2015 Elm-Ivy Awards winners honored for strengthening town-gown ties

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and Yale President Peter Salovey presented six individuals, the three undergraduate founders of an annual science event for city youth, and a graduate student-run community health education organization with Elm-Ivy Awards at a campus ceremony on April 8.

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and Yale University President Peter Salovey presented six individuals, the three undergraduate founders of an annual science event for city youth, and a graduate student-run community health education organization with Yale University Seton Elm-Ivy Awards at a campus ceremony on April 8.

For more than three decades, the annual awards have celebrated the deep roots of the New Haven-Yale partnership. The Elm-Ivy Awards honor people whose service strengthens the ties of the university and its hometown — a priority for New Haven and Yale for more than two decades.

The late Fenmore R. Seton ’38 and his wife, Phyllis, established the awards at Yale in 1979, to honor the often-unrecognized day-to-day efforts of committed “town and gown” citizens. Elm Awards are given to members of the New Haven community beyond Yale, and Ivy Awards are given to Yale faculty, staff, and students.

Elm Award were presented to three individuals this year: Dorsey Kendrick, president of Gateway Community College; Laura Pappano, founder of the New Haven Student Journalism Project; and Stacy Spell, a retired New Haven Police Department detective and community activist.

Three individuals received Ivy Awards: Dr. Kirsten Bechtel, associate professor of pediatrics in emergency medicine, Yale School of Medicine; David Talbott, head coach of Yale men’s and women’s squash; and David Swensen, Yale’s chief investment officer.

In addition undergraduate Ivy Awards were presented to the founders of the annual Resonance event for city students: Naaman Mehta ’15, Kevin Boehm ’15, and Emma Graham ’16; and a graduate Ivy Award was given to Students for a Better Healthcare System.

Citations for the award-winners follow:

Elm Awards

Dorsey Kendrick

Dr. Dorsey Kendrick has been a driving force in improving the quality of life of New Haven residents for over a decade. Her vision to bring Gateway Community College to downtown New Haven has spurred new economic activity and job opportunities for students and residents alike. This was by design. Dorsey always understands the power of relationships and she realized solid partnerships were critical to success for the college, its students, and the community. From her first days in New Haven, Dr. Kendrick began building bridges for economic and academic success for her students and the broader New Haven community by partnering with Yale. This partnership affords Gateway students the opportunity to engage foremost experts in the field of nursing and in a variety of medical professions. Gateway students and the New Haven community also can engage Yale’s faculty through the newly created “Yale @ Gateway” speaker series. It connects students and residents with some of the world’s most accomplished experts in medicine, technology and social science.

Dr. Kendrick works to engage many public, private, and civic entities along with Yale University in Gateway’s work. She effectively demonstrates, through her effort, how to sustain and cultivate the “town and gown” relationship for the benefit of all. As a member of the New Haven Promise Board alongside Yale and other community leaders, Dr. Kendrick also brings her wisdom and passion in advancing educational access and opportunities for the youth of New Haven.

In recognition of Gateway President Dorsey Kendrick’s building of a boundary-free community of learners in New Haven that unites the talents of a community college and its research university neighbor, President Peter Salovey and Mayor Toni Harp present Dr. Dorsey Kendrick with an Elm Award.

Laura Pappano

After graduating from Yale College in 1984, Laura Pappano went on to become an award-winning journalist and active community leader. She is the author of Inside School Turnarounds, The Connection Gap, and a frequent contributor to The New York Times’ Education Life section. 

On Thursday afternoons, Laura leads a team of Yale University undergraduates in an after school program at East Rock School. There, 45 students in grades 2 through 8 know her best as “Miss Laura.” They are part of the New Haven Student Journalism Project. Founded by Laura in 2011, the project helps urban public school students, with the assistant of Yale college mentors, learn about the craft and power of journalism by producing a real newspaper, which is distributed to students and families at the school and throughout the city. Students investigate and report on some of the most important stories of the day. During the 2013 New Haven mayoral race, student reporters from the Celentano Sentinel interviewed all seven candidates in person. In October 2014, two East Rock Record reporters covered First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to New Haven by attending the rally themselves. Reporters have written about gun violence, the economy, the use of social media in schools, and cyber-crime.

For each issue, Laura brings prominent guests in for “press conferences” to meet students and answer their queries.  Past guests have included the Yale Whiffenpoofs and many others from the Yale community. 

In recognition of her outstanding work in sharing her knowledge and connecting budding journalists with the broader New Haven and Yale community, President Peter Salovey and Mayor Toni Harp present Laura Pappano with an Elm Award.

Stacy Spell

For most, retiring after 27 years of service as a detective in the New Haven Police Department’s major crimes unit means long relaxing days of golf and gardening. Not so for Stacy Spell. Since his retirement, Stacy has continued his commitment to serving our community through his abundant volunteer activities. Most active in issues addressing public safety and food insecurities, he has played a leadership role in developing increased opportunities for Yale University students to connect with the New Haven community through meaningful engagements.

In 2012, Mr. Spell worked with the West River Neighborhood to start The Little Red Hen Community Garden. Mr. Spell engaged Yale medical school students to become regular volunteers at the garden as well as on neighborhood cleanup projects. Mr. Spell’s commitment to community is also evident in his work as a member of the Community Resilience Steering Committee which for several years has hosted Yale’s Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars who work throughout the West River neighborhood on issues of public safety, health, and access to healthy and affordable food.

Most recently Mr. Spell has taken on the role of project manager for Project Longevity New Haven, which is a collaborative partnership with the New Haven Police Department, the State Attorney’s Office, and the New Haven community to address issues of public safety and recidivism.

In recognition of his commitment to New Haven and his ability to encourage and nurture partnerships between the Yale and New Haven communities, President Peter Salovey and Mayor Toni Harp present Stacy Spell with an Elm Award.

Ivy Awards

Dr. Kirsten Bechtel

Some know her as Ringo Starr, given her recent campaign to promote the use of pedestrian crosswalks by posing with Yale officials in a reenactment of the Beatles’ famous “Abbey Road” cover. An associate professor of pediatrics in emergency medicine, Dr. Kirsten Bechtel will go that extra mile to make sure that New Haven roads are safe for its residents and visitors.

Kirsten was a leader in the effort to persuade Yale University to form a Traffic Safety Subcommittee. She co-authored an extensive report showing the infrastructure, education, and enforcement gaps that were making the campus and city less safe from a traffic safety perspective. This study helped convince the Yale administration that a subcommittee was needed, so that leaders from across Yale and the City of New Haven could collaborate to address these gaps. Kirsten, not surprisingly given her passion, organizational skills, and medical expertise, was named chair of the subcommittee and has served in that capacity since its formation in 2011.

She works tirelessly to advance issues — always responding to emails, showing up to testify, meeting with critical players, and studying issues so that she can speak intelligently about them. She gets energized collaborating with others and her ideas are innovative and actionable. One program encouraged improved pedestrian behavior by stenciling safety messages around the streets of New Haven. She not only helped develop the creative messaging, but spent weekends applying the stencils and reached out to New Haven youth to collaborate in this project. The Yale campus and New Haven are safer thanks to Kirsten. And thanks to her, traffic safety advocates at Yale and throughout the city are better organized and positioned to have more positive impacts going forward.

In recognition of her tireless work to improve the safety of our streets by fostering partnerships and working collaboratively with the City, President Salovey and Mayor Harp present Dr. Kirsten Bechtel with an Ivy Award.

David Talbott

Dave Talbott is well-known as one of Yale’s most successful coaches, an architect of several national championship teams and mentor of scores of All-American athletes in his 31 years as head coach of the Yale men’s and women’s squash. What fewer know, but many New Haven public school students see every day, is the depth of Dave’s commitment to Yale’s hometown. In 2006-2007, Dave partnered with several Yale alumni and community members to launch a comprehensive youth development program, Squash Haven. He worked to get a facility agreement that would allow for the program’s squash and academic sessions to work at Yale’s Payne Whitney Gym. From the outset, he committed the volunteer services of his 30 varsity players for a one-hour coaching session per week.

Squash Haven began in the fall of 2007 with an initial team of 20 fifth- and sixth-grade students from two New Haven schools. Today, it has 100 students from 18 New Haven public schools, and its first class of graduates are attending Connecticut College, Hamilton, Lafayette, Syracuse, and the University of Connecticut, among others. Yale squash team members have given over 3,500 hours of service to the New Haven community. Squash Haven students truly feel at home at Yale and with the squash teams, and this sense of belonging has a powerful influence on their perceptions of themselves and their visions for their futures.

In recognition of his commitment to his vision and tenacity to provide academic, athletic and mentoring services by opening Yale’s doors and squash courts to New Haven youth, President Salovey and Mayor Harp  present David Talbott with an Ivy Award.

David F. Swensen

As Yale’s chief investment officer since 1985, David Swensen has been an exceptional steward of Yale’s endowment, developing an investment strategy that has been lauded and imitated globally. The strength of his investment acumen is matched by his passion and commitment to the city that he has called home for many decades.

Each August at the Connecticut Open Tennis Tournament David has hosted a fundraiser targeted to support New Haven initiatives with a particular focus on youth programs. He sustains these efforts throughout the year. Some examples include assistance to Squash Haven and New Hytes, organizations which work with New Haven children to provide access to competitive sport training, life-skills, and academic programming. A firm believer in the value of education at all levels, he provides personal support for Teach for America training and to Breakthrough New Haven, a program that offers academic skills development and counseling for high-potential middle school students from area public schools. David has also been instrumental in fostering economic development initiatives in New Haven. He has lent his professional expertise — in the areas of finance and economic rationale — to help several projects come to fruition including the development of the Ninth Square and the Omni Hotel. Even with an extraordinarily busy professional life, he has coached youth soccer and baseball in New Haven and served as the treasurer of the Hopkins School Board of Trustees for 10 years.

Yale’s investment philosophy states: “Sensible long-term investment policies, grounded by a commitment to equities and a belief in diversification, underpin the University’s investment success”. For David, sensible long-term investing in our city, grounded by a commitment to New Haven and a belief that consistently investing in one’s community will lead to long term gains is also a strategy that he pursues as a citizen.

In recognition of his commitment to New Haven and the value of community service, President Salovey and Mayor Harp present David Swensen with an Ivy Award.


Scientists are exceptionally generous people. Every year over 600 undergraduates, graduate students and faculty participate in some form of STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) outreach. So it was not surprising that when Naaman Mehta, Kevin Boehm, and Emma Graham came to Yale University as young undergraduate scientists they looked for a way to engage with local middle and high school students. They found it by signing up for Synapse.

Synapse volunteers can be seen doing the demonstrations at Science on Saturday lectures, hosting tables of local students and their families at the Yale Pathways to Science orientation or promoting an essay competition across New Haven high schools. That would have been enough. However Naaman, Kevin, and Emma wanted to make science resonate in New Haven. In 2013 they created Resonance, a daylong conference for high school students who want to learn more about current science topics, for example what it is like to be a scientific researcher. They also wanted to bring together and connect students who are interested in becoming scientists.

Resonance is now an annual event that brings hundreds of local high school students to Yale’s campus for a full day of discussion and learning.

In recognition of their work to present current topics in science to local students in a way that is applicable to students’ daily lives and future goals, President Peter Salovey and Mayor Toni Harp present Resonance’s founders, Naaman Mehta, Kevin Boehm and Emma Graham with an Undergraduate Ivy Award.

Students for a Better Healthcare System

Students for a Better Healthcare System (SBHS), founded here in New Haven at Yale and being implemented all over the country, mobilizes medical, nursing, and public health students to educate our communities  about health care reform. 

Since the campaign began in 2013, SBHS has been giving short, accessible, engaging presentations to communities, explaining the basics of how the health care system works; what’s changing with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA); and how community members can sign up for health insurance right now. They speak at locations in and around New Haven including local colleges, churches, PTA meetings, and anywhere else where people gather, and work together with community partners and audiences to spark conversation and engagement around the ACA.

SBHS is also working within the medical community, giving presentations on the ACA to physicians and other health care providers, as well as helping local clinics and hospitals develop systems to connect their uninsured patients with the information and assistance they need to access health insurance.

In recognition of their work to promote the health of our communities, and lay the foundation for future health care reform, President Peter Salovey and Mayor Toni Harp present Students for a Better Healthcare System leaders Juliana Berk-Krauss and Eamon Duffy with a Graduate Ivy Award.

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