Speaking before a packed auditorium Friday evening, UFTer Lucille Swaim and Kathleen Donahue, NYSUT vice president, were visibly moved as they received NYSUT's highest honor for leadership, "Not for Ourselves Alone: The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award."
A former economics professor, Swaim came to the UFT in 1961, sent by the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department to work alongside Al Shanker during the union's historic campaign to represent New York City teachers. She noted that in 1961, when the first UFT agreement was reached, it was widely hailed by politicians and the media as a means to improve education.
"But today, instead of being appreciated for what they bring to their students, teachers are blamed as being the cause of budgetary woes," she said. "This is disturbing.
But still, I'm comforted by the knowledge that the union remains strong, our leaders courageous and our members supportive. "I will treasure this award all the more since it bears Sandy's name," said Swaim.
"Thank you so much!" said a visibly surprised Donahue to rousing applause as she accepted her award.
She underscored her commitment to the union movement in accepting the award. "I really do believe that the more people we get involved in the union movement the better off we will all be - as health care professionals, retirees, teachers, SRPs, as new members, we are all united," said Donahue.
Elected NYSUT vice president in 2005, Donahue began her union career with the Hilton Teachers Association, serving as its local president for 24 years and with the Monroe County Federation of Teachers, which she led for 20 years.
A veteran union leader, educator and advocate, Donahue coordinates the union's Program Services, addressing the needs of NYSUT's health care professionals, School-Related Professionals, new members, small and rural locals and retirees. She also oversees NYSUT's social service program for in-service and retiree members.
Named in honor of Sandra Feldman, the former AFT and UFT president, who succumbed to breast cancer in 2005, the "Not for Ourselves Alone" award recognizes the contributions of women to the education union movement. This is the 10th year the awards have been presented.