Spirit of Emerson committee to debut annual Kindness Award

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Spirit of Emerson committee to debut annual Kindness Award

Jacqueline Holland works as the chair of the Spirit of Emerson committee that will vote on  winners of the Kindness Award. Shiyu Pan / Beacon Staff

Jacqueline Holland works as the chair of the Spirit of Emerson committee that will vote on winners of the Kindness Award. Shiyu Pan / Beacon Staff

Jacqueline Holland works as the chair of the Spirit of Emerson committee that will vote on winners of the Kindness Award. Shiyu Pan / Beacon Staff

Jacqueline Holland works as the chair of the Spirit of Emerson committee that will vote on winners of the Kindness Award. Shiyu Pan / Beacon Staff

By Domenic Conte

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An anonymous faculty donor partnered with the Spirit of Emerson organization to establish an award debuting in spring 2020 celebrating kindness within the college community.

Professor Tom Cooper and Assistant Vice President of Student Success Sharon Duffy, co-facilitators of the Spirit of Emerson, worked with the donor to set up the Emerson Kindness award to focus specifically on kindness and to complement the annual Spirit of Emerson Award, which honors leadership. For at least the next three years, the donor intends to cover the $200 reward for the winner of the Kindness Award.

“In this age of constant shootings, violence, Title IX violations and all kinds of other problems, it’s nice to sometimes focus on the positive side of things, because we tend to forget there are individuals of integrity who are doing something positive,” Cooper said in an interview. “We see so many negative things stealing the spotlight.” 

For the Spirit of Emerson Award, which Cooper launched in 2013, the committee typically chooses two winners to receive the honor and the small monetary award. Neither Holland nor Cooper could confirm whether or not the Kindness Award will have one or two winners. 

The award “honors a person or persons who spreads unconditional, unwavering, and selfless kindness among the Emerson community, ” according to the Spirit of Emerson committee. Junior and student facilitator Brandon Smith said the award differs from Spirit of Emerson because it places an emphasis on morale.

“We have a strong focus on radiance, so whoever brings light to the community,” Smith said. 

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The Spirit of Emerson committee, which includes an alumnus, a former Spirit of Emerson Award winner, and six members of faculty, staff, and administration from across the college, reviews submissions for both the Kindness Award and the Spirit of Emerson Award. Nominations for the awards are due by Jan. 31, 2020 and can be submitted either through the Kindness Award web page or by email to Smith or Spirit of Emerson Committee Chair Jacqueline Holland.

As criteria for the award, recipients must exhibit kindness that goes above and beyond expectations, meet the Oxford English Dictionary definition of kindness, perform kindness selflessly, live kindness by example, and demonstrate universal, non-discriminatory kindness, according to the Kindness Award page.

Along with highlighting kindness around the college, Cooper said the Spirit of Emerson also aims to represent the president’s office’s goal of building community.  

“It’s pretty hard to build community if you’re always accusing, blaming, criticizing, and judging other people,” Cooper said. “Kindness is part of the glue of building community.” 

Recipients can be students, faculty, administration, or any other members of the Emerson community. The award will be given to the winner in a ceremony at the end of the academic year. For a student recipient, the committee will present the award at a pre-existing student-oriented ceremony. A staff or faculty recipient will receive their award at a faculty ceremony.

Holland won the Spirit of Emerson Award in 2016 and said selecting winning nominations both challenges and excites the committee each year. 

“We try to be unbiased and base it on the nomination, so that we know it’s fair across the board,” Holland said. “It doesn’t feel like work because it’s fun—you’re celebrating the good at Emerson and these people you wouldn’t have heard of otherwise.”  

Cooper said schools often only honor academic or athletic forms of achievement, so an award for kindness brings attention to the positive deeds and people who go unrecognized. 

“There are people you never hear about, and that’s part of the reason for the award: to give acknowledgement to people who are quietly doing their job but doing a wonderful job and who may make the difference in other people’s lives,” Cooper said. “You never hear about it, unless they get acknowledged.” 

Smith echoed Cooper’s sentiment, stating that kindness should not be overlooked at Emerson.

“I don’t think it’s honored enough among communities,” he said. “I think kindness is something that is expected but not acknowledged.”