Cabrini honors State Rep. Jennifer O’Mara


By Chris Perri
September 26, 2023

Rep. Jennifer O'Mara (left), accepts the Ivy Young Willis and Martha Willis Dale Award. Photo by Chris Perri.
Rep. Jennifer O'Mara (left), accepts the Ivy Young Willis and Martha Willis Dale Award. Photo by Chris Perri.
Dr. Courtney Smith opened the ceremony. Photo by Chris Perri

On Thursday, Sep. 14, Cabrini honored Pennsylvania State Representative Jennifer O’Mara was honored at a ceremony in recognition of her service to her community. O’Mara received the school’s Ivy Young Willis and Martha Willis Dale Award.  

The ceremony took place in the Woodcrest Mansion foyer. Dr. Courtney Smith, chair of Cabrini’s history and political science department, and Dr. Michelle Filling-Brown, dean of Academic Affairs, facilitated the event. 

History of the award

The Ivy Young Willis and Martha Willis Dale Award is given out annually to a woman who makes significant contributions to civic life. A small glass plaque is presented to the recipient. The prize was established in 1992 by John G. Willis to honor his wife, Ivy. Past honorees include Me Too movement founder Tarana Burke and CBS 3 anchor Pat Ciarrocchi. 

“Martha Dale sent a memo to six of the departments in the college, and said ‘We want to do something for my mother,’” explained Dr. Jolyon Girard, professor emeritus of history and political science. “We submitted a proposal. We said ‘We’ll bring a woman every year to give a talk, and she’ll be a woman of substance.’ [Dale] gave us the project.” Dale served as Cabrini’s alumni director for 26 years.

Meet Rep. O’Mara

On Nov. 6, 2018, O’Mara won her seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, representing the 165th district. Her constituency includes Springfield and Upper Providence Townships, and Media, Morton, and Swarthmore boroughs.  In the House, she serves on several committees, including Transportation and Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness

The event began with opening remarks from Smith, followed by a reflection from junior history, political science, and secondary education major Emma Law. Afterward, Filling-Brown introduced the award and gave a brief background on O’Mara before introducing her. Fr. Fidelis Olokunboro, a professor of philosophy and theology at Cabrini, gave final remarks.  

In her acceptance speech, O’Mara spoke about her academic background and involvement in civic life from an early age, as well as what drove her to run for office. She also expressed her gratitude to Cabrini for recognizing her. 

Recognizing the good

“It’s important to recognize people who are extraordinary in their public service, because that’s overlooked,” Smith said. “People who gain the most attention are people who do something bad or scandalous, so I think it’s important to show the extraordinary people who are doing great things in their communities.”

Girard spoke highly of O’Mara following the ceremony. “She’s a good example of all the other women that have been honored. She knew what she was doing, was effective, and she seemed sincere,” Girard said. “What more could you ask? I had nothing to do with selecting her, but I’m glad somebody did.” 

Rep. O’Mara addresses the audience. Photo by Andrew Stovenour.

Dr. James Hedtke, professor of history and political science, shared the same sentiment. “She really has the best interest of society. What I like about her the most is that she’s truly not Democratic or Republican. She’s for the people,” he said. “I lived in her district for a while, and she was the best representative we ever had.”  

O’Mara shared some advice for those who are considering going into public service or running for office. “To anyone interested in going into public service, that you should do it. There is a role for you. If you don’t want to be the candidate, you could run a campaign,” she said.  “Campaigns need people who are good at graphic design, data analysis, all sorts of things. If you want to impact policy through campaigns or government, there is a way and there is a place for you no matter your skill set.”


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Chris Perri

My name is Chris Perri, and I'm a sophomore digital communications and social media major from Havertown, PA. This is my first year working on the Loquitur, and I look forward to learning how to report accurately and effectively, as well as working with and learning from the editors and photographers. My main interests within reporting are sports, current events, and local news. After college, I hope to pursue a career in journalism or somewhere in the social media industry. I'm hoping to possibly intern in the field of social media marketing, which is a specific interest of mine. Outside of school, I'm passionate about listening to and writing music. I've played the guitar since 2016, and spent time in a band from 2017-2020. I also hope to get into photography and videography, which I took an interest in after taking a basic photography class in high school, as well as video production here at Cabrini.

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