Six to be inducted into the San Diego County Women's Hall of Fame
Published - 01/23/17 - 06:10 AM | 2705 views | 1 1 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hon. Irma Gonzalez
Hon. Irma Gonzalez
Nominations to honor women of accomplishment from the community have flooded the offices of the Women's Hall of Fame since June. The Hall of Fame selection committee identified five women – from more than 200 nomination – who have worked tirelessly to improve the lives of other women and to bring change to their communities.

On March 5, the dedication of these women will be recognized when they are inducted into the 16th annual San Diego County Women's Hall of Fame. Event producers are currently seeking underwriters for the event. The induction ceremony is open to the public and will take place 2:30 to 6 p.m. at the Joe and Vi Jacobs Center. Tickets and details about the ceremony and dinner are posted at and

This year's inductees and the category in which they are being honored, are:

Hon. Irma Gonzalez, Trailblazer;

Lilia Velasquez, Activist;

Joyce Nower, Empowerer;

Carol Rowell-Council, Empowerer;

Dilkhwaz Ahmed, Bridge Builder; and

Darlene Davies, Historian.

The honorees chosen represent and reflect the full depth of the diversity of San Diego County. "The inductees selflessly dedicated themselves to improving the lives of women, children, and families and created a powerful impact within San Diego communities," said event chair Moriah Gonzalez-Meeks.

Awards are granted on the basis of values, empowerment, activism, trailblazing, cultural competency, and historical preservation. The six selected for induction this year are:


Gonzalez is a retired American judge, who was the first Mexican-American female federal judge. Gonzalez was appointed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of California in 1992, serving as chief judge from 2005 to 2012. Prior to her appointment to the federal bench, Gonzalez also worked as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the criminal prosecution division for the district of Arizona and in Los Angeles, as well as an attorney in private practice. She later served as a U.S. Magistrate judge and a San Diego County Superior Court judge.


Velasquez is an attorney whose background includes assisting immigrants, refugees, asylees and in particular undocumented women of domestic violence, sexual abuse and prostitution. Through her expertise, Velasquez has been a tireless activist for the most vulnerable in our society. Velasquez moved to the United States at age 19, and received her degree in social work from San Diego State University.

Working as a social worker, she witnessed the power of law in helping people. Velasquez went back to school and received her law degree from California Western School of Law. Velasquez has also been a long time participant in the program Despierta San Diego, which deals with Latino Community issues.


Nower was a founding member of the ad hoc committee for Women's Studies at San Diego State University (1969) and thus co-founder of the first Women's Studies program in the United States. Nower was also a co-founder of the community-based Center for Women's Studies and Services, which was the first Women's Center in Southern California. In 1977, The Center for Women's Studies launched a 24-hour hotline for victims of domestic violence and started an underground network of private homes throughout San Diego County for women and children fleeing domestic violence.

Today, The Center is the largest provider of prevention and intervention services in San Diego County for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. She earned her B.A. from Middlebury College, her M.A. from Harvard University, and her Ph.D. from The Union Institute and University, Cincinnati.


Rowell-Council, at age 21, co-founded the ad hoc committee for Women's Studies at San Diego State University (1969), which then became the first Women's Studies program in the United States. Her interest in feminism grew from her participation in antiwar and student rights movements. In 1972, she helped found the Center for Women's Studies and Services (now the Center for Community Solutions), where she was the director for 20 years. Rowell-Council has a B.A. in public administration from San Diego State University, and an M.F.A. in art history from Rosary College VIlla Schifanoia in Florence, Italy.

Bridge Builder

Ahmed is a immigrant women rights activist from the Kurdistan region of Iraq. She served as the executive director of the Nawa Center, a shelter for abused women in Sulaimanya, Iraq where she provided counseling and support to victims of domestic violence. She coordinated a program in the women's jail, helping women transition to life in jail and gain skills necessary to survival in the context of prison life, including how to protect oneself from rape and other abuse.

In 2002, Ahmed was granted asylum in the United States, and resettled in San Diego. Her three children joined her in the United States three years hence. In 2003, Ahmed worked at License to Freedom, and since then she has helped more than 3,000 adult survivors and child victims of domestic violence, including people from the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Soviet Union.


Davies has been involved in recording the history of San Diego for many decades. She volunteers her time and skills as the official historian of the Old Globe in Balboa Park, volunteers and supports the San Diego History Center, and has written the history on the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women. For Davies, researching and recording history is a responsibility and service she takes on with the utmost care. Davies earned her master's degree in speech-language pathology and worked professionally as therapist and professor.

Hall of Fame

The San Diego County Women's Hall of Fame was created in 2001 as a way to bring attention to women's actions and accomplishments in San Diego. Currently, 83 women have taken their place in the San Diego County Women's Hall of Fame.

In 2001, the four co-hosts of the San Diego County Women's Hall of Fame organized the first Hall of Fame event at UCSD to honor and acknowledge women who have significantly contributed to the quality of life and have made outstanding volunteer contributions in San Diego County.

The Women's Hall of Fame is a collaboration among the Women's Museum of California, the Department of Women's Studies at San Diego State University, The Women's Center at UCSD, and the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women. The ongoing goal of the Women's Hall of Fame is to recognize and celebrate women's authentic contributions.

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Lynn Little
January 23, 2017
Congratulations to Judge Gonzalez from Lynn Little and Matthew Mendenhall!
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