Arcadia Walks to End Domestic Violence—and Reunites with Beneficiary of Its Support

By Purnell T. Cropper | November 11, 2011

Editor’s Note: On Oct. 22, more than 60 Arcadians participated in the Fourth Annual Walk to End Domestic Violence organized by State Senator LeAnna Washington. “I am very proud that so many Arcadia students, faculty, staff and family members joined me and Kim for the Walk,” says President Carl (Tobey) Oxholm III. “There are more than 13,000 Protection from Abuse Orders filed in Philadelphia a year. Domestic violence leaves permanent marks not just on the women, but on their children. With two buses going, Arcadia was one of the largest groups to show its concern for this important issue of public health and individual and family well-being.”

By Sarah Schwartz ’10

The Fourth Annual Walk to End Domestic Violence was more than a demonstration of the importance of the issue for women in abusive situations. It was personal—and had special significance for Lisa Marie Smalls ’05.

A survivor, she had planned to celebrate her triumph over adversity at the event, but moving through the crowd congregating in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Smalls began to feel alone, painful memories flooding back into her consciousness. Even so, she carried on. And as opening remarks rang over a loudspeaker, she heard the name of her alma mater, Arcadia University, which was a major sponsor of the Walk. Soon after, she spotted a growing group of people in red Arcadia t-shirts in the crowd, and she knew she wouldn’t be walking alone, but rather amongst a family—her own.

In 2005, Smalls was an adult student majoring in Healthcare Administration at Arcadia. Only one semester stood between her and the bachelor’s degree she had worked hard for years to complete. Juggling an already stressful schedule, which included a part-time job and a full course load, Smalls’ home life also was becoming increasing difficult—she became a victim of domestic abuse.

“I was really ready to give up and quit,” says Smalls. That is, until she found herself confiding in Professor Robert Kieserman. “Professor Kieserman was my academic advisor, my professor, my mentor, my everything. He made some interventions, talked to my professors about a few extensions. But more than that, he was concerned about my safety.”

Kieserman gave her the name of the Dean of Students at the time, Jan Walbert, who was prepared to arrange on-campus housing for Smalls. Though she decided not to take advantage of the offer, Smalls notes that it was the caring disposition, eagerness to assist and personal attention of Arcadia’s faculty and administration that inspired her to persevere. Smalls graduated with departmental honors in May 2005.

This triumph set the stage for change. Almost six years later, she has a career as a human resources professional with a local school district and a new home. She notes that she can finally look in the mirror and identify herself as a beautiful, smart, strong woman.

“People at Arcadia impacted my life in a way that made me the woman that I am today,” says Smalls. “And if it wasn’t for my education at Arcadia, I may not have been able to move up the ranks or earn the level of salary that I’m getting. I got my bachelor’s degree from Arcadia and that stands for something.”

And so when Smalls approached the Arcadia group at the Walk to End Domestic Violence, be it accident or providence, she was stunned. The very first person she reached amidst the crowd was Jan Walbert, Vice President for Development. It was a reunion that was full of tears of healing and of joy.

“When I saw her name it hit me and I remembered her: this was the woman who was going to sign off and do anything she could to help me get out of the situation [I was in] even though I had never met her a day in my life,” she says. “I just want to say thank you to the Arcadia family for being there to support me and represent the 1 in 4 women affected by this crime.”

Of 500 total participants in the Walk, more than 60 were from the Arcadia family.