Third Age 2009 Award Winners

The following were honored at the Third Age Achievement Awards dinner held at Wolferts Roost Country Club on November 17, 2009.

Anne Pope – Arts and Culture

Anne Pope
Arts and Culture

Civil Rights and Community Advocate Anne Pope, is the 2009 Third Age Award winner in the category of Arts and Culture.

Anne Pope, 71, grew up in the segregated south in Shubuta, a small town in central Mississippi where she attended segregated schools and experienced racial discrimination firsthand. Her life experiences and love for people motivated her to seek justice and to eradicate injustice and discrimination wherever it existed. Today, she is the Regional Director of the New York State National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Vice Chair of the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series on Race and Nonviolent Social Change of Siena College. She is active in her church, Union Missionary Baptist, where she serves as Sunday School teacher and Director of Christian Education. She is past president of the Albany Branch of the NAACP, where she served for 20 years, during which time she organized a rally against the Ku Klux Klan at the State Capital drawing together more than 2500 people in protest to the appearance of the Klan. Pope recently retired from her position as Director of the New York African American Institute of State University of New York System Administration where she worked for 20 years.

Pope’s commitment to civil rights, equality and Afro American culture extends to Albany’s children as well. She served on the Albany School District Magnet School Steering Committee and the district’s Strategic Planning Committee advocating for students of color. She has spent a lifetime representing parents and students at Superintendents hearings working to ensure fair and open access to justice.

Pope is also a tireless champion for the voting rights of African Americans. Using the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, she successfully spearheaded the fight to increase the number of majority-minority legislative districts in Albany County to ensure the minority community the ability to elect representatives of its own choosing.

Pope was also in the forefront of bringing justice to a mentally ill African American man who was wrongfully shot and killed by Albany police. The protests and public forums engaged in by the Albany NAACP under her leadership resulted in the creation of a Community Police Relations Board and ultimately the establishment of a Civilian Review Board as well as the establishment of a Trauma Unit to handle incidences involving mentally ill citizens.

For her dedication and commitment, tenacity and persistence, she has received numerous commendations and awards. Among them, the Governor’s Woman of Distinction Award, African American Leaders of Distinction in State Service Award, Circle of Humanity Award from Temple Israel, NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award, YWCA Tribute to Women Award, the Jim Perry Progressive Leadership Award and the Chamber of Commerce Women of Excellence Award.

Pope believes in and practices Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence. She believes there are peaceful ways to solve issues without conflict for the benefit of not just a limited number but for all involved. Her favorite quote from Dr. King is “I submit to you, if a man hasn’t found something that he will die for he isn’t fit to live”. She lives her life each and every day trying to make the world a better place to live, work, and worship and is a most deserving recipient of this award.

Ursula Garreau-Rickenbacher – Business

Ursula Garreau-Rickenbacher

Ursula Garreau-Rickenbacher is 75 years old and resides in Waterford, near the location of her factory/store, Ursula of Switzerland, located on Mohawk Avenue in Waterford. Garreau-Rickenbacher is a native of Zurich, Switzerland who came to this country 50 years ago and began a multi-million dollar business with 48 cents and continues to live the American dream today.

Garreau-Rickenbacher’s business began in New York City creating hats for Henri Bendel and Saks Fifth Avenue. In 1965, romance took her from New York’s garment center to Upstate New York, where in Schenectady, her first dress making venture was born with 15-20 employees. In 1967 Ursula of Switzerland was founded, and later incorporated in 1969. Simultaneously, Ursula of Switzerland, Inc., retail shops opened with four locations in Albany, Schenectady, Troy, and Saratoga. However, in years to come, the burgeoning wholesale business eventually eliminated the need for retail positioning. In 1972, Ursula of Switzerland, Inc., moved to an historic 19th century former ribbon factory on the banks of the Hudson / Mohawk Rivers in Waterford. Here, concentration on design and production saw a surge in revenues.

Garreau-Rickenbacher’s focus on mother-of-the-bride has found her a winning niche in over 5000 better specialty stores and major clientele such as Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, Dillard’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom’s and Dayton-Hudson to name a few, and beyond America’s borders to Mexico, Canada, England and Australia. The Ursula of Switzerland, Inc.’s “Made in America” collections are renowned internationally for the consistent quality, fit, styling and value along with the recognizable aura of femininity and elegance. In 1994, the company started focusing mainly on mom and pop stores and other specialty stores. Over the years separates and informal bridal dresses were added to the line.

Garreau-Rickenbacher has achieved international acclaim and success as a designer, but perhaps her greatest achievements have come in keeping her business profitable and her employees working during times of economic crises. She is committed to producing her garments in the U.S., and understands the local retail market, pricing her garments below typical retail and offering senior discounts. She continues to be a visionary businesswomen into her septuagenarian years, rising to the challenge of a flood that destroyed over one million dollars of inventory, rebuilding the company and retaining her employees. She serves as a mentor to those interested in the industry, and you’ll often find an enthusiastic intern in the factory and showroom.

Garreau-Rickenbacher says that what she enjoys most about her field of endeavor is design, and ever-changing challenges of the fashion industry. But her greatest source of pride comes not from her dresses and awards, but from her ability to stay in business through difficult times without compromising her employees.

John and Barbara Flynn – Education

John and Barbara Flynn

John and Barbara Flynn are this years Third Age Achievement Award winners in the category of education. The couple resides in Slingerlands, John is 66 and Barbara is 64. They were nominated for their dedicated service to Literacy New York Greater Capital Region. John, a native of Milwaukee, has a Ph. D in Political Science from Duke University and Barbara, a native of Florida, also has a Duke Ph. D. hers in history. Together, this dynamic couple had been helping refugees adapt to life in the United States since 2004.

John and Barbara’s involvement with Literacy New York Greater Capital Region Is a natural outgrowth of the professional lives. John served in the Peace Corps, teaching English in Afghanistan, later teaching in the New York City schools. He later worked as staff to the New York State Senate, establishing student internship programs. He later went to the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities and held various positions there until 2003.

Barbara is also a teacher by trade and passion, having spent a year in India teaching basic education to women there. She was an Assistant Professor at union College form 1973 to 75. She then moved to the State Department of Education where she primarily in the office of Higher and Professional Education, establishing the Committee for Professional Assistance and eventually becoming Assistant Commissioner in Higher Education.

Retirement in 2003 allowed the couple the time to take tutor training at Literacy New York, and for several years, they each tutored one non-English speaking student. During the second year, they were invited to teach classes of non-English speakers using a curriculum that included American customs and government. They’ve taught classes for three years, mostly to refugee from the Congo, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Burma. Through their efforts and sensitivity to the students’ social needs as well as the linguistic, the Flynns have been successful in helping students navigate their new community more smoothly and come closer to enjoying success in their new lives.

Teaching at Literacy New York Greater Capital Region began as a way for John and Barbara to give back to their community, something they felt they had not been able to do while working and raising a family. Both were interested in helping refugees, and both had overseas experience. Bother were educators, it was a perfect match. Now, as they continue in their roles educators and cultural l ambassadors, they find it rewarding and inspiring. “They arrive here, often with almost no possessions, often illiterate. They are courageous and resourceful; watching how they cope is an education. We learn about their native countries, their past, and hopes for the future.

The Flynns are leading the way in providing inspiring role models for the rest of the region’s older residents. John and Barbara have two sons, and a puppy. Besides tutoring, they enjoy bridge, travel, cooking, skiing, reading and politics.

Nancy Hoffman – Government

Nancy Hoffman

Nancy Hoffman, 65, is an Albany resident, and an attorney whose career and personal involvements continue to demonstrate a commitment she made years ago to civil rights, equality and fair labor practices. She calls herself a child of the sixties who wanted to work on issues and matters “that address people’s equality and personal civil rights. Both professionally and personally all of my endeavors have forwarded that goal.”

Since 1989, Hoffman has been the General Counsel and Director of Legal Services for the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), Local 1000, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, representing over 295,000 public and private sector workers in New York in labor and employment law matters. In addition to her duties at CSEA, she has served on the Council of the ABA Labor and Employment Law Section for over 15 years and has also served on the ABA Commission on Women and on the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity.

Hoffman also served on the Advisory Board of the Lawyers Coordinating Committee of the AFL-CIO and on the Board of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York. She served on the Board of The Legal Project, Inc., the pro bono program of the Albany Chapter of the Women’s Bar Association. Hoffman served on the ILR Statewide Labor Advisory Council and on the American Arbitration Association’s Upstate Regional Advisory Council

Throughout the years of a legal career that has spanned 35 years, Hoffman has also worked in private practice for the New York City Law Department, the New York State Attorney General, the New York State Department of Social Services, the United States Attorney’s Office (SDNY), and the New York State United Teachers Union (NYSUT).

Hoffman is deeply committed to the local community as well as the legal community at large, and In 2003, she was appointed as a member of the Board of Directors of Girls, Incorporated of the Capital Region and served as its Vice Chair from 2004-2006, as Chair from 2006 to 2008 and is currently a Trustee on the Girls Incorporated Foundation Trust Board. She is also serving her second term as a member of the Board of Directors of the Capital Region Community Foundation and has been on the Steering Committee of the Capital Region Women’s Fund since its inception.

Hoffman is a fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, Class of 1996 and the 1997 recipient of the American Arbitration Association Distinguished Service Award in Labor-Management Arbitration. Since 1999, she has served on Senator Charles Schumer’s Judicial Screening Committee.

Currently Hoffman serves on the Cornell ILR Dean’s Advisory Council, having been its Chair from 2006 to 2008. Hoffman is also a long-standing member of the Albany Law School Government Law Center Advisory Board. In May of 2005, Ms. Hoffman was elected to the Board of Directors of the Cornell University ILR School Alumni Association; she is serving in her second term on that Board. In 2007, Hoffman was appointed to the Advisory Board of the newly established Scheinman Institute for Dispute Resolution at Cornell University. Hoffman is one of the five ILR alumni to endow the Labor Law Reading Room of the new ILR Library. She also was recently elected to the Cornell University Council, her first four year term there.

Hoffman has three step-children and is married to Thomas G. Spagnoletti. Together they enjoy tennis and golf, movies, dining and good friends, traveling to St. Maarten for their annual honeymoon, family, home, and according to Hoffman, “whatever comes our way.”

Sister Mary Rose McGeady – Health and Human Services

Sister Mary Rose McGeady
Health and Human Services

Eighty-one year old Sister Mary Rose McGeady is the 2009 Third Age Achievement Award winner for Health and Human Services. Sister McGeady was nominated for her dedication to St. Paul’s Center, a non-sectarian homeless shelter for mothers and their children located in Rensselaer. Sr. McGeady was born in Washington, DC, and has a Ph.D. in Psychology from Fordham University, and has been a Daughter of Charity since 1946.

Sister McGeady has been involved with St. Paul’s Center since 2005, helping in its initial organization and subsequent opening in 2006. She has served on the board since its beginning, bringing her lifelong commitment to advocacy on behalf of children and the poor to needy families throughout the community.

Prior to her involvement in the Capital Region, Sister McGeady was president of Covenant House, a Manhattan-based home for runaway teens, which she helped build into an internationally-known haven for troubled children. Prior to being tapped to lead Covenant House, she utilized her masters in clinical psychology to direct mental health services for Brooklyn Catholic Charities where she later served as Associate Executive Director. Retirement brought her to the Capital Region, where she resides with her fellow Daughters of Charity at the DePaul Provincial House in Loudonville. A volunteer with St. Paul’s Center noted her presence in the area, and recommended her for the board.

St. Paul’s Center has served more than 150 families to date. The Center’s mission is to provide a warm, nurturing, home-like environment where each mother will have the opportunity to become equipped and empowered to make a successful transition to independent living and to a better life for herself and her children.

As a member of the board, Sister McGeady has been instrumental in keeping St. Paul’s Center focused on the larger causes of homelessness, potential remedies, and the necessity of social and political activism on behalf of the indigent. She has served on the board’s Resource Development Committee, and brought her considerable writing talents and skills of persuasion to a number of Center initiatives. She created the Angel Fund, an account of unrestricted dollars that allow the Center to provide emergency assistance to mothers. The fund has helped avoid crises that could have led to homelessness, foster care or relapse.

Sister McGeady has received 31 honorary doctorates from various universities in recognition of her work with the homeless. She is a tireless, devoted advocate for children, mothers and the poor, and an outstanding addition to the distinguished list of past Third Age Achievement Award winners.

Francis M. Sheehan – Volunteerism

Francis M. Sheehan

Francis M. Sheehan is one of winners of this year’s 3rd Age Achievement Award for volunteerism.

Frank Sheehan, 89, is a successful businessman, husband, great-grandfather, civic leader, and survivor of the Battle of the Bulge. With the exception of his wartime service as a glider trooper, he has always lived in the Capital Region. He is a graduate of Vincentian Institute and Siena College. He attended Albany Law School, but left for a job. He later started his own business, Crest Incorporated, an office equipment company that he ran for 30 years. Sheehan was selected to receive this award for his ongoing, long-term involvement with the Guilderland Public Library.

Sheehan’s involvement in the library began during his tenure at the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce, where he was a member and officer for 17 years. At that time, the library and chamber shared a building and Sheehan’s interest in the library resulted in his election to its board of trustees in the early 1990s.

Sheehan completed six years on the board, and then helped to establish the Guilderland Library Foundation, serving as its president from 2005 to 2009. During his tenure as president, he was instrumental in the creation of the Notable Author Speakers Series, the library’s 50th anniversary celebration, and the Community Literary Garden, a garden that is the envy of libraries throughout the Capital Region. His vision for the foundation can be summed up in a quote from an Altamont Enterprise story, in which he stated that “the foundation buys the things needed by the library that the taxpayer can’t be expected to pay for.”

Sheehan continues to serve on the board today and is actively involved in its growth. He is a role model for the staff, and is looked to for advice and counsel. He has a clear vision of the library’s role in the community and works diligently to increase public awareness of the library and its many activities.

As Sheehan approaches has 90th birthday, he remains an active man revealing that he and his wife Joan continue to enjoy their favorite hobby; ballroom dance. Together thy have four children, eight grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Ken Skinner – Volunteerism

Ken Skinner

Ken Skinner, age 69, an Albany resident for 43 years, is one of two winners for volunteerism this year.

Today, after a long career as a social worker that included 29 years as an Associate Executive Director of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies, a statewide child advocacy organization in New York, Skinner has taken on a volunteer load that virtually matches a full-time commitment.

To begin, Skinner volunteers four days a week at three separate elementary schools, North Albany Academy, Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Technology (TOAST), and Brighter Choice Carter School for Boys. His responsibilities there include working in the classroom, primarily with kindergarten students, assisting teachers in group or individual activities. In the TOAST kindergarten, Skinner also implements the federally-funded ReDiscover program, which focuses on helping small groups of students improve reading, speaking and writing skills.

In addition to Skinner’ duties in the schools, he and his wife Margaret took particular interest in a Rwandan mother and daughter, survivors of the genocide of 1994. They met in 2004 while the child was attending TOAST and her mother St. Rose. It was Skinner’s involvement with that child that lead him to the elementary schools and the many young kids that now benefit from his attention.

In 2005, Skinner, like many, watched and become enamored with a documentary film, Mad Hot Ballroom. The movie followed 5th grade students involved in a ballroom dance program at three New York City grammar schools. The movie focused on the self-confidence and discipline that ballroom dance gave to the kids, many of whom were struggling in school. Skinner thought that a similar program could work at TOAST, and brought the idea to its principal, who liked the idea and was very supportive. However, Skinner had to develop the program’s funding on his own. He managed to get the program funded through the Albany Fund for Education, and from there it took right off. The program continues, but receives no funding from the district, and the ongoing fundraising is another task that Skinner takes on. According to him, in the three years since the program began, more than 150 4th, 5th and 6th grade students have participated in the TOAST ballroom dance program, many taking more than one set of lessons.

Skinner is also very active in the local running and fitness community. He is an avid runner, referees high school track meets and is actively involved in the Hudson Mohawk Roadrunners Club, helping coordinate its various events. He remains involved in social work, and is currently Treasurer of Trinity Institute in Albany and is Program Committee Chairman or the National Association of Social Workers. Skinner is also a board member of Living resources, an umbrella organization for several developmental disability programs.

Skinner and his wife of 45 years have three children, and four grandchildren, whom they visit often. He enjoys running, reading and has been in the same bowing league for 35 years.