Bay Path University is thrilled to share that Janine Fondon, Chair of the Undergraduate Communications Department and Assistant Professor of Undergraduate Communications, has been chosen as a 2020 Pynchon medalist by The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts. This award serves to give public recognition to citizens in the region who have rendered distinguished civic service, with this year’s recipients “exemplifying the very best that we can be as neighbors and leaders in our respective communities,” as stated by Pynchon Trustees chairman Scott Whitney.
More than 200 community members have been inducted into the Order of William Pynchon since its founding in 1915, including former Bay Path president Dr. Carol Leary in 2007.
Here is what The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts shared about Professor Fondon:
That Janine Fondon has been successful in her professional life is not in dispute. She is co-founder and CEO of UnityFirst, a communications network focused on issues of diversity and inclusion. She serves as chair of Bay Path University's undergraduate communications department. She is, despite her penchant to live just outside the limelight, a much vaunted communications professional with credentials from our most respected media outlets.
However, these achievements are not what brings her here today. The Pynchon award defines success not by the stockpiles of degrees, money, and the depth of favors owed to you—but by what you are moved to do with that success. By that measure, Janine becomes far more than her CV would allow.
After a successful career in Boston and New York, Janine brought her talents for connecting people and leveraging her own successes to elevate others to Springfield. She sought out others in the area who were like-minded change makers, and began a collaboration with the late LuJuana Hood, president and CEO of the PanAfrican Historical Museum. Together, they curated Civil Rights and Womens' Movement exhibits, and laid the groundwork for On the Move, a conference in honor of gender equality and civic engagement. This conference was more than a commemoration of previous pioneers, but a "how to" for the dreamers of today who face institutional challenges and oppression. The conference was launched under the Bay Path University name, but according to former university President Carol Leary, "We're linked to it, but it's a Janine Fondon idea."
What emerges from an examination of her life's work to date is that with every success, every award, every recognition, Janine's response is always, "How can we use this to do more? How can we use this to celebrate others?" On the Move serves as a prime example. In collaboration with Drs. Demetria Shabazz and Lucie K. Lewis, Janine serves as guest curator of an exhibit for the Springfield Museums entitled Voices of Resilience: The Intersection of Women on the Move.
This exhibit tells the stories of local women, particularly women of color, who have changed the course of history in ways loud and quiet, bold and unnoticed. Jenny Slew and Elizabeth Freeman, two enslaved African American women who petitioned the Commonwealth for their freedom—and won. And while many of the figures in that exhibit would be familiar to local students of history, it might be the first time visitors would be introduced to—for example—Carrie Roberson, the first African American manager at Springfield's Steiger's department store. Also, Janine's Jamaican American grandmother, Miriam Kirkaldy, who arrived at Ellis Island in 1917 in search of a new life, and found such as a seamstress and homeowner in New York. The implicit message in Janine's curation was, 'These women, too, are worthy of honor.'
In fact, she has used every platform given to her to celebrate unheard heroes of the everyday, whose tenacity, endurance, and vision for what is possible makes them the heroes that we most need now. By her profession, Janine is a public figure. By her passion, she celebrates those who are not.
These are her more public works. But Janine's impact is also seen in the countless young women we encountered in our research—both her students at Bay Path and beyond—to whom she has pulled back the curtain of ambition and showed them not just where their paths may lead them, but where that path starts. We heard from state senators, museum presidents, newspaper publishers, and civic leaders who advocated for Janine's contribution to our region, but one voice stood out: a student of Janine's at Bay Path who said, "I would have dropped out, if it wasn't for Janine Fondon. She inspires and empowers me."
Because of her ongoing commitment to elevating the stories of those who have come before her and inspiring change, we are compelled to say of Janine Fondon, 'This woman, too, is worthy of honor.'
The full press release issued by The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts can be found here. Congratulations, Professor Fondon! We are grateful to have you as a part of our Bay Path community!