Three to be honored for their public service with Yale Jefferson Awards
An alumna, a recent Yale College graduate, and a law student will be honored for their public service with Yale-Jefferson Awards.
The Association of Yale Alumni (AYA), Students and Alumni of Yale (STAY) and the Jefferson Awards for Public Service launched the Yale-Jefferson Public Service Awards in 2012 to recognize those who inspire the Yale community through innovative, impactful, and sustained service for the greater good. The awards will be presented on Friday, Nov. 17 during the AYA Assembly. Afterwards, the honorees will meet with alumni, family, friends, and students to discuss their respective journeys in public service.
This year’s recipients are:
Linda Spoonster Schwartz ’84 M.S. YSN, ’98 YSPH
A Vietnam Era veteran, Linda Spoonster Schwartz served in the United States Air Force Nurse Corps from 1968 to 1986 (active duty & reserve) until she was medically retired after sustaining spinal cord and brain injuries when the door of her C-140 USAF aircraft was blown off at 30,000 feet. From 1979 to 1980, she was a caseworker in the Office of the Field Director of the American Red Cross at Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany. As a disabled veteran, she has worked tirelessly in Connecticut and nationally to improve health care for Veterans. She was the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs 2003-2014 and was confirmed as the VA assistant secretary for policy and planning in 2014. She also served as associate clinical professor at Yale School of Nursing.
A letter by School of Nursing Dean Ann Kurth nominating Schwartz for a Yale Jefferson Award said in part: “Dr. Schwartz is a highly articulate advocate for citizen soldiers, Veterans, and their families during the current arena of increasing deployments and long-term health problems for returning service members. … . As a faculty member [at Yale School of Nursing], she has been instrumental in helping our nursing students understand the real world needs of Veterans …”
J.T. Flowers ’17 YC
J.T. Flowers founded and served as president of A Leg Even, an organization designed to help low-income and first-generation undergraduates at Yale obtain the professional advising, academic support, and special programming that they need to succeed at Yale and beyond. A Leg Even also provides $2,000 stipends so low-income students can have summer experiences, like unpaid internships, that are available to their higher-income peers. All students participating in A Leg Even are encouraged to give back to the community via public service.
“In person, J.T. is an incredibly engaging, considerate, and self-motivated individual: a community leader with a deep social conscience; a poet, photographer, and musician with a compelling and diverse creative vision; someone who paves his own path and with whom others want to associate,” wrote Stephen Davis, head of Pierson College in nominating the student for the Yale Jefferson Award. “I cannot think of anyone better equipped or better suited as a leader of the next generation.
Sameer Jaywant (YLS ’18)
Sameer Jaywant is a founder and student director of the Rule of Law Clinic at Yale Law School, which works to maintain U.S. commitments to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Through the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, he worked alongside community activists, religious leaders, medical professionals, and Yale students and faculty to create a statewide coalition advocating the abolition of prolonged solitary confinement in Connecticut prisons. The coalition organized a campaign that led the Connecticut legislature to unanimously pass legislation banning the placement of children into the harshest form of solitary confinement, and mandating transparency by the Department of Corrections, marking the first act of public oversight of Connecticut prisons in at least two decades. Sameer also represents the law school in the Graduate & Professional Student Senate, and volunteers for the International Refugee Assistance Project.
Of his many community service projects, Jaywant wrote: “During my time here, Yale has proved to be an invaluable partner in public service. The institutional support runs far beyond financial support and physical facilities; indeed, a sustained and innovative commitment to the public interest seems to be the ethos of our university. … I have learned an immense amount about law, justice, public service, and even myself through these numerous projects and initiatives; no other educational experience has ever been as meaningful to me as my time at Yale Law School.”