Jan. 17, 2012

SUNY Geneseo Presents MLK Drum Major Awards for Service

Smith, Wechsler Receive MLK Drum Major Awards for Service

Receiving MLK Drum Major Awards from SUNY Geneseo Jan. 16 were Kaaren Smith (middle right), director of the Livingston County Office of the Aging, and Joyce Wechsler (middle left), retired SUNY Geneseo faculty member. With the awardees are Robert Bonfiglio (far left), Geneseo's vice president for student and campus life, and Tom Matthews, the college's associate dean for leadership and service.

GENESEO, N.Y. - SUNY Geneseo has awarded MLK Drum Major Awards to two women, one for demonstrating extraordinary efforts in advocating for senior citizens and the other for championing matters of faith and spirituality on the Geneseo campus.

Kaaren Smith, director of the Livingston County Office of the Aging, and Joyce Wechsler, a retired SUNY Geneseo faculty member, received the awards during the college's MLK Day of Leadership and Service Jan. 16. The awards were initiated by the White House and the Corporation for National and Community Service and were inspired by King's historic speech on the drum major instinct.

Smith has been working with Livingston County senior citizens for 32 years, including her work as director of the Office of the Aging. Originally from the North Country, she is a SUNY Plattsburgh graduate and served as the senior nutrition program project director for the Livingston County Coalition of Churches.

Wechsler is a retired Geneseo health and physical education faculty member and volleyball coach and has been instrumental in sustaining the Geneseo Interfaith Center, a campus home for students interested in matters of faith and spirituality. Wechsler is also involved in other community service activities including maintaining books at Wadsworth Library and is recording secretary of the local land conservancy board. She also has been active in the Genesee Valley Hunt and the Geneseo Torch Club.

"Both of our honorees have worked tirelessly to address the needs of senior citizens in the Livingston County area and those of our students and they have my esteem for making a difference in our community with little recognition," said Robert Bonfiglio, Geneseo's vice president for student and campus life, who presented the awards on behalf of the college. "Kaaren has lived a lifetime of service and without her, there may not have been a Livingston County Office of the Aging. Joyce's leadership was critical to the continued operation of the Interfaith Center and without her involvement, we might not have a functioning Interfaith Center today."

In addition to the awards, 120 students, faculty, staff and local senior citizens took part in MLK Day of Leadership and Service activities. Participants attended leadership workshops and heard presentations from William Cook, distinguished teaching professor of history at Geneseo, and Lulu Westbrook-Griffin. Cook addressed "Martin Luther King Jr. at Age 83" and Westbrooks-Griffen addressed "Freedom is Not Free."

The participants also worked together on service projects to assist the more than 400 home-bound senior citizens in Livingston County.

Geneseo will continue the commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. March 8 by hosting civil rights movement activists Judy Richardson, Dorothy Zellner and Betty Garman Robinson. They are editors of "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC." They will speak at 7 p.m. in the MacVittie Union Ballroom.

On March 7 at 7 p.m. in Newton Hall 201, Richardson will lead a discussion of the film "Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre, 1968," and Robinson will lead a community organizing workshop for students , also at 7 p.m.. Both events are free and open to the public but the workshop requires advance registration through Emilye Crosby, professor of history, Catherine Adams, assistant professor of history, or Sue Ann Brainard, associate librarian in Milne Library.


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