On Monday, March 20, Seton Hall University named Dr. Grace May, associate professor of Education Studies and former dean of the College of Education and Human Services (CEHS), the 2017 Woman of the Year.
The award will be given to May, who has been with the University since 1989, for her “significant contributions to the success and advancement of women at the University,” according to the Office of the Provost.
May said in an email that she had many “wonderful” female role models in her life.
“My grandmother was a teacher and my mother worked as a journalist, both, at various times, providing the sole support in the family,” May said. “They were bright and hardworking, setting an example for me of what women can do in the world.”
May attended Cedar Crest College, a women’s college in Allentown, Pa. She said that she arrived at the institution during a transition period, when younger female faculty were being hired. May said that these women with families and active work lives provided her with mentorship and support – she wanted to do the same for her students at Seton Hall.
“When I arrived at Seton Hall, one of my goals was to advocate and promote the potential of my students as it had been done for me,” May said. “As a faculty member in elementary and special education, the majority of my students have been women. Their intense focus and dedication to serving children and their families inspires me on a daily basis.”
Anne Bucca, a senior special and elementary education major, was one of the students who submitted an essay to nominate May for the award. Bucca said that May was the first person that came to mind when the University called for nominations.
“She has been an inspiration and a role model for me since day one here at Seton Hall. She is passionate, humble, and has tremendous faith in her faculty and students,” Bucca wrote in her nomination essay. “She created an environment within the College of Education that I feel no other college has. It is an environment of respect, kindness, teamwork, and passion… She has inspired me to become a leader and has instilled confidence in me that I never thought I had. When I graduate Seton Hall in May with my Education degrees, I am ready to take on the world and pursue my career as a woman with passion, confidence, and determination.”
Jacqueline Murdocca, a junior special and elementary education major, said in an email that May “is a great example of what it looks like to be a leader and a woman.” Murdocca said she first knew May as dean of the CEHS and got to know her more when she became her professor.
“Even before (May) was dean, she worked with individuals with intellectual disabilities, fighting for their fair treatment and rights,” Murdocca said. “She is passionate about teaching teachers to teach, and wants us to walk away from her classes knowing how to integrate every individual into the curriculum, no matter what anyone says about them. She was able to take her passion and make a difference with it.”
Catherine Gonzalez, a senior special and elementary education and social and behavioral sciences major, said that May “embodies the characteristics of the Woman of the Year award.”
Gonzalez said she knows May from her role as former dean of the CEHS and that May was one of her instructors for her education senior seminar course.
“She is a great role model for college aged women as she is a true leader and is dedicated in all that she does. Dr. May strives to go above and beyond when dealing with her students. She is extremely knowledgeable in her field and her presence is always enjoyable to be around,” Gonzalez said in an email. “She is a good role model because she is successful, determined, compassionate, and intelligent. With all that Dr. May does and is involved in, she always has a smile on her face ready to take on the next thing.”
May said that her daughter is in her early 20s and that she listens carefully to the experiences that her daughter has in the work world. She said that some of her daughter’s stories are encouraging, but others are reflective of the “continued work we need to do to create a level-playing field for women.”
“It is imperative that women, of all ages, remain engaged in the conversation about human rights,” May said. “Complacency and the assumption that others will ‘do the work’ is a dangerous path. Every voice matters.”
Ashley Turner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.