One is a tireless advocate for veterans in Massachusetts. The other has touched the medical world both locally and globally through her job as chief nurse at a major Boston hospital.
Both were honored at the 24th annual UMass Boston Community Breakfast on March 25.
Chancellor J. Keith Motley awarded South Boston native Thomas J. Lyons, manager of community services at MassHousing, with the Robert H. Quinn Award for Outstanding Community Leadership, which 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.
Massachusetts General Hospital Senior Vice President for Patient Care and Chief Nurse Jeanette Ives Erickson received the Chancellor’s Award for Longstanding Community Commitment and Service.
The breakfast, held in the Campus Center Ballroom, drew more than 200 community leaders, police, educators, and legislators, all there to celebrate longstanding, successful partnerships within UMass Boston. These partnerships are key to growing as a successful public university, Chancellor Motley said.
“Each and every one of you plays a role or will play a role in our future,” Motley said. “This is your public university. We welcome your presence. This is your University of Massachusetts Boston.”
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 Representative Martin Walsh, State Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, Boston City Councilors Bill Linehan and John Tobin, and Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis. Motley also spoke highly of Quinn, who attended the event with his wife, Claudina.
“Bob Quinn has served this Commonwealth well,” Motley said. “And he continues to inspire us today.”
Lyons, currently a Wakefield resident, has made it his mission to pay tribute to and secure services for veterans ever since he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps with five of his neighborhood friends, all South Boston High School graduates, in 1967.
“They went to Vietnam. Three of them did not return home,” Chancellor Motley said. “Our recipient did. He returned a decorated combat veteran. He returned as a soldier with a new mission—to serve our nation’s veterans and to honor the memory of those friends from Southie.”
Wanting to honor his friends and others like them, Lyons helped lead the effort to build a South Boston Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial— the first of its kind in the nation when it was unveiled in 1981. The memorial pays tribute to the 25 sons of South Boston who died in the Vietnam War.
“We accomplished so much more than we ever dreamed of that day,” Lyons said. “Simple ideas do have the power to change lives.”
The Boston State College graduate went on to found the Semper Fidelis Society of Boston, a charitable Marine Corps organization with more than 2,300 members, and serves on the Governor’s Veterans Advisory Council. He served as Boston’s deputy commissioner for veterans’ services and executive director at the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans before taking the job at MassHousing.
“All I’ve tried to do is step up where I can and hope that it made a difference,” Lyons said. “And so far I have not been disappointed.”
Erickson dedicated her Chancellor’s Award to the thousands of nurses she represents at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Under Erickson’s leadership, the Clinical Leadership Collaborative for Diversity in Nursing was formed between Partners HealthCare System and UMass Boston’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences. To date, 37 racially and ethnically diverse undergraduate nursing students have participated in this scholarship and leadership development initiative.
“We are truly committed to advancing the diversity of the nursing profession,” Erickson said. “We want to make sure every American has equal access to health care.”
Erickson is an instructor at Harvard Medical School, assistant professor at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions, visiting scholar at Boston College, and senior associate at The Institute for Nursing Healthcare Leadership. She developed new measures to evaluate innovations that influence professional nursing practice, which are being used by more than 25 healthcare institutions in six countries, and have been translated into Spanish and Chinese. Erickson has also led several humanitarian efforts, at one time even mentoring the chief nurse at the Basrah Children’s Hospital in Iraq.
“She has so many credentials,” Motley said. “The one that earned her this award is her willingness to devote her time and talents, working on behalf of the world-renowned institutions she represents, to help our local community and our global community.”
“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,” Motley said.