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Erskine Award Recipients

WORCESTER – The YWCA has announced the winners of its annual Katharine F. Erskine Awards, with Senate President Harriette L. Chandler set to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The awards, presented for 24 years to honor extraordinary women and their achievements in the community, will be handed out Tuesday at a luncheon at Mechanics Hall.

Mrs. Chandler became the first woman from Worcester elected to the state Senate, in 2000. A former teacher and Worcester School Committee member, she is in her ninth two-year Senate term.

“This is really a ‘wow’ moment for me. To be given a lifetime achievement award is so humbling, and I am very thankful to the Central Mass. YWCA for this tremendous honor,” Mrs. Chandler, D-Worcester, said Wednesday.

In a news release, the YWCA noted Mrs. Chandler also serves as president of the executive board of the Women’s Legislative Network of the National Conference of State Legislatures, as a state director of Women in Government and as corporator of the YWCA Central Massachusetts, the Worcester Art Museum and the Greater Worcester Community Foundation.

She is also a member of the United Way of Central Massachusetts and the Worcester Women’s History Project.

The other women to be honored are Mihoko Wakabayashi, for arts and culture; Sue Mailman, business and law; Marianna Islam, community social service and government; Amy Ebbeson, education; and Oanh Nguyen, health, science and technology.

According to the YWCA, Ms. Wakabayashi is a fiber artist and owner of Saori Worcester, where she teaches Saori freestyle weaving. She has participated in many local art events, including stART on the Street, since moving to the city in 2000.

A native of Japan, Ms. Wakabayashi has worked with numerous community organizations, including the Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center and Mustard Seed. She helped create the Elm Park School Community Garden, and has introduced Saori weaving to women and girls at various city schools and youth organizations.

Ms. Mailman, owner and chairwoman of Coghlin Electrical Contractors, has a long history of volunteerism and service in the community.

Currently chair of the board of Quinsigamond Community College and of the Associated Subcontractors of Massachusetts, Ms. Mailman also has held leadership posts at the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, the YWCA and the United Way of Central Massachusetts.

Ms. Mailman served for more than a decade on the Advisory Board of Worcester Technical High School, served nine years on the board of Reliant Medical Group and is a founding chair of the Worcester Women’s Leadership Conference. Ms. Mailman also serves on the Massachusetts State Workforce Board and on the Massachusetts Apprenticeship Advisory Council.

Ms. Islam is director of programs and advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education, and is a founding member of the Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition.

“Marianna brings passion to her role as a philanthropic leader, youth worker and community organizer for racial, gender, economic and social justice,” the YWCA said in the announcement, noting a wealth of experience in the philanthropic sector.

“Facilitating learning communities, addressing structural racism and empowering marginalized communities are long-standing threads in her work,” the YWCA said, adding that Ms. Islam “is charged by her experiences as a single parent, formerly undocumented immigrant, Muslima and woman of color to center and elevate the voices of marginalized communities.”

Ms. Ebbeson is the coordinator of the master of social work program for Wheelock@Worcester, a Holy Cross-based satellite of Wheelock College, and program manager for Worcester ACTs (Addresses Childhood Trauma).

Ms. Ebbeson worked at social service agencies including the state Department of Mental Health before teaching mental and community health at Worcester State University for 17 years. She serves as vice chair for the Worcester County Commission on the Status of Women, is co-chair of the YWCA’s Racial Justice Task Force and is on the advisory board for the Clemente Course in the Humanities.

Ms. Nguyen is the program director of the Worcester Women, Infant Children Nutrition Program at Family Health Center of Worcester, the largest WIC program in the state.

Ms. Nguyen, who has led the program since 2003, joined the Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts in 2002, and served as volunteer member of the board of directors for six years and as board chair for eight years. She has in the past served as president of the Massachusetts Association of WIC Directors, board member of Child Development Head Start Program Policy Council and as a corporator of the Worcester Art Museum. She received the 2009 Massachusetts Community Health Center Employee Award and the 2009 Massachusetts WIC Director of the Year.

The Katharine F. Erskine Award is named after Katharine Forbes Erskine, who twice served as president of the YWCA’s board of directors, once in 1930 and again in 1960.


Brad Petrishen

Worcester Telegram & Gazette