Palm Beach resident Joyce Licht Sang doesn’t mind when people sometimes call her “the bipolar lady,” even though she has never been diagnosed with the disorder.
|Those recognized during Palm Beach Atlantic University's 2012 Women of Distinction luncheon were, from left, award recipient Joyce Licht Sang, scholarship recipient Meghan Gilmore, scholarship recipient Jennifer Stoltzfus and award recipient Sally Ross Soter.|
It’s a nickname that comes from her tireless work with The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation, the organization she founded with her husband, Dusty, after their only son, Ryan, passed away in 2004 from bipolar disorder. He was 24.
On Wednesday, Sang spoke about her son, her cause and her motivation as she accepted the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic University during a scholarship luncheon at The Breakers. Sang was honored along with another Palm Beach resident, Sally Ross Soter, who has used her time and talents to encourage the arts and promote access to health care for women.
Sang said her son showed signs of early onset bipolar disorder as early as his teens. Today, he would be 32, she told the more than 400 audience members in attendance.
“When Ryan was a teenager, children could not be diagnosed with bipolar because it was not considered a childhood disorder,” she said.
That changed after the definitive scientific paper was published in 1995, she said. “The earlier the onset of bipolar disorder, the more virulent the illness,” Sang said.
She and her organization are on a “Quest for The Test” to find an empirical, biomarker test for bipolar disorder.
The foundation recently established an educational initiative and underwrites the Johns Hopkins’ Adolescent Depression Awareness Program, which teaches high school students, parents and teachers to recognize bipolar disorder and depression.
Sang said she is energized each day by a simple philosophy that she calls D.I.P. – Determination, Impatience (“these children and families don’t have the luxury of time,” she explained) and Passion.
Like her co-recipient, Soter also is a woman of action. She holds leadership roles in two community arts organizations, including the Norton Museum of Art.
Being a part of the Norton Museum for the past 17 years “has been, simply put, a highlight of my life,” she said.
During her term as president of the Norton in 2008, the museum received the prestigious Medal of Arts from the National Museum and Library Services Board in Washington, D.C.
She also serves on the board of trustees for The Society of the Four Arts and is a member of its library committee.
In her home state of Ohio, she served as a member of the Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital Board of Trustees at The Ohio State University Medical Center. She also established the Sarah Ross Soter Endowed Chair in Women’s Cardiovascular Health, the nation’s first fully endowed chair exclusively formed for the purpose of women’s heart health.
“For every place I moved, I would seek a volunteer position,” said Soter, adding that the principles of volunteerism were ingrained in her from childhood.
Soter recalled having an opportunity several years ago to visit the The Extra Mile - Points of Light Volunteer Pathway in Washington, D.C., with her husband, William.
She noted that Palm Beach Atlantic has its own volunteer pathway, known as the Workship program.
“These young people are making a real difference in our lives, not only in this area, but worldwide,” Soter said.
Introducing Sang was 2011 Women of Distinction honoree Suzanne Wright. Eileen Burns, the 2011 co-honoree, introduced Soter.
During the luncheon, 2012 Women of Distinction scholarship recipients Meghan Gilmore and Jennifer Stoltzfus offered remarks and delivered the invocation. The PBA Singers, directed by Associate Professor of Music Dr. Geoffrey Holland, performed patriotic selections.