erle Nelson Women Making a Difference Award. Cathcart, a former Maine legislator who lives in Orono, was honored on Tuesday Feb. 15 at WWC’s 25th anniversary celebration in Augusta.According to WWC, the award is given to a woman who
- has shown herself to be a risk-taker through public action on an issue or a cause that positively affects the lives of women and their families;
- provides a positive role model and encourages and supports other women to engage in civic activities at any level – local, state, or national;
- is active in the public arena and has shown her willingness to persevere towards her goal.
In addition to Maine Senate service from 1996-2004, Cathcart was a member of the Maine House of Representatives for three terms. She served on a number of legislative committees, including Education and Cultural Affairs, and Appropriations and Financial Affairs, which she chaired in 2003-2004, She also chaired the Joint Select Committee on Research and Development (1997-1999).
Outside of state government, Mary Cathcart chaired the U.S. Commission on Child & Family Welfare (1995-1996), at the appointment of former U.S. Senator George Mitchell. She serves on, and is a past chair of, the New England Board of Higher Education, and also is a board member of the Maine Compact for Higher Education, the Maine Center for Economic Policy; Eastern Maine Medical Center, and WWC. She has also been an advocate for domestic violence awareness and prevention programs.
In her role at UMaine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, Cathcart is currently leading the Maine NEW Leadership program, a six-day, non-partisan summer program for Maine college women interesting in pursuing careers in government and politics. The Maine-based program is part of a national network focusing on developing future leaders for Maine’s communities. The 2011 program is scheduled for June 2-7, and the application deadline is March 17.
The Merle Nelson Award is named for the former Maine legislator who worked to promote “economic fairness” for women, according to WWC materials. Nelson is also known for her work as a “friend, parent, community member, promoter of the arts and….mediator.”
Nelson herself won the first award in 2004, followed by Ann Schonberger in 2006, Betsy Sweet in 2009 and now Cathcart.
Ann Schonberger is a UMaine professor and director of the university’s Women in the Curriculum and Women’s Studies Program.
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