By Virginia Weir
Being ‘women and men for others’ means that we have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters,” said Carolyn Vermont ’82, M.A.’84. “It’s about giving of oneself to others.”
Vermont takes the Ignatian concept seriously. Active involvement in her community has been a continuing thread throughout Vermont’s professional life, since she graduated with a B.A. in theater arts in 1982, and an M.A. in educational media in 1984. She is well-known in her hometown of Bridgeport, Conn., as a passionate volunteer in several non-profit organizations facing issues such as community education and positive youth development.
Just this past fall, Vermont took the helm as president of the Greater Bridgeport Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (naacp), a position that she sees as an honor and a challenge. In her role, she will work with naacp at the state level to address a variety of issues, from health care to disparities in judges’ sentences. Her naacp work reflects values that were strengthened during her years at Fairfield, Vermont noted. “Fairfield has always been an environment that cares for the individual while working to ensure the good of the larger community.”
During President Obama’s campaign, Vermont was active in the National African-American Leadership Team. She met with Michelle Obama in a roundtable discussion during a campaign visit to Connecticut, and the First Lady has kept in touch. Last summer, Vermont and her family were invited to visit the White House for a Fourth of July barbeque. “We had a great time,” said Vermont. “It was an historic event for my family.”
As an undergraduate, Vermont was a participant in Fairfield’s Upward Bound program. She later went on to become academic coordinator for the University of Bridgeport program, helping educationally disadvantaged and low-income students prepare for and apply to college. Vermont is now a manager for inroads New England Region, Inc., an organization which places talented college students of color in business and industry and prepares them for corporate and community leadership. She is also a facilitator for the Connecticut Commission on Children Parent Leadership Training Institute, helping parents to advocate for their children.
“Community work is very important to me,” she said. “A lot of the groups I get involved in are groups that I’ve benefited from.”
Fairfield University is one of those groups. She was a member of the Board of Trustees from 2000-05, a member of the Trustees Advisory Council, and a diversity recruitment consultant for University College. In 2008, Vermont was honored for her volunteerism with the Alumni Service Award at Fairfield’s annual Awards Dinner. She has also received numerous other awards for her service to the community.
“One thing my Fairfield education did was to reinforce my early learning about making a positive impact on the lives of others,” Vermont said. “We live in a society of unequal opportunities. Many brilliant minds go underdeveloped and underutilized, resulting in a limited contribution to society. So, as a society, we lose out. That’s a key reason why I invest my time at Fairfield with the Annual Giving Committee and the Awards Dinner. We have to continue creating opportunities.”
Vermont is a native of Jamaica, West Indies. Her daughter, Nicole, is a 2006 graduate of Georgetown University; her son, Noel, is pursuing his undergraduate studies at DePaul University in Chicago.
“I firmly believe that we enter the world with a purpose,” Vermont said. “Once we identify that purpose, we have a responsibility to fulfill it by the life we live. For me, it’s all about giving my time, talent, and treasure.”