2020 Women’s Awards Luncheon

Local AAUW member to be Honored at AAUW Puerto Rico-San Juan Rotary Luncheon on March 3, 2020

To celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, AAUW Puerto Rico will honor one of our own, a woman who exemplifies our mission and has done so much for years in our community. Mary Anne Maldonado is an activist and tireless advocate for survivors of domestic violence and victims of sexual assault in Puerto Rico. As an RN, she was paid by the Department of the Family to consult in the areas of rape and domestic violence prevention and justice, and was fundamental in starting the first shelter for survivors of domestic violence on the island. She did all this while raising five children, being AAUW President, and wife of the UPR Chancellor. Her body of work, over a lifetime, has done so much for the women of Puerto Rico.

Honoring Two Women at the AAUW Puerto Rico Luncheon March 21st, 2019

This March, we celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.  This year, AAUW Puerto Rico will honor two local women who embody the mission and vision of AAUW, Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade and Michelle Hernández-Fraley.

Christa von Hillebrandt has served as manager of the U.S. National Weather Service Caribbean Tsunami Program, director of the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, as well as  developing protocols for the International Tsunami Ready Program, a UNESCO-International Oceanographic Commission. She has been instrumental in developing real-time data acquisition systems and rapid response capabilities which have benefited earthquake and tsunami monitoring and response systems for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and throughout the Caribbean region. Her ability to effectively accomplish public outreach and education efforts, as well as her relentless drive to ensure funding and coordination for data and science-based earthquake and tsunami readiness has made everyone smarter and safer.

Retired Colonel Michelle Hernández-Fraley was the first female from Puerto Rico to graduate from West Point Academy. She has been posted and assumed at least six top leadership roles in multiple places from Panama, Bosnia, Kosovo, as well as in the United States. Her last post was as Commander of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Warrior Transition Brigade in Washington DC. After 30 years of service and an illustrious career in the military, she moved home and became the Provost and eventually the first female Superintendent of the Police Academy in Puerto Rico, as well as being the Director of the Selective Service System for the Commonwealth. Her commitment to service and passion for helping others continues to this day, and she remains an involved community member.

Two to be Honored at AAUW Puerto Rico Luncheon March 21st, 2018

In March, we celebrate International Women’s Day and women’s History Month.  This year, AAUW Puerto Rico will honor two women who embody the mission and vision of AAUW of advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research. AAUW’s Women of Distinction Program pays tribute to women leaders who have made extraordinary accomplishments in their professions or their communities.  Today we pay tribute to two extraordinary women in an extraordinary time in Puerto Rico’s history;  a time that challenges us in many ways and daily tests our mettle, our goodwill, and patience.

Zorimar Gonzalez Cotto has extensive experience in a number of entrepreneurial ventures, from event planning to marketing and media strategist, but it is her commitment to her community during the Hurricane Maria recovery that we honor this year.  Zorimar served as the focal point in her community, facilitating services where needed and ensuring access to resources for those with no alternative means. Zorimar is recognized by a grateful community for her efforts, which were uncompensated, in additional to continuing her paid work.

Janice Perez-Padilla, RN,  is an Epidemiologist with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.  The Zika virus was widespread on the island causing the declaration of a public health emergency by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Janice follows babies born to mothers who were infected with the Zika virus at the time of their pregnancy. Birth defects such as microcephaly can occur with or without other major birth defects. This year we will also we honor Janice for her work with this particularly vulnerable community.

Please join us at the Convention Center Olive Garden,  at 11:30am on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 (click here for map).

This luncheon is also a fund-raiser for AAUW!  The back area of the restaurant is reserved for AAUW. Members and their guests will order from the menu. 15% of the food purchased will be returned to AAUW. Parking will be validated at the restaurant.

Please RSVP for the luncheon to make sure we give you the coupon needed for AAUW to get the proceeds. (Coupons will also be available for use by those not attending the luncheon itself.)

Three Accomplished Women to be Honored at AAUW Puerto Rico Luncheon March 10th, 2017

AAUW celebrated Women on March 10, 2017 at the AFDA Club.  Congratulations to all that participated.  A rose was given to each women who attended as a reminder of their accomplishments and importance.  After enjoying lunch, AAUW recognized three outstanding women for their professional achievements and community service.

AAUW member Carmen Hammel introduced awardee (and member!) Jennifer Bates – Entrepreneur and founder and owner of PR Soft.

AAUW member Alexandra Waterman introduced awardee Sulimar Loubriel – Attorney, founder of two dance studios, and a dance supply store, Pink Tutu.

AAUW member Anna Colomer introduced awardee Deborah Sabater – Senior Vice President of strategic planning for Oriental Bank, credited for the online mobile banking services, People Pay.

We thank the women for sharing their unique stories and inspiring us.  Congratulations!

Jennifer Bates, has begun to write her story on her blog, Just Kick me. Please follow her on the following link:https://medium.com/@jbates.pr/just-kick-me-726dcb2ff981#.jdnuupcrv

Local Women in Science, Business, Education and the Arts Honored by AAUW Puerto Rico 2015

AAUW Puerto Rico recognized four exceptional women on Friday, March 27 at their annual Leadership and Service Awards Luncheon at the AFDA Club in San Juan focusing on Science, Education, the Arts and Business. The luncheon is held every March during Women’s History Month.


Honoree Sarai Santiago Rodríguez, educator

Sarai Santiago Rodríguez was recognized for her contributions to the field of education. Founder and Director of Explora Clínica Integral, she is the only provider of services to children with autism using the Teacch method. Santiago told our audience that her future plans are to continue to serve the needs of children with autism, and to develop programs for young adults on the spectrum, a populations not currently being served.

Tara Rodríguez Besosa was recognized for her

Honoree Tara Rodríguez Besosa, entrepreneur

Honoree Tara Rodríguez Besosa, entrepreneur

entrepreneurial accomplishments. Rodríguez is the co-founder and co-director of Departamento de la Comida focused on local organic produce and artisanal food products. Looking forward Tara recently turned half of El Departamento de la Comida into a non-profit organization that develops markets for local, sustainable farmers and serves consumers looking to eat better, buy better, and support the local economy.


maria del carmen

Honoree María del Carmen Gil, promoter of the arts

María del Carmen Gil, former Chancellor of the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music from 1998 – 2012, and currently founder and director of the Fundación para Música y País, a foundation dedicated to making music education accessible for all children at a time when these programs are being cut from both public and private schools. Gil was recognized for her contributions to the arts in Puerto Rico.


Dra. Melween Martínez, scientist

Melween I. Martinez, a Professor at the University of Puerto Rico – Medical Sciences Campus and the first female Director of the Caribbean Primate Research Center and the Animal Resources Center. Recognized for her contributions to science, Dra. Martínez reminisced about the challenges she faced as a woman in a field dominated by men, and discussed her plans to continue her important research into stroke and dengue fever.

AAUW San Juan is a branch of the national AAUW, active in Puerto Rico for over 50 years. The mission of AAUW is to promote equity for women and girls through research, education, advocacy and philanthropy. Nationally AAUW supports fellowships for women pursuing advanced degrees and grants to community organizations with projects addressing equity for women and girls; lobbies the US federal government on issues affecting women and girls, and sponsors research into women’s issues covering topics like pay equity, sexual harassment, and women in STEM. Locally, AAUW Puerto Rico is involved in a writing workshop project for survivors of domestic violence; sponsorship of college women to attend the National Conference of College Women Student Leaders; and their annual Leadership and Service Awards to raise the visibility of women in the community.

From left to right: Elizabeth Parker, AAUW Puerto Rico Co-President, Tara Rodriguez, Maria del Carmen Gil, Dra. Melween Martínez, Sarai Santiago, Juanita Morris, AAUW Awards Luncheon chairperson.

From left to right: Elizabeth Parker, AAUW Puerto Rico Co-President, Tara Rodriguez, Maria del Carmen Gil, Dra. Melween Martínez, Sarai Santiago, Juanita Morris, AAUW Awards Luncheon chairperson.

For more pictures of this event, please click here.