Honoring Town-Gown Partners

Yale President Richard C. Levin and City Chief Administrator Robert Smuts, representing New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., presented 13 Seton Elm-Ivy Awards at a ceremony on April 30 in the Presidents Room at Yale University.

The awards were established at Yale in 1979 by Fenmore Seton, Yale Class of 1938, and his wife Phyllis. The honors evolved from the Elm and Ivy Fund, also created by the Setons, which identifies individuals from New Haven and Yale whose work enhances understanding and cooperation between the city and university. The awards are so named because New Haven is called the “Elm City” and Yale is in the Ivy League.

Elm Awards are given to members of the New Haven community, and Ivy Awards to Yale faculty, staff and students. This year’s Elm Award winners were Theresa Argento, Dolores Garcia-Blocker, Lindy Lee Gold, Isiah Mack, Christopher Ozyck and Dolores Townshend. Ivy Award winners were Robert Blocker, Kathrine Burdick, Dianne Davis and Curtis Patton. Student Ivy Award winners were Jessica Bialecki, Brian Edwards and Gabriel Hernandez. The citations read at the ceremony honoring this year’s winners follow.

Elm Awards

Theresa Argento
Community Activist and Cultural Leader

New Haven would not be the vital place we know it as today without Theresa Argento. We would not know New Haven as it once was, without Theresa Argento and her work to preserve the culture and heritage of our community.

The daughter of Italian immigrants who owned the beloved Carrano’s fruit market in Wooster Square, Theresa has worked selflessly for decades to celebrate and carry forward our City’s extraordinary Italian-American heritage. Together with Pasquale, her late husband of more than 50 years, Theresa raised a wonderful family – including a granddaughter pursuing doctoral studies now at Yale University, and at the same time she has given of her time and talent to serve others. Through her care and nurturing of a vibrant extended community, Theresa has shown that in New Haven, wherever we come from, we are all part of one extended family.

The longtime president of the St. Andrew’s Ladies Society, Theresa has played an essential role in the annual feast of St. Andrew enjoyed annually by thousands. Among her many legacy efforts, she established, with Yale University’s support, funds to provide college scholarships to children of Amalfitano descent. A lifelong parishioner of St. Michael’s Church, she has been a pillar of faith and key to the work to restore the church to its extraordinary beauty. Theresa was a prime catalyst and key organizer in reviving the Columbus Day Parade.

In all these efforts, Theresa has reached out to her neighbors at Yale University to include students, staff and faculty in the commemoration, celebration and perpetuation of New Haven’s Italian-American heritage. Likewise, Theresa has been a key communicator for sharing information about Italian heritage events at Yale with neighbors in the broader New Haven community.

Dolores Garcia-Blocker
Principal, Cooperative Arts and Humanities Magnet High School

Dolores Garcia-Blocker, principal of Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, is an outstanding champion of arts and culture for New Haven young people. She has led this great regional magnet high school to new heights and is poised to go even farther as the school prepares to enter its new downtown home in the fall.

During her tenure at Co-op, she has been a gracious and enthusiastic partner with Yale University, creating opportunities for her students to spend time on Yale’s campus in classes, museums and libraries as part of their course-work during the school year. Together with Yale’s four schools of the fine and performing arts, the University’s art museums and other departments, Dr. Garcia-Blocker is creating an intergenerational community of learners and practitioners in the arts that stands proudly with the best in the nation.

Her own knowledge of Yale University and its partnerships with its hometown reach back to her own youth, when Lola, a New Haven native, was a student in the Ulysses S. Grant program on campus. A graduate of Spelman College and Columbia University, she gained success as a principal in New York before returning to New Haven, a place she loves and where she wanted her own children to grow up.

Lindy Lee Gold
Civic Activist

If one were to prepare a sheet that listed the worthy causes that Lindy Lee Gold has not helped in some way or another, that sheet would undoubtedly be a blank page.

If there is something good worth doing in town, Lindy does it. If there is something positive worth celebrating, Lindy celebrates it. If there is someone hurting somewhere, Lindy helps out. If two people don’t know each other, Lindy gets them together.

A catalyst, a connector, a celebrator and an occasional kvetcher, Lindy is one of those people who seems to do it all – and she does it always with enthusiasm and panache. As an entrepreneur with her own business on Broadway in the past and now as an official with the state Department of Economic and Community Development, Lindy has helped grow the economy for New Haven and the state.

But giving only at the office is not enough for Lindy. She has provided untold thousands of hours of her own free time as a volunteer. True to her own heritage, she has been a worker and leader for Jewish charitable organizations. Rooted in her own community, Lindy shares respect for the Anti-Defamation League’s work to combat all forms of hatred. Her circles of care and influence include all groups, and she has been present from the creation in the success and growth of Casa Otonal.

In her work with the ADL, the Jewish Federation, Casa, the Shubert Theatre, the Arts Council and so many other vital community groups, Lindy has been a connector with Yale University, linking people and resources from the university with individuals and organizations making a difference in our hometown.

Lindy Lee Gold is a dynamo and a New Haven original. She proves that good work can be good fun, and that a life of community service is the only life worth living.

Isiah Mack
Bristol Street Blockwatch and Dixwell Management Team

Isiah Mack is the president of the Bristol Street Blockwatch Association and a community leader in the Dixwell neighborhood. Each summer he works with neighbors to organize an annual August blockwatch celebration for the entire Dixwell community held in Scantlebury Park. The celebration draws families, youth, seniors and members of the Yale community and provides an opportunity for residents to socialize and learn about education, health and cultural resources located in an around New Haven.

Last year, in partnership with the Yale Urban Resources Initiative, Isiah helped lead a group of neighbors in transforming a barren urban lot into a Southern garden oasis. This garden is a favorite spot for the many Dixwell seniors who live along Bristol Street.

Mr. Mack is a former vice chair of the Dixwell Management Team that coordinates neighbors’ effort to improve the neighborhood. During his vice chairmanship of the committee, he supported neighbors’ efforts to expand and improve Scantlebury Park — efforts that will come to fruition this year as the City undertakes a project funded by Yale that will double the size of the park and add to its amenities. When the neighborhood gathers for its annual August blockwatch celebration, everyone will enjoy the fruits of the many years of work he has put into not only strengthening his block, but the entire Dixwell community.

Christopher Ozyck
Urban Resources Initiative

Chris Ozyck is the Greenspace Manager for the Urban Resources Initiative program at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Since he began in this position in 2000, he has closely mentored 50 interns, guiding them as they work on environmental issues in New Haven’s neighborhoods.

In 2007, URI started a new program that trains high school students in environmental job skills. Chris led two high school student teams and four FES student interns in planting 50 street trees in the fall of 2007. The success of the pilot program led to a projected spring 2008 program that will involve three groups planting 100 trees in three additional neighborhoods. Chris works the students hard by working hard himself, and his strong work ethic had been a good model and example for the students.

Throughout New Haven’s neighborhoods, Chris is widely known as someone who will support community-driven environmental projects. He has been involved in and led numerous green initiatives including being lead organizer for the Vision Trail, the Harbor Trail and 2007 historic Quinnipiac River Loop Trail. He is the founding president of the board for the Elm City Parks Conservancy and the newly formed water pollution mitigation endowed fund.

His leadership is well known and respected throughout City Hall and has earned him the distinction of being named on the City’s website as the person to contact when you’d like to request a tree to be planted by the New Haven Department of Parks, Recreation & Trees. Neighbors know that Chris’ concern for local environmental problems is genuine and that he will follow through to insure positive results.

Doris B. Townshend
Community Historian

Deb Townshend is a modest woman who has had an immense and positive impact on her community. None of her six books and numerous articles on local history contain much of the typical promotional blurbs authors have written about themselves — all are simply essential compendia of the stories of our place and how it came to be. While never seeking the spotlight herself, Deb Townshend has shone a bright and lasting light on New Haven’s past that illuminates our present and offers guidance for the future.

A daughter of Delaware, Deb married Harry Townshend, joining a magnificent New Haven family and carrying on their legacy of generosity and preservation. Their marriage and continuous civic involvement have been a blessing for New Haven for decades, enriching our community in countless ways.

While you will not see Deb’s name in lights or carved in foot-high letters around town, the results of her quiet, persistent labor are all around us. She has been a primary force in the restoration of Fort Nathan Hale and was the catalyst for the creation of a monument honoring the Quinnipiacs, the first people of our region. She is a true pillar of the community, supporting the First Church, the public library, the Grove Street Cemetery and other important locations in New Haven.

A teacher without an assigned classroom, Deb works and writes so that young people and future generations will have access to our community’s history. Her most recent book chronicles the Quinnipiacs and is written for middle school students. She has also been a generous interlocutor for scholars from Yale and has graciously shared her time and knowledge with her neighbors at the university.

Ivy Awards

Robert Blocker
Henry and Lucy Moses Dean, Yale School of Music

If music is the food of life, New Haven and Yale University are the best-nourished places on earth, thanks in large measure to Robert Blocker.

From its beginnings, Yale University has been dedicated to the service of the wider world, charged with educating students for service to the community. Likewise, at its founding more than a century ago, the Yale University School of Music concerned itself with music education and music for the public.

But just as the university’s earliest founders could not have imagined how broad and deep Yale’s impact would be, neither could the School of Music’s founders have imagined how extensive and extraordinary the community education programs of that school have become under the stewardship of Dean Blocker.

He has galvanized his school to launch a nationally admired program with the New Haven Public Schools and excited Yale alumni donors to be partners. The Class of ’57 Music Education Project now reaches more than 20 New Haven public schools and involves more than 40 Yale School of Music students. The program has helped make music an integral part of life and learning and in the public schools, regular nourishment for the mind and the soul rather than an occasional treat.

Under Robert’s leadership, the Yale School of Music itself has achieved new splendor and the New Haven community at large has benefited enormously. The calendar of concerts sponsored by the School of Music is truly astonishing, with outstanding offerings in abundance and almost always free of charge and open to the public.

Kathrine Burdick
Dwight Hall at Yale University

Kathrine Burdick will soon retire after a decade of devoted service as the General Secretary of the Dwight Hall at Yale University, the undergraduate center for public service and social justice. Tellingly, there are probably more mentions about Kathrine in stories about this transition than there were headlines about her during her tenure. She is no seeker of the limelight, but rather a true servant leader whose impact is measured by the success of others, not the glory she accumulates herself.

Dwight Hall at Yale University has deep roots, a rich legacy, and a wonderful future, but Kathrine came to her post following some turnover and turmoil. It did not take her long to set a new tone, to put student leaders and volunteers first, and to create a context of cooperation within the Hall and among its partners.

In her role as General Secretary, she has served as an advisor to Yale students in all the various aspects of the work of Dwight Hall, including program development, education and training, program management, Yale and community partnerships, public relations, finances and fundraising. In every one of these areas, Dwight Hall at Yale has grown and improved, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

You will not find Kathrine’s own fingerprints very visible on any of those achievements, as she has been the convener, the nurturer and guide who has let others do their own thing – but do it better, more effectively and more wisely than they would have on their own without Kathrine’s care and support.

As she prepares to leave Dwight Hall at Yale University, Kathrine Burdick leaves this historic place better than when she came, true to its roots of service and well prepared to nurture and educate future generations of servant leaders for New Haven and beyond.

Dianne Davis
University Church

Dianne Davis is someone who serves New Haven and Yale University with faithful consistency while seeking neither fanfare nor recognition – but with simple threads of engagement, linking town and gown. A graduate of the Yale School of Nursing, Class of 1972, she works in service to the community as a geriatric case manager at the Yale-New Haven Hospital.

For the last decade, Dianne has been a steadfast member of the University Church in Battell Chapel where she has been a leader in strengthening the bonds of congregants with the greater New Haven community.

She served as moderator of the church during a major period of transition to a non-denominational church. Her leadership created a context where all voices could be heard and common ground discovered.

Through the transition, she helped create new processes and practices to ensure church members not formally affiliated with Yale University had an important and continuing role in the University Church community and governance.

Just as she has helped the University Church remain welcoming to all, so too has she linked Yale University students active in the church with important work in New Haven. A zealous advocate for faith-based service, Dianne leads a service group for the Columbus House shelter and has been the most active proponent of championing the use of the Church’s benevolence funds to support New Haven-based organizations.

Curtis Patton, M.D.
Yale School of Public Health

Curtis Patton is an emeritus professor in the Yale School of Public Health and a prominent figure throughout the campus and the broader community. During his 36-year tenure at Yale he led many research efforts aimed at improving public health and has served in a variety of administrative capacities including head of the Division of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases and acting head of the Division of Global Health.

In the summer of 2004, he was asked by President Richard Levin to help re-establish and chair the Minority Affairs Committee (MAC). This committee gives advice on the appropriateness of University policies related to minority groups. He also serves as chair of the Committee on International Health which awards Downs Fellowships to Yale students who undertake biomedical, medical, nursing or public health research in developing countries.

Yale’s recognition of Edward A. Bouchet, a distinguished New Havener, Yale College’s first African-American graduate, and the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. anywhere in the nation is due in part to Dr. Patton. Bouchet became a hero of Patton’s while he was an undergraduate student at Fisk University. Since his arrival at Yale, he has worked with enormous success to ensure that Bouchet become known throughout campus and community and serve as an inspiration for current and future generations. Thanks to Curtis, you go into just about any classroom in town and find young people who know who Edward Bouchet was and what he accomplished.

His care for the power of history to inspire the present and make a better future also has led him to celebrate the work and legacy of Dr. Cortlandt Van Rensselaer Creed, another distinguished New Havener and the first African-American graduate of Yale University. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Creed’s graduation from the Yale School of Medicine in 2007, Dr. Patton and his colleagues organized a series of events culminating in the dedication of a new permanent memorial to Dr. Creed at the Grove Street Cemetery.

Undergraduate Ivy Awards

Jessica Bialecki
Yale College Class of 2008

Jessica Bialecki, a Yale College senior, is the immediate past co-chair of the student executive committee of Dwight Hall at Yale University, the undergraduate center whose mission is “to foster civic-minded student leaders to promote service and activism in New Haven and around the world.” As an active leader in Dwight Hall since her first semester at Yale, she has developed thoughtful approaches to meeting ambitious goals within organizations and initiatives that require nuanced contextual understanding of community issues.

Jessica has been committed to the New Haven community all of her life. She grew up in New Haven and graduated from Wilbur Cross High School. At Yale she has served as a President’s Public Service Fellow at the New Haven Ecology Project and she founded the Yale Freshman Day of Service. For the past two years, Jessica has been the president of Best Buddies at Yale, a program that pairs Yale students with adults in New Haven with intellectual disabilities. Working with City officials, Jessica championed a program to encourage members of the Yale community to register for the new Elm City Resident’s card.

Her colleagues in Dwight Hall, across campus and throughout the community all speak of her infectious enthusiasm, her passion for New Haven and her willingness to sweat the details and do the hard work. She has been an extraordinary ambassador in uniting her hometown and her university.

Brian Edwards
Yale College Class of 2008

Brian Edwards, a Yale College senior, worked with the New Haven Public School’s math department to institute Mathcounts, a partnership between Yale University and the New Haven Public Schools that promotes mathematics through organized math competitions for New Haven Public School youth.

In the 2006-2007 academic year, 14 middle school teachers from 14 New Haven Public Schools teamed with 20 undergraduates to form 14 Mathcounts teams. Each week, the undergraduates and teachers met after school with 7th and 8th grade children to prepare for Mathcounts competitions.

In large part due to Brian’s work, the 2007–2008 the program has grown to involve 40 undergraduates working in 24 schools and serving more than 300 New Haven Public School students. The partnership is now sponsored by Mathcounts, National and Xerox. Brian personifies what can be achieved through partnership. Last Friday, Davies Auditorium was filled with New Haven young people in the second annual Mathcounts final competition on campus. It was clear that the program has become well-rooted and will continue to flourish after Brian graduates and passes the baton to future leaders.

Graduate/Professional Ivy Award

Gabriel Hernandez
Master of Urban Education Studies 2008

Gabriel Hernandez, a 2007 graduate of Yale College, is completing his master’s degree in Yale University’s new Urban Teaching Initiative.

As an undergraduate, Gabe put down roots and built strong community ties in New Haven. His exploits ranged from the magnificent, such as his championship in the Mexicali burrito eating contest, to the sublime, such as his truly outstanding work as an actor and mentor in the Fair Haven-based Bregamos Theater.

Gabe played a lead role in Bregamos’ production of “Kingdom” that played to rave reviews in New Haven and that recently represented New Haven with pride in an international theatre festival in Rotterdam. The company, and Gabe’s involvement, embody the best of New Haven as it unites grassroots activists with established organizations and institutions, using theater to build community across and beyond lines of race, class and neighborhood.

Gabe’s commitment to lifelong learning and teaching has been expressed by his participation in the Yale Urban Teaching Initiative. An intensive master’s degree program that selects the most promising candidates for urban education, it includes a pledge to teach for three years in the New Haven Public Schools. Gabe will be begin his full-time work as a professional teacher in the fall, together with other outstanding graduates of the Yale master’s program who be joining New Haven’s dedicated corps of teachers.

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Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325