On Wednesday, April 10, senior politics major Matthew Pendergast received the Paul S. Coleman Award for Outsanding Community Service. The following remarks are those of Meelia Center Director Dan Forbes and Campus Ministry Director Sue Gabert who recognized Pendergast's exceptional work.
Dan Forbes, Director Meelia Center:
The 2013 Paul S. Coleman Senior Award for Outstanding Community Service is presented to a student who left his service mark on campus, in the community and around the country. Service to others has been a defining characteristic of his Saint Anselm experience, and it will no doubt continue to guide his life after graduation. His service has been outstanding by every measure: he has engaged in a wide variety of service roles; he has powerfully touched many, many lives; he has been the go-to volunteer for a number of campus departments; he has embraced some of the most challenging service work available and he has attended to his own growth and development along his service journey. I feel blessed to be one of many people who have partnered with Matt Pendergast in service over the past four years, and I am the better for it. I will describe one area of Matt's involvement at the Meelia Center and then Sue Gabert from Campus Ministry will add her perspective.
As so frequently happens with amazing students I cannot recall how long I've known Matt; it seems that he has always been around to respond to whatever volunteer need we have at Meelia. I do know that our good work at Langdon Mill could not have succeeded as it has without his kind heart and determined spirit.
For those who don't know Langdon Mill is an apartment complex housing mostly refugee families. Many years ago Saint Anselm participated in a massive community response when the building was found to be infested with several varieties of crawling pests. After that initial intervention the Meelia Center secured an apartment within the building where we could continue to support the many children and families, and help to keep the building safe from pests.
The pest management work required going into the apartments to fight the good fight. Very few students volunteered for that work, go figure, but Matt was one of them. While Matt's on-going work has rendered the building much safer today, the early interventions were an adventure. But Matt reveled in that adventure, and seemed almost disappointed if an inspection uncovered only a few pests. The power of Matt's service extends beyond the obvious courage and commitment to help keep families safe at this most basic level. Matt also led the way in empowering families to participate in managing pests in their own apartments, and he gently held them accountable when they needed to do more to keep themselves safe.
This work involves the most intimate form of outreach imaginable, and yet the Langdon families love and trust Matt without exception. Fortunately, as the building became safer Matt's thirst for adventure was more than satisfied in Apartment #4 where Saint Anselm students and Southern New Hampshire University students have joined to nurture children and families as they adapt to their new country.
Matt's service to the lively children of Langdon has been extraordinary. He has such a large and open heart that all of the children can find room there. He uses his own creative energy to unlock the budding imaginations and passions of these young children who come from around the world. He employs all of his peace and social justice knowledge and skills to keep them playing together respectfully. On those occasions when families have moved from Langdon Matt follows them with more than his thoughts and prayers...he stays in touch and helps when he can.
Matt mentored one of Langdon's most challenging young men after he'd moved across town. He'd often track the boy down when he missed their scheduled time together, which was never an easy task. He would advocate for the young man at meetings with concerned community representatives, and he'd bring him to campus to expose him to a different path. It is Matt's nature to never give up on someone. It is also in Matt's nature to seek out those who need his help, as you will see with his Campus Ministry involvement.
Sue Gabert, Director Office of Campus Ministry:
Matt's engagements in Campus Ministry are endless - from Choir, and leadership for the Wednesday Night Mass music group; to his passionate involvements in the Road for Hope and Service and Solidarity Missions. The go to guy whenever you want to get something done, never one to shy away from a challenge. Always bringing his youthful, fun-loving, sometimes a little off the wall spirit to all he does. Matt does not simply engage in service, he commits himself to the communities and people he meets through his service experience.
When it comes to serving other's Matt knows that there is always a way forward, and his journey has been to discover the way. People in Manchester who work with refugees, those in Rochester at St. Charles Children's home, the many people he has worked with through the service and solidarity trips have come to know this outstanding young man, and they view him as a tremendous representative of the college and a genuine partner in the important work of community. And although he would be the last person to seek out recognition, we now know Matt as a Coleman Service Award recipient, representing the Class of 2013 and all of their many service accomplishments.