One man advocates for affordable housing. The other promotes messages of peace on city billboards.
Both were honored at the 25th annual University of Massachusetts Boston Community Breakfast on March 22.
Chancellor J. Keith Motley awarded East Boston resident Mossik Hacobian, an outspoken champion of affordable housing and former president of the Urban Edge community development corporation, with the Robert H. Quinn Award for Outstanding Community Leadership.
The Quinn Award was established in honor of Robert H. Quinn, the former speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, former attorney general, and former chair of the UMass Board of Trustees.
Clear Channel’s Outdoor Boston Division President Stephen Ross, of Andover, received the Chancellor’s Award for Longstanding Community Commitment and Service for his division’s generous donations to, and partnerships with, many charitable, civic, and governmental organizations that promote positivity in their communities.
The breakfast, held in the Campus Center Ballroom, drew more than 100 community leaders, police, educators, and legislators, all there to celebrate longstanding, successful partnerships within UMass Boston.
"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," Chancellor Motley told the crowd. "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."
Before presenting the awards, Motley recognized Assistant Vice Chancellor of Community Relations Gail Hobin and other university staff responsible for forging partnerships and reaching out to Boston’s many neighborhoods. He thanked the legislators and public officials who attended, including State Representatives Martin Walsh and Paul McMurtry, and Robert Quinn and his wife Claudina.
The Quinn Award is presented annually by UMass Boston to honor individuals whose contributions have significantly improved the quality of life in the Greater Boston area.
Hacobian was born in Tehran to Armenian parents, moved to the United States in 1958, and studied architecture at Columbia University. He came to Boston to work as an activist for affordable housing, and in 1977 he was hired as a rehab specialist at Urban Edge. He became the organization's president in 1984.
He has dedicated himself to developing and sustaining stable, healthy, and diverse communities. Under his leadership, Jamaica Plain-based Urban Edge has helped develop 1,350 units of affordable housing, and 81,500 square feet of retail and community facilities.
“Mossik Hacobian has helped change the face of Boston and its neighborhoods for the better,” Motley said. “Although he is no longer CEO of Urban Edge, he is still demonstrating his commitment to the organization by remaining active in Urban Edge’s projects.”
Ross was nominated for the Chancellor's Award for his work promoting positive messages in the community, most recently by donating the printing costs and use of eight billboards across Boston for UMass Boston’s “Peace: What’s it to you?” campaign.
Last October, teens in the Boston Police Department’s Youth & Police in Partnership and District B-2 Summer Explorers created posters promoting peace and tolerance in their communities. Designers at UMass Boston used the posters to create two billboards showcasing the work. The billboards are up in Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury through the fall.
"In addition to 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," Chancellor Motley said.
Under Ross' leadership, Clear Channel has partnered with the Girl Scouts, Jimmy Fund, Easter Seals, FBI, and Massachusetts State Police. "It's not just our opportunity," Ross said. "It's our responsibility."
Watch video from the Community Breakfast on the UMass Boston YouTube Channel.