As director of the Medford Family Network, for 25 years you have been a champion for children and their families. You have worked tirelessly to develop support systems, build community and connect people with the resources they need. Your quest has always been to promote resilience, education, and healthy child development. You yourself have spent countless nights and weekends leading classes, workshops, and activities for families, children, teen parents, and grandparents. At the same time, you have partnered with local nonprofits and governmental agencies; played an active role in the fight against poverty, and for human rights; and been an eloquent advocate for the importance of parenting education and support, childhood literacy, and diversity. You have improved the lives of countless young people and their families in Medford, and served as an inspiration for others. And all the while, you have also been an outstanding community partner to this university and our students. For your unwavering commitment to the health and success of children and families, and for the limitless passion you bring to your work, Tufts University is proud to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service.
Many people put family first, but as a Head Start director, public school teacher, and social worker, MARIE CASSIDY has done it professionally for nearly five decades. As director of the Medford Family Network (MFN) of the Medford Public Schools for 25 years, Cassidy has worked to build and bolster support systems for families of young children and establish relationships between community agencies.
“At the Medford Family Network, we are always looking for ways to connect families with each other, and with the resources they need,” she has said. Cassidy has created many of those resources herself, developing events and activities including free English classes, family summer concerts, evening and weekend play groups, and workshops for teen parents and grandparents raising young children—which she has personally headed.
Over the course of her career, Cassidy has proven her commitment to the five priorities of the MFN: parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need, and children’s social and emotional development.
During her career, Cassidy has received many awards and recognitions. In 2018, she was recognized as a Community Hero by antipoverty community action agency ABCD (Action for Boston Community Development), whose mission is to help people transition from poverty to success. The award honors people who serve others, make a difference in people’s lives, show “uncommon compassion,” and “embody the heart of humanity,” according to ABCD. “Throughout her career, she has been a tireless advocate for children and families,” ABCD said in a statement. Cassidy also received the 2018 Excellence in Public Service Award from the Medford Chamber of Commerce.
A well-known community leader and convener, Cassidy served as a member and officer of the antipoverty Tri-City Community Action Program and is the former chair and current member of the Medford Human Rights Commission, working to protect Medford residents’ civil rights, reinforce a positive community atmosphere, promote understanding, eliminate prejudice and intolerance, and mediate within the community. She has partnered with countless town government agencies and local nonprofits. Cassidy has also worked with a number of Tufts students through the Tisch Scholars Program, relying on them to hold family events and assist with day-to-day-operations.
A strong voice for children and families, Cassidy has spoken and written in many forums on issues including resources for children during the summer; parenting education; the importance of family centers; supporting and promoting childhood literacy; the difficulties of raising young children as an aging grandparent; the value of diversity in Medford; and the effect of the end of Temporary Protected Status on Haitian families. “I feel very lucky to touch the lives of people who I wouldn’t know otherwise,” she told the Medford Transcript in 2017.
Cassidy speaks eloquently about the rewards she finds in helping others. “I get to see families grow, and sometimes stumble, but pick themselves up and grow again,” she has said. “I get to be a part of that magic. And it is magic. There’s an ever-changing nature and excitement that comes with bringing voices to families and parents that don’t think they have a voice. Every day I am amazed by the strength people bring to their struggles. But I deeply believe that with authentic and sincere support, lives can be turned around for the better.”
Among her greatest joys, she has said, is timespent with and loving seven grandchildren, ages six through 17.
Cassidy will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.