James J. Cassetta of WORK Inc. Receives Chancellor’s Award for Longstanding Community Commitment and Service
University of Massachusetts Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley honored Patricia “Pat” O’Neill, a lifelong Dorchester resident and community leader, with the Robert H. Quinn Award for Outstanding Community Leadership at the university’s 30th annual Community Breakfast on Thursday.
O’Neill, president of the Ashmont-Adams Neighborhood Association, has made Dorchester a stronger, more welcoming neighborhood through her many contributions.
She organizes several events, including food drives, the Memorial Day flag raising, the annual Chili Cook-Off leading up to the Dorchester Day Parade, and the annual Dorchester Tree Lighting Trolley Tour, which distributes 1,400 goodie bags to children. The Boston Main Street program has named O’Neill a Volunteer of the Year, and the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women honored her as one of its Unsung Heroines at a State House celebration.
“For me, community leadership is like being a concierge and stepping up to the plate when you see something isn’t right,” O’Neill said. “It is helping people find the avenue to what they need. It is pointing them to the bus stop, not driving the bus. That is what keeps a neighborhood strong.”
The Quinn Award was established in 1987 in honor of Robert H. Quinn, a former speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, former attorney general, and former chair of the UMass Board of Trustees. The award is presented annually by UMass Boston to honor individuals whose contributions have significantly improved the quality of life in the Boston area.
“We lost him in 2014, but his legacy continues here. We will never forget him,” Motley said. “He’s in our hearts. In fact, he remains a part of our campus each and every day.”
Also on Thursday, James J. Cassetta, president and CEO of Dorchester-based WORK Inc., received the Chancellor’s Award for Longstanding Community Commitment and Service.
WORK Inc. offers nationally recognized programming that provides employment and community-based opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Cassetta and his organization have utterly transformed the lives of thousands of individuals who gain confidence, opportunity, and independence through its programming.
Cassetta said he was humbled and surprised by the recognition.
“In this state there are 367,000 individuals between the ages of 18 and 60 who have disabilities. … If we ask any one of them what they would rather do, they would all say I want a job,” Cassetta said. “The unemployment rate amongst that population is 65-70 percent. We have a lot of work to do.”
Close to 300 people attended the community breakfast, including State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, State Representatives Dan Cullinane, Dan Hunt, and Evandro Carvalho, Boston City Councilors Frank Baker, Andrea Campbell, and Annissa Essaibi George, and Quincy City Councilor Ian Cain.
Boston Police Superintendent in Chief William Gross, Boston City Clerk Maureen Feeney, Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins, Carney Hospital President Walter Ramos, and New England Council President James Brett were also on hand.
Students from Paige Academy in Roxbury performed several songs for the crowd. Founder Angela Paige Cook was the 1994 recipient of the Quinn Award.
“Know that we cannot do this without you. We are so grateful to you. Know that we continue to need your support. This is your university, don’t you ever forget that,” Motley said.
Motley explained that UMass Boston’s success as a community resource that creates access and opportunity for all rests on the strength of its community. UMass Boston has an Office of Community Relations and Office of Community Partnerships tasked with strengthening the university's neighborhood presence, promoting civic engagement, and creating collaborative partnerships.
“Let’s get together, let’s partner, let’s make a difference, let’s make this great city of Boston what it’s supposed to be,” Motley said.
About UMass Boston
The University of Massachusetts Boston is deeply rooted in the city's history, yet poised to address the challenges of the future. Recognized for innovative research, metropolitan Boston’s public university offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 11 colleges and graduate schools serve more than 17,000 students while engaging local and global constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service. To learn more, visit www.umb.edu.