November 6, 2017

Donna Gaines Presented Altes Prize at the Fall Academic Conference

Altes presents Gaines with Altes Prize
Jane Altes, left, poses with Donna Gaines

Donna Gaines, assistant professor of Social Science and Interdisciplinary Studies at the college’s Old Westbury location and a licensed social worker, was presented with the Jane and Wally Altes Prize for Exemplary Community Service at the Fall Academic Conference, held Oct. 25 through 27.

Gaines has created workshops for survivors of Hurricane Sandy and around other issues of recovery of all kinds. Her Saturday workshops at the college have been popular, according to Associate Dean of Social Sciences Frank VanderValk, who introduced Gaines.

The workshops have brought together speakers, local experts, students and members of the community, and have addressed parent advocacy, addiction and recovery, as well as support for survivors of Hurricane Sandy.

She also organized a service-based organization, the Long Island Community Action Student Club, in which students worked on issues relevant to their lives as members of overlapping communities. She has said that, “Community protects us from existential terror, heals our alienation and soothes our feelings of powerlessness, binding us together as a force so much greater than any one individual.”

Wally and Jane Altes were on hand Thursday evening. Jane Altes, a longtime college administrator who once served as interim president of the college, presented Gaines with the crystal award and prize money.

Altes said, “[Former Vice President of External Affairs] Hugh Hammett and I decided there would always be people forging a legacy between the college and the community. He used the terms ‘holistic mentoring’ and ‘service scholar;’ and both represent exactly what I had in mind in 2000 when Wally and I established this award. Many others have supported it … to ensure it will continue. I am delighted to be able to make this award in person to a fellow sociologist, Donna Gaines.”

“Hi, I am Donna, and I am a sociologist,” Gaines said, adding that she was “honored and humbled to be with you today.” She said that she considers community “the human face of the divine. It lets students not to feel isolated; it is a place to have friends, where you know that you are not the only one … with a child with special needs or a child who is an addict, or the only one without money to graduate. She said that isolation and alienation are the cause of addiction, pointing to the sweeping opioid addiction crisis in many towns and cities across America today.

“Love and belonging to community is how we heal,” she said.

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