Handing Over the Reins: First Literacy Chairman of the Board Steps Down
Written by Jeff Beale, First Literacy Chairman of the Board
I first heard of the Boston Adult Literacy Fund, (BALF) and now First Literacy, when the CEO of Eaton Vance Corp., M. Dozier Gardner, handed me a file as he was retiring in 1993 and said to me: “This is a folder of materials regarding BALF, they do a corporate spelling bee each year, support adult literacy and do good work in the city. Please stay engaged with them and keep this going with Eaton Vance’s support.” And I did.
So here I am twenty-nine years later, stepping down as the chairman of the board of First Literacy, having enjoyed and loved every moment of my time with this organization. I will continue to be a board member but will hand over the reins to a new chair.
The Early Years
In the early years, I simply put together our spelling bee team at Eaton Vance and attended the annual affair. The bee was small then and held in intimate venues where you could meet the other corporate teams and interact with other team members over a cocktail or two after the competition. Since then, the bee has grown into its thirty-third year and now is our primary fundraiser, netting $250,000 in 2022 to support adult learners in Massachusetts.
We have grown into a vibrant and successful organization providing scholarships for adult learners, professional development workshops for teachers of adult literacy classes and grants for innovative educators trying new methods and curriculum. We have stayed true to our mission and deliver excellent results.
A Problem That Can Be Fixed
In 1994 I went to a BALF breakfast meeting hosted by Cathy Minehan who was the head of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank at the time. I was privileged to hear Cathy and then, BALF Chair, Barbara Healey-Smith speak at this event. Barbara gave a memorable and important talk about the work BALF did and shared many statistics and anecdotes with the attendees.
The one thing that has stayed with me since that day was Barbara’s comment…
“while there are a million legitimate and wonderful charities and causes in the world to support, adult literacy is the only one we know how to cure or fix; we just need supporters, resources and money and we can defeat this.”
Barbara’s words stick with me today and I repeat her words here and every chance I get. There are over 8,000 adult learners on waiting lists in the Commonwealth, and with additional resources we can reach these eager learners and help improve their lives and the lives of their families.
Research has proven that literacy helps families in so many ways: being able to read a prescription bottle, read to your child, assist with homework, and apply for and be hired into a good paying job. All these things require basic literacy skills, and that is what First Literacy is all about. Literacy is a right, and we work hard every day to provide services for our adult learners and teachers.
A New Chapter
I will end my tenure as board chair at First Literacy in mid-June and turn over the reins to a wonderful new chair of the board who has been on the board for years. We have a great Executive Director who is engaged, passionate and extremely successful in her role and a team of professional staff who understand the mission and do an outstanding job every day. We have never been in a better place to continue to expand the services we provide and always be there to assist, support and encourage our adult learners and their passion for education. Our recipe works and we have had great results. As our tagline says: “Just read between the lives.”
Please help us continue our great works with a gift whenever you can. Together we can defeat this problem that can be fixed.