In the News

Assistant Professor of Anthropology William Farley sets out to answer an archeological question for the ages.

William Farley, assistant professor, at home in the Anthropology Lab.

When humans invented agriculture some 10,000 years ago, it forever changed how people worked and lived. In just about every place in the world where agriculture took hold — from Mesopotamia to Mesoamerica — small, transient hunter-gatherer tribes morphed into villages and large cities.

With these new, bustling settlements came sweeping cultural changes, new social hierarchies and, often, vast extremes of poverty and wealth. (Think pharaohs and slaves; kings and commoners.)

Except, that is, in New England.

In fact, around 1,000 A.D., when maize agriculture migrated here from Central Mexico and the Southwest, life seemed to go on pretty much as usual. Or so archaeologists thought.

Now, new research conducted by Assistant Professor of Anthropology William Farley is challenging that assumption. In a paper published last April in American Antiquity, Farley and coauthors Gabriel Hrynick and Amy Fox highlight a pattern of architectural changes that coincide with the arrival of maize farming in New England — shedding new light on a mystery that has stumped archaeologists for decades.

“The answer isn’t what people thought before, which is that maize came into the region and nothing happened,” Farley says. “The changes are subtler than in places like Mesopotamia, where you had 50,000 people living in a city. But we do start to see these subtle changes in houses. And from research we know that houses tend to strikingly reflect cultural values.”

Like so many good ideas, Farley’s was born on the back of the proverbial cocktail napkin, over drinks with Hrynick, a former University of Connecticut classmate, now also an archaeologist. The two were attending a conference and, having reconnected at a hotel bar, were deep in conversation, pondering age-old questions about the arrival of agriculture in New England — and its seemingly negligible influence on society.

“Why does New England look so different from other parts of the world? Why can’t we find these villages?” Farley recalls asking. Although some early European settlers describe encountering villages in the region, archaeologists have never found any evidence, Farley explains.

The talk was a serendipitous meeting of the minds. Farley is an archaeobotanist (he studies the interconnection of plants and humans), while Hrynick’s wheelhouse is architecture. Farley’s geographic focus is southern New England; Hrynick’s is northern Maine and Canada’s Maritime Provinces.

Assistant Professor Farley guides students at an archeological dig at the Henry Whitfield State Museum in Guilford, Conn.

Farley recalls the conversation: “We were talking about different sites in the region and Gabe [Hrynick] said, ‘You know, the houses stayed really small in the North.’” Unlike southern New England, the North adopted agriculture only after Europeans arrived.

In contrast, Farley observed that in southern New England, where he had worked on archeological digs, some of the houses grew larger during later periods. Could it be a pattern? And could maize farming be the reason for the shift?

“Maybe we should explore that,” he remembers thinking. It took a setback — one that threatened to derail Farley’s Ph.D. ambitions — to catapult the idea from barroom brainstorm to bona fide research project.

In January 2017, around the same time he was offered a full-time teaching job at Southern to start the following fall, Farley was diligently plugging away at his doctoral dissertation when his research came to a standstill. “I lost half of my data,” recalls Farley, a UConn grad student at the time. “I was looking at this site from Massachusetts, and the people who controlled the data told me I couldn’t use it anymore.”

He had six months to complete his dissertation. “I was in crisis mode,” says Farley. Forced to find a new topic, he called his friend Hrynick, now a professor at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. “Hey, do you want to write that paper together that we talked about that time at the bar?” Farley asked him.

And so the archeologists joined forces. They later recruited Fox, a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto and a “brilliant mathematician,” says Farley, to help with the statistical analysis.

Although their research examined more than 100 archeological sites from New York City to Newfoundland, “we didn’t move a spoonful of dirt,” Farley says. Instead, he spent eight hours a day for nearly two months in libraries around the region, poring over more than a century’s worth of often-obscure archaeological literature.

“Anytime anybody had excavated a house, a wigwam, a pre-European Native American house, we were going to measure them,” Farley says.

After he amassed and crunched all the data, an interesting pattern emerged. In the Maritime Peninsula, where agriculture had not taken hold, houses stayed the same size and shape — small and round — for some 3,000 years. The same was initially true in southern New England — until about 1,000 years ago, when bigger, more elongated houses appeared.

“Things changed right at the same instant, archeologically speaking, that maize arrived in the region. You got a bifurcation of the data,” says Farley.

He can’t say exactly why the shift occurred. “It could be that a social hierarchy is emerging. It could be changes in labor practices,” he says. “I don’t think we’ve got enough data to say for sure. But I think there’s evidence that when maize agriculture arrived, society started changing,” he says. Seeing his work published in American Antiquity, the premier academic journal for American archaeology, marked a major career milestone for Farley, who is 33.

“It really was a bit of a lightning strike — a combination of Gabe’s and my interests,” he says. “This was a nagging question that archaeologists have been interested in for many decades in New England. We took a different approach than anyone has ever used before. We just got a little bit lucky that it worked.”

When disaster strikes, Katherine Bequary, ’93, and David Denino, ’75, M.S. ’76, travel the country and the world — saving lives and providing solace.

David Denino, '75, M.S. '76, worked with many survivors in McComb, Miss., a post-Hurricane Katrina evacuation zone. [below] In Mosul, Iraq, Katherine Bequary, '93, works behind the front lines at a crisis-care clinic run by the organization.

Think of the worst human tragedies of the last 15 years — earthquakes, hurricanes, mass shootings. Chances are Katherine Bequary, ’93, or David Denino, ’75, M.S. ’76, were there to help.

Bequary has traveled the globe as executive director of NYC Medics, coordinating emergency care in places few are willing to go — from earthquake-torn Haiti and Japan to the remote mountains of Nepal. In summer 2018, she returned from one of her most challenging assignments yet: running a crisis-care clinic in Mosul, Iraq, just behind the front lines in the fight against ISIS. Bequary says more than 10 percent of the trauma casualties reported in the city were children, many of whom died before they could reach a hospital.

The clinic, which moved with the fighting, did whatever was needed — starting IVs, applying tourniquets, inserting chest tubes — to stabilize victims and help them survive the journey. Staffed 24/7, it provided life-saving care to more than 2,600 patients in the span of a year, many of whom were civilians shot by ISIS snipers while trying to flee the city.

“Every mission always has a powerful message or takeaway, but I have to say Iraq, by far, has been the most important work I’ve ever done,” says Bequary, 49.

“Not only for the medical intervention our team provided,” she adds, “but for the hope that comes with seeing so many people putting themselves in a conflict zone to help a stranger.”

Psychological first aid
Closer to home, as the mental health lead for the Connecticut/Rhode Island American Red Cross, Denino, 66, manages teams of mental health volunteers dispatched to disaster scenes around Connecticut and the country. He administers what he calls psychological first aid, setting up mental health triage based on patients’ levels of distress. If someone needs medication or a hospital, Denino works to connect them with services in the community.

A licensed professional counselor and director emeritus of counseling services at Southern, he trained as a Red Cross crisis responder following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.

“When I watched the towers go down, I felt paralyzed,” recalls Denino. “The call for help went out far and wide, and I couldn’t do anything because I hadn’t been vetted.”

Too late for 9/11, he was sent to New Orleans a few years later, assigned to the shelters housing residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Subsequent missions included hurricanes Sandy, Irene, and Harvey as well as the mass shootings in Sandy Hook, Conn., and Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, Denino worked in the family assistance center, offering counseling and comfort to people who survived the shooting or lost loved ones. Staged in a conference hall “three times the size of Costco,” he remembers the center being eerily quiet despite being filled with concertgoers and workers, mostly in their teens, 20s, and early 30s.

David Denino, ’75, M.S. ’76, finds a moment of comfort in the midst of helping others.

“A lot of them were struggling a couple of days out with sleeplessness and anxiety,” he says.

In addition to counseling the victims, Denino also kept an eye on the mental health of his fellow volunteers, helping them process their emotions and cope with stress. He earned the 2017 Meritorious Service Award from the National Behavioral Intervention Team Association (NaBITA) for his work in Las Vegas and in Texas after Hurricane Harvey. In 2018, he served as the organization’s president, leading efforts to prevent suicide and violence on college campuses and K-12 schools. In July 2018, the U.S. Secret Service issued a report concluding that the most effective way for schools to prevent targeted violence is with a behavioral intervention team — heightening the focus on NaBITA significantly.

Southern roots
Now living in Wallingford, Conn., with his wife, Vanessa [Pomarico] Denino, ’92, M.S.N. ’98, Ed.D. ’18, and two dogs, Denino traces his interest in counseling to his days as a resident adviser at Southern’s Neff Hall. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in recreation and leisure, he stayed on for a master’s in counseling and landed his first job at Southern right out of grad school.

He spent 37 years at the university, retiring as director emeritus of counseling services in 2009, and he still teaches in the clinical mental health program. In 2007, he received the J. Philip Smith Award for Outstanding Teaching, one of Southern’s top faculty honors. He credits his mentor, James Brine, professor emeritus of counseling and school psychology, with steering him toward higher education.

As the executive director of NYC Medics, Katherine Bequary, ’93, has organized aid efforts around the world, including Nepal.

Bequary, who lives in New York City, came to Southern as a physical education/athletic training major intending to be a physical therapist, but says the university prepared her well for her eventual, if unexpected, disaster-relief career. She credits Gary Morin, professor and chairman of the Department of Health and Movement Sciences, for teaching her that physical and emotional healing go hand-in-hand.

“It’s a big part of what we do [at NYC Medics],” she says. “We’re there to provide the physical care, but it’s so much more than that.”

After graduating from Southern, she held several jobs in the healthcare field before earning a master’s in public health from the University of Connecticut in 2010. She had just finished her thesis when the Haiti earthquake struck, and she learned through a friend that NYC Medics was mobilizing to help.

“I deployed with them and have been involved ever since,” says Bequary. In December 2019, she traveled to Yemen, which has been ravaged by civil war. NYC Medics is working to legally implement a program there and Bequary hopes to return soon.

‘Humbling and inspiring’
Asked why they do what they do, Bequary and Denino offer slightly different takes on the same answer.

“If I could just have people stand in my shoes for one day, they wouldn’t even need to ask the question,” Bequary says. “When people embrace us and open their arms to us . . . it’s the most humbling and inspiring experience in the world.”

She offers a story about a 3-year-old Iraqi boy she found wandering alone at the clinic. Through some detective work, Bequary eventually learned his mother had been a patient, shot in the stomach during a mass casualty incident, one of 60 civilians with serious injuries brought to the clinic in a single day. In the chaos, mother and son had been separated. Although critically injured, the mother survived, and Bequary was there for the joyful reunion: “He hadn’t spoken for three days, but as soon as he saw his mother, he just started crying out to her. He ran over and embraced her. It was incredible,” she says.

Like Bequary, Denino cites the people he helps as his inspiration. “With Katrina, I was talking to people who lost everything — everything — including members of their family or extended family, and the first thing they would do is hug you and say, ‘Thank you for coming here,’” Denino recalls.

He remembers the relief on one woman’s face when he was able to locate her elderly mother in a shelter, and recounts how some neighborhood families brought a home-cooked, fried chicken and biscuits dinner to the volunteers — a welcome change from the military-style MREs [meals ready to eat] they’d been dining on for days.

“You come home and it takes a little while to recover emotionally,” he says. “But when I’m out there, I feel good about it.”

When another college dissuaded Jacob Santos, '19, from following his dreams and majoring in theatre, he transferred to Southern and never looked back.

There are 14 Newman's Own Fellows, including (back row, third from left) Jacob Santos, '19. The foundation recently hosted the Fellows at a retreat.

Jacob Santos, ’19, is one of only 14 Newman’s Own Foundation Fellows for 2019-20 — and one of only three recipients to graduate from a public college or university. The Newman’s Own Foundation, which was founded by the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, launched the 12-month fellowship to develop the next generation of leaders in the nonprofit sector.

Santos is serving as the managing director fellow with Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut, a post he describes as his dream job.

Transferring to Southern: Santos started college at another university, majoring in pre-pharmacy, which he quickly realized was not a good fit. He’d acted in high school and remained drawn to the stage. So he decided to talk to his former adviser at that previous college about changing his major.

“That ended up being a very unfortunate conversation,” says Santos. “They discouraged me from trying to become a theatre major, and the wordage they used made it seem like it was an elite club that took themselves seriously. Due to this, I wouldn’t be a good match. This was upsetting . . . How could they know I wasn’t good enough to be part of a department that valued high-quality work and talent? Looking back, it’s even more disappointing because people of color often have many barriers and lack of access to theatre,” says Santos.

Becoming an Owl: “With that experience I knew I had to go to an institution that would give me a chance and value me,” says Santos, adding that he was drawn to the reputation of Southern’s theatre program. “New Haven was a perfect location for the arts. It is close to many other local theaters and a short train ride away from New York City,” he says.

A Southern mentor: Santos lauds Associate Professor of Theatre Kaia Monroe-Rarick, describing her as his professor, director, adviser, and supervisor. “I credit her with giving me almost every opportunity I’ve had in theatre. . . . She cast me in my first show, helped me get a job in the theatre office [at Southern], and gave me my first chance to go to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in our region,” he says.


A new career goal: Santos dreamed of a career in theater management — and charted his course by pursuing two degrees (business administration and theatre). “I was lucky to have advisers and professors who cared enough to pave that road with me. People like Professor Kaia or Rebecca Goodheart [artistic producer of the Elm Shakespeare Company, Southern’s theatre in residence] who gave me my first theatre management internship,” he says.

An amazing senior experience: Completing an arts administration internship through the ASPIRE leadership program at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival * The internship focuses on engaging people of color, women, and members of other groups that are consistently underrepresented in the field. “[Associate] Professor Michael Skinner knew of my interest in theater management and told me this was something I had to do,” says Santos.

Biggest source of pride: “My work in creating the Crescent Players of Color Coalition was one of the most rewarding, out of class experiences I had at Southern. It was an exercise in advocacy for oneself and for one’s community,” he says.

Supporting inclusivity: “Issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion weren’t unique to Southern’s theatre department,” says Santos. “It is an industry-wide issue with many theatres and institutions-at-large being faced with the question of ‘how are you going to evolve in a world that is become increasingly diverse?’ What was unique to Southern, however, was how they dealt with our questions. Speaking with other young leaders of color, many have faced backlash or apathy when they brought these issues forward to their universities. Our department, on the other hand, was completely game to hold as many conversations as needed to figure out specific actions we could do to change and grow,” says Santos.

Every cloud has a silver lining: “I was able to do all of this — create a degree path that I wanted, be part of theatre, and engage in exciting opportunities — because of Southern. It makes that frustrating experience at my past university a bright one, because it led me to where I am now. I’m a proud Afro-Latino man with two degrees from SCSU, and I’m working professionally in theatre. I couldn’t be more thankful or happier.” says Santos.

Southern Alumni Magazine cover, Fall 2019, featuring Peter Marra, '85

Read more stories in the Fall ’19 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

Bonnie Edmondson, graduate coordinator and professor in the School Health Education program, has just finished a stint as head coach of the U.S. women’s track and field team at the World Championships, which ran Sept. 27-Oct. 7 in Doha, Qatar. This was her fifth World Championship, but her first as a head coach.

Read the Hartford Courant article by Lori Riley:

Coventry’s Bonnie Edmondson ready for her role as the U.S. women’s track and field coach at the World Championships

Alumna wins the "Oscars of Teaching," becoming the first Milken Educator Award recipient of the 2019-20 season.

A group of students come in for a group hug to support their award-winning teacher.
Excited students swarm Sepulveda for a group hug. Photo: Milken Family Foundation

Social studies teacher Lauren Sepulveda, ’10, entered the gym prepared for an upbeat but typical morning assembly at Clinton Avenue School in New Haven. Instead she received the surprise of a lifetime when her name was announced as the first recipient of the 2019-20 Milken Education Award and its $25,000 prize. Watch Sepulveda receive the award.

Hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the Milken Educator Awards are designed to “celebrate, elevate, and activate the American teaching profession.” It is not a lifetime achievement award. Instead, the recipients are recognized for exceptional mid-career achievements — and the promise of what they might accomplish given the resources provided with the award.

Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards, made the presentation to a shocked Sepulveda in front of a cheering crowd of students, colleagues, and local and state officials. “Lauren Sepulveda brings history to life by demonstrating how past events have shaped our nation, world, and people today. Students develop a greater understanding of the responsibilities as global citizens and lifelong learners,” said Foley.

Sepulveda, who earned a B.S. in history 7-12 at Southern is the sole award recipient in Connecticut. Nationwide, no more than 40 educators will be honored during the 2019-20 season.

Sepulveda, who teaches seventh and eighth grade, was lauded for efforts to help her students become global thinkers and empathetic citizens. In her classroom, students have met guest speakers who share personal stories of their experiences during World War II, the Korean War, and the Rwandan genocide. Another assignment challenged students to review coverage of the Revolutionary War in their text books — and determine whose perspectives were missing. The students next drafted a new chapter that included the stories of significant minorities. Sepulveda then helped the students submit their work to the text book publisher for consideration for the next edition.

In addition to the cash prize, the award includes networking and mentoring components. Sepulveda will join the other 2019-20 honorees at an all-expenses-paid trip to the Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis from March 26-28, to connect with other educational trailblazers. In addition, each 2019 recipient will be paired with a veteran Milken Educator mentor.

English Professor Tim Parrish

New Haven’s Daily Nutmeg website has kicked off its Summer Reading Month series with a profile of English Professor Tim Parrish, a founder of the university’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program who teaches fiction and memoir. Parrish is the author of the short story collection Red Stick Men (2000), the memoir Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist (2013), and the novel The Jumper (2013). In the Daily Nutmeg profile, Parrish — who grew up in Baton Rouge, La. — discusses the theme of racism in his works and how he deals with his “upbringing in a racist culture.”

The Daily Nutmeg will publish excerpts from Parrish’s work over the next few days, and this article will be updated with links to those excerpts.

Read the profile of Parrish — “Southern Exposure” by Kathy Leonard Czepiel — in the Daily Nutmeg (August 6, 2019).

Excerpt from Parrish’s short story “Roustabout,” part of his collection Red Stick Men.

Excerpt from Parrish’s novel The Jumper

 

Journalism Professor Frank Harris III

August 1, 2019, marked the month of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in America 400 years ago. Journalism Professor Frank Harris III has created a website to commemorate the first Africans and their descendants in America. Harris writes on the site:

“When it occurred to me several years ago that 2019 would mark the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans brought to America, I began asking Americans how America should observe the 400th, if indeed it should be observed,

“Invariably, every person I spoke with was unaware of the 400th until I informed them, and when I did, they were awestruck.

“​My mission became to utilize my role as a journalism professor, news columnist, filmmaker and public speaker to get the word out about the 400th, to encourage activities to observe it. In the process of doing so, I learned much more about slavery that makes this site relevant beyond 2019.

“This site is designed to commemorate and inform about the first enslaved Africans in America and their descendants. It was important to me that 2019 not pass without some acknowledgment of their presence, some recognition of their existence.”

The site includes a list of events to observe the 400th, as well as multimedia presentations and interviews about slavery and the 400th.

Harris’ 400th project has received considerable media attention:

“Slavery’s legacy: SCSU prof studies tragedy, racism today” by Ed Stannard, New Haven Register

“Remembering Those We’ve ‘Overlooked'” by Carmen Baskauf & Lucy Nalpathanchil, WNPR

“400 years ago, first slaves arrived in American colonies” by Ed Stannard, Litchfield County Times

“What the 400th means” by Frank Harris III, Hartford Courant

 

Jacob Santos, ’19, one of 14 in the nation awarded prestigious fellowship

Jacob Santos, ’19, graduated in May with dual degrees — business administration with a concentration in accounting and theatre. Today, his education continues in both subjects thanks a prestigious fellowship from the Newman’s Own Foundation, designed to provide young emerging leaders with experience in the nonprofit sector.

Santos, one of only 14 to receive the award for 2019-20, has been placed at Westport Country Playhouse, where he is a managing director fellow — a post he calls his “dream job.” “My career goal is to become a theater manager with a focus on diversity and inclusion,” says Santos. “I’m excited that my first steps into the industry are with the Playhouse, which shares my creative values and is growing from an already impressive 88-year legacy. I look forward to learning as much as I can from its excellent staff and creative team.”

The Newman’s Own Foundation Fellowship is designed to help future leaders gain critical experience and a better understanding of the importance of philanthropy and giving back. About 150 apply for the fellowship each year, and the foundation annually selects a cohort of no more than 20. Each fellow receives a $38,000 stipend and health benefits from their host organization during the 12-month fellowship. The program also includes five, four-day in-person workshops focused on personal and professional development.

Santos, 24, graduated cum laude from Southern where he was very involved with the campus theater program. He is the founder of the Crescent Players of Color, a coalition of current students and alumni of color dedicated to promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion. He also was a managing intern/casting associate with the Elm Shakespeare Company — Southern’s theater in residence. As a student, he won several awards, including the 2019 Arts Impact Award at the national Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

Michael Barker, managing director at the Westport Country Playhouse, notes the fellowship is a win-win: “Jacob brings a new perspective to the Playhouse’s managerial work,” says Barker. “His judgement and knowledge are beyond his years, and as a recent college graduate his fresh perspective has already made us question assumptions and will lead to thoughtful analysis of our current practices.”

The Newman’s Own Foundation, an independent foundation created by the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, has been offering the fellowship since 2015.

Lewis DeLuca works with students on improving their financial literacy.

The website LendEDU has released its annual Top 50 Financial Literacy Programs report, and Southern made the list for the third year in a row. After analyzing colleges and universities based on LendEDU’s unique scoring system, LendEDU placed Southern in the top 50, at #9, up from #29 in 2018.

LendEDU is a marketplace for private student loans, student loan refinancing, credit cards, and personal loans, among other financial products. LendEDU’s goal is to create transparency in these markets to help consumers make educated decisions and better manage their money. It annually compiles a ranking of the 50 best financial literacy programs offered at colleges throughout the United States, looking at hundreds of colleges and universities that are known to have a financial literacy program. The rankings were based on three specifications:

  • The number of workshops and resources available
  • Access to one-on-one financial consultation
  • Incentivizing programs available (e.g., scholarships for attending workshops)

According to LendEDU, Southern “takes the ninth spot by offering over 100 annual workshops about financial literacy and education. Some workshops include Paying for College, Budget Talk$, and Life After College. The university also has an active and personalized financial advising program, with over 3,174 individual financial plans having been created over the years for students. Many resources have been gathered to a centralized webpage, including student discounts, recommended reading, and videos.”

LendEDU also includes Southern in the recent article, “Colleges That Are Making a Difference By Improving Financial Literacy.”

Lewis J. DeLuca, Jr., coordinator of Student Financial Literacy and Advising, advises students on financial literacy. Through advising, outreach and on-campus programming, he works closely with students and parents to raise awareness about financial literacy, student aid programs and scholarships, as well as the advantages of the timely completion of a degree.

“Financial aid departments in colleges and universities have people who talk with students, but generally not in the kind of depth that we are able to provide on a consistent basis,” DeLuca has said. “And we are available to talk with high school students and potential transfer students, as well.”

West Haven High's Liam Leapley is an incredibly inspiring teacher, says recent college grad Alice Obas -- which is why she successfully nominated him for a highly prestigious teaching award.

West Haven High School teacher Liam Leapley, '00, was nominated for the award by Alice Obas. "Mr. Leapley has not only upheld the values of equity and inclusion during his teaching career but has also instilled those values in his hundreds of students, and in me," says Obas, who recently graduated from Williams College.

With graduation fast approaching, Alice Obas, then a senior at Williams College, was considering an important question in addition to planning her next phase of life: who, among her former teachers at West Haven High School, had the most influence on her education?

Such contemplation is a rite of passage for seniors at Williams, who, each year, are invited to nominate their former teachers for the George Olmsted Jr. Class of 1924 Prize for Excellence in Secondary Education.

For Obas, the choice was obvious: Southern alumnus Liam Leapley, ’00, a special education teacher at West Haven High who also leads the Program for Accelerated Credit Recovery in Education (PACE) at the school. Leapley designed and implemented PACE and, years ago, worked closely with Obas when she was a talented high school student serving as a teaching assistant with the program.

“While the Olmsted Prize is for nominating former teachers, and I was not a part of the PACE program, I feel that I learned and was taught more from Mr. Leapley than my AP [advanced placement] and Honors classes taught me out of a book,” says Obas. The judging committee was inspired as well, selecting Leapley as one of only four recipients of the Olmsted Award. In recognition, he received $3,000, and an additional $5,000 was presented to West Haven High. The award is particularly prestigious in light of the college’s standing: it’s been cited repeatedly as the top liberal arts college in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and Forbes, including this year.

PACE — an intervention program for at-risk youth in grades 8 through 12 — incorporates outside the box approaches to education, including a community-based work experience component, to reignite students’ interest in learning, “Every child can move forward, but you must be willing to work with them no matter where they begin and at which pace they move,” says Leapley, who’s been a special education teacher since 2000 and led the PACE program since 2009.

Award recipient Liam Leapley, ’00, receives an award for exceptional teaching at the high school level at Williams College’s Ivy Exercises.

His influence, notes Obas, has been profound and far-reaching. “Mr. Leapley has not only upheld the values of equity and inclusion during his teaching career but has also instilled those values in his hundreds of students, and in me,” she says.

Southern has historically been a leader in the field of education, with graduates of the School of Education earning many top awards at the state level and beyond. Among the honorees is Jahana Hayes,’05, who was named the National Teacher of the Year in 2016 and went on to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.