"I think the hardest thing for a mother," said Madeleine Albright of her relationship with her three daughters, "is to make it possible for a child to be independent, and at the same time let the child know how much you love her, how much you want to take care of her and yet how truly essential it is for her to fly on her own."
Unless you have lived as a mother or a daughter, understanding how instrumental this relationship is to one’s core is nearly impossible to explain.
A daughter looks to her mother as a role model and guide, all the while not realizing the mother sees her daughter with the exact same awe.
Soirée spoke with five inspiring mother-daughter duos rooted in central Arkansas to explore the layers of this unique relationship and how they ripple out into the community.
First Lady Susan Hutchinson and Sarah Wengel
At an early age, Arkansas First Lady Susan Hutchinson found herself ready to give back.
“It’s in my nature; I love being needed,” she says. It all started because she “wasn’t old enough or big enough or strong enough” to help her mother around the house.
“Eventually I did get old enough to help, and I loved it,” Hutchinson says. “Besides helping at home, I helped in my schoolroom, at church, in plays and choir and with teaching and playing the piano.”
Hutchinson’s daughter, Sarah Wengel, has followed along closely as her mother set the example.
“I’ve been so impressed with my mom’s lifelong dedication to helping others, especially children. Decades before becoming first lady, she was volunteering for various causes, including the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas.”
Hutchinson and her husband, Governor Asa Hutchinson, have been connected to many organizations over the years.
“I think our children learned of giving of self and money as they saw our examples,” Hutchinson says. “They saw us volunteer at church, teaching and singing in the choir, helping with events there and giving shelter to those in need. Asa volunteered as a soccer coach, too, at the Boys Club and other teams. I volunteered as a teacher at our children’s schools. And we both volunteered on different local nonprofit boards.”
Leading by example, like her mother showed her, is how Wengel shares philanthropy with her own children.
“My daughter volunteered as an Angel of Hope to help and spend time with cancer patients staying at the 20th Century Club Lodge," Wengel says. "Both of our kids helped us start and continue to work with us on our family’s nonprofit, AR Code Kids. We’ve raised over $500,000 for computer science teacher training and scholarships for deserving young Arkansans.”
Hutchinson says of Wengel, who also serves on the board of the Children’s Tumor Foundation, “She’s learned to give of herself, using her own skill sets to help others. I’m very proud of her.”
This year, Wengel is co-chairing the CAC’s Woman of Inspiration event, which will honor her mother with a lifetime achievement award.
“I feel very fortunate to be able to live in Little Rock and to be able to help both my parents with causes that are near and dear to their hearts.”
“The more you give, especially of yourself, and with your heart," Hutchinson says, "the more you feel blessed and want to do even more.”
Beverly Morrow and Kiisha Morrow
“We have a common value set,” says Kiisha Morrow of her three siblings. “Our parents [Curtis and Beverly] both have a spirit of generosity and are always thinking about how we're connected to each other as a family, but also to the larger community.”
As doctors, Kiisha's sisters Achilia and Asha incorporate health equity into their practices. Her brother Chane, also known as Epiphany or “Big Piph,” is a rapper, community builder and Stanford-educated mechanical engineer. As a creative, he “is tapped into that community and is thinking about how the arts can be used to empower people, to engage people and activate people.”
Kiisha, a Harvard-trained lawyer working in New York, helps organizations become more diverse, inclusive and equitable as co-president of the Law Firm Anti-racism Alliance and by serving on the board of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Arkansas.
For Kiisha, philanthropy is sharing time, treasure and talent for the public good.
“When I think of philanthropy, it's thinking about ‘How can we channel our resources in the broadest sense?’ Grant-making is a piece, but … how can we ensure everyone has equal access and opportunities to thrive and participate in society?”
It’s more than just giving dollars, it's about the community mindset Beverly instilled in her family, stemming from her own efforts serving on and chairing multiple boards, as a leader in the McDonald’s Women Owner Network and helping found the Women's Foundation of Arkansas, which named her its 2021 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy.
“Philanthropy has the power to be transformative as far as changing the equity situation, because for so long it was just about giving and not so much about the end result. I think now a lot of people are looking for where to contribute that is going to make a systemic change,” Beverly says. “We have to start including the recipients and not just giving them what we think they want or they need … it’s about 'I see you, I’m here for you' rather than 'here, take this money and then I'm going back to where I'm comfortable.'
“So many times people aren't afforded opportunities, so you have parents that aren’t, don't know how or can't be their kid’s advocate. I was fortunate when I grew up, my parents were my advocate. That's what I saw them do, so that's what I did with my kids. Everyone’s journey is going to be different.”
“We want everyone to make those choices for themselves," Kiisha says. "Your choice may be different than mine. That’s perfectly fine, but you should have that choice.”
Janet Jones and Susan Reynolds
“My ultimate inspiration has always been my mom," says Susan Reynolds, vice president and sales associate at The Janet Jones Company. "She has influenced my path more so than anyone else in my life and is such a calming and loving force in my life.
“She’s an incredible role model, as you can imagine. She has inspired me to be strong, adventurous and to have a positive spirit in all things that I do.”
Her mom, Janet, owner and president of The Janet Jones Company, started her own business in 1980. After teaching junior high math, she switched gears to selling real estate, and with the encouragement of her husband Bud, created the empire that is voted best agency in Little Rock year after year. In addition to her own business, she is the first woman on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
“I always loved selling real estate because it is an opportunity to help people,” Jones says. “Owning a home is the American dream, and I liked being a part of that dream. I started my company at a time when there were not many women in business, and I was inspired by all the women who were able to have a family and a career.”
Jones used The Golden Rule as her guide in business and at home. Growing up in the world of real estate, Reynolds and her sister Jennifer would sometimes go with their mom to show a home or hold an open house. Reynolds worked for Jones when she was in high school and got her real estate license at 18.
“We have an attitude of teamwork – helping each other get our homes sold,” Jones says. “Susan and I are very close. I’d say we have the perfect mother/daughter relationship. It is built on love and mutual respect. We are both extroverts who truly love people and enjoy building relationships. We both know that when all else fails, just be kind.”
Reynolds says Jones taught her success doesn’t always happen right away, and especially not without hard work or dedication.
“One of the most important things she has always taught me is to be kind, no matter the circumstance, and the importance of humility and grace. Her generosity of spirit inspires me.”
Judge Mary McGowan and Molly McGowan McNulty
It started with Judge Mary McGowan's role models: her parents.
“They taught me I could do whatever I chose to do, but that I should choose to give back.”
She began to think about a judicial career while serving as a law clerk to a U.S. District Court Judge before a stint as a staff attorney for legal services. Next, she was appointed by then-Governor Bill Clinton to chair the Arkansas Board of Review, and then resigned in 1990 to run for a newly created circuit judgeship. She was elected to the position and served 30 years on the bench.
Molly McGowan McNulty has an impressive record in public service, too. A graduate of Central High, Davidson College, UA Little Rock’s Bowen School of Law and the Clinton School of Public Service, McNulty can be seen volunteering and sitting in board rooms all over town and works as a law clerk to Court of Appeals Judge Raymond Abramson. She and her husband Chris, also an attorney, have two children, Tom and Mary Carter.
“My parents both inspired me to pursue a career in law and public service,” McNulty says. “My mother’s mark is indelible. Mama has influenced my life in virtually every aspect — from showing me what hard work and determination look like, to inspiring me to live and work in D.C. and ultimately deciding to pursue a J.D. and M.P.S., to my parenting tactics and learning the importance of giving back.”
McGowan told her daughter the same thing she was taught: “I tried to encourage Molly and convey that she could do whatever she chose to do, and I would be supportive.”
Following undergrad, McNulty worked for then-Senator Blanche Lincoln. “I knew D.C. to be filled with young, bright college graduates,” McGowan says. “I knew [McNulty] would thrive on Capitol Hill and see first-hand what public service was all about.”
“She emphasized that no task is too big or too small, and to take pride in your work,” McNulty says. “Mama instilled in me to be strong, but kind; fair and empathetic; and of course, the verse ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ She showed me the delicate balancing act of having a demanding career, but also being a present mother.”
Tammy Diamond-Wells and Abigail Wells
Tammy Diamond-Wells has dedicated her life to health care, describing herself as “a servant leader with a strong back, but soft front.” As vice president of patient care services at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, she leads the emergency department, ICUs and medical units.
After 28 years in medicine, she believes “access to care, high-quality care, affordable care, health equity, patients’ rights and dignity are the core tenants that should be available to everyone in need.” And she knows better than most, because one of her own landed on the receiving end of the system she works in every day.
At the age of 14, her daughter Abigail was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer, and at 15 she underwent a below-the-knee amputation.
“After years of advocating for others, I found myself having to advocate for my daughter.”
Abigail attends Central High School and says in 2019, through a “death sentence,” she began her journey of living.
“That three-word phrase ‘you have cancer’ shifted my life from where everything was going according to plan to a point where my mind, emotions and ability to reason were numb,” Abigail says.
But Abigail is motivated by realizing her inner strength and fortitude. Enduring tough days has made her resilient, and she credits her mother for that. She says her mom’s mantra “I see you, I hear you and you matter” is exemplified in her work and at home.
“My mom’s life’s stories — her struggles, triumphs and the times in between — every ounce of it impacts the way I embrace and approach life today.”
“As a parent, it was important to me that my audio matched my video," Tammy says. "I not only discuss the importance and necessity of having strong values, I demonstrate them. These values were so ingrained into who we were that when we began our family, our values organically manifested while parenting.”
“My mom has taught me life lessons, provided support and proven to be my role model,” says Abigail, who serves as an ACH Ambassador. “Seeing my mom place others before herself, taking time, mentoring, providing a psychological safe place for others, inspires me.
“My mom’s footprint has pushed me toward advocacy. I now have a passion and desire to advocate for childhood cancer awareness and funding, accessibility and equal access for physical disabilities and adaptive sports.”