Palm Beach Atlantic University will honor Palm Beach residents Sheila Fine and Joan Van der Grift as Women of Distinction 2015 at a luncheon Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, at The Breakers, Palm Beach. A pre-luncheon reception begins at 11:15 a.m.; the luncheon follows at noon.
Tickets, at $175 each or tables of 10 for $1,750, may be obtained online from the Palm Beach Atlantic University Development Office by calling (561) 803-2971. Proceeds from the luncheon benefit a scholarship fund for deserving female students at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Sheila Reicher Fine has been a community volunteer and activist since her teen years. Over the years she has been an active participant, supporter and board member of numerous organizations, including the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Opera, Eye and Ear Foundation and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.
In 2003, Fine founded LEAD Pittsburgh (Leading Education and Awareness for Depression). Her interest in depression piqued after reading an article in The Wall Street Journal concerning the suicide of a successful, well-connected businessman. She wanted answers as to why this tragedy could not be prevented and sought knowledge of the pervasiveness of depression — touching all individuals in all aspects of society. Thus, LEAD evolved as a response to Fine’s exploration of depression: prevention, causes and treatments. LEAD’s project, the Student Curriculum on Resilience Education (SCoRE™), stems from the goal to enhance the mental health of young adults based on research that points to the positive impact of resilience on mental health. Resilience, or the ability to adapt to adverse or changing circumstances, is an essential skill for everyone to learn and develop. Research suggests teaching resilience skills to the college-age population can protect against the development of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. LEAD has developed a college curriculum to foster these skills in young adults.
Currently, Fine serves as chair of LEAD Pittsburgh and is a member of the International Women’s Forum. She is also a board member of The Fine Foundation, Community Care Behavioral Health, Jewish Women’s Foundation, Shadyside Hospital Foundation, the University of Pittsburgh--School of Social Work Board of Visitors, UPMC Shadyside Hospital Patient Care Committee, and the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics Board of Fellows. In 2012, she and her husband, Milton Fine, were awarded Doctorate of Public Service degrees by Chatham University. In 2014, Sheila Fine was the recipient of the Albert B. Craig, Jr. Award for Innovation in Mental Health presented by the Staunton Farm Foundation.
In Palm Beach where she maintains a home, she is a board member of the Town of Palm Beach United Way and co-chair of 2015 Alexis de Tocqueville Society. In addition, she is a supporter of The Friedman Commission for Jewish Education, Norton Museum of Art and the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation, among other organizations.
Sheila and Milton Fine take great delight in their combined family of six adult children and 15 grandchildren. Sheila’s late husband was Zell “Buz” Reicher.
Joan R. Van der Grift
Joan R. Van der Grift was born in Philadelphia but spent her early childhood living with her family in Guatemala due to her father’s agricultural business interests. Though her education took her to various parts of the United States, Palm Beach has been her home base and the focus of her volunteer activities since her family moved to the island in 1957.
Van der Grift is president of the board of the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League and a co-chairman of their “Off the Leash” fundraiser in 2015. She has been actively involved in other fundraisers for the organization, established an area where prospective adopters can become better acquainted with a new pet, and completed two videos to raise awareness for the organization. In 2005, the Island Animal Hospital awarded her the Animal Advocate Award for her work to find homes in South Florida for animals displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
The Homeless Coalition has benefitted from her abilities as a board member, fundraiser and photographer. From sponsoring dinner for the residents at the Senator Philip D. Lewis Center to being a Secret Santa for many of the families during the holidays, Van der Grift is always willing to lend a hand to give hope and a smile to the most vulnerable in our community. She and her husband, Paul, served as the co-chairs of the first-ever Mayor’s Ball to benefit the organization and established the Coalition’s first Junior Committee for the event. She has produced two videos about the homeless population of Palm Beach County and the agency’s Project Connect. In addition, more than 100 of her professional landscape photos are installed in the Lewis Center.
She is a member of the board of governors of the Rehabilitation Center for Children and Adults in Palm Beach and the Garden Club of Palm Beach, where she chairs the Photography Committee and started the production of a yearbook documenting the club’s annual events. She served on the boards of the Palm Beach Day Academy and Palm Beach Area Tennis Patrons.
Her photographs have been exhibited at various venues including The Gallery for Innovation and the Arts at the Capitol in Tallahassee. She competes as a ballroom dancer, winning two awards, top novice and top newcomer, at the Fred Astaire Summer Classic Competition this year. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications with a minor in psychology from the University of Denver. She and Paul are parents to Frederic (Fritz) and Miriam (Mimi) Van der Grift, who are Palm Beach Atlantic alumni. In addition, she has a daughter, Alexis S. Byrne.
The luncheon is an annual event that honors women who have made significant contributions to the community. Previous Women of Distinction include Patricia Supper, Rose Sachs, Helen Ross, Carolyn Buckley, Anita Dubnoff, Jean Feather, Mary Schott, Helen Persson, Helen Cluett, Dorothy Schulman, Anita Hamilton Michaels, Nicki Harris, Hillie Mahoney, Kathryn Vecellio, Pat Cook, Kit Pannill, Nancy Brinker, Pat Johnson, Jean Tailer, Susan Keenan, Edie Schur, Maura Benjamin, Sydelle Meyer, Lore Moran Dodge, Barbara Nicklaus, Alicia Blodgett, Julie Cummings, Diana Ecclestone, Frances Fisher, Helen DeVos, Michele Kessler, Sydell Miller, Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau, Gay Hart Gaines, Vicki Halmos, Iris Apfel, Dr. Gail Austin Cooney, Eileen Burns, Suzanne Wright, Joyce Sang, Sally Ross Soter, Gail Coniglio, Danielle Hickox Moore, Susie Elson and Nancy Murray.