We are not the women’s arts organization of the 20th century . . .

As I reflected on those prophetic words, I sensed an analogy to the “State of the NLAPW Union,” as we reach our 121st year of existence.  We are not the women’s arts organization of the 20th century that reached membership numbers of 6,000 women, and attracted women like Eleanor Roosevelt and Georgia O’Keeffe.  We can’t claim to be the current focal point or pinnacle of women’s aspirations for achievement in the arts.  Today’s millennials are not “joiners” unless they see a direct correlation or benefit to achieving their dreams.  Contemporary young women of the arts are examining alternatives and only embracing those pathways that clearly seem relevant in furthering their lives.  That may seem self-serving, but it is rooted in reality.  We can, and we must, hear their voices.

We’ve reached a turning point.

We can continue endeavoring to sustain “the way we’ve always done it,” e.g., spend an inordinate amount of income to maintain an old, but stately, mansion in the heart of the District of Columbia, engage in the same activities we’ve fostered for decades, resist overtures put forth by new voices who want to explore fresh avenues for progress (“…because we’ve never done it that way before…”), and pat ourselves on the back that we have thus far survived a further decline in membership.  Or, we can take a step forward to revitalize our vision.

A “sea change” in focus is necessary.

To paraphrase the 35th President of the United States, “Ask not what NLAPW can do for you, but ask what you can do for creative women…”  Isn’t it time to examine who we are, and what we offer to women in the arts?  Is it all about the individual, or is there a higher purpose that calls a Pen Woman, at least in some small way, to use her experiences and varying degrees of success to share her journey, including the trials and triumphs, with other women striving to achieve something?  Doesn’t each of us have an obligation to support, encourage, and, yes, mentor others who are as committed and dedicated to the arts as we believe we are?

Isn’t it time to rethink recruitment and invite women to share their life stories with us and others in a crusade to advance the dreams of all?  This is really an act of “networking,” and can bear fruit for all concerned.  Young women may see this outreach as a compelling enticement to join our ranks.  It’s certainly worth a try!  Every person reading this column knows someone at least eligible for membership as an Allied Professional, if not fully qualified in Letters, Art or Music.  If every Pen Woman identifies just one new member we will begin to reassert our role as the nation’s beacon for women in the arts.

We must rise to the occasion!

The future of the League is not simply in my hands, nor in any individual Pen Woman’s hands, and certainly not in the hands of someone external to the organization.  In point of fact, the future is solidly in the hands of each of this magazine’s readers.  The lifeblood of NLAPW are the women of today and tomorrow who are blessed with creativity, and those talented souls must reach out and embrace others’ aspirations in every possible manner.  Only then will younger generations consider us, and only then will we thrive.  We owe this to our venerable organization, to those who have preceded us, and to those women who will carry on the crusade in the years ahead to recognize the contributions of Pen Women to our culture and heritage.  After all, we must continually assess, “who are we, and what do we represent?”

Virginia Franklin Campbell standing with her husband at the 2018     Biennial Conference in De Moines, Iowa

At the outset of this administration, I chose as my theme, “We are what we create.”  After two years at the helm, I have an even deeper appreciation for the truism expressed in that premise.  Let us move forward with renewed vigor to lift others to new heights.

I thank you for the opportunity to have served your organization, and, hopefully, advanced its cause.  You have my utmost best wishes for conquering the challenges that lie ahead and achieving great victories.


Note: This article was reprinted, with permission, from the NLAPW Magazine, The Pen Woman (Spring, 2018)

More About Virginia Franklin Campbell:

“A Leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” (John C. Maxwell)

Virginia is a Letters and Music member of the Pikes Peak Branch of NLAPW since 1996 (22 years).  She is a composer, pianist, writer–and a true leader–showing the way to the League’s membership though her own passion and commitment, as well as hard work and grit. She has served Pikes Peak Branch as a member, and as Branch president, helping to initiate a number of outreach programs through the years that have influenced other branches as well as her own. She most recently served as  National President (2016-2018), stepping down in April, 2018.  During her administration Virginia and her husband lived in Washington DC, in the Pen Arts building, and worked tirelessly to see changes come about that would benefit all branches in the League.

How does one measure impact?

Virginia’s successes during her service as National President began to stack up over the two years, though at times, she found the joy in her role as National President eroding under constant stress and friction.  However, there were small rays of sunshine—like being complimented on her delegation skill, her forward thinking and ability to get things done. One colleague mentioned, “I have the best boss I’ve every had in my life!”  Outstanding among Virginia’s accomplishments are the four amendments she helped rewrite and were voted in during her term, and the twenty-two branches she and her husband, Verne visited around the country. Under her encouraging influence, four Branches were saved from closing entirely. Another branch has literally doubled their membership in the past year, with a fresh commitment to the basic tenants of being a Pen Woman.

That is impact!

Welcome Home, Virginia!

Virginia currently resides in their Colorado Springs home, with her devoted husband, Verne and their cute little beagle. She is continuing her membership with NLAPW through her local Pikes Peak Branch. She wishes to express her thanks to all the members across the US who supported and encouraged her during her presidency.