A glimpse of two extraordinary women in Hemet

Photo provided by Penelope Engard.
Dr. Carol Frances and her daughter, Allyn Van Alstyne during a trip to Madrid, Spain.

■ By Gena Estrin / Contributed

Women’s History Month is an opportunity for all to acknowledge the strength, wisdom and the enormous impact women have had on our world. On TV, we have been introduced to many women who have pioneered and persevered through troubled and good times. There are still so many unsung women heroes, who’s stories and their accomplishments, should be celebrated.
The San Jacinto Valley has many such women, past and present. Although I think many of you may already know them, I want to take this moment to introduce you to two contemporary and extraordinary local women and their accomplishments to date: Penelope Engard and Dr. Carol Frances, PhD.
Penelope Engard came to Hemet from Virginia. You might have met Mrs. Engard when she greeted you as Helen Hunt Jackson, the author of the 1884 novel “Ramona”, upon which the Ramona Pageant is based. Her family roots go way back to the era of the great plantations of the south. Her mother was a wonderful role model and deserves a mention on this auspicious Women’s History Month too, as she is listed in the “Who’s Who” of women in the field of color and design.
When asked about her occupation, Penelope humorously noted that she talks “…forever, and ever, and ever.” To clarify, she has been and still is a professional lecturer. She has lectured on many topics of American History, her chosen field of expertise. She proudly shared that even before women’s history garnered a special month to be celebrated, several years ago, she taught 26 hours on the topic of famous women in history at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and at other venues, including the “First Friday every month” lecture series held by the Hemet Library Foundation. She is currently Vice President of the Hemet Library Foundation and co-chairs the “First Friday every month” program. Seven to eight years ago, Mrs. Engard was also Vice President of the Genealogy Club at the Hemet Library.

Celebrating Women’s History Month
Photo used with permission of Penelope Engard
From 2008-2017 Penelope Engard dressed as Helen Hunt Jackson, the author of the book “Ramona”, which was adapted by Garnet Holme (1923) and later by Stephen Savage (2015) for the play “The Ramona Pageant” held annually at the Ramona Bowl since 1923. She greeted guests entering the Bowl to a mini lecture on the life of Ms. Jackson.

Mrs. Engard has lectured on a wide variety of topics and people including Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and more recently, Hemet’s former police chief Richard Henry Dana. Just in these past few years she has given 116 lectures between UCR, Hemet Library and other local venues to date.
Wherever Penelope lived, be it Virginia, Texas, Oregon or California, she has been influencing the American political scene. Penelope has worked for the National Republican Party and on the campaign to elect Barry Goldwater, who was the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States in 1964. Her past endeavors have had a significant impact on America’s history. She is poised to influence the future of the San Jacinto Valley, by actively holding a position on the board of the Human Relations Council of the Greater Hemet, San Jacinto and Menifee Regions.
Dr. Carol Frances, Phd. has lived in Hemet since 1991. She is listed in the “Who’s Who” directory of famous people. Dr. Frances was a Professor of Economics and Finance of Higher Education at Claremont Graduate University and Seton Hall University, which involved her periodically doing a trans-continental commute.
Throughout her life she has influenced education and has been, and still is, active in many organizations that has had significant impact on America’s and the world’s educational systems. In the 1970s she was the Chief Economic Advisor of the American Council on Education, in Washington DC, testifying before Congressional committees. Currently, she is Chair of the Higher Education Colloquium; Chair, of the Education Special Interest Group of the System Dynamics Society International; and a member of the European Association for Institutional Research – European Association for Higher Education. She is also a member and co-chair of the “First Friday every month” lecture series offered each month by the Hemet Library Foundation.
Dr. Frances is also currently involved with the International Association for Feminist Economics. She has been and still is supportive of empowering women, then and now. She has passed on this legacy to her daughter Allyn Van Alstyne, who in a global competition, has just won two United Nations contracts to provide the equipment for the equine events of the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru this summer.

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