Annual Community Breakfast: Opening Remarks, Award Presentations and Closing Remarks
March 22, 2011
J. Keith Motley, PhD, UMass Boston Chancellor
Thank you so much, Gail, for the kind introduction and for your work on this event. Each year, we celebrate exemplary community leaders at this breakfast held in honor of Robert H. Quinn, a great champion of the community himself.
I'm so pleased that Bob and Claudine are here this morning. And it means a lot to all of us to have our friends who have won the Quinn Award in the past here with us today. You are an inspiration to us.
I'd also like to thank our elected officials for joining us this morning...
We've got some new faces here who I¹d like to introduce or re-introduce, as the case may be. First of all, we've established a very important office for our work with the community: the Office of Community Partnerships. And we got a truly qualified person to run it: Luciano Ramos, who joins us from Tallahassee, where he was Associate Director of Florida Campus Compact. Welcome, Luciano!
And I am very pleased to announce that Arthur Bernard came back to his senses and rejoined our staff after a three-year hiatus while he worked as Governor Deval Patrick's chief of staff. Arthur is resuming his post as Vice Chancellor for Government Relations and Public Affairs. Welcome back, Arthur!
And finally, I'd like to thank all of you here who submitted nominations for the Quinn Award. Deciding on winners is never easy for the committee; there is just so much good work being done. And that's why we¹re so happy to have this breakfast, to celebrate all the efforts that folk like you undertake to benefit our communities.
As you know, being involved with our friends and neighbors is so important to this university. That's why we have our neighborhood dinners, which bring together civic leaders, business and nonprofit leaders, law enforcement people, Main Streets Directors, and elected officials including City Councilors and State Representatives. I've met with folks from our neighboring communities, and over the last year, we've reached out a little further, to Chinatown, Roxbury, West Roxbury and Roslindale, Charlestown, East Boston, the North End, and Quincy. And I'm looking forward to meeting with our friends in Brockton, Cambridge, and Somerville. These dinners are so valuable to me because they give me a chance to meet with smaller groups to listen to the needs and concerns of the community.
I've said this before: The University of Massachusetts Boston is not, cannot, and never will be isolated from the communities around us. Nor would we ever want to be! The give and take between our community and our students, faculty, staff, and administration is what keeps us going and what helps us accomplish great things together.
One such accomplishment that I'm thinking of is our partnership with the Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. We¹re working together to address disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in our communities of color with the ultimate goal of reducing mortality in underserved populations.
We're also proud of the progress we're making on our Master Plan for 2015, which includes new buildings, a new layout for the campus, and a general revitalization of our facilities. We have made some exciting developments, and done a lot of hard work on our plans for implementation. And if you're sitting there scratching your head, thinking, "Master Plan?", then we hope to see you on April 5th, which is when we've invited community leaders like you to campus, to discuss our planning process and the changes that will be made. I will tell you this: our Master Plan has such potential for further integrating the campus with the community and creating open spaces green spaces and walking paths that everyone can use. I'm excited for you to learn more.
Before we get started with the award presentations, I'd like to take a moment to recognize a few of the latest accomplishments of our Community Relations team.
Under Gail Hobin's leadership as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Community Relations, her team has been busy doing great things.
You should know that Phil Carver has been making connections on behalf of the university and its community left and right, working with local businesses, Main Streets, boards of trade, and economic development agencies. When Tina Chery, founder of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, reached out for some help with organizational needs, Phil was able to connect them with the graduate sociology classes of Professors Stephanie Hartwell and Keith Bentele; those students are now doing a pro bono agency evaluation for the Institute. Phil was also instrumental in setting up a partnership between Professor Anamarija Frankic's undergrads in Environmental, Earth, and Ocean Sciences and the Hyde Park Green Team to conduct pollution tests on the Neponset River.
Alkia Powell has been working with the Boston Police Department B-2 and B-3 divisions to bring UMass Boston student athletes to volunteer at the BPD¹s holiday events for local children. Also, in February, she helped with the planning and coordination of a local tour for students from Boston Public Schools of all the Massachusetts colleges headed by people of color, in association with the National Black College Alliance.
And finally, Mona Caspar-Connolly has been busy working behind the scenes, making sure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed. She is the friendly voice at the end of the phone when you call the Community Relations main line.
Many of you also know Charlie Titus, Vice Chancellor for Athletics and Recreation, Special Programs and Projects, Jain Ruvidich-Higgins, and Sherrod Williams, from Student Affairs. Together, these folks work with our Community Relations department to link up our students, especially student-athletes, with volunteer opportunities. They really help create a positive climate for our students and community.
Commitment to the community is what we're about and this event is really a high point in our year. It gives us a chance to talk about how important you all are to this university. We aim to be more than a good neighbor. We want to be your university. We want you to take pride in UMass Boston and truly feel a part of what goes on here.
By hosting this breakfast each year, we are able to celebrate this mission and honor individuals who are working on behalf of the community, committed to the values that we uphold as an institution.
The Chancellor's Award for Longstanding Community Commitment and Service recognizes individuals representing corporate community partners who have distinguished themselves in service to the community.
This year's recipient helped us make possible a huge initiative to benefit our communities over the last year. As the Clear Channel Outdoor Boston Division President, Mr. Stephen Ross leads all Clear Channel Outdoor business activities in Greater Boston. But in addition to his responsibilities to Clear Channel, and being a business leader, Stephen also believes in being a leader in his community. He understands the principles of giving back to the community, and feels a real obligation and responsibility to take care of the people and neighborhoods where he works.
Under Stephen's leadership, Clear Channel's Boston division has made generous donations to, and begun partnerships with, many charitable, civic, and governmental organizations that promote positivity and do great things in their communities. For instance, Stephen has entered Clear Channel into partnerships with the Girl Scouts, the Jimmy Fund, the Easter Seals, the FBI, and the Massachusetts State Police.
Now, back in October, UMass Boston got to join this esteemed group of organizations on the end of Stephen Ross's philanthropic spirit, when we came up with the idea of turning artwork from kids into peace-promoting billboards all over Boston. Over 20 teens from Boston, part of a Boston Police youth group, worked with UMass Boston community relations staff and graphic design teams to create posters based on the concept of "what peace means to them." We blew those posters up and then Stephen Ross & Clear Channel donated the printing costs, and the use of eight billboards located at various spots throughout the inner city. Because of Stephen Ross and Clear Channel, these billboards are all over the city, and will be until the fall you've probably seen them around Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury.
We are so grateful for Clear Channel's involvement in this effort, and especially for Stephen Ross's willingness to partner with us and help our ideas come to fruition. Truly, your work at Clear Channel demonstrates corporate commitment and community service which is why I am delighted to present the Chancellor¹s Award for Longstanding Community Commitment and Service to Stephen Ross.
Now we turn to the award for which this breakfast is known: The Robert H. Quinn Award for Outstanding Community Leadership.
As you all know, Bob Quinn has served the Commonwealth in so many ways: as Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, as Massachusetts Attorney General, and as Chair of the UMass Board of Trustees. He continues to inspire us today. This award is given only to those individuals who uphold the values embodied by Robert H. Quinn.
I ask that Robert Quinn please join me at the podium now for the presentation of the award we bestow in his honor.
This year's Quinn Award winner was born in Tehran to Armenian parents, moved to the United States in 1958, and graduated from Columbia College not long after. After studying architecture at Columbia University, he came to Boston to work as an activist for affordable housing.
In 1977, he was hired as a rehab specialist for Urban Edge, a community development corporation that works with residents, businesses, and government institutions to develop and sustain stable, healthy, and diverse communities in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury. In 1984, he became the head of the organization, a position he held until late last year. And although he is no longer CEO, he is still demonstrating his commitment to the organization by remaining active in Urban Edge's projects.
Under his leadership, Urban Edge has helped develop an amazing amount of affordable housing and retail and community facilities: 1,350 units of housing, and 81,500 square feet of retail and community facilities.
But this person's accomplishments and character cannot be measured in numbers and statistics alone. Which is why I want to share with you some of the wonderful words that his colleagues and peers have said about him.
Doug Foy, former Massachusetts senior secretary for housing and transportation, says, quote, "Over his extraordinary career, he has taught us what community development is all about. And in the process, he has helped to change the face of Boston and its neighborhoods. In his world, cities have always been the answer. His efforts have created housing, environmental, energy, and transportation solutions that are models for the country."
Joe Kriesberg, president of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, says that our award winner is "a unique leader, innovator, collaborator, and advocate, who was able to both see the big picture and work at the grassroots level."
Tina Brooks, undersecretary for Housing and Community Development in Governor Patrick's administration says, "He exhibited an unbridled enthusiasm, dedication, and passion for strengthening communities and making them places of opportunity for people from all walks of life and on all income levels. He continually challenged me and the rest of the public sector to be the very best we could be."
And finally, none other than Mayor Thomas Menino has fond words for our winner. He says, "His dedication will be sorely missed. He creates affordable housing. He just makes it happen even in difficult times."
Clearly, this is an individual who has been an outstanding community leader, and embodies all the values that our university holds dear.
We are pleased to present the 2011 Robert H. Quinn Award for Outstanding Community Leadership, to Mossik Hacobian.
Thank you all so much for being here this morning. I think it says a great deal about our community that each year, our difficulty is never finding enough candidates for these awards, but rather selecting from such an amazing group.
I encourage you all to stay in touch. Don¹t be a stranger. So much is happening here at the university.
Every month, I write a column in the Dorchester Reporter and less frequently in the Bay State Banner, South Boston Online, and other local publications. Those columns are full of news about the university, and we publish them on our own site underneath Chancellor¹s Communications, if you miss them in the papers. Our whole website, umb.edu, is another fantastic resource. Please stay connected, keep in touch, and think of us as your university.
I'd like to thank each of you here today for your own personal commitment to the community and invite you to return to campus soon.
Note: This is an edited version of Chancellor Motley’s remarks as prepared for delivery.