MTA honors at Annual Meeting

Saturday's business session opened with the presentation of three MTA awards.  

Friend of Education Award: Rep. John F. Tierney

 John Tierney, Friend of Education

 Friend of Education Award: Rep. John F. Tierney

"Congressman John Tierney, this year’s MTA Friend of Education Award winner, is someone who 'gets it' on every level," said President Paul Toner in presenting the award. "He is a leader on labor and education issues. He is an ally of public employees and a strong advocate for students and educators throughout our Commonwealth and across the nation."

Friend of Labor Award: Robert J. Haynes

"Last year, the MTA Board of Directors created a new award to recognize a very special leader," said Toner. "I was privileged to present the first MTA Friend of Labor Award to my predecessor and great friend, Anne Wass. Today, we recognize another outstanding union colleague for his contributions to the movement.

"Bob’s history with labor is as deep and long as it is distinguished; it may be news to you that he joined his first union more than 40 years ago as a young ironworker. Another thing some people may not know about Bob is how hard he has worked to build partnerships and coalitions to achieve our common goals. I credit Bob with the success of Working Massachusetts, a coalition that is making a difference as the voice for public-sector workers and public service."

President's Award: Harris Gruman

"First off, I need to thank Harris for the extremely important role he played in our victories as part of the Coalition for Our Communities over Question 1 in 2008 and Question 3 in 2010," said Toner. "Each of these ballot initiatives would have cost our cities and towns billions of dollars, undermining our public schools and colleges, health care and emergency services, and a long list of other things that are vital to our quality of life."

Toner also recognized Floris Wilma Ortiz-Marrero, the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, who could not attend today's meeting. He read greetings from Oritz-Marrero, who teaches in the Amherst-Pelham district. Her colleague, Jean Fay, was also recognized as MTA's 2011 Education Support Professional of the Year. Fay was also honored  at the April statewide ESP Conference.

Human and Civil Rights Award

The MTA Human and Civil Rights Awards Banquet was held on Friday evening. Entertainment was provided by the Early Bird Singers from the Peabody School in Cambridge.

The event, sponsored by the MTA Human Relations Committee, honored three area women.

Caroline Hunter, who, along with her late husband, Ken Williams, challenged the South African investments of their employer, Polaroid, received the Louise Gaskins Lifetime Civil Rights Award. The couple’s Cambridge-based protest quickly became a national story when Polaroid fired Hunter for her activities. By 1977, Polaroid had completely pulled out of South Africa, and the international divestment movement hastened the demise of apartheid. Nelson Mandela personally recognized the couple’s work when he came to Boston in 1993 before his election as president of South Africa.

The award is named for Louise Gaskins, a pioneer for involvement of women and people of color in education, the MTA and the NEA.

The Kathleen Roberts Creative Leadership Award was given to Ann Marie Dooley and Susan Mendoza Friedman. Dooley teaches in a vocational rogram at Harwich High School that serves students from 14 to 22 years of age with moderate special needs. She developed a strong Best Buddies chapter at the school, created an official Special Olympics day and started the Special Needs Prom, which is held in Harwich and hosts many other Cape Cod High school students.

Friedman initially set out to help a friend who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The fundraising project she created through her Cape Cod dance studio, Dancing for a Cure, blossomed into an official arm of the Friends of Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Five years later, the project’s efforts have raised almost $100,000 for cancer research.

The Roberts award is named for Kathleen Roberts, an MTA leader whose strong commitment to service has made her a tireless advocate for public education, communities and the education profession.

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