Rachael Denhollander, an attorney, former gymnast, and advocate against sexual abuse, is set to deliver the keynote address at Boston College’s annual Women’s Summit on Feb. 3.
In 2016, Denhollander became the first woman to publicly accuse former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse and seek criminal charges against him for sexual assault.
Over 300 women followed in her footsteps and came forward as survivors of Nassar’s abuse, eventually leading to Nassar’s life imprisonment, according to Denhollander’s website.
“Women in male-dominated spaces was a big part of [this year’s summit], and, you know, sports and legal fields—-for Rachael—-is something that we thought a lot of people could relate to on campus,” said Liz Payne, a planning committee member for the summit and MCAS ’26.
According to Anshika Agrawal, another member of the event’s planning committee and CSOM ’25, this year’s summit is focused on advocacy for oneself and others.
“We also kind of tied into the theme of how BC always advocates as being ‘men and women for others’ and ‘cura personalis,’ so caring about the entire person and figuring out what they’re worth,” Agrawal said.
According to Denhollander’s website, she was instrumental in securing a $500 million settlement with Michigan State University for Nassar survivors in 2018 and a $380 million settlement with USA Gymnastics in 2021.
In recognition of her work as an advocate against sexual assault, Denhollander was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2018. She also received the Inspiration of the Year award from Sports Illustrated and was a joint recipient of ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Denhollander published an autobiography in 2019 titled, What Is A Girl Worth?: My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics.
Aside from Denhollander’s keynote address, the summit will host various workshops, featuring topics ranging from gender inequality in the labor market to restorative justice initiatives.
Senior Associate Athletics Director Shauna Cobb will also talk about her experience navigating the world of college athletics.
The summit will feature a mainstage panel as well, titled “Navigating Life After Graduation,” before closing out with a set of student performances and a student vendor fair.
“I’m looking forward to getting to see the response from Rachael and some of our other keynote speakers because I think that we have an opportunity to really make an impact with a lot of different groups on campus,” Payne said.
While the summit is a Women’s Center initiative, Agrawal said the event is open to everyone, regardless of their gender identity.
“Even if you don’t identify as a woman or you don’t want to disclose your gender identity, it’s a space that you can feel safe and just empower others,” Agrawal said.