Coach with a World View

InSight, International Center for Research on Women, Summer 2007

Kathy Kemper is fellow and founder of the Institute for Education (IFE), a foundation with a mission to foster bipartisan dialogue, cultivate friendships and provide leadership that can solve problems. IFE sponsors INFO, the public affairs breakfast series that has become one of D.C.’s premier forums for world and national leaders.

Kemper is a nationally recognized leader on women in sports and gender equality, known in local circles as “Coach Kemper,” a nod to her long career as a top tennis coach. Kemper learned about ICRW when she met its president, Geeta Rao Gupta, at a lunch hosted by ICRW board member Joanna Breyer in 2005.

“I was very impressed with Geeta’s professionalism, knowledge and passion,” she explains. “And with Joanna’s endorsement of ICRW, I was hooked.” She recently took a few minutes to share with ICRW how her own work relates to ICRW’s mission, her experience at our recent gala and her interest in the human genome.

Q. Your work reveals a passion for international issues, gender equity and education. Tell us about the Center for International Education and how ICRW plays a role.
A. I was a co-founder of the Center for International Education (CIE) at Washington International School. CIE’s mission is to build stronger global awareness and responsiveness among students throughout the United States. CIE runs many programs, one of which is for outstanding high school youth in the D.C. area. We have brought students to ICRW for the past two years through my foundation, Institute for Education, as part of their training toward becoming future global leaders. Many of them are passionate about economic and social justice for women and are inspired by ICRW’s work.

Q. You’ve been a strong supporter of ICRW through multiple avenues including our annual fundraising galas. Tell us about your experiences at the gala.
A. ICRW strikes the perfect balance at its galas between festive celebration of past accomplishments and attentiveness to future efforts. I’ve been joined by my two daughters, Kelsey and Christina, Justices [Stephen] Breyer, [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg and [Sandra Day] O’Connor, Congresswomen Loretta Sanchez and Jane Harman, America’s Promise CEO Marguerite Kondracke, and Meryl Streep. It’s a wonderful time!

Q. At the 2007 Champions for Change gala, you won a tour of the Human Genome guided by Eric Lander, one of its principal leaders. How was the experience?
A. Our group ranged in ages from 14-78 years and we were all captivated! Eric Lander explained the importance of understanding genetics. He posed the following question to the group: If there was a gene that could prevent cancer, would you insert it into your child’s genome? Almost everyone answered “yes.” But he said he wouldn’t do it because every one of our cells is more complex than a Boeing 747, and we simply don’t know the consequences of such a change. He explained that a “no cancer” gene already exists and has been inserted into genomes of test mice. These mice didn’t get cancer, but they died much earlier than mice without the gene. It was a fabulous afternoon, and it continues to be in our conversation to this day.

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