Award Ceremony Held For 3rd Dave Vigneault Scholarship (WAMC)
A life in public service was honored today in Springfield, Massachusetts with the awarding of scholarships.
The “Dave Vigneault Political Scholarship” was created to pay tribute to former State Representative Dave Vigneault and his lifelong commitment to political activism, public service, and social justice.
The 2021 scholarships were awarded in a ceremony Monday afternoon on the front steps of Springfield City Hall.
"It is a fitting tribute to a man who not only distinguished himself in his elected life, but he became invested in the community long after he left elected office," said Paul Caron, a former State Representative who chairs the scholarship committee.
After Vigneault died of pancreatic cancer in 2019 his friends wanted a vehicle to continue his belief in the need to encourage young people to become involved in the political process.
"I think there is no better way to encourage young people than by allowing them to pursue their studies to seek that dream," Caron said.
Vigneault served as a state legislator from Springfield for over a decade, first winning office in 1960 at the age of 21 while he was a sophomore at UMass Amherst. He joined the Freedom Riders, who traveled to the South in the 1960s to register Black voters, and was arrested and jailed briefly in Mississippi.
"Dave was an every-man, the most unpresumptious person you would ever see," Caron said. "Dave is missed and more importantly I think his passion is missed."
Tyana Padilla was selected as the 2021 recipient of the $1,000 scholarship. She is a graduate of Baystate Academy Charter School and plans to attend Bennington College this fall to study writing.
"I am not very much into politics, but it does strike me the things I see and I have to say something," Padilla said at the award ceremony. "I am very moved that I was a part of this, so thank you very much and thank you Dave for all the inspiration."
This year, $500 scholarships were awarded to Julio Rodriguez and Duong Thai. They both plan to attend Springfield Technical Community College.
Until he became ill, Vigneault was a tireless campaigner for Democratic candidates and was a mentor for young politicians including Springfield City Councilor Jesse Lederman.
"His legacy now lives on in a very appropriate way through inspriring and supporting other young people who are looking to go forward and get involved," Lederman said.
Lederman sits on the scholarship committee along with Caron, Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi, Springfield City Councilor Victor Davila, political consultant Tony Cignoli, Brian Vigneault (Dave’s nephew) and the daughters of Vigneault’s longtime companion Karel Welch.