2020 Pynchon Medalists Announced by Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts

Award presented annually since 1915.

Two chosen for distinguished service during a year of pandemic and unrest


(SPRINGFIELD, MA — October 20, 2020) For the second time in the award’s history, The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts’ Trustees of the Order of William Pynchon has announced, amidst a global pandemic, their selection of local recipients of the Pynchon medal. Scott Whitney, chairman of the Pynchon Trustees, stated, “For more than 100 years, including during the 1918 flu pandemic, the Ad Club has recognized those who have made an outstanding impact on our communities. As a board of trustees, we believe it is even more appropriate to celebrate their generosity and community spirit during times of crisis and unrest. This year’s recipients exemplify the very best we can be as neighbors and leaders in our respective communities.”

Slated to receive the Advertising Club’s Pynchon Medal at an October 2021 event are two local residents: Elizabeth Wills-O’Gilvie is a long-time community activist for good nutrition and healthy eating, and a tireless advocate for Gardening the Community and the Springfield Food Policy Council, to name just a few initiatives she supports. Janine Fondon serves as co-founder of Unity First, a distributor of diversity-related e-news; chair of the undergraduate communications department at Bay Path University; and is a writer, communicator, and professor focused on amplifying the diverse voices throughout the Pioneer Valley and around the U.S., through inclusion and equity initiatives.

This year’s recipients were chosen from a pool of nominations for the award received earlier this year by the Advertising Club. All nominees are researched by the trustees, who then deliberate before selecting final recipients. All Pynchon medalists are chosen by unanimous decision of the Pynchon Trustees, who are the current and five past presidents of the Advertising Club. Pynchon Trustees for 2020 are Jillian Gould, Teresa Utt, David Cecchi, Mary Shea, Scott Whitney, and current Advertising Club president Brenda McGiverin.

Due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, the announcement, usually done in the spring, was made at a virtual press conference held in the Springfield Museums, located in downtown Springfield, MA on Monday, October 19. You will find photographs of this year’s recipients below and a link to a video recording here. Both are intended for your use. The Pynchon Trustees and the Ad Club of Western MA very much appreciate photography by Ed Cohen, Ed Cohen Photography, and videography by Edward W. Brown III, New York Sound & Motion Productions, Inc.

The following is a list of event speakers, in order of appearance:

Scott Whitney, Pynchon Trustee chairperson

Janine Fondon, Pynchon recipient

Jillian Gould, Pynchon trustee

Elizabeth Wills-O’Gilvie, Pynchon recipient

The official presentation of the Pynchon Medal and celebration will take place in the fall of 2021 in concert with the following year’s recipients. When confirmed, event details and ticket information will be available on the club’s website: adclubwm.org or by calling 413-342-0533.

More than 200 citizens have been inducted into the Order of William Pynchon since its founding in 1915.

Selected for 2020 induction into the Order of William Pynchon are:

Janine Fondon, Nominated by Kathryn Taccone

Raising her voice so others may be heard.

That Janine Fondon has been successful in her professional life is not in dispute. She is co-founder and CEO of UnityFirst, a communications network focused on issues of diversity and inclusion. She serves as chair of Bay Path University’s undergraduate communications department. She is, despite her penchant to live just outside the limelight, a much vaunted communications professional with credentials from our most respected media outlets.

However, these achievements are not what brings her here today. The Pynchon award defines success not by the stockpiles of degrees, money, and the depth of favors owed to you—but by what you are moved to do with that success. By that measure, Janine becomes far more than her CV would allow.

After a successful career in Boston and New York, Janine brought her talents for connecting people and leveraging her own successes to elevate others to Springfield. She sought out others in the area who were like-minded change makers, and began a collaboration with the late LuJuana Hood, president and CEO of the PanAfrican Historical Museum. Together, they curated Civil Rights and Womens’ Movement exhibits, and laid the groundwork for On the Move, a conference in honor of gender equality and civic engagement. This conference was more than a commemoration of previous pioneers, but a “how to” for the dreamers of today who face institutional challenges and oppression. The conference was launched under the Bay Path University name, but according to former university President Carol Leary, “We’re linked to it, but it’s a Janine Fondon idea.”

What emerges from an examination of her life’s work to date is that with every success, every award, every recognition, Janine’s response is always, “How can we use this to do more? How can we use this to celebrate others?” On the Move serves as a prime example. In collaboration with Drs. Demetria Shabazz and Lucie K. Lewis, Janine serves as guest curator of an exhibit for the Springfield Museums entitled Voices of Resilience: The Intersection of Women on the Move.

This exhibit tells the stories of local women, particularly women of color, who have changed the course of history in ways loud and quiet, bold and unnoticed. Jenny Slew and Elizabeth Freeman, two enslaved African American women who petitioned the Commonwealth for their freedom—and won. And while many of the figures in that exhibit would be familiar to local students of history, it might be the first time visitors would be introduced to—for example—Carrie Roberson, the first African American manager at Springfield’s Steiger’s department store. Also, Janine’s Jamaican American grandmother, Miriam Kirkaldy, who arrived at Ellis Island in 1917 in search of a new life, and found such as a seamstress and homeowner in New York. The implicit message in Janine’s curation was, ‘These women, too, are worthy of honor.’

In fact, she has used every platform given to her to celebrate unheard heroes of the everyday, whose tenacity, endurance, and vision for what is possible makes them the heroes that we most need now. By her profession, Janine is a public figure. By her passion, she celebrates those who are not.

These are her more public works. But Janine’s impact is also seen in the countless young women we encountered in our research—both her students at Bay Path and beyond—to whom she has pulled back the curtain of ambition and showed them not just where their paths may lead them, but where that path starts. We heard from state senators, museum presidents, newspaper publishers, and civic leaders who advocated for Janine’s contribution to our region, but one voice stood out: a student of Janine’s at Bay Path who said, “I would have dropped out, if it wasn’t for Janine Fondon. She inspires and empowers me.”

Because of her ongoing commitment to elevating the stories of those who have come before her and inspiring change, we are compelled to say of Janine Fondon, ‘This woman, too, is worthy of honor.’


Elizabeth Wills-O’Gilvie, Nominated by Ed Cohen

Bringing her head, heart, and hands to the work of advocating for access to healthy food.

What is a family to do when their neighborhood is filled with fast-food restaurants, but not a single grocery store? That is what Liz Wills-O’Gilvie was asking herself when she moved to the Six Corners neighborhood of Springfield with her husband and young son. She experienced a lack of access to healthy food in her neighborhood, making it impossible to get the nutritious, high-quality food she wanted for her family. She saw injustices and inequities impacting communities of color and felt that something had to be done.

Liz has a background in economic development, policy, and systems and a personal life deeply rooted in correcting inequities. Before returning to Springfield, Liz’s professional work focused on developing pathways to affordable housing and education, and lessons learned in brick-and-mortar development illuminated the structural racism that was embedded in the construct of our country.

Not long after moving to Six Corners, Liz connected with Gardening the Community, an organization that operates a training program for youth to grow fruits and vegetables on vacant and abandoned lots. Because of its emphasis on youth leadership and racial equity, she immediately felt a close connection to the mission of the organization. She first joined as a volunteer and produce customer and worked with others to form a board of directors with a more formal structure.

Liz has made a profound impact on the organization where she now serves as chair of the Board of Directors. She championed efforts to purchase land in the community to build a greenhouse, allowing food to be grown year-round. She was also a driving force behind the beautiful new Walnut Street Community Farm Store, where people in the neighborhood can buy locally grown, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables at affordable prices.

Working with Gardening the Community positioned Liz to learn more about the local, statewide, and national food systems, where she joined the effort to eliminate systemic racism and has spent the last ten years working to spur creative thinking and change efforts to increase access to locally grown fresh produce and other healthy foods.

Liz has been an instrumental leader in the local campaign to improve school food through her work with the Springfield Food Policy Council. Getting fresher food into the schools is not a new idea, but the discussions were not making much headway. As chair of the Springfield Food Policy Council, Liz breathed new life into this effort. Most notable is the development of the Springfield Public Schools’ new $21 million dollar Springfield Culinary and Nutrition Center, which prepares healthy meals from scratch for district school children. The center was designed to provide training for students and increase the quality, taste, and nutritional benefits by purchasing from local farms and producers, and delivering school-based nutrition education through a partnership with FoodCorps.

As you can imagine, it’s hard for children to learn on an empty stomach. When children are well fed with nutritious food, it benefits both body and mind. Test scores go up and violence goes down. Liz helped push through policy changes to allow for the federally funded free breakfast program to be offered in the classroom to all children. She understood that by providing breakfast in the classroom, children who do not have access to breakfast at home are not singled out and thus participation rates in the breakfast program have increased. In the first year of the program, student visits to school nurses for hunger-related issues went down by 90 percent.

Liz excels at building coalitions to accomplish big ideas, often creating a ripple effect. She knew that if Springfield could accomplish these things, other communities could as well. She has lobbied for food equality and justice from the Massachusetts State House to Washington, D.C. and works with organizations across the country to help build the school and community garden movement.

Even so, her heart is here in Springfield, where she was also the manager and founder of the City Soul Farmers Market and now 40 Acres farm, a Springfield-based, scattered site farm growing food across the city, teaching young adults about urban agriculture, and distributing fresh produce to families for free. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, distributing fresh produce to families for free has never been more important. During this year, Liz also led the Springfield Food Policy Council in installing 56 raised-bed gardens in the backyards of Springfield residents, providing them with everything necessary to start growing their own food. Liz grows about 70 percent of the food her family eats in her garden at home, where she lives with her husband Ed, a middle school art teacher, and their 11-year-old son Evan who, after he read the biography of civil right activist Cesar Chavez, questioned why we are still talking about the same issues so many years later. Liz wonders why as well.

The Order of William Pynchon

The Order of William Pynchon was established in 1915 by the Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts (then known as the Publicity Club) for the purpose of giving public recognition to those citizens in the region who have rendered distinguished civic service.

Nominees are brought forth each year by members of the community and medalists are chosen by unanimous decision of the Pynchon Trustees. The Trustees of the Order of William Pynchon are the current and five past presidents of the Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts.

Trustees for 2020 are: Jillian Gould, Teresa Utt, David Cecchi, Mary Shea, Scott Whitney, and Brenda McGiverin.

The Pynchon medal bears the name of Springfield’s founder, whose life and achievements typify the ideals of promoting citizenship and the building of a better community, qualities the award is intended to recognize and encourage. Recipients are presented with a bronze medal bearing Pynchon’s likeness and inscribed with the quotation: “They honor us whom we honor.”

The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts

The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts is the premier organization for marketing and communications professionals in western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut. The club offers members the ability to advance and enrich the advertising community, by acting as a catalyst for idea exchange, professional development, and creative energy. The club offers its members a forum to learn, network, recognize achievement, and build a stronger advertising and marketing community. The club also supports future generations of creative professionals with an annual scholarship awarded to a western Massachusetts high school graduate pursuing a degree in the communication arts.

Visit adclubwm.org for more information and a complete listing of Pynchon recipients since 1915.