MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury President Laurie L. Patton presented the 2018 Bonnie and John McCardell Citizen’s Awards to five area residents—David Donahue, Kerri Louray Duquette-Hoffman, Fran Putnam, Harold Strassner, and Edmund F. Sullivan—in recognition of their remarkable contributions to the community.
This year’s presentations were made at a celebratory dinner for the current and prior recipients of the award on October 29, 2018, at the President’s House at 3 South Street.
Middlebury College honors local citizens for exemplary volunteerism and service in a tradition that dates to the College’s bicentennial year in 2000. Nominations come from members of the community, and a committee of faculty and staff makes the final selections. Every recipient of the Citizen’s Award receives a pewter medallion struck at Danforth Pewterers of Middlebury.
David Donahue, a 1991 graduate of Middlebury College, stepped down at the end of October from his position as the Middlebury president’s chief of staff and director of community relations. Donahue, who also served as secretary of the Corporation of Middlebury College (i.e., Board of Trustees) and chair of the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, is leaving to become the senior vice president and chief of staff at the Ultimate Medical Academy in Tampa, Fla.
In conferring a surprise Citizen’s Award to Donahue, President Patton said at the dinner: “You have helped build bridges, both literal and metaphoric, in the community, and have been the conduit connecting the town, the College, and the surrounding region. You led the Town Offices and Recreation Center project, the creation of 94 Main Street Park, and the College donation of the Lazarus property to the town.”
Dave is “always smiling and encouraging, generous and patient, always making important things happen in ways large and small… . You epitomize the intention of this award,” added Patton, “which is to recognize and honor those residents of Addison County who have strengthened our home through their public service.”
Kerri Louray Duquette-Hoffman is the executive director of WomenSafe, the Middlebury-based organization that works toward the elimination of physical, sexual, and emotional violence against women and their children through direct services, education, and social change. Duquette-Hoffman, who holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Vermont, began her career at WomenSafe in 2002 as a domestic violence program coordinator. She was promoted to codirector in 2011 and has been executive director of the United Way member agency since 2014.
President Patton said, “Your leadership at WomenSafe demonstrates your commitment to the safety and well-being of those who have experienced violence, as well as their families and the community as a whole. You and your team collaborate and coordinate with agencies and nonprofits around Addison County and beyond to ensure that your clients receive the care and resources they need.” Calling Duquette-Hoffman “a model citizen,” Patton said WomenSafe today “is creating a safer, more vibrant, and more supportive place for us all to live.”
Fran Putnam, a teacher, mentor, and climate activist, has lived in Addison County for 40 years and is one of the region’s most engaged citizens in matters pertaining to the environment and early-childhood education. The Swarthmore College graduate cofounded the Evergreen Preschool in Vergennes and served on its board of directors for 24 years. She is also a founding member of the Weybridge Energy Committee and Interfaith Climate Action Network; a dedicated volunteer at Weybridge Elementary School and Beeman (New Haven) Elementary School; and a long-time participant in the College’s student-led Sunday Night Environmental Group.
“Since your retirement from teaching,” said President Patton at the awards dinner, “you have embarked on a second, equally important career as you inspire and support climate activism in Addison County. As an active participant in our Sunday Night Group, you bring not only decades of experience as an educator and an activist, but also warmth, light, and grounding in our community.”
Harold Strassner, a retired Middlebury College employee, is the volunteer supervisor of construction for all Habitat for Humanity houses in Addison County. The Middlebury resident gives upwards of 20 hours a week to “organize and supervise the process of house construction and renovation, providing hundreds of hours of valuable, highly skilled management [while] working with teams of volunteers who have limited construction skills,” said the president. “You have helped put roofs over the heads—literally—of many families in Addison County for more than a decade.”
In nominating him for the Citizen’s Award, one member of the community said, “There is no one that demonstrates the spirit of volunteerism in Addison County more completely than Harold Strassner.” The recipient was an educator at Middlebury Union High School for 13 years and a Sunday School teacher at his church, where he also served on the board and helped remodel the kitchen and basement.
Edmund F. Sullivan, who passed away in 2016, was presented a Citizen’s Award posthumously, and his wife, Kathy, and son, Ted, were on hand to accept the award in his honor. “Ed Sullivan dedicated his life to service, spending more than 50 years in multiple fire and rescue roles, including more than 18 years at Middlebury College,” said Patton. “Ed came to Middlebury in the mid-1990s as a safety officer and later became Middlebury’s first environmental health and safety coordinator, a position he held until his retirement in 2013.
“Ed had a vision to establish a student emergency medical services (EMS) organization and, through his partnership with Middlebury Regional Emergency and Medical Services, he developed the J-term Emergency Response Team course that trains and certifies Middlebury students as emergency medical technicians (EMTs),” continued Patton. “Our newly formed Middlebury First Responders are the manifestation of Ed’s hope for a student-led first-response organization that functions in conjunction with community partners.”
This year’s recipients of the McCardell Citizen’s Awards join the 68 other area residents who have been so honored by Middlebury presidents since the College’s bicentennial.
Photos by Todd Balfour