Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards

“To see, to recognize, to understand — that is the spirit of humanism. It will teach you how to live and how to bring life to the world about you.” – Ella T. Grasso

The Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards Ceremony occurred last week, honoring members of the campus and local community who promote gender equality. Introductions were led by Women’s Center Ambassador, Ami Jallow, followed by a Welcome from President Elsa M. Núñez. Ms. Jallow then introduced the Keynote Speaker, Attorney Michelle Cruz. Following her speech, the awards were presented Stacey Close, Associate Vice President of Equity and Diversity, Rhona Free, Provost & Vice President of Academic Affairs, and Ken Bedini, Vice President of Student Affairs. Closing remarks were led by Ken Bedini, before attendees were invited to a reception in the Student Center Café for light refreshments and food.

The Division of Student Affairs would like to extend special thanks to:  William Bisese, Chartwells, Cliff Marrett, Melissa Nosal, Josh Sumrell, Steve Taylor, Gabby Wrobel and Leigh Balducci.

Community Award Recipient
Lee Ellen Terry, Women & Girls Fund Steering Committee Member
Lee Ellen Terry is a retired attorney who worked for many years in labor relations as an advocate for fairness and justice. Terry graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1970 with a B.A. in English Literature, and in 1972 with an M.A. in English literature. In 1974 she was hired by the Connecticut Education Association to organize and represent teachers in northeast Connecticut. Following nine years at CEA, Terry attended UConn Law School, graduating and passing the bar in 1986. After four years working as an attorney in Putnam and Storrs, Lee spent the rest of her career as an appeals referee for the Department of Labor’s Employment Security Division, where she adjudicated thousands of cases until 2004. A founder of the Windham Area Women and Girls Fund, Terry has provided leadership and involvement in several other civic groups serving Windham County, including Connecticut Legal Services. She is now a trustee for the Eastern Connecticut Community Foundation and was recently appointed chair of the Windham Area Women and Girls Fund Steering Committe. Her legacy is to honor those in her past who have loved and inspired her to be an example for her children, grandchildren, relatives, and friends — to continue the work that punctuated her career, for economic well-being, fairness and justice.

Faculty/Staff Award Recipient
Dr. Cara Bergstrom-Lynch, Department of Sociology at Eastern Connecticut State University
Cara Bergstrom-Lynch is an associate professor of sociology at Eastern. She received her B.A. from Wellesley College in 1997, and her M.A. in 2002 and Ph.D. in 2007 from the University of Michigan. Bergstrom-Lynch’s ongoing research and teaching interests address the intersections of gender and sexuality within families. She has published research in the Journal of Comparative Family Studies, the Journal of GLBT Family Studies and the Journal of Family Issues, among others. Bergstrom-Lynch is the 2014 recipient of the Service Learning Award given by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement. Bergstrom-Lynch is the faculty co-advisor to the Pride Alliance, the LGBT+ student group at Eastern, and serves on the Women’s Studies Advisory Board. She and her wife have two young daughters who they love very much. Her professional legacy is to inspire her students to apply what she has taught them about diversity, activism and critical consciousness in their own lives. On a personal level, Bergstrom-Lynch’s daughters are her legacy. Everything she teaches them about gender, women’s rights, LGBT rights and social justice goes back to how she wants the world to be for them.

Student Award Recipient
Erika Sanchez, Women & Gender Studies Major at Eastern Connecticut State University
Erika Sanchez’s mother came to the United States with a dream for a better life than the one she had in her native land of Mexico. The invaluable lessons she taught her four daughters — the value of a dollar, being kind and compassionate in all that one pursues — continue to influence Erika’s belief that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and given a chance to pursue their dreams. A first-generation student, Erika transferred to Eastern from Norwalk Community College to pursue a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies. She connects her education with her service in the community through her work at the Women’s Center and other opportunities. As a Chicana, Erika is deeply committed to combatting sexism and racism. Her involvement with the Bandana Project, designed to increase awareness of the sexual exploitation of migrant workers, is one example of her service. Erika is completing her capstone work in Women and Gender Studies under the guidance of Professor Joan Meznar. Her research analyzes the contributions of undocumented Mexican workers, with particular attention to generational changes and their impact on immigrant women’s lives. Erika’s legacy is to encourage others to embrace their culture and take pride in their roots. She aims to honor women who have silently contributed to history. She is because they were.

Keynote Speaker
Attorney Michelle Cruz
Michelle Cruz is a graduate of the University of Connecticut’s School of Law.  She holds a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College and an associate’s degree in the Administration of Justice. Cruz served as an assistant district attorney in Massachusetts, where she specialized in prosecuting crimes involving victims of sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence. In 2007, she was appointed by Governor M. Jodi Rell as the state victim advocate of Connecticut to run the state’s victims’ rights enforcement agency. Cruz worked to improve the field of domestic violence, drafting several investigative reports which led to sweeping changes to the state’s response to domestic violence. She advocated for laws that enhanced the rights of victims and shed light on flaws within the Risk Reduction Earned Credits program. In 2013, she opened her own private law practice and now has offices in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. She has published numerous articles and has made frequent media appearances on radio and television. Cruz’s column, “Truth Serum,” appears regularly in the Connecticut Law Tribune.