Willimantic, Conn. – Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its fifth annual Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Award reception on March 20 in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library. Senior Isaiah Roby; Ann Higginbotham, professor and chair of the History Department; and Ruth Washington, former professor of the University of Connecticut’s Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, were named award recipients. The Grasso Award Program recognizes leaders who have made contributions towards advancing women’s rights and issues of gender equality in memory of former Connecticut Gov. Ella T. Grasso.
We are an institution built on values and among those are the values of inclusion, empowerment, and integrity,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “I believe that protecting women’s rights and recognizing those who are taking the lead in working for gender equality is fundamental to upholding the values of our institution, so, tonight is not simply a celebration; it is an affirmation.” “To our awardees this evening, thank you and congratulations. Through your leadership and service, our campus is a better place to learn, our community is a better place to live, and our state is stronger.”
Roby ’13, a senior with a double major in psychology and women and gender studies, is carrying a 3.71 GPA. He serves as president of the student organization “Pride Alliance”, and is a student representative to Eastern’s Diversity and Social Justice Council. Roby also serves as
volunteer for St Paul’s Church, helping church members clean up Willimantic, plant trees and raise money for the Covenant Soup Kitchen. Roby interns in the Women’s Center, which promotes the advancement of women’s rights and gender equity. “My mother taught me that you can be raised in a nontraditional single family home and still do great things for the community. I want to be a strong role model for those in the LGBTQ community, and help create a space for them on campus and in the world.”
Higginbotham serves on the Committee for the Status of Women of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and is a member of the Connecticut/Rhode Island Conference of Women’s Studies Directors/Faculty. She is also a senator for the University Senate. Higginbotham received Eastern’s Distinguished Professor Award in 2004, for her teaching and mentoring at Eastern, and has led the History Department in developing several courses on family and women’s history and family in Western Society. “My life was like one of those sitcoms that my students watch at night on TV that displayed a typical household in the 1950s. From there, I began to see the problems that women faced. So I’ve been able to teach, write and advocate for women’s history, only to realize that some of those problems still exists and need to change”
Washington, is a founding member of Know Your Value: Women of Color Alliance, a new not-for-profit organization created to examine the wealth gap between women of color and other groups of women. Washington also started Forward Education and Consulting LLC, which provides comprehensive services specializing in diversity in higher education especially in technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). “I want to be able to help women understand the history of the wealth gap. That is the goal of the “Know Your Value: Women of Color Alliance,” to change the statistics for future generations.”