“Thanks to all who have supported the Alma Exley Scholarship program over the years.”

I’ve sent thanks to everyone who contributed to the endowment in 2009, but I also want to thank everyone publicly in this forum.

Alex and Zack, my children, join me and Alma’s extended family in expressing our deep gratitude for the outpouring of support for the scholarship program since 1995. We’re touched by the continuing generosity of so many of Alma’s friends, colleagues and others who have helped to carry on her legacy in education.

Several hundred different individuals and a number of organizations have contributed since 1995. This has enabled us to build a sizable endowment for scholarships.

Through the 2009-2010 academic year, we will have awarded more than $46,000 in scholarship aid. Meanwhile, thanks to continuing donations and investment gains, the endowment has surpassed $100,000 – laying a solid foundation for the future.

My appreciation also goes out to many who have contributed in a variety of ways to enable the program to grow and flourish.

A number of Alma’s friends and colleagues provided invaluable insights and expertise in establishing the program. And the staff of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain has provided invaluable support and guidance since the beginning.

A dedicated cadre of educators – many of them former colleagues of Alma’s – have served on the selection committee over the years. The committee faces a daunting task each year in deciding among so many deserving applicants. The committee has done a great job of choosing recipients who have done us proud in their careers.

Most gratifying has been the involvement of the Alma Exley Scholars in supporting the program and contributing to the endowment. Many of them have returned to our annual receptions to welcome their new colleagues into our scholarship family. And three of them – Miguel Cardona, Chi-Ann Lin, and Desi Nesmith – have served on the selection committee, bringing their unique insights to the process.

Thanks also go out to three artists, who have volunteered to bring a touch of class to our program: Patrick Lee, who created and maintains the website; Kurt Godiksen, who provides a variety of graphic design services; and John LoPresti, who frames our scholarship certificates.

When Alma suggested setting up a scholarship program to carry on her work in education, I’m not sure she could have envisioned the scope of the program that has emerged. But I am sure she would be delighted with what we have been able to build – thanks to the groundswell of caring by so many people who loved her and shared her values.

It’s painfully ironic that Alma didn’t get to meet the remarkable scholarship recipients who are carrying on her legacy of diversity and excellence in education. She would have admired and loved each and every one them. She would be full of pride and admiration to see them maturing and advancing in their careers.

The other side of this irony is that our young honorees didn’t have the opportunity to know Alma. They were never able to meet the woman who envisioned the program that is giving them recognition and support. I often think about how much they would have enjoyed knowing Alma. And it catches me by surprise when I hear them talking about her as if they knew her.

Everything that we’ve been able to accomplish in this program is a reflection of Alma’s personality and character. Her values have inspired us. Her spirit of caring and concern has guided us.

As an English teacher, Alma was devoted to making a difference in the lives of her students. In her career at the Connecticut State Department of Education, she was dedicated to strengthening the teaching profession in a variety of ways.

She was involved in efforts to raise the standards of the teaching profession in Connecticut. She worked with school districts as well as colleges and universities across the state to strengthen teacher-preparation programs. At the time when cancer took her from us at the age of 52, she had been working to bring more people of color into the teaching profession in Connecticut. She understood that a more diverse corps of teachers was necessary to serve an increasingly diverse student body.

Specifically, she was managing a now-defunct program that enabled paraprofessionals (most of whom were people of color) to complete their education and become teachers. Her relationship with these aspiring educators was something special. It was clear there was a lot of love between Alma and the people whose careers she was helping to launch.

That love was the reason why Alma asked me to carry on her unfinished work through a scholarship program. Thanks to so many caring donors, the program has been fulfilling her vision. It has become a wonderful memorial that is having an impact.

Because of this program, Alma is living on through the diverse, talented young educators who are making a difference in classrooms across Connecticut and from Boston to Los Angeles.

Thanks again to everyone who has made this possible.
– Woody Exley

Posted January 25, 2010