(left to right) Carol Shepard Gutknecht ’67, Kakenya Ntaiya ’04 and Edna Aguirre Rehbein ’77 received the College’s highest alumnae award in the fall.
A bilingual higher education administrator, an internationally recognized human rights advocate, and a nationally recognized opera singer and music educator were the recipients of Randolph College’s 2015 Alumnae Achievement Awards.
Since 1981, the award has been given annually to alumnae who personify the value of a liberal arts education and have brought distinction to themselves and to the College. The 2015 awards were presented to Edna Aguirre Rehbein ’77, Kakenya Ntaiya ’04, and Carol Shepard Gutknecht ’67 during a dinner ceremony in September 2015.
Edna Aguirre Rehbein ’77
Edna Aguirre Rehbein ’77
As vice president for academic affairs for the Texas State University Round Rock Campus, Edna has helped the institution’s enrollment grow from just 100 students in 1998 to more than 2,000 in 2015. Students at the school are mostly non-traditional and work full-time jobs while attending classes in the evenings.
In addition to helping boost enrollment, Edna has assisted in the transformation of the institution from a brand-new campus of portable buildings into a full-fledged academic program. Prior to being hired at Round Rock, she served for 13 years as the executive vice president at Concordia University in Austin, Texas.
Spanish was Edna’s first language; her father was from Mexico and she grew up in Texas. English became her primary language in grade school, but she remains fluent in both languages today. After graduating from R-MWC in 1977, Edna earned her master’s and Ph.D. in Spanish American literature and language from the University of Texas at Austin. She continues to teach Spanish today.
Edna is an active member of the Round Rock community. She serves on the Board of Directors for Lutheran High School, the Round Rock Arts Council, and the King of King’s Lutheran Church. Additionally, she was chosen as an American Council on Education Fellow and has earned awards like the Round Rock Chamber Chairman’s Award. She has also been named one of the Round Rock Leader’s People of Influence and was a Profiles in Power Finalist by the Austin Business Journal.
At the Alumnae Achievement Awards ceremony, Edna credited her R-MWC professors for helping her fall in love with literature. She said the College also gave her experiences that built her confidence and shaped her into the person she is today.
“I have received numerous recognitions and awards throughout my academic and my professional career, but this one has absolutely meant the most to me,” Edna said.
“I know the caliber of women who have gone through this College—and now the young men, as well—and what an honor it is to receive this award. It’s a huge honor for me to receive this recognition.”
Kakenya Ntaiya ’04
Kakenya Ntaiya ’04
Kakenya has dedicated her life to educating young girls and women. She is founder and president of the Kakenya Center for Excellence, a nonprofit boarding school for girls in her hometown of Enoosaen, Kenya.
Growing up the oldest of eight children, Kakenya was engaged to be married when she was 5 years old and was set to follow in the footsteps of many other girls from her village—leaving school at 13 to begin life as a wife and mother. Instead, Kakenya bargained with her father, agreeing to undergo the local custom of female genital mutilation if he allowed her to complete high school.
Kakenya’s father agreed, but after high school she had to negotiate again—this time with her village elders to do what no girl had ever done before: leave to go to college in the United States. To win their approval, Kakenya promised to use her education to benefit the community.
The elders approved, and the entire village contributed the funds needed to get her to Lynchburg, where she attended R-MWC.
Now as founder and president of Kakenya’s Dream and the Kakenya Center for Excellence, Kakenya is upholding her promise to the village elders. There are about 170 students enrolled in grades four through eight, and the institution’s top priority is to empower and motivate young girls to become agents of change in their community and across the country.
“I created a space where girls can be curious and a place where they can be nurtured—a place where they can be told that while society says ‘you will be a wife at 12,’ you are a child, you have a dream, and you can achieve it,” she said. “Sometimes you have to go first to allow others to follow. I have gone first in the fight against genital mutilation and childhood marriages, but so many of you have followed in listening and helping to spread the message, and I thank you for that.”
Kakenya’s work has received international attention on multiple occasions. As a senior at R-MWC, she was featured in a series on her life by the Washington Post. In 2013, she was named one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes, earned the Women’s Right Award from the Feminist Majority Foundation, and was recognized by the Women of the World as a “Woman of Impact.”
Carol Shepard Gutknecht ’67
Carol Shepard Gutknecht ’67
Well-known for her appearances in American opera, Carol has also sung in four world premieres. Her performances have been reviewed in more than 50 periodicals all over the world. She was also a National Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and a grant recipient from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund for Music.
Before her career in music brought her national recognition, Carol majored in music at R-MWC and earned her master’s degree from the Northwestern University School of Music. She also is an alumna of the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California. Speaking at the Alumnae Achievement Awards dinner, Carol said she has always loved to sing and joked that she made her singing debut at her kindergarten graduation at Coconut Grove Bay Front Park in Miami, Florida. Her first professional opera was in 1980 as part of the New York City Opera’s production of The Love for Three Oranges. She has also performed with numerous opera companies including the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Opera Company of Boston.
Carol’s extensive repertoire also includes roles in such classic masterpieces as La Traviata, La Boheme, and I Pagliacci, as well as premiering new works including Dominick Argento’s Casanova and Philip Glass’s The Civil Wars. Early in her career, Carol represented solo artists as a member of the National Board of Governors of the American Guild of Musical Artists and the AFL-CIO labor union for opera singers, ballet dancers, and stage managers.
Along with her achievements on the stage, Carol has helped others improve upon their musical talents as an educator. She was an associate professor of music at McGill University and at R-MWC. During the seven years she taught at her alma mater, Carol traveled to Germany and Austria on a faculty professional grant and gave recitals and master classes at R-MWC’s Japanese sister campuses in Fukuoka, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. She also appeared in a joint concert with Ray Luck at the University of Reading in England.
In addition, she taught music at DePaul University and the Hedgerow Theatre School in Philadelphia and has offered vocal master classes and workshops at more than 30 college campuses throughout the United States.
“I’m thrilled to receive this award, most of all as a performing artist,” Carol said. “There have been very few of us over the years who have received this award, despite many illustrious persons who have received it in other disciplines. It is an honor to be included.”