Founder and first president of The Arizona Women’s Partnership, Paula Cullison reveals, “ I have a real concern for immigrants since my parents came over to this country from Italy. My upbringing was very Italian, with lots of hugging and kissing, good food, and a friendly, outgoing family. And my dad had a real can do attitude; he worked nights for 42 years as a pressman at the NY times. We read the NY Times every day. He saw that in the US, if you have a good idea, and put forth the effort, anything was possible; and he believed strongly that education was the key to success.”
She continues, “In 2002, I established the AZWP as an all- volunteer nonprofit, to assist small grass roots charities that help under-served women and children at risk in Arizona. It particularly focuses on issues of domestic violence, youth at risk, literacy and health care. Through these we are also dedicated to promoting the status of Arizona women.”
A quote from Margaret Mead, the renowned anthropologist, is important to Paula. Mead stated: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” And Paula adds to Margaret’s words, “We are committed to effecting changes that might be small if done alone, but collectively as a group our work is significant. I’ve always had a sense of grassroots connections, and empathy for those struggling.”
Paula herself grew up in New York City. When her two children were young, she and her husband decided they didn’t want to raise them in the big city. “We took a trip out west, put in a transfer from the stock brokerage firm, and have now lived in the same house for the last 34 years!” Her daughter Pamela assists Paula with the work of AZWP, and her son Greg and his wife live in the Washington, DC area. “ I think I’ve passed on the Italian traditions of eating well- both kids enjoy gourmet cooking!”
A veteran traveler, Paula has been to 30 countries and 25 states. “Right out of college I lived and worked in Switzerland for a while. Then four years ago I returned with my daughter and we hiked the Bernese Oberland. It is just a really beautiful country, majestic yet quaint, with friendly people!”
She is a dedicated hiker, which is what she values about Arizona: “The mountain preserves, the Grand Canyon, the great weather all make this a perfect place for hiking. One year a group of us even hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim, taking only 13 and a half hours.”
About AZWP Paula remarks, “I’m so proud of the fact that we’ve been able to do so much so quickly all due to the generosity of many people in the Arizona community.” The impact of AZWP has been acknowledged by gubernatorial and mayoral proclamations. “And there’s one thing I want to emphasize,” Paula states, “it is so important for every one who is able, to give back what they can to the community, because we are all in this together!”
What are your volunteer activities? Arizona Women’s Partnership, Inc. - founder and president; United Nations Association of Greater Phoenix - past president
Which social event is your favorite? Wine, Women & Jazz (of course!) Great food, fine wine and jazz all rolled into a fun event.
Favorite Restaurant? Salute in Phoenix
Who is your hero and why? Grace Barbey - a woman of remarkable vision; she lived life to the fullest. Currently, it’s my daughter Pamela, she stood by me 18 years ago through my ordeal with breast cancer (not easy for a then 16-year-old). She became the wind beneath my wings…and still is.
Who is the most interesting celebrity you have ever met? Gloria Steinem
If your life were a movie, whom would you want to play your part? Sally Fields
What gives a woman/man style? Self-confidence and being passionate about life.
Do you have any Pets? Not now - Kitty died after we had her for 18 years
When you move, what will your home tell its next owner, about you? I am not moving … will die in this house, but NOT soon. We had fun here.
What words describe you best? Adventurous / Open-minded; Energetic (I love to hike); Can Do attitude
What words would you like others to use to describe you? Being interested in them …helpful to them.
What was your first job? A summer job as a file clerk for US Steel in the Wall Street area. I hated it …too boring!
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I tend to neglect important preventative health issues for myself, since I am always too busy.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Self-centeredness
What is your greatest indulgence? International travel … my bags are always packed. I consider myself a traveler - not a tourist. I have been to over 30 countries and 25 states.
What is the greatest gift you have ever given and received Time
What or who is the greatest love of your life? My family: husband Tim and two adult children
What is your current state of mind? Positive
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? Graduating from college - my parents were Italian immigrants with no formal education.
What is your most treasured possession? My passport
What is the quality you most like in people? Open-mindedness
Favorite books / Writers? I love to read (especially novels) … so there are many fine authors; Barbara Kingsolver is one of them. I refer to The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran for a philosophical approach to life.
What is the best advice you have ever received? Always speak the truth for the truth never changes – advice from my Mother. (Like the quote from Shakespeare: To thine own self be true.)