We’re excited to announce that Mary E. Walsh, the Executive Director of City Connects, is the recipient of this year’s Saint Robert Bellarmine, S.J., Award, “in recognition of her exemplary career and significant contributions that have consistently and purposefully advanced the mission of Boston College.”
Walsh received the honor on Monday at Boston College’s graduation ceremony.
“She is the fourth recipient of the award, named for the Italian cardinal, influential professor, and one of the leading figures in the Counter-Reformation.”
Ordained in the year 1570, Bellarmine was known for his commitment to education and to protecting vulnerable people. It’s a tradition that Walsh exemplifies in her work at City Connects. Her conviction that a combination of clearing away out-of-school problems, creating opportunities, and focusing on strengths can help students succeed in school has evolved into the City Connects model of getting the right services to the right students at the right time. It’s a “whole child” approach that’s built on research, data, and evidence of long-term success.
And as Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen explains, this work draws on Walsh’s personal experience.
“Her upbringing informed everything she did,” Cullen writes. “She had involved parents, a stable home, a local community that supported her. Her academic research was at the intersection of children and poverty.”
“ ‘I was poor,’ she said, ‘but I had opportunities.’ ”
Walsh also launched the Center for Optimized Student Support, the home of City Connects, which, thanks to a $10 million gift, was renamed the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children.
From Walsh’s early start in 2001, supporting students in several Boston public schools, to now, the Center for Thriving Children and City Connects “have grown to annually serve 50,000 students in public, charter, and Catholic schools in Massachusetts and other states, as well as Dublin, Ireland.”
There’s also a City Connects Midwest Technical Assistance Center based in Indiana, thanks to partnership between the Walsh Center and Marian University.
“We are thrilled that Mary Walsh and her extraordinary work are being recognized with this prestigious University award,” Stanton E.F. Wortham said in a statement. Wortham is the Charles F. Donovan, S.J., Dean of the Lynch School. “She and the City Connects team exemplify a powerful blend of first-rate research brought into practice for the benefit of others, exactly the kind of work that we aim to do at the Lynch School and Boston College.”
It’s work that has made a positive difference in thousands of students’ lives.