On Nov. 15, Liberty Bank officials presented Eastern President Elsa Núñez with the 2012 Willard M. McRae Community Diversity Award at a gala reception in the Betty R. Tipton Room attended by more than 300 friends, family members, students, faculty, Eastern staff, bank officers and community leaders.
"In choosing the recipient of the award, we look not just for people who have given their time in service to community organizations, but for those who have made it their mission to make opportunities available to all," said Chandler Howard, president and CEO of Liberty Bank. "There is not a shadow of a doubt that Elsa Núñez is such a person."
Introduced in 2001 as the Liberty Bank Community Diversity Award, the award was renamed in 2009 in honor of Willard M. McRae, a past chairman and board member of Liberty Bank. It is designed to recognize an individual from the communities served by Liberty Bank who has been a leader in connecting people who are different -- whether those differences are of religion, race, ethnicity, economic status, age, or any other aspect of diversity.
As this year's award recipient, Núñez was able to direct a $5,000 charitable donation from the Liberty Bank Foundation to the nonprofit organizations of her choice. She selected the Eastern Connecticut State University scholarship fund to receive the donation.
In accepting the award, Núñez spoke passionately about the need to address the educational achievement gap: "The conditions for every American in our society are not what you and I consider fair. When we see that the college graduation rate for African American students is 20 percent lower than that of white students - and that Latinos are half as likely to finish college - we realize that we have to create change in our communities and our universities."
State Representative Susan Johnson was on hand at the award ceremony to present Núñez with a citation in her honor from the state legislature. Windham Mayor Ernest Eldridge presented best wishes from the town, recognizing Núñez's involvement in making educational opportunities available to local residents.
"Leadership is all about vision, and Dr. Núñez has a big vision," said Edward Osborn, director of university relations at Eastern, who nominated Núñez for the award. "In her mind, the 'tent' -- whether it is this campus, this community, this state, this nation, or the entire world -- includes all of us. Even with such a big vision, Dr. Núñez sees each person as the unique individual they are."
"There are five words that stick in my mind when I think of Elsa Núñez: Learn. Achieve. Give back. Repeat," said Chandler Howard in presenting the award. This is what this extraordinary woman has done with her own life--and what she encourages and enables every student, and indeed everyone around her, to do themselves,"