On The Beach… With Beverly Baxter
As we march forth today, on March 4, let us keep that spirit alive in
our hearts for a final resolution for peace in Northern Ireland. The Irish
people haven't come this far, after hundreds of years, to allow their claim to their own self-governed entity to unravel. It has taken so much fierce determination to have even made it to that table of peace; and with much give and take, strategic compromise, and many steps forward and back, now that we are finally seated at that table, we must dig in our heels and sit firmly in that chair.
As our parade steps off today at Beach 129 Street and Newport avenue, let us celebrate who we are as a people, as a community, and all of the
unique qualities that have enabled us to be where we are today. Each year
the parade committee selects and votes to honor certain people who have contributed much to the Irish community. They have, by their examplorary lives, distinguished themselves above the throng. This year the committee has chosen to honor one person whom I feel truly and completely embodies all of the qualities we recognize and admire in our honorable grand marshals. Her name is Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey. As someone who has had the personal
pleasure of having been befriended by Dr. Chapey, I'd like to share with you
all that I know about this most remarkable woman.
A combination of a young Katherine Hepburn/Maureen O'Hara, Dr. Chapey has always been ahead of her time. From the advancement of the women's movement, education, labor relations, to quality of life issues for senior citizens, Dr. Chapey champions these issues with passion and an unrelenting commitment. The pitch and pace of her life resonate her dedication to the particular causes she takes on. After all, she is the daughter of Dr. Geraldine Donnelly Chapey and the late Robert Chapey.
A fourth generation Rockaway resident, Dr. Chapey has a lot of sand in
her shoes! She attended Saint Frances de Sales, where upon her graduation she received the award sponsored by the Rockaway Catholic Jewish Council for her essay on brotherhood. It was a memorable moment in her life to have received the award from Rabbi Weiss, whom she regards with such awe and who
continues to have an impact on her life to this day. Geraldine attended
Stella Maris when it was still an all girls school; and in reflecting on her
academic growth there, she states, "because it was an all girls school, I
wasn't aware that there were certain subjects that only boys studied, like
biology or that girls studied subjects like literature. I was allowed the
particular advantage of uninhibited academic exploration, which is so
important in our formative years."
Since she comes from a scholarly family where much importance was
placed on higher education, Geraldine then went on to St. John's University and then on to Columbia where she took her master's. Being a "Chapey" and her "mother's daughter", she didn't stop there! She did her doctorate at Rutger's University in labor management relations. While serving as an officer of her union, the Professional Staff Congress Faculty Union for C.U.N.Y., she met Dr. Belle Zeller, the founding president of the union, whom she has regarded as her role model. Dr. Chapey was also the director of legislation and lobbying for the union.
Of all the issues she has taken on in her professional life, perhaps
the most dear to her are issues that concern women. While a lobbyist on
behalf of her union, Dr. Chapey worked with Ken LaValle, Republican chairman of the Higher Education Committee in the senate, and with Ed Sullivan, a Democrat who chaired the Education Committee in the state assembly. Her ability to work with members from both sides of the political isle helped to
bring forth legislation that now provides day care facilities in every
school in the C.U.N.Y. system. Because of Dr. Chapey's efforts on behalf of women, mothers can register for classes and at the same time register their children for on-site day care. "I always felt that it would be practically impossible for a mother to concentrate on her higher education studies when her full attention was to her children's well being. This program, which helps mothers who wish to return to school to advance the quality of their lives and that of the lives of their children, makes it possible..and the program is run by the mothers themselves when they're not in class. I'm most proud of this legislation," states Dr. Chapey.
Another issue she met head on and with the conviction was for the
illumination of mandatory retirement for teachers. In order to receive a
full pension from C.U.N.Y. one had to teach for 25 years before they're 65 years old. "This mandate effected women perhaps the most because women are more apt to take a leave of absence from the careers to raise families and then return to the work force. So this mandate impacted
unfairly upon them." In addition, she served as V.P. of her federal credit
union board; and while under her leadership, the union's assets soared to 26 million dollars! She was also the director of career development
program at Kingsborough Community College. A program designed for
para-professionals (mostly women) employed by the city schools, it gives
raises to those with academic credits rather than rewarding seniority with a raise; therefore, promoting education and at the same time advancing the employed student.
Dr. Chapey is currently a tenured full professor of psychology. She is
director of the Institute for Professional Development. In addition, she is the female Democratic district leader of the 23 assembly district, part B; and in between breaths, she manages to pen four columns a week for The Wave, The Forum, The Times Leader, and the Rockaway Point News.
Of all her activities on the local level, Dr. Chapey has certainly
championed the quality of life issues on behalf of senior citizens in our
community. She formed Trinity Senior Services, a non profit corporation that lobbies for funding that enable the many exciting activities that many of our local seniors enjoy and engage in. Dr. Chapey's efforts have provided for free tickets to exciting Broadway shows, free transportation to and from the shows and lovely lunches in wonderful restaurants. Trinity Seniors have taken trips to see the Monet exhibit, the Russian Jewel exhibit, the United Nations, Ellis Island, and to the Museum of the Moving Image, just to name a
few! Dr. Chapey states that it's "so important that seniors be afforded the many activities that enrich life. Through this program we are able to
provide activities such as these stimulating day trips to interesting places, as well funding for holiday parties, and intergenerational activities for 1500 seniors in our community!" The program serves the four parishes: the Breezy Point Seniors, the Sea Breeze Seniors, St. Camillus Seniors, and the Young at Heart. Dr. Chapey recently applied for an additional grant for N.O.R.C. (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community) for Breezy Point seniors. She has worked with Kevin Buckley and Dan McNally who have put together statistics for the grant, which will provide additional educational and recreational activities. So, if you're a senior citizen, there's much to do, much to get involved in, and that's so important at any age and especially for our seniors.
Among her many decorated honors, Geraldine was appointed by the
governor to the New York State Department of Labor Advisory Council on Employment and Unemployment. She has received papal honors from the Pope when she was appointed as a Dame in the Sovereign Order of the Knights and Dames of Malta, and Cardinal O'Connor elevated her to the position of commander in the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre.
I could go on and on about this lady as she continues to go on and
on...on behalf of her community. I am certainly honored to have her as my
friend and on behalf of the parade committee, I must tell you how honored we are to be honoring such a distinguished lady of impeccable credentials who wears her heritage so well! Now...on with the parade!