She recently received this year's prestigious Four Presidents Distinguished Public Service Award at Rochester Institute of Technology, where she has taught for about 39 years.
Longtime Irondequoit resident Dr. Stephanie Polowe (Aldersley), a past Monroe County Legislator, school board member and Irondequoit Town Board member, and current president of Irondequoit Rotary, was awarded the prestigious Four Presidents Distinguished Public Service Award at Rochester Institute of Technology earlier this month.
“It is just really wonderful to be honored by RIT ... (It) does lot for community,” Polowe said, “and they certainly have supported me in my public service all through my career ... I am delighted the institute values it.”
Polowe has taught at RIT for about 39 years and is currently a professor of cultural and creative studies at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
Polowe’s award was presented during a ceremony March 12 at RIT.
The only other award presented during the ceremony went to Bakar Ali, a third-year RIT and NTID student who has a double major in urban and community studies and in international studies. He received the Bruce R. James ‘64 Distinguished Public Service Award.
The special guest speaker at the ceremony was Juliana Truesdale, the production director and designer of the Ithaca Times and former recipient of the Bruce R. James Award.
The Four Presidents and Bruce R. James awards are made possible by an endowment established by the late Al Davis, RIT Vice President emeritus.
As part of her award, Polowe handed out donations to Irondequoit Rotary; Summerville Presbyterian Church, in Irondequoit; NTID, and other organizations.
“It (the award and ceremony) was a wonderful tribute to someone who has devoted so much to public service,” said Irondequoit Rotarian Jim Kozlowski, who attended the ceremony with a contingent from the local club, of which Polowe had been a member for more than 16 years.
Polowe said she was “touched” that more than 100 people attended the ceremony to see her accept the award.
She explained that she was nominated for the award, as she has been in the past, and never expected to receive it.
“The award is only maybe 15 years old,” Aldersley said, “but the others who have won it in the past were richly deserving ... I feel honored to be in their company.”
Polowe received a large, framed plaque containing a biography of her community service, done in calligraphy. She says she will keep it in her office at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT.
Humble about the recognition, Polowe noted, “I accomplished these things over 40 years — not at the same time, by any stretch of imagination.”
Her list of accomplishments is impressive: Serving on the West Irondequoit Board of Education and the BOCES board; in the County Legislature; and on any number of boards and committees, including for the Rochester Area Humane Society at Lollipop Farm and the Rochester Contemporary Art Gallery.
Page 2 of 2 - She is also a member of the finance committee and elder at Summerville Presbyterian Church, has volunteered at the Rochester School for the Deaf, and much more.
“It was always my family first, then my students, then my public service after that,” said Polowe, who has three children and two grandchildren. “I tried hard to keep some balance in my life ... and I had wonderful support. I didn’t accomplish anything by myself!”
Asked to explain what drove her public service, Polowe replied, “You look around and see people ... animals ... whatever in need; it bothers me; sometimes I can’t sleep. I find it is better to try to do something than lie awake at night worrying.”
While she loved politics and does miss it, Polowe added, “It’s time for me to move on.”
Her next effort is something new. She has just started working with the other award winner, Ali, also a former student and refugee from Somalia, on writing an English curriculum for refugees from Nepal.
“I’m really happier doing grassroots projects now,” Polowe said.