For Women’s History Month, Students Honor Local Heroes

Left to right: Victoria Fertig, Katie Farrington, Olivia Torchen, and Kwaku Agyapong

All Class of 2022

Four Hotchkiss upper mids honored Women’s History Month by writing essays about local women who are making a difference in their communities. The profiles were published in The Lakeville Journal and Millerton News on March 25.

Caroline Kenny-Burchfield '77, P'08, '10, '18, coordinator of volunteer programs, came up with the idea of a student service project that focused on local women.

“I was in charge of the winter service co-curricular, but the severe restrictions around personal and on/off-campus interactions made it exceedingly difficult to create meaningful daily service opportunities, so we got creative,” she explained.

Victoria Fertig profiled CT State Representative for the 64th District Maria Horn P'15, '17, who is working to create more leadership roles for women in politics. Katie Farrington wrote about Jacqueline Rice, service chief with the Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service. Rice's spirit and volunteerism have been an inspiration to everyone. Olivia Torchen spoke with Jennifer Dowley, director of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, whose dedication to community service stems from her love of the arts. Finally, Kwaku Agyapong featured Dana Corwin, former editor-in-chief of Food and Wine magazine, who founded Speaking Broadly, a podcast focusing on interviews with women leaders in the food industry. She also co-founded Roar NY, a non-profit relief agency that assists laid off New York City restaurant workers.

Read the full stories below.


Maria Horn, Salisbury

By Victoria Fertig '22

While working on Wall Street, in the U.S. Attorney’s office and as a Connecticut state representative for the 64th District, Maria Horn has successfully navigated being a woman in predominantly male fields.
Her first job after college was at JP. Morgan, where she was initially assigned to work on the trading floor, a field where few women worked.
In this first out-of-college work experience, she learned to laugh at jokes that she later realized were inappropriate, trying to make it seem like she could take it and also wanting to get along with her colleagues.
After four years of working on Wall Street, she realized that she wasn’t driven by finance and made the choice to go to law school, with the ultimate goal of working in the public sector.
Ms. Horn joined the U.S. Attorney’s office in the same year many other women were hired. Due to the hierarchical structure of this job, these women all started together in the Criminal Division, where they were able to bond over their shared experiences and struggles.
Later, after her two children were born, she felt judged by her male colleagues because she prioritized getting home at a certain time and had to sacrifice some of the face-time and camaraderie in the office. 
Ms. Horn’s career in legislature began in a similar way: She was elected in 2018, the same year as many other women. They shared similar experiences despite their different backgrounds.
After contemplating running for office at various times, Ms. Horn had decided she needed to take action after the 2016 presidential election. She went into her campaign with a commitment to the idea that “government can be a force for the good.”
She was elected to a second term last November. Her campaign and current work are focused on protecting the environment, economic fairness, income equality and public health, among many other important issues to our community.
She talked during our interview about how income inequality especially affects our community, where the wealthy accrue more wealth while for others, wages have been stagnant despite their productivity.
In her second term in office, she is beginning to get a sense of what has worked for her as a legislator and what lessons she can share with the next group of women in these roles.
She wants to create more room for women of all backgrounds, to help pave the way for them, and get them into leadership positions.

Jacqueline Rice, Salisbury

By Katie Farrington '22

When she was growing up here in Salisbury, Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service Chief of Service Jacquie Rice often saw her parents’ interests in and devotion to helping their community.
Her father was a banker, and heavily involved with the FFA chapter at Housatonic Valley Regional High School. Her mother was the town’s tax collector. Both were members of different boards, and were involved at their church as well.
They had a clear love for helping those around them and were Jacquie’s inspiration to get more involved in community service; they stressed the importance of giving back to the town and community that had helped to raise her.
Jacquie knew that she had to volunteer and contribute but she needed to find something of interest to her.  At the time, many of her friends were Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and firefighters and they encouraged Jacquie to join them, even inviting her along on calls.
Her involvement led to many achievements, as she become a vital member and leader of these community organizations. She has especially enjoyed the opportunity to help train and teach new EMTs.
She was also the first woman firefighter in the Lakeville Hose Company. Within a year of her arrival, other women were able to join. As a firefighter, she had to prove herself more than the men did and she had to be careful not to make mistakes. The more she proved herself the more they accepted her.
Jacquie never let the challenges of being a woman in traditionally male-dominated fields stop her.  She teaches math and finds that there aren’t many other female math teachers.
Jacquie Rice did not set out to be a role model but through her determined vision to serve and to make a difference, she has inspired countless young men and women to follow their dreams with conviction, purpose and consequence and to lead lives of resonating impact.

Jennifer Dowley, Millerton

By Olivia Torchen '22

Jennifer Dowley is a woman determined to make a difference. A natural leader, her impact in our community as well as across the country has been profound. Through her leadership of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, she has facilitated transformative innovations in our area, fostering positive change and progress specifically in the arts, education, environment and social services.

Dowley’s dedication to community service stems from her love of the arts. From a very young age, the arts played a large role in Dowley’s identity. She spent many years working with the federal arts agency in Washington, D.C., and has consulted with artist foundations across the country. This love for the arts and her dedication to improving aspects of the world through art led Dowley into community service.

Following work in San Francisco and D.C., where she worked with the National Endowment for the Arts as the Director of Museums and Visual Arts, she pursued a friend’s recommendation to apply for the director’s position at the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (BTCF), based in Sheffield, Mass.

Under Dowley’s leadership for nearly 17 years, the growth of Berkshire Taconic spiked, as did its influence in the community; the foundation’s assets increased from $9.9 million to $121 million, and the number of funds expanded from 161 to 550.

Dowley launched BTCF initiatives to address core community needs in education, housing and the arts that helped to improve quality of life in the four counties in the three states that BTFC serves (Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts). 

One of Dowley’s most consequential projects established education enrichment funds at public schools in the region. This program brought financial support to various school activities, projects and trips. Dowley’s vision inspired dozens of community programs and the distribution of $104.3 million in funding to support these initiatives.

Dowley retired from Berkshire Taconic in December 2015 and now works with foundations throughout the country. She also serves on the board of the nonprofit Wassaic Project in Wassaic, N.Y., which uses art and arts education to foster positive social change.

As a woman, Dowley has sometimes confronted challenges over the course of her career, particularly in leadership positions where she sometimes felt underestimated.

This was most pronounced at the beginning of her career, when she worked with a different generation with different gender assumptions.

Even after coming to New England relatively recently, Dowley faced challenges as a woman as she found herself immersed in a “man’s world.”

This underestimation only pushed Dowley to continue to work hard and stay focused on her goals. Her dedication has stimulated positive and ongoing change in our community. Through her leadership, she not only helped transform the region but also created new possibilities and hope for the future.

Dana Cowin
New York City and Amenia, NY

By Kwaku Agyapong '22

Growing up in Manhattan, Dana Cowin describes a comfortable childhood that was marked by an early passion for supporting those in need. She first became involved with nonprofit organizations in high school, when she and a group of students raised about $300 for Asphalt Green, an organization focused on providing high-quality sports, swim and fitness instruction to people living in the urban areas of New York. Cowin refers to this contribution as minor, but it marked the beginning of her life’s dedication to service.
Later on in life, in 1995, Cowin started her 20-year tenure as editor-in-chief of Food and Wine magazine. In addition to an unusually long time as the head of a major magazine, she is also proud of having introduced and expanded the annual Best New Chefs Award and the Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink issue, which allowed her, she said, “to uncover what I would call food celebrities who are helping feed the world.”
Cowin has also worked with City Harvest and Hot Bread Kitchen, both of which are organizations focused on providing aid for those suffering from food insecurity in the city.
She’s on the board of the Food Education Fund, as well as on the advisory board of Women in Hospitality United and on the Food Council of City Harvest. City Harvest in particular approaches this problem by redistributing excess food from restaurants in the city, to food pantries and relief centers.
Being from the Bronx, N.Y., myself, I was familiar with the organization, and the various relief programs that were put in place around the city during the pandemic. Hundreds if not thousands of boxes of fresh produce, canned goods and other non-perishables were put in depots in the city and distributed by local community members, bringing communities even closer together in their time of struggle.
Neighbors looked out for each other; the at-risk elderly with no family members to take care of them were never forgotten.
During our interview, Cowin stated that there was no reason why citizens of one of the wealthiest countries in the world should be dying of starvation. The problem with our system did not stem from the lack of production, but a lack of access. Certain communities, whether urbanized or rural, do not get the attention they deserve and would benefit from infrastructure set in place to distribute extra goods.
Following her retirement from Food and Wine, Cowin (who splits her time between New York City and Amenia), created Speaking Broadly, a podcast in which she “conducts intimate interviews with brilliant, powerful women in the food world about their lives and careers.”
During the pandemic, Dana and a partner founded Roar.NY (Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants). They have  raised more than $3,000,000 to assist more than 5,000 laid-off NYC restaurant workers. 
Her years of work have given Cowin invaluable insight and wisdom and demonstrated her passion and capacity to improve life for others. She said she is grateful to those she has worked with who understand her mission and dedication enough to support and empower her work as one of the first and most prominent women in her field.

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