Mary E. Custard, a UMass Amherst alumna and dean of students and former athletic director at Amherst-Pelham Regional High School, has been presented the 2017 Louise Gaskins Lifetime Civil Rights Award from the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA).
The award was presented at the 35th annual Human and Civil Rights Awards banquet in Norwood on June 16.
Custard also serves as a member of the UMass Amherst Chancellor’s Diversity Advisory Council.
The award is named for a pioneer for the involvement of women and people of color in education, the MTA and the National Education Association. Recipients embody the qualities of humility, leadership and tenacity that Louise Gaskins has brought wherever she has served.
Custard was cited for taking opportunities to impact the lives of her students–whether by inspiring them as an adviser of People of Color United and the Minority Student Achievement Network, attending their games and performances or organizing field trips. She organized a service trip to New Orleans to rebuild homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and helped renovate homes with Revitalize CDC in Springfield.
Because of her involvement, many students have found their comfort zones within the high school and have had the opportunity to expand their perspectives on the world.
As a member of the Northwestern District Attorney’s Citizen Advisory Board, Custard brings her experience working with students to help drive conversations about eliminating discrimination in schools and making them safer places in which to learn.
She is also a volunteer for the UMass Amherst Alumni Association, and she serves as a Saturday morning reading hour volunteer at the Springfield Boys and Girls Club Family Center.
In addition, she is a member of the Amherst Community Emergency Response Team, trained to respond to mass casualty incidents.
Custard is a past recipient of the Norma Jean Anderson Civil Rights and Academic Achievement Award and the Amherst Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Citizen Award. In 2015, she received the Fresh Anointing Ministries COGIC’s Celebrating the Brilliance of Black Women Award, “Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things”; the Big Will Fruits of Labor Award for Commitment to Community Service and Education; and the 100 Women of Color Award for Commitment to Education and Social Justice.