by Bert Stern
From the window where I write, I can see clearly to my neighbor’s house across the street and, on a good day, the tops of the Prudential and Hancock Buildings. But this Wednesday, Tam Neville and I found ourselves at the University of Massachusetts Club, on the 33rd floor of 225 Franklin Street, looking out at 90% of the Boston Harbor. That seemed just the right view for the occasion. Tam and I, along with Lee Roy Sims and Ron Bradfield (recent graduates who now serve masterfully as volunteer discussion- leaders for our on-going fall program) were there as guests of Taylor Stoehr. Taylor was one of six recipients of the President’s Public Service Award, and it seemed that most of the upper echelon UMass administrators were there for the occasion
It was exactly ten years ago when Bob Waxler received the same honor. Now, once again, CLTL was in the limelight. There was much to enjoy on this occasion – for example, seeing Lee Roy and Ron, utterly at ease as they always are, chatting away with Winston Langley, Associate Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs.
But beyond the view and the company stood the ceremony itself, which honored six remarkable people, all of them committed to giving back to the community some share of what had been given to them. The recipients each had an opportunity to speak, and Taylor spent his share of the time giving a brief history of CLTL and providing a glimpse of the Dorchester Men’s Program. He did so by briefly summarizing our class of the night before, in which we talked about hitting bottom, and about why some people get back up while others don’t. That session is a turning point for many of our students, and Taylor let the audience get a taste of that significant point in our curriculum.
Taylor ended with some words about what the CORI system is, and how it hangs over the efforts of our graduates to find housing and jobs. Further, today many colleges and universities deny financial aid and even admission to students who have a CORI. The response to Taylor’s urgent plea for CORI reforms hit a responsive cord with his audience, most of whom applauded his point.
As to us four in the audience who directly or indirectly worked with Taylor, the ceremony was an occasion of joy and pride. It was good to see so worthy a man as Taylor honored, along with five peers, and it was a proud moment for the program.
Bert Stern has taught in the Dorchester Program for nine years. He is a writer, editor, and poet, a retired English professor and retired chief editor of Hilton Publishing. He and his wife, Tam Neville, co-edit Off the Grid Press, which publishes poetry books by writers over 60.