March 10, 2002 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Two La Grande leaders who know a lot about perseverance and taking the the road less traveled are being recognized by Eastern Oregon University.

Shelley Cimon and Marilyn Ewing have each received Easterns 2001 Women of Courage and Vision awards.

Cimon is being recognized for her work with the problem of Hanfords radioactive waste. Ewing, an associate professor of English at Eastern, is being honored for the work she has done to promote gender equity at the university.

You may not always agree with them, but these are women of courage and vision, said Rosemary Powers, an assistant professor of sociology, in her address at Fridays award ceremony.

Cimon has played an important role in the cleanup at the Hanford radioactive waste site. Cimon has been involved with Hanford for 17 years and currently serves as the chair of the Oregon Hanford Waste Board. This board is a group of Oregon citizens that advises the states governor, legislature and congressional delegation on the Hanford cleanup.

EOU art professor Tom Dimond said that if it had not been for Cimons leadership and persistence, the clean up work at Hanford might have been set back significantly.

Shes my hero. She has the mentality of a true humanitarian, Dimond said.

Dimond said that keeping the Hanford issue in the public eye has been stressful and had an emotional impact on Cimon. She also serves as co-vice chair and Oregons representative on the Hanford Advisory Board, a federal, site specific, 32-member regional body that advises the three parties responsible for the Hanford cleanup the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Washington.

Earlier Cimon served on the Tank Waste Task Force, which had a key role in getting the three parties to agree to begin cleaning up 149 single-shell tanks. Each tank contains a million gallons of high- level radioactive waste.

Cimon said it was particularly hard in the early 1980s to get on the site and make it possible for the public to participate in the cleanup process because Hanford and its documents were shrouded in the secrecy of the Cold War.

Her efforts were set back by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and at the Pentagon. Cimon said that declassified government documents about Hanford are becoming inaccessible to the public because of national security concerns.

Items (about Hanford) are being pulled from the Internet as we speak, Cimon said.

Cimon is a long-time resident of La Grande, along with her husband and two sons. She and her husband, Norm, served as foster parents for 12 years, during which time they cared for more than 25 children.

Ewing has taught at EOU for 20 years, during which time much progress has been made for women. Powers said that much of the credit should go to the courage of people like Ewing.

She has always spoken out about what she thought was right, Powers said. When people have disagreed with her she has kept speaking her mind.

Ewing said that credit for the progress made at Eastern should go to many people. This includes the men and women who served on the Eastern Presidents Commission on the Status of Women in the past five years and those who created and fought for the gender studies program. Eastern has had a gender studies program for about two years.

Ewing said that there are still serious problems at EOU in terms of gender equity. The English professor said she believes that EOU is years behind other universities with respect to womens programs.

In making her point, she noted that most upper-level administrators at Eastern are men.

She also said that EOU has had to fight hard to get and maintain funding for its gender studies program.

At other universities, funding sources for gender studies programs are much more stable.

We wish it (funding for gender studies) was a priority for EOU, Ewing said.

She added that women are sometimes harassed at Eastern and that a chilly climate for women exists. To address these problems Ewing is making several recommendations including:

Conducting a campus-wide gender audit under the auspices of the Presidents Commission on the Status of Women.

Getting Eastern to make a real commitment to its gender studies program by allocating adequate funding for it.

Having Eastern create a comprehensive ongoing program to educate all members of the campus community about gender issues.

Creating a better environment for women is particularly important because the percentage of Eastern students who are women is expected to increase, Ewing said.

As our student population becomes increasingly female, we need to provide role models of successful women in positions of power, she said.