UMass Dartmouth has renamed the Center for Civic Engagement after Fall River natives Robert and Jeanne Leduc as part of its focus on civic engagement and service learning.
Robert Leduc, who graduated from then-Southeastern Massachusetts University with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1978, has risen through the ranks of United Technologies Corporation and is president of Hamilton Sundstrand, a company that designs, manufactures and services military, commercial and business aircraft systems.
In addition to sitting on the board of Hamilton Sundstrand Space Systems International, Leduc is also a trustee of the UMass Dartmouth Foundation.
Explaining the motive behind his gift to the university Leduc said in a press release from the school, "It's a point of pride and an expression of our belief in investing in the people and places that have been a part of my life, and the lives of my wife and children."
Robert was joined by his wife, Jeanne, their families, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, Sen. Michael Rodrigues, state Rep. Christopher Markey, UMass Board of Trustees Chairman James Karam, and hundreds of guests, according to the release.
University Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack said, "What shines through about Bob and Jeanne is a deeply rooted belief in young people, and a belief that meaningful civic engagement is both an obligation of this young generation and an opportunity. Staying true to that commitment, from this day forward, begins right here at the Robert and Jeanne Leduc Center for Civic Engagement."
UMD officials said Jeanne Roy Leduc was born and raised in Fall River, one of 11 children of the late Russell, and Mrs. Theresa Roy. From Jeanne's professional commitment as an emergency room nurse for 20 years, to her volunteer activities in soup kitchens and her role as a founding member of the Board of Directors and supporter of the African Teacher's Foundation of Westport, her life of service was cited as inspiration by her husband and by her brother, Civic Engagement Center Director Dr. Matthew H. Roy.
State Rep. Chris Markey thanked the Leducs for their donation and service.
The center is located in the Liberal Arts building on campus, and the gift allowed the university to organize and label the space. The school did not reveal the amount of the gift.
Moving forward, the gift will go directly to strengthening SouthCoast Serves, a partnership of 35 non-profits managed by the center. School officials said it will also help the school reach its goal of ensuring that every UMD student graduates with at least one service-learning experience, and will allow staff and faculty to plan more ambitious and effective classes and programs that are fully integrated with service- learning.
UMass Dartmouth was recently named as one of the nation's top 10 colleges and universities — and only honoree in Massachusetts — on the President's Honor Roll for Community Service, which recognizes exceptional commitment to service learning.
Last year, UMass Dartmouth students gave 179,000 hours of service valued at almost $5 million to the communities of southeastern Massachusetts.
On Friday April 27th, 200 faculty, administrators, students, and dignitaries attended a dedication ceremony honoring FallRiver natives Jeanne and Robert Leduc, their generous donation to the Center, and their commitment to community impact through social outreach.
Dr. Matthew Roy - the Center's Executive Director - welcomed guests to an event that both honored the Leducs and highlighted the efforts and successes of the University's commitment to service-learning and civic engagement.
As a part of the introduction, Dr. Roy pointed out several painted ladders – commissioned and installed for the occasion – sculpted by art students under the direction of professor Stacy Latt Savage. He noted that each ladder represented a student's interpretation of the Center for Civic Engagement's impact on the community it serves.
The ladders largely symbolized obstacles, wavering paths, and the small gestures it takes to help somebody achieve their full potential.
Roy urged the audience to "consider small, consistent acts of kindness as heroic because they bring hope."
Following the Dedication Ceremony, a dinner was held at Woodland Commons, where the excitement and optimism from the Dedication continued to motivate all the attendees. Speakers, including Dean Ismael Ramirez-Soto and student, Peter Schock, helped to emphasize the important work that the Leduc Center has done and will now continue to do with the help from Robert and Jeanne Leduc.
The Rewards of Civic Engagement
A Guest Opinion Piece in the Fall River Herald by UMD Student Kate Griffin
A good part of the education of a college student comes from classroom learning. However, listening to course lectures, writing papers, taking exams, and working on projects is not the whole story of a 21st century college education.
Experiential learning also plays a big part. Employers want to see evidence of internships and community service on the resumes of job candidates and many college students are looking for such opportunities.
For the past academic year, I have been volunteering as a tutor in the America Reads program, which is a federal initiative that sponsors college students to volunteer as reading tutors for at-risk children in the local community. I became aware of the program through UMass Dartmouth’s Center for Civic Engagement. Since the fall of 2011, I have been tutoring a first grade class at Carney Academy, an elementary school in the New Bedford Public School system. This has been a tremendously rewarding experience. I also know that this is a great resume item that will be valued by prospective employers and will look good on graduate school applications. But the real value of this experience is not in the “resume boost” I will get but in what I have learned — lessons that would have never come across through lectures, papers, and group projects.
At first I found myself exceedingly frustrated with my work as a tutor. In my mind I had romanticized what my tutoring experience would be like. I believed that the work would be easy and that the road to teaching these children how to read would be a fairly smooth one. I did not account for the difficulties of a child learning to read, especially in a classroom setting of close to 30 students.
Each day I was given a student to help with their reading and writing. Many times I would work with the same student, but on some occasions I worked with others that were also struggling with their schoolwork. Though at first I was discouraged, as I began to know these students better, I was able to understand what techniques were efficient in helping them focus on their studies and to not get distracted by such a large class of students. At the beginning I used incentive, such as giving a sticker for the completion of their work, but soon the students began to become excited about their progress, and the sheer pleasure of their accomplishments was enough of an incentive to give their best effort on the lesson.
As the students progressed, I began to leave the school with a sense of satisfaction. I was making a difference in their success as students and as a passionate learner myself, I was pleased to know that I was able to have an impact on the education of a student that would not normally have one-on-one attention. My most memorable moment was when I returned to Carney Academy from intersession and was met by the hugs and gasps of the students. I had not expected this reaction, but I was please to learn that my absence was noticed and that my presence was appreciated.
This is the first time that I have participated in community service for such an extended period of time, and I cannot stress enough how rewarding this experience has been. An education is something that can lead to greater opportunities in life, and being able to assist another in their educational progress, especially with helping to attain a skill as important as reading, has been an extremely worthwhile experience. In addition, volunteering in community service has convinced me that with real commitment it is possible to make a difference in children’s lives through education and instilled in me a desire to help even the most troubled students experience the excitement of learning.
I encourage all students to look for opportunities to become more civically engaged. At the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, the Center for Civic Engagement facilitated my experience and I encourage local school departments, nonprofits, and government agencies to partner with that center. Entities on the Southcoast that should look to the local colleges and universities — to tap into the reservoir of talent there — college students looking for a chance to learn while making a difference. Civic engagement and service learning need to be put on the same level as other types of learning — such as classroom activities, student research, and internships for credit.
As a part of the Dedication of the Robert and Jeanne Leduc Center for Civic Engagement, we asked some of our community partners to share their experience in working with us. Please click here to view.