Since its founding in 1909, the Ad Club of Western Massachusetts (then called the Publicity Club), has supported the value of 'giving back' to our community.
Each year the club sponsors Springfield's very prestigious Pynchon Medal, bestowed each year to local citizens recognized for outstanding public service.
ADVERTISING CLUB OF WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS CELEBRATES 2011 PYNCHON AWARD MEDALISTS
Two distinguished individuals have been selected to receive the William Pynchon Medal and induction into the Order of William Pynchon November 17, 2011.
The 2011 honorees are Aaron Lansky, founder and president of the National Yiddish Book Center; and Mary Pat McMahon, founder of the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
2011 Pynchon Award Medalists
Mary Pat McMahon and Aaron Lansky
Photo by Todd Lajoie, Baystate Health
The William Pynchon Award was established in 1915. It honors individuals from all walks of life who go beyond the call of duty to improve the quality of life in western Massachusetts. Selection of these two outstanding individuals marks the 97th year the Pynchon Awards have been presented.
Aaron Lansky - The Mentsh Who Saved Yiddish
Nominated by Karen Blinderman, owner, KayBee Marketing Resources and club administrator, The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts
Aaron Lansky was just 23 years old and a graduate student in 1980, when he discovered an alarming fact: thousands of priceless Yiddish books - which had survived the evil regimes of Adolf Hitle and Joseph Stalin - were being discarded and destroyed. As an older generation passed on, their Jewish volumes were often thrown in the trash by children and grandchildren unable to read the language. An entire literature was on the verge of extinction.
Lansky issued a public appeal for unwanted and discarded Yiddish books, and Jews from all over America answered the call. Soon Lansky and a handful of co-workers were on the road, hauling Jewish books from cellars and attics, synagogues and abandoned buildings. This is how the Yiddish Book Center was founded, with the work of rescuing unwanted and abandoned Yiddish books continuing to this day.
Originally, scholars estimated there were 70,000 Yiddish books in existence and recoverable. Lansky saved that number in six months, going on to save over one million volumes, described as "the greatest cultural rescue effort in Jewish history."
In recent years, the Book Center has expanded its focus, developing innovative educational programs that open up these books to new generations of readers, students, and scholars. Today, the National Yiddish Book Center, located in Amherst, Massachusetts, is one of the world's largest and most vibrant Jewish cultural organizations.
The Book Center has also helped establish Yiddish collections at more than 600 of the world's great libraries, including Harvard, Yale, Library of Congress, the British Library, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and national libraries in countries as distant as Australia, China and Japan.
In 1998, the Center's Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library made high-quality reprints available on demand. The Center then placed the full texts of 11,000 Yiddish titles online through the Book Center's Digital Yiddish Library, where they are easily downloaded, free of charge.
Yiddish, once the most endangered of literatures, is now the safest and most accessible.
A native of New Bedford, Massachusetts, Lansky holds a B.A. in Modern Jewish History from Hampshire College and honorary doctorates from Amherst College, the State University of New York, and Hebrew Union College. Early in his career he was included by Esquire magazine in its first annual Register of "The Best of the New Generation: Men and Women Under Forty Who Are Changing America." In 1989 he received a so-called "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation, and his bestselling book, Outwitting History, which recounts the Book Center's founding, was awarded the Massachusetts Book Award in 2005.
Now 56 years old, Lansky lives in Amherst with his wife Gail, and their two daughters, Chava and Sasha.
Mary Pat McMahon
A Beacon of Light into the Darkness of Suicide
Nominated by Linda J. Shippie, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Western MA Coordinator
Mary Pat McMahon's life changed forever in 1991 when her 23 year old son Matthew took his own life. In an instant, the happy family life McMahon shared with Matt, three daughters and husband Jack was shattered. "I lost my heart, my very being," says McMahon.
She entered therapy, but still felt an overwhelming need to connect with other survivors who would know first-hand the aching loss that consumed her. At that time, there were no support groups in Massachusetts, so fourteen months after her son died, she began a survivor support group in Springfield. She took an ad out in the Union News (now The Republican) and invited people to her living room, the beginning of a Survivors of Suicide Loss support group, which continues to meet regularly to this day.
Recognizing how paralyzing a death by suicide can be to families, she also developed a program of meeting one-on-one with newly bereaved families in the comfort of their homes, which has grown into a National Outreach Program.
In 1992, McMahon joined the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention National Board of Directors, determined to shift focus to support and education for survivors because she believes survivors are the foot soldiers in the battle to prevent suicide. During eleven years on the AFSP National Board, she helped found the Western Mass. Chapter and helped established the AFSP Boston chapter, serving as Chair of both Chapters. She also chaired both the National Leadership Council and National Survivor Council, a group she continues to serve on today. AFSP honored her dedication with the National Leadership award in January 2010.
Suicide is a major, preventable public health problem - the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 - 24*. Every 15 minutes someone in this country dies by suicide and every 16 minutes someone is left to make sense of it. McMahon believes that enlightenment only comes from education and only education will help remove the stigma associated with mental illness. She wants people to know that mental illness is a disease like many others and that more lives can be saved with proper treatment.
Due to her efforts, the Western Mass. Chapter of AFSP has won several awards for its education and survivor support programs, most recently the "Best Survivor Day Conference" out of 178 held worldwide on November 22, 2008.
The "Out of the Darkness Community Walk" was started by the Western Mass. Chapter eleven years ago on the campus of the Springfield Jewish Community Center. Today the walk is held in over 275 cities nationwide and has raised over $350,000 for the Western Mass. Chapter.
McMahon graduated from Elms College and received an honorary doctorate for her work in suicide education and prevention. She and her husband Jack live in West Springfield. They have three surviving children: daughters Mary Beth and Stephen Carrier of Cohasset, Mass.; Megan and Paul Callow of Charlotte, North Carolina and Julie and Richard Borge of Newtown, Pennyslvania; and seven grandchildren: Benjamin McCormick; Jack and Abigail Carrier; Katherine and Rachel Callow; and Charlotte and Elliot Borge.