Cabrini to present state senator with Ivy Young Willis Award

By Melissa Steven
February 10, 2005

Strong activism in the world is an essential part of the Ivy Young Willis Award, an idea that Cabrini College reiterates yearly with the presentation of this award to a woman. The 2005 recipient will be Pennsylvania State Senator Connie Williams. The award will be presented on Thursday, March 17, at 7 p.m. in the Widener Center Lecture Hall.

The Ivy Young Willis Award started in 1992 at Cabrini College and is awarded to women who have made, and continue to make, creative and progressive contributions to improve the climate and conduct of public affairs. The award was created by Ivy Young Willis’ husband, William Willis, a retired political science professor from Temple University, and his daughter, Martha Dale, the director of alumni affairs at Cabrini College.

Ivy Young Willis was a teacher, school administrator and reading consultant in the Pittsburgh school system for over 20 years. She was a member of the League of Women Voters and World Affair Council in Philadelphia. She took a lifelong, lively interest in public affairs.

Dr. Jolyon Girard, history and political science professor, said that Willis set up a small fund and wanted a department to compete for an award that would honor their mother. Their goal, he said, “was to bring women of substance to the college to serve as role models to our students.”

Dale said that they chose Cabrini to host this award because of its small-school atmosphere and she is very pleased at how the school has handled the award.

In 1992, Cabrini presented the first Ivy Young Willis Award to Constance Clayton, school superintendent of Philadelphia. Cabrini promised to uphold the privilege of seeking out an individual each year to bring to the campus and present to the community about their contributions in the world.

Soon after the first recipient was announced, the award became more international as the 1993 recipient was the President of Nicaragua, Violetta Chamorro. Then Chai Ling, a Chinese civil rights activist, who led student protests in Tiananmen Square in the People’s Republic of China.

Girard explained that their method of choosing a recipient is quite simple. “We go out and literally find people of substance, women, who have made some contribution of significance to their community,” Girard said. However, they do not all have to be involved in politics. The 2003 recipient, Trudy Rubin, was a foreign policy columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer and in 2000, Happy Fernandez, president of the Philadelphia College of Art won the award.

There is no formal committee that chooses the nominees. Girard said that what he does is come up with ideas of who the award should go to and then he discusses it with other people from the history and political science department. Once they come to a consensus, the recipient is notified.

They then come for dinner at Cabrini’s mansion and afterwards, the winner gives her speech in the Widener Center Lecture Hall to which anyone is welcome to attend. Every year three students are given invitations to attend the dinner. The president of the History Club, the president of the student body and the editor in chief of the Loquitur all attend the dinner and lecture.

One recipient that the award has not been given to is someone from the corporate world. The award tries to be diverse in its recipients and is looking forward to including this new category in its list of recipients in the coming future.

Posted to the web by Ryan Norris

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Melissa Steven

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