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Eastern Presents Ella T. Grasso Awards

Published on April 04, 2017

Eastern Presents Ella T. Grasso Awards

Eastern Connecticut State University presented its 2017 Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards on March 29 to student Valerie Vance ’17, Kinesiology and Physical Education Professor Anita Lee and retired educator Leigh Jones-Bamman. The awards recognize individuals who work to promote women’s rights and gender equality, and are given in memory of Ella Grasso, who became Connecticut’s governor in 1974, the first woman in America to be elected as governor in her own right. Previous women governors had succeeded their deceased husbands to gain the office.

“Ella Grasso noted years ago that there were no ‘foremothers’ among the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, only ‘forefathers,’” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “She saw it as a problem, and more than 40 years later, it is clear that we haven’t learned our history lesson. With a majority of our students at Eastern being females, we are graduating a powerful group of intelligent young women each year to assume their place in the halls of business, government, medicine, law and other professions. If we had more women in leadership positions…the world surely would be a better place.”

Vance, who won the student award, is a mother and veteran of the U.S. Navy. She earned an associate’s degree from Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, and is pursuing a bachelor of arts in sociology at Eastern. Vance is due to graduate with honors this coming May. She has a minor in gender studies and has taken a number of courses on racial and socioeconomic equality. Vance was honorably discharged from the Navy, earning the Armed Forces Expeditionary and Humanitarian Service medal during her enlistment.

Lee, winner in the faculty/staff category, joined Eastern in 2008. After showing outstanding skills as a classroom teacher, she was awarded tenure in 2014, and in fall 2015, began working as special assistant to the dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies for a two-year term. Lee has been a strong contributor to academic life at Eastern, ranging from serving on campus committees to participating in the strategic planning process and developing academic courses and programs. Lee has also led several national and regional committees in coaching education, measurement and evaluation in exercise science and student research. Lee earned her bachelor of arts in physical education and recreation studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. Both her MS in recreation management and her doctorate of physical education are from Springfield College.

Jones-Bamman, winner of the community award, received a bachelor of arts from Stanford University, a teaching credential from San Jose State University and her master’s degree from Central Connecticut State University in community psychology. Her career has focused on K-12 education, starting as a teacher in California, Oregon and Washington. Due to her interest in violence prevention, she worked at The Governor’s Prevention Partnership in Connecticut, providing training to schools in peer mediation, conflict resolution, mentoring and bullying prevention. She also chaired a committee of the Association for Conflict Resolution that developed national standards for school-based peer mediation programs. Jones-Bamman currently volunteers at Eastern’s Women’s Center and Unity Wing, the Windham Area Women and Girls Fund and EASTCONN’s adult ESL class in Willimantic.

Wildaliz Bermúdez, an advocate on energy, health care, legal aid and Latino issues in the Hartford mayor’s office, delivered the keynote address. Bermúdez encouraged students to set goals and to never give up on pursuing them.

Written by Dwight Bachman

Categories: Academics, Womens Center