ORONO, Maine — Three Maine women — Constance Carter of Orono, the Rev. Sue Davies of Veazie and Dr. Dora Anne Mills of Brunswick — will be honored Wednesday with this year’s Maryann Hartman award.
Carter, 64, founded Operation Breaking Stereotypes to bring together middle- and high-school students in Maine and those in New York City, Boston and other major urban cities.
Davies, 69, a retired professor of Christian education at Bangor Theological Seminary, works with religious leaders around the world on economic and environmental issues.
For 15 years, as head of Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Mills, 51, kept a watchful eye on the impact of diseases such as the H1N1 flu virus and took steps to ensure Maine residents were protected against them. The pediatrician also practiced in Africa before settling in Maine.
The women, along with first-year UMaine student Sarah Eaton of Deer Isle, will be honored at a ceremony at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Buchanan Alumni House at the University of Maine.
The Hartman award is named for a former UMaine teacher and scholar in speech communication, Maryann Hartman, who died of cancer in 1980 at the age of 53.
“I’m so incredibly honored and surprised,” Carter said in a telephone interview Monday. “There are probably about a thousand students out there who should have been named with me. Students from all over Maine, New York City and Boston took the risk to step outside their comfort zones to get to know the others and learn to appreciate their differences.”
Carter and her daughter Cami Carter, who now teaches at Hermon High School, began several years ago a student exchange program when the younger woman was teaching in the Bronx, N.Y.
“I didn’t do this alone,” the elder woman said. “I feel a lot of this recognition should be my daughter’s.”
That first exchange grew into a full-time program and job for Carter.
“This project radically alters both Maine and New York-Boston students’ perceptions of other races and cultures,” Mary Phillips of Old Town said in nominating Carter. “During the past year, Connie developed a new curriculum for [Operation Breaking Stereotypes], one that involves addressing the importance of being a good digital citizen. The new curriculum teaches students about their presence online and the concept of reputation management, including online safety, their digital footprint, exploring values to guide their behavior, and the responsible use of social media.”
Carter also has developed a program aimed at middle-schoolers to allow students to participate in online exchanges instead of face-to-face programs because travel can be expensive and school budgets have been cut in the economic recession.
“Welcome to My World,” a documentary film made about the program, has helped raise awareness about its goals, Carter said.
Davies began developing a global vision while still in high school. She spent the fall semester of 1959 in Austria as an exchange student. It was the first year students were allowed to spend more than a summer abroad in the American Field Service Intercultural program.
“That’s when there was a lot of squabbling over Sputnik,” Davies said in a telephone interview Monday. “People in Austria were watching the U.S. and Russia slug it out, but had no vested interest in the outcome. I realized that the United States was not the center of the universe and that I could do very well in the world without English.”
Growing up in Detroit, Davies also went south with church programs in the late 1950s and saw the oppression of African-Americans firsthand.
It was for her work as minister and theologian that Deborah Leighton of Bath nominated Davis for the Hartman award.
“Sue became the first woman minister at the Union Congregational Church in Hancock, Maine, in 1977,” Leighton said in her nomination submission. “While working as a professor at the Bangor Theological Seminary, Sue has opened the curriculum to classes on gender, race, class, feminist theology and feminist ethics. In her work, she was known for consistently supporting the [gay] students in all of their struggles. She also worked with churches in the 1980’s and 1990’s to move the gay community from the margins to the center of the church, despite widespread resistance and hostility from some church members.”
Davies has been an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage.
“I’m really humbled at this award,” she said. “I look at caliber and gifts of women who have won it in the past, and I can’t imagine why they are giving it to me. But I am very grateful.”
Mills is the vice president for clinical affairs at the University of New England in Biddeford. A pediatrician by training and a native of Farmington, she headed up the Maine CDC for 15 years under Govs. Angus King and John Baldacci.
She is credited with a number of public health successes, including reducing Maine’s rates of tobacco use, teen pregnancy and childhood obesity. Mills established numerous statewide partnerships with hospitals, nonprofit agencies and schools, including the statewide Healthy Maine Partnerships, which provide public health programs on a local level. Mills also helped develop a centralized system of public health districts, laying the groundwork for national accreditation and additional federal funding for public health programs.
After Gov. Paul LePage was elected in 2010, Mills stepped down from the Maine CDC and took a job as the medical director for MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program for low-income and disabled residents. But in February of this year, she was ousted from that position without explanation from the new administration. In May, she assumed her current position with UNE.
In a telephone interview last week, Mills said poverty remains the greatest challenge to public health in Maine.
“We know people living in poverty don’t have as good access to health care as others do,” she said. “They tend to die younger of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. That’s in part because they get diagnosed later, but they also have higher rates of these diseases.”
Mills said choosing healthy behavior is “an uphill climb” for Mainers in poverty, whether they live in rural or urban areas.
“The longer I’m in public health, the more I realize how connected it is to economic development,” she said.
Mills was nominated for the Hartman award by her former Augusta colleague Trish Riley, the director of the now-dismantled Governor’s Office of Health Policy and Finance.
Riley, who received a Maryann Hartman award in 1996 when she was serving as the director of the Portland-based National Academy of State Health Policy, said Mills is highly regarded in the public health community and respected for her dedication, energy and political savvy.
Mills’ handling of the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009 and 2010 is a good example of her preparedness and expertise, Riley said.
“The H1N1 epidemic didn’t become an epidemic in Maine,” she said. “When a problem doesn’t occur, people often don’t realize what went into achieving that outcome. With very limited resources, [Mills] was able to lead an effort to ensure that H1N1 didn’t spread in the way people would terrified it would.”
At Wednesday’s ceremony, Eaton will be given the Young Women’s Social Justice Award for her work with Looking Out for Teens. The organization educates students about the dangers of alcohol, drug and tobacco use.
In addition to LOFT, Eaton has been involved in many walks to raise awareness for cancer, multiple sclerosis and juvenile diabetes. She also has worked on a safety education project through the National Honor Society, a project dedicated to educating teens about seat belt use, Internet safety and abuse and the dangers of texting and driving.
For information about the awards, call 581-1228.