Yale and New Haven Honor Outstanding Community Leaders

Yale University President Richard C. Levin and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano honored 13 individuals and one organization with Yale University Seton Elm-Ivy Awards at a ceremony at Yale on April 13.

The Elm-Ivy Awards recognize individuals and organizations that have enhanced the many partnerships and collaborative endeavors between the university and its host city. Each year, a few of the outstanding efforts that sustain and enrich the “town–gown” relationship are recognized through these awards.

Elm Awards are given to members of the New Haven community, and Ivy Awards are given to Yale faculty, staff and students. The awards are so named for the stately elms that lined New Haven’s streets and earned it the name “Elm City” and for Yale’s membership in the Ivy League.

This year’s Elm Awards were given to Christine Bonnano, deputy economic development administrator in the City of New Haven; Bun Lai, proprietor of Miya’s Sushi restaurant; Lola Nathan, principal of Davis Street Arts and Academics Inter-district Magnet School; Father Victor Rogers, pastor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and founder of St. Luke’s Development Corporation; Sandra Trevino, executive director of Junta for Progressive Action; Eleanor Willis, librarian of the Cooperative Arts and Humanities Magnet High School.

Faculty/staff Ivy Awards were given to Robin Golden, head of the Law School’s Community and Economic Development Clinic; David Heiser, head of Peabody Museum’s educational and outreach programs; Alison Moriarty Daley, Associate Professor, School of Nursing; Yale University Staff African-American Affinity Group.

Undergraduate Ivy Awards were given to Eli Bildner, DC ‘10, CEO of ElmSeed Enterprise Fund;Allison Mak, JE ‘10, coordinator of Yale Athletics Outreach; Samuel Purdy, DC ‘10, leader of the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation.

The graduate/professional student Ivy Award went to Justin Freiberg, FES ‘10, leader of the Yale Farm/Yale Sustainable Food Project public school outreach program in the public schools.

The awards were established in 1979 through the inspiration and support of the late Fenmore Seton (Class of ‘38) and his spouse, Phyllis Seton, who established an endowment at the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven to fund the awards. The first Elm and Ivy Awardees were named in 1980. Since that time, 402 individuals have been honored.

The award citations for the honorees follow.

Christine Bonanno
City of New Haven
Chrissy Bonnano is a beloved daughter of New Haven, a proud graduate of Yale, and a consummate connector of the university with its hometown.

During her years in Yale College, she was active in civic life beyond campus, whether volunteering in community service or helping lead voter registration drives. More informally, she was a vivacious ambassador for New Haven amongst her undergraduate peers, turning fellow Yalies onto the delights of the Elm City.

In recent years, during her service as Deputy Economic Development Administrator for the City of New Haven, Chrissy was a key player in bringing numerous projects from vision to reality, helping rebuild downtown and neighborhoods in ways that will yield positive results for decades to come. She never sought credit, remaining focused on getting the team to achieve its goals.

She was a superb advocate for the community’s interests, a helpful navigator of the City’s bureaucracy, and a consummate professional in her dealings with Yale University staff in key campus development projects. Whether the deal was straightforward or complex, people always found Chrissy to be a delightful partner.

Bun Lai
Proprietor of Miya’s Sushi and community activist
Bun Lai is a lifelong New Havener who has committed himself to a career of serving healthy and sustainable food, connecting people in a joyful setting, and giving back to his community. His Miya’s Sushi Restaurant brings delight to tens of thousands of patrons each year and brings acclaim to the New Haven renaissance through the notice it has attracted in the media far beyond our region.

Like Sally’s and Louis’ Lunch, Miya’s is family-owned New Haven original. Founded by Bun’s mother in 1982 as New Haven’s first sushi bar, it has become the only sustainable sushi restaurant in the Northeast and now boasts the world’s largest vegetarian sushi menu. Its success can be counted in many ways, including the fact that the dining room remains full of happy people past midnight on the weekends. Bun gives back to the community that supports him, as Miya’s is a generous supporter of dozens of area nonprofits and of Yale community outreach programs.

You always know when you walk into Miya’s that you’ll get innovative, tasty food at a reasonable price— but you never know who you’ll meet, as Bun draws an amazing mix of long-time patrons from every corner of Yale and New Haven as well as an increasing assortment of visitors from around the nation and the world. Thanks to his charm and charisma, guests are often introduced to each other, so that a meal at Miya’s creates new friendships and builds community.

Lola Nathan
Principal of Davis Street Arts and Academics Inter-District Magnet School
Lola Nathan has dedicated her career of 42 years to working with New Haven children in the public schools, serving the last eight years as the dynamic principal of Davis Street. Under her leadership, the school has been ahead of the curve of national and local school reform — and its academic achievement results are showing the way for others.

Davis is a “Comer School,” utilizing the principles and practices of the School Development Program created by Dr. James Comer of the Yale Child Study Center. Lola Nathan and her colleagues walk the Comer walk, governing themselves in a collaborative fashion where every staff member’s input is solicited and welcomed. Likewise, the school focuses on children’s social development. They know that where there is a climate of good relationships, social and academic achievement increase.

Anyone who has visited Davis Street School can tell very quickly that it is a place full of good relationships and a positive climate for academic success. The results are also clear from statistics, as Davis Street has posted impressive gains in Connecticut Mastery Test results by its students. It is not surprising to those who know Lola Nathan that she has not taken these gains and external recognition as a time for self-congratulation. Rather, she is about the business of challenging herself further and encouraging her staff, colleagues and students to achieve even more.

The Reverend Dr. Victor A. Rogers
Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
Father Victor Rogers has served the historic Episcopal Church of Saint Luke’s on Whalley Avenue for many decades, extending its legacy of community service in new ways in this new millennium.

St. Luke’s has served New Haven since its founding in 1844, providing leadership in the fight against slavery, organizing missionary aid to Haiti in the 1860s, supporting the Girls Friendly Society in the early 1900s and sponsoring the Canterbury Gardens housing development in the 1960s.

Under Father Rogers’ stewardship and with talented and tenacious lay leadership, this tradition of service for community development has been renewed and taken to new levels in recent times. He and his congregation founded the St. Luke’s Development Corporation, with early seed funds from Yale University and ongoing support from the clinical faculty and students of the Yale Law School. Their vision and persistence led to the construction of a beautiful new structure at the key intersection of Goffe and Sperry streets that provides affordable, quality housing for senior citizens.

Father Rogers goes about his community organizing with a wonderful combination of gentleness and firmness. He is quick to give credit to others and patient in working through the complexities of financing, design, and construction. He always has a kind word and a life-affirming smile and regardless of his physical stature, he is recognized as a true giant for how he has made New Haven a truly more beloved community.

Sandra Trevino
Executive Director, Junta for Progressive Action
Sandra Trevino came to New Haven in 2003, as a Minority Social Work Fellow in the Yale Child Study Center, following her graduation with a master’s degree from the University of Texas-Pan American in her native state.

A clinical social worker specializing in childhood mental disorders, she was a clinical instructor for two years at the Child Study Center prior to her appointment as executive director of Junta for Progressive Action, the oldest Latino community-based nonprofit organization in New Haven.

Sandra is a bridge-builder, linking the vital resources of the university and other partners with individuals and families in the Latino community so that they can meet their highest aspirations. Under her leadership, partnerships between Junta and the Yale community have continued to flourish, with involvement by the Community Lawyering Clinic at the Yale Law School, students and programs from Dwight Hall at Yale, the Department of Psychology and the Child Study Center, the President’s Public Service Fellowship, and others. Thanks to her skills in making partnerships work for everyone involved, Sandra creates successful outcomes from Junta for thousands of Latino New Haveners every year.

Eleanor Willis
Library/Media Specialist, Co-operative Arts and Humanities Magnet High School
At the entrance to the Sterling Memorial Library is the inscription: “The Library is the Heart of the University.” So too, the library/media center is the heart of the Co-operative Arts and Humanities Magnet High School, thanks to the care and leadership of Eleanor Willis.

A librarian with the New Haven Free Public Library for 11 years, Eleanor joined the New Haven Public Schools in 1995, serving as librarian at Helene Grant and then the combined Wexler-Grant until her appointment as librarian at Co-op in 2009. Throughout her time in the public schools, Eleanor has made the school library vital by making it the center of a network of connections with resources outside of school walls.

At Wexler-Grant, she was an advisor to Yale College students tutoring in America Reads and America Counts. She brought Wexler-Grant students to countless activities on the Yale University campus, from tours of the Art Gallery, to concerts at the School of Music, and celebrations such as the Noah Webster 250th Anniversary.

Eleanor has applied her skills as a builder of “communiversity” with equal zeal now that she is at Co-op High School in its splendid new building one block from the Yale campus. There is hardly a day in the school year when there are not many Yale students, staff, or faculty working on-site at Co-op and many Co-op students, staff, and teachers doing programs in the Yale museums, libraries and other academic facilities. The vibrancy of the Co-op/Yale partnership is so strong because Eleanor Willis has been one of the most valuable players on the team that keeps it going.

Robin Golden
Selma M. Levine Clinical Lecturer, Yale Law School
Robin Golden is a trusted colleague and proven collaborator throughout the halls of Yale, the offices of City government, and the streets of New Haven’s neighborhoods. A graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School, she now leads the Law School’s Community and Economic Development Clinic. As a law student, Robin was among the founders of Amistad Academy. Prior to her current post, she served the City as Deputy Director of the Housing Authority of New Haven and as the Chief Operating Officer of the New Haven Public Schools.

The breadth and depth of the contributions she and the clinic make to the broader community are extraordinary. They provided more than a quarter million dollars of legal services to the Greater Dwight Development Corporation alone last year. They have also served the ROOF Project to help city residents save their homes and preserve neighborhoods with high rates of vacancy due to foreclosures. Other clinic partners include the CitySeed farmers market, New Haven Legal Assistance and a set of Dixwell neighborhood nonprofits.

Many people are dedicated lawyers and capable teachers. Robin is much more. As Dean Robert Post notes, “Robin is a force of nature. She displays constant good will, enthusiasm, and a commitment to the highest levels of excellence.”

David Heiser
Head of Education and Outreach, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
The Yale Peabody Museum has conducted educational programs with the New Haven Public Schools for over 80 years, but it was not until the last decade that the museum began to broaden its programming to engage the New Haven community more generally through the establishment of an Events Office to plan special public events for weekends and vacations. David Heiser ran the office for six years and his vision and hard work ensured that these activities have become hugely successful both in terms of visitor enjoyment and participation, and in strengthening the ties between the community and Yale.

In 2007, David became the Head of Education and Outreach at the Peabody where he has brought his deep belief in the importance of the Museum’s educational role in the community to enhance the Museum’s K-12 programs. Under his guidance, the annual Martin Luther King, Jr., and Fiesta Latina events have become stronger, new partnerships have been developed with individual schools such as Barnard and Columbus, teacher professional development programs have grown, and visits by school children to the museum exceed more than 25,000 annually.

David exemplifies the truth that the best connections between the City and University are those that involve collaboration, respect, and equal ownership from all participants. He does his work with boundless enthusiasm and enormous diplomacy and sincerity.

Alison Moriarty Daley
Associate Professor, Yale School of Nursing
Alison Moriarty Daley has been a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner specializing in adolescent health care since completing her master’s degree from the Yale School of Nursing in 1994. Since that time, she has made myriad contributions to the youth of New Haven.

In 1999, she developed and implemented a primary care clinic with the Hill Regional Career High School. There, and in her practice at the Adolescent Clinic at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Alison provides friendly health care for many of New Haven’s teenagers. As a teacher, she is helping train the next generation of care-givers, supervising hundreds of nurse practitioner students over the years.

Alison is a tireless advocate for adolescents and for making comprehensive health care services available to underserved teens through school-based health centers. She was tapped by Mayor DeStefano to co-chair his Task Force on Teen Pregnancy Prevention and has worked with community-based organizations like Planned Parenthood of Connecticut. In addition, she developed new programs to help urban youth avoid or stop smoking and she developed and conducts the first school-based program for grieving youth.

Yale University Staff African-American Affinity Group:
Inner-City Golf Program
The Yale University African American Affinity Group was established in early 2006 as part of a university-wide diversity initiative to build and sustain a strong African American community at Yale University.
In addition to being a model for other staff affinity groups on campus, the African-American Affinity Group has been an inspiration through its community service through the New Haven-Yale University Golf program.

Founded by a Yale College student who has since graduated, the free program was taken up and continued by the affinity group. New Haven youth in the program enjoy three days of instruction in both athletics and life-skills. The Yale program, part of The First Tee of Connecticut, promotes nine core values: courtesy, honesty, integrity, confidence, responsibility, judgment, respect, perseverance and sportsmanship.

The success of the program is due, in part, to the facilities on campus, including the Yale Golf Course. But the real reason is the leadership and involvement of a core group of Yale University staff members who volunteer as mentors and role models for the kids in the program.

Eli Bildner
Davenport College, Class of 2010
Eli Bildner has been among the most active of Yalies during his four years as an undergraduate. A leader in Yale Outdoors, he has a well-known enthusiasm for hiking, climbing, skiing and other outdoor adventures.

He has been equally active throughout the New Haven community, both through his service as vice president for social action of Yale Hillel in the past and, especially, as the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Executive Director of the Elmseed Enterprise Fund.

Elmseed is dedicated to creating “successful small businesses in New Haven by providing start-up capital, technical assistance, and a network of peer support.” Through their holistic approach to supporting local businesses, Elmseed goes beyond simply providing funds for businesses by providing training and business development support.

Eli directed Elmseed’s business training and loan disbursal programs, managed the executive board and a staff of 40 Yale students, coordinated the board of directors (comprised of professionals working in finance, law and academia) and supervised community outreach and development projects. Having issued 30 loans to more than 20 small business owners totaling nearly $60,000, Elmseed is unique in encouraging sustainable economic self-reliance in the greater New Haven area by motivating local entrepreneurs and supporting small businesses.

Allison Mak
Jonathan Edwards College, Class of 2010
Allison Mak has spent all four years of her undergraduate career serving Yale Athletics Outreach in various capacities. Now finishing her fourth year as a volunteer, Allie assumed the role of student Community Outreach coordinator, organizing all student outreach programs, in addition to the coordination of her own program, Bulldog Buddies, a tutoring and mentoring program where students go to the Mauro-Sheridan School for two hours each Friday to work with students. It offers a 1:1 tutoring ratio of student-athletes for ten 3rd and 4th graders for two hours each Friday.

In addition to these coordinator responsibilities, she served as the primary internal coordinator for Yale Athletics’ fall Youth Day, which brought over 500 New Haven youths to the Yale Bowl for sports clinics, a barbeque lunch, and time spent with Yale student-athletes. Allie was most proud of the Holiday Toy Drive, a program she helped to create, where teams adopted families and donated wrapped gifts to brighten their holiday season. From its founding three years ago, when only 15% of our 32 teams participated, she has helped improve that rate of participation to 95% — almost every varsity team.

Allie did all this while maintaining a full academic schedule and competing at the highest level as a member of the Yale Gymnastics Team. A four-year starter, she won on the balance beam at the ECACs, a first for a Yale Gymnast – and she did it after recovering from ACL surgery.

Samuel Purdy
Davenport College, Class of 2010
Samuel Purdy has dedicated himself to improving public school education and providing educational opportunities for New Haven youth throughout his time at Yale.

A stellar student majoring in History, Sam’s major extracurricular activity during his time at Yale has been with the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation Program, an academic enrichment summer program for students in New Haven’s middle schools and one of the longest-standing university/community partnerships. Sam began working with the program the summer after his freshman year, when he designed and taught a course for rising sixth graders on the history of the Civil Rights Movement, which the students learned through a close study of the rhetoric of speeches from the period.

The following year, he was appointed Co-Director of the 80-student program, while continuing to teach in the summer program. He oversaw the hiring of Yale students as the program’s teachers, the development of curriculum, and the planning of a teacher-training program and group-wide field trips and activities. During the summer, Sam worked with the teaching staff and the program’s Board of Directors and also kept in frequent contact with the students’ parents and families so as to better serve the extremely diverse student body. Since then, he has worked closely with the Board as a Special Adviser, assisted with the transition of the new directorial and teaching staffs, co-chaired the student admissions committee, and worked with the Development Committee on grant applications to secure funding.

Justin Freiberg
Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Class of 2010
New Haven and Yale University have both set ambitious goals for living and learning sustainably and Justin Freiberg has been a leader in applying the talents and resources of the university in the service of the broader community.

Justin has been a leader in CAFÉ – the Coalition on Agriculture, Food and the Environment, which educates FES and the larger Yale student body on the environmental issues and challenges of agriculture. The group also works actively with local farmers and producers. Justin also founded the Urban Foodshed Collaborative, helping introduce New Haven teens to environmentalism and entrepreneurship while providing area restaurants and residents with fresh, locally grown food. Through the collaborative, Justin and four New Haven high school students turned four vacant lots into sustainable gardens.

As a student worker on the Yale Farm on Edwards Street, he created a pilot program in 2008 with the Yale Sustainable Food Project to build relationships with the New Haven Public Schools. The program he began has a six-week curriculum for teaching and learning on the Farm. Over 40 undergraduate and graduate student volunteer were trained in how to teach young kids on the Farm. Lessons about soil and planting seeds began in the winter months and the young students completed their studies in the spring with a salad they grew themselves. Justin’s good idea and well-designed program has itself taken root and continued strong this year.