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Ella Grasso Award Winners

Written by Julianne Bass

Willimantic, CT -- Students Heather Cyr '11 and Christina Vann '12, retired Eastern Psychology Professor Ann Marie Orza and community member Diane Tarricone were named recipients of Eastern Connecticut State University's 2011 Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards on March 30 at a ceremony in the J. Eugene Smith Library.

The Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards are presented annually to students, faculty and staff and community members in the Willimantic area who have shown an unwavering commitment to the advancement of the rights of women and the ending of gender inequality.

"Ella Grasso was a role model and still is an inspiration to many people," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. "When I was a young professor in New York I used to go to Bella Abzug's speeches. She used to say, 'We may not have been at the Last Supper but we certainly will be at the next one.' Gains have been slow and steady and I am very proud of the women we honor tonight."

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Cyr and Vann both exemplify the dedication to women's rights reflected in the Grasso Award.  Cyr recently was named the recipient of the Connie Campo Award, which recognizes students in the English Department who show commitment to diversity and women's issues. She has worked as a teaching assistant in Introduction to Women's Studies courses, where she helped 70 students navigate through their coursework with ease. Cyr also participated in Southern Connecticut State University's annual Women's Studies Conference, not usually open to undergraduates, where she presented a paper she wrote that focused on incorporating community activism and feminist principles into the classroom.

Grasso Award - vann.JPGVann has been an active participant in numerous Women's Center programs. She recently spearheaded the 2011 Vagina Monologues production, which she also organized in 2010. She helped coordinate the Take Back the Night event designed to increase public awareness of sexual violence; helped with guest lecturers for University Hour; developed the Women's Center website; and documented the history of the Women's Center. She recently was accepted into Eastern's Early Childhood Education program and was awarded the program's Minority Teachers Scholarship.  

During her 27 years at Eastern, Professor Orza focused heavily on empowering women through her teaching, mentoring, research and curriculum development. Orza prided herself on mentoring thousands of students, helping them find jobs and internships; taking some into her home when they had nowhere else to go; and acting as a role model. Thumbnail image for grasso award orza.JPG

One of her proudest achievements was the development of the first course at Eastern on the psychology of women, now one of the liberal arts core courses and one of the most popular courses at the University. Orza was a leader in the development of the Women's Studies minor and the Women's Center. She also was a member of WVIT-TV's public affairs show, "What About Women," serving on the board for more than 20 years.

Tarricone, has served in the mental health field for 25 years through numerous counseling positions at the Rainbow Center at the University of Connecticut; the Partial Hospital Program at Natchaug Hospital; and as an adjunct faculty member in the Psychology Department at Eastern since 2005, and at Goodwin College since 2002.

Thumbnail image for Grasso Award tarricone.JPGA major focus for Tarricone has been her service as director of the Next Step Cottage, a work release and substance abuse treatment program in Willimantic designed to help women re-renter the community after incarceration. The program helps participants develop independence, responsibility and job skills through therapy and a 12-step program. Tarricone stresses the importance of education, art and culture to those in the program encouraging them to attend events at Eastern.


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