Local DA wins Ivy Young Willis award

By Ransom Cozzillio
March 21, 2012

Risa Ferman

With a commitment to social justice and all those who carry that mantle, Cabrini College honored the Montgomery County District Attorney with an award and guest speaking opportunity for  their exemplary work in the field of justice and the community.

Risa Vetri Ferman, district attorney of Montgomery County, was awarded the 19th annual Ivy Young Willis Award and spoke at a ceremony held at the Woodcrest Mansion on Thursday, March 15.

The Ivy Young Willis Award and the accompanying guest speech, is given each year by the History and Political Science departments in recognition of a woman who has had a meaningful effect or made an important contribution their community.

“It’s so meaningful to all of us to have everyone here each year during this presentation and speech,” Dr. Marie Angelella George, president of Cabrini College, said of the ceremony. “It’s certainly a testament to the importance of this award, which has had a lasting effect on the college, community and the recipient.”

Ferman was selected for the award based on her numerous contributions to the community as a prosecutor and district attorney as well as her many social justice-focused initiatives she has enacted while in that office which tie deeply with the social justice curriculum proffered by Cabrini College.

“Cabrini College is so focused on social justice, they make that such a core part of their curriculum, whatever the subject matter, their focus on justice in our community is always paramount,” Ferman said. “It’s for that reason that this award means so much to me, because it dovetails so perfectly with what has been a priority for me.”

As the first female district attorney in Montgomery County history, Ferman has championed numerous causes and programs such as establishing an elder care unit for crimes against the elderly, co-founding the Montgomery County Child Advocacy Project to provide free legal services aimed toward children and serving as a state Supreme Court appointee on the criminal procedures and rules committee.

“We needed to change the way we treated children when dealing with crimes and investigations,” Ferman said. “There were deficiencies and inefficiencies in how kids who were involved in investigations and criminal situations were handled. We worked to make this process easier for them.”

But there is more to the Ivy Young Willis Award and her work than a collection of bestowed titles and programs. There are the underlying causes for which they stand. These causes, and those they seek to help or protect, serve as pillars on which a community is, in part, built. By supporting and furthering the interests of these pillars, Ferman, like all previous recipients of the award, is committed to improving the community for all.

“It’s about more than just the tests you go through on a daily basis,” Ferman said.  “For me, it’s about how you can take what you do and make the community better, bring justice to all the people.”

She noted that, despite actualizing her social justice values so effectively from her position as a district attorney, the desire to effect positive changes in the community and for others has always been present.

“I have had incredible blessings and luck in my life and I feel like I have the obligation to give back and find ways to do that in a meaningful way,” Ferman said. “For me, the meaningful way is to take my role in the criminal justice system and branch out, thinking outside the box and better protect the people in the community.”

The Ivy Young Willis Award and the guest speakers it honors continue to positively represent the school and its commitment to social justice. By striving for justice, especially for those who have been marginalized before, Ferman continues the rich tradition of the award, Cabrini College’s commitment to social justice and those that work to its benefit.

“Not only does she seek justice, but she lives out social justice and I think her life and work come together perfectly for this award,” Dr. Darryl Mace, associate professor of history and political science, said.

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Ransom Cozzillio

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