Alliance of Women Philanthropists Symposium

The Women and Philanthropy Symposium, the Alliance of Women Philanthropists’ signature event focusing on philanthropy, volunteerism, and leadership, is presented each year to thank Alliance members for their support of the University of Tennessee’s campuses and programs.

2021 Women & Philanthropy Symposium

Bummed you couldn’t attend this year’s Women & Philanthropy Symposium? Now you can watch the whole session.

Below is a copy of the program along with time stamps for each segment for you to follow along on the recording:

  • Welcome Address Marilyn Elrod, Chair of the Alliance of Women Philanthropists: 0:00:00 – 0:02:34
  • Kris Keys (UTM ’08), International Fashion, Illustrator & Designer: 0:02:35 – 0:29:40
  • Carol Mayo Jenkins, Actress and Artist in Residence: 0:29:40 – 1:08:50
  • Cycerli Ash (UTK ’10), Actress, Director & CEO of DAE Productions: 1:09:13 – 1:42:16
  • Legacy of Leadership Award Presentation: Natalie L. Haslam: 1:42:18 – 1:47:14
  • Presentation of the 2021 Giving Circle Grant Recipients: 1:47:18 – 2:06:31

We are currently working on uncovering alumni stories to feature for next year’s event. If you’re ready to share your story or have ideas about future speakers or themes, please submit them to Melissa Smith at

Watch the Symposium Recording »

2021 Symposium Speakers

Kris Keys (UTM ’08)

Kris Keys is an international fashion illustrator and designer that specializes in travel. Her dreamy watercolor based art and prints tell the stories of women, communities, health, and global issues. Kris studied fashion design at the London College of Fashion in the United Kingdom. She has provided illustrated stories for brands such as the Peninsula Hotel Tokyo, Kamalaya Wellness Spa in Koh Samui Thailand, Browns Hotel London, NARS Cosmetics, Phillips Ashley Chocolates, Harlem’s Fashion Row, WGSN, and Friends of the Highline New York to name a few.

Her signature designs–from the flow of the sleeves to the pattern of the fabric—are based on the shapes and colors of human blood cells. Her latest collection includes comfortable garments and accessories inspired by the genetic blood disorder that Kris was diagnosed with as an infant. Her work and story have been featured in the Daily Memphian, CNN “The Human Factor”, University of the Arts London, Art Up Memphis, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and XO Necole.

Carol Mayo Jenkins

Carol trained for three years at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London and was one of the founders of the Drama Centre London, now considered one of the leading theatre schools in England. Returning to America, she  joined the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. She made her Broadway debut as Natasha in William Ball’s production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. Other Broadway appearances include Oedipus Rex with John Cullum, First Monday in October with Jane Alexander and Henry Fonda, and The Suicide with Derek Jacobi. Off-Broadway she appeared in The Lady’s Not for Burning, Little Eyolf, and The Old Ones, among many others.

Carol then went to Los Angeles with the award-winning television series, Fame, in which she played English teacher, Elizabeth Sherwood, for five years. She was asked by playwright Edward Albee to play Martha in his production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, with which she toured the United States, Lithuania and Russia.

Ms. Jenkins has worked extensively in Regional Theatre since her years in television. She played Mary Tyrone at the Denver Center Theatre, Marquise de Merteuil at the Cleveland Playhouse, Circe in Circe And Bravo at Wisdom Bridge Theatre in Chicago, Mrs. Higgins in Pygmalion at Seattle Rep., and various selections in Albee’s Women at the Old Globe Theatre. She has done four plays at San Jose Rep; Amy’s View, By the Bog of Cats (with Holly Hunter), Las Meninas, and Enchanted April. In Northern California she has played Arkadina in The Seagull, another Mrs. Graves in Enchanted April, and directed Private Lives.

Cycerli Ash (UTK ’10)

Cycerli Ash is an award-winning actress and director, known for her roles as Senator Park-Lewis on the TV series Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, Olivia in The Cardinal Rule, Georgia Washington in Journey: A Georgia Washington Story, and Marley and all three ghosts in A Christmas Carol. Her extensive list of theatre appearances includes the Portland Center Stage, Passin Arts theatre, Dominion, Kenny Leon true colors, Alliance theater, and the Clarence Brown Theatre.

Cycerli attended Rutgers University where she was a Division 1 Big East champion and school record holder in the Discus. In 2010 she received her MFA in Acting at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Being a Division I athlete,” she says, “I was not able to immerse myself in the study of acting, but athletics gave me discipline, drive, and self-motivation. Acting in the real world is a lot of hustle. If you don’t get what you want, you have to work harder to get it. When someone tells me I can’t do something, that makes me all the more determined.”

Our mission is simple

Educate, empower, and inspire women to be philanthropic leaders at the University of Tennessee.

Join the Giving Circle


Melissa Smith
Director of Alumni Marketing & Special Events
(865) 974-7544

1525 University Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37921
(865) 974-2115


The Brenda G. Lawson Legacy of Leadership Award

The Alliance of Women Philanthropists was created to acknowledge the capacity of women to be influential donors to UT and to recognize them in more meaningful and personal ways. The Alliance takes pride in celebrating the remarkable accomplishments of women leaders and their philanthropic efforts, community service, and volunteerism.

The Alliance created the Brenda G. Lawson Legacy of Leadership Award to recognize women who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in these areas. This award is bestowed upon an exceptional woman who embodies the highest level of excellence in her work as a community leader and has devoted considerable time and energy to improve the quality of life for others at UT.

Award Criteria

  • Committed to furthering the goals of the Alliance of Women Philanthropists
  • Supports the University of Tennessee through contributions of talent, time, and financial means
  • Dedicated to supporting UT in its instructional, research, outreach and fundraising initiatives
  • Educates, empowers, and inspires women to be philanthropic leaders at the University of Tennessee
  • Encompasses a variety of ideals including volunteerism, generosity, sacrifice, compassion, sensitivity, and humility


2021: Natalie L. Haslam

A native Knoxvillian, Natalie Haslam graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1952. She has been an active volunteer...

2020: Andrea Loughry

Andrea is a dedicated supporter of her alma mater, having served as vice-chair of the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees and as the first...

2019: Anne Holt Blackburn

Anne Holt Blackburn, Nashville’s most veteran TV news anchor, was one of thirteen children born to a family of sharecroppers in West Tennessee. She graduated...

2018: Dr. Margaret Perry

Margaret Perry has always been a trailblazer with the determination to get things done. She was the first female dean for graduate studies at UT...

2017: Ann Furrow

First Lady of Tennessee, Ann Furrow was the pioneer of Lady Vols Golf playing on the men’s team at UT in 1964 and 1965. Not...

2016: Janet McKinley

For more than thirty years, Janet McKinley has been an avid and active supporter of UT academics and athletics.