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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

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From left, San Diego County Women's Hall of Fame inductees Nola Butler-Byrd, Lupe Holguin Buell, Sue Gonda, and Olivia Puentes-Reynolds. From left, San Diego County Women's Hall of Fame inductees Nola Butler-Byrd, Lupe Holguin Buell, Sue Gonda, and Olivia Puentes-Reynolds.

Four for the County Women’s Hall of Fame

Three SDSU faculty members and an alumna are among those to be honored in the annual induction ceremony.
By Michael Klitzing and Leslie L.J. Reilly

Four San Diego State University alumnae — three of whom are current faculty members — will be inducted into the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame for 2020.

Nola Butler-Byrd (’99, ’04), associate professor in counseling and school psychology, was honored in the Empowerer of Women category while Lupe Holguin Buell (’85, ’02), lecturer and program coordinator in dual-language education, was named in the Bridge Builder of Multicultural Understanding category. Sue Gonda (’90) a lecturer in women’s studies, and alumna Olivia Puentes-Reynolds (’75) were named recipients of the Spirit of the Hall of Fame Award.

They will be honored on March 15 alongside U.S. Rep. Susan Davis, activist Kathi Anderson and historian Iris Engstrand, joining more than 100 San Diego women already enshrined. The Hall of Fame is a project of the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women, the Women's Museum of California, the SDSU Women's Studies Department, and the University of California, San Diego Women's Center.

Here is a closer look at the inductees with SDSU connections:

Sue Gonda and Olivia Puentes-Reynolds

When Gonda talks about the Hall of Fame, her voice echoes the enthusiasm of a mother speaking about her firstborn. Eighteen years ago, Gonda and Puentes-Reynolds, with others, spearheaded the annual Hall of Fame event at the Women’s Museum and celebrated the first inductees.

In essence, the seed of the idea came from each, separately. It was in 1999 when Puentes-Reynolds joined the Women’s Museum board that the plan for the Hall of Fame was set in motion. Gonda and Puentes-Reynolds shared their vision during a strategy planning board meeting and identified the potential partnership with SDSU, the University of California, San Diego, and the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women. By 2001, the Hall of Fame event was finalized with the first inductees announced in 2002.

“Representatives from each partner and volunteers all had a voice,” Puentes-Reynolds recalled. “Our decisions were made by consensus. It was a fantastic effort by many people, and we all worked together.”

Gonda received her bachelor’s degree in history from SDSU, and Puentes-Reynolds in economics with a minor in Chicana/o studies.

Gonda was president of the Women’s Museum (1998-2005), and Puentes-Reynolds was a commissioner with the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women (under chair Gloria Harris) where commissioners had identified their interest in developing a Women’s Hall of Fame. Their goals in creating the Hall of Fame were to shed more light on the many well-respected women in a vast array of segments in the community. During the event, inductees are honored for their decades of work within their specific communities and professions.

“It is mind-blowing to see the communities of support cheering on their winners,” Gonda said. “It is the most diverse, multicultural event you’ll ever attend. It still gives me chills every time we announce the winners.”

Puentes-Reynolds said she was gratified to learn she would share the honors with Gonda, who is preparing to retire from academia this year.

Gonda said, “I am honored to receive the award, but I am thrilled for continuation of the Hall of Fame and the museum — that it wasn’t a one-off event. It is exciting for me.”

Nola Butler-Byrd

Over the past two decades, Butler-Byrd has worked to empower vulnerable individuals and communities in San Diego through her teaching, research and service. Since 2010, she has served as director of SDSU’s Community-Based Block (CBB), which provides multicultural community counseling and social justice education while serving the City Heights and communities in southeastern San Diego. A licensed professional clinical counselor, she is also president of the California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors.

“Paying it forward is really important to me — in my community we call it ‘each one, teach one,’” said Butler-Byrd, harkening back to her upbringing in a close-knit black community in Cincinnati, Ohio. “You learn something and you make sure that other people learn about it."

After starting her career as a social justice change agent in the nonprofit sector, Butler-Byrd’s came to CBB in the late 1990s to pursue her M.A. in counseling. Under her leadership, she transitioned the program to a two-year M.S. in counseling that prepares licensed professional clinical counselors.

Currently serving as vice chair of the University Senate, Butler-Byrd is also particularly proud of her work to champion an ethnic studies graduation requirement. But her biggest source of satisfaction is as a healer.

"As a psychotherapist, sometimes folks come to you with so much pain,” Butler-Byrd said. “Seeing so many of my clients and students really transform their lives and go out into the world to help communities heal — that's the biggest high."

Lupe Holguin Buell

The child of migrant farmworkers, Buell spent formative years in the fields of the Salinas Valley — weeding beanstalks and picking strawberries and garlic. She vividly remembers the day her parents took her to see Cesar Chavez speak in the midst of a United Farm Workers lettuce boycott.

"I didn't know the big wow of who he was until later,” Buell recalled. “I just knew he was someone who was helping us make a difference in the lives that we were currently living. What I learned was that there was a way to change things — and that it was to do things not individually, but in a group.”

Buell has spent her adult life working within numerous organizations to improve educational opportunities for Latinx students. She has served in various leadership positions with MANA de San Diego for 30 years, and been instrumental on a scholarship committee that has supported the college dreams of hundreds of Latinas. As a member of the California Association of Bilingual Education (CABE) and California Together, she has fought for the rights of English language learners. She has also served 34 years on the Mission Federal Credit Union Board of Directors where she has advocated addressing financial needs of Latinx and underserved communities.

A lifelong educator, Buell came to SDSU to earn her master’s degree after she was tasked with setting up a biliteracy program in the Cajon Valley School District. Inspired by faculty and supported by a scholarship, she went on to earn her Ph.D. in the joint program with Claremont Graduate University. She’s spent the past six years back at SDSU as a lecturer, supervisor and coordinator of the single subject bilingual credential program.

“I realized that I could use my expertise to help future bilingual teachers and encourage them,” Buell said. “I realized I had a lot to give.”