The Founders Award is given each year to a woman who has made a difference in the North Fork Women for Women Fund organization, and into the lives of those in our community. This year, NFWFWF is pleased to honor the accomplishments of an activist in women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights and social justice — Karen Sauvigné.
Karen is Director of Education in the Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Mount Sinai where she develops and coordinates geriatrics and palliative care education programs, manages e-learning, and has become a national leader in geriatrics and palliative care education. She is co-author of landmark papers on geriatrics competencies for medical trainees.
Before going to Mount Sinai she held faculty and management positions at Cornell, CUNY Law School, John Jay College, and Baruch College. Her bio is included in Feminists Who Changed America (U of Illinois Press, 2006) for her pioneering work on sexual harassment in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Until 2016 she chaired the board of Callen-Lorde Community Health. On the graduate faculty of Baruch College, CUNY, she teaches Leadership, Organizational Development and Strategic Management in the School of Public Affairs. She presents regularly on leadership, team building, conflict management and strategic planning for community-based and academic programs.
She served as Executive Director of the Legacy Foundation, was on the founding team at CUNY Law School, and has served on the Boards of the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, the Public Interest Law Foundation, San Simeon Health and Nursing Center, and the Institute for Women and Work, as well as NYC’s LGBT swim team, where she ran operations for Gay Games Swimming in 1994. Click to read the article “From Carmita Wood to Anita Hill ” by Susan Brownmiller and Dolores Alexander in the Jan./Feb. 1992 issue of MS. Magazine. It focuses on the newly named issue of sexual harassment and includes some of the efforts of Karen Sauvigné.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s Karen was a pioneer in the fight against sexual harassment in employment. She thinks her most important achievement started when she was at Cornell in the mid-70’s. A woman in her program told a story about being subjected to sexual exploitation at work. Soon everyone in the room was telling a story she had never spoken of before. So began the realization of the importance and apparent prevalence of this formerly secret abuse. She organized a “Speak-Out” in Ithaca, a kind of public consciousness raising. To give the phenomenon a name, they coined the term “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.” She and her colleagues at Cornell gave voice to women whose previous experience had no expression. Karen is excited by the recent blooming of sexual harassment resistance in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and salutes Tarana Burke who launched #MeToo 12 years ago. .
Karen has had a home on the north fork since 1988 where she spent summers as a child. The environs are deep in her memory. She enjoys sailing, windsurfing, iceboating, swimming, cycling, kayaking, oyster and scallop cultivation, and gardening. She is an active volunteer at SPAT (Suffolk Project in Aquaculture Training), the shellfish program at Cornell Marine Center where they grow oysters from spawn to edible. She encourages community members to become stewards of the environment and to restore shellfish to the bays. Oh yes, and she volunteers as NFWFWF’s grants chair.
To help meet NFWFWF’s goal of providing financial assistance for health related expenses, Karen has served as Chair of the Grants Committee for over six years and continues to review, recommend and sometimes reject applications to the Board for health care grant awards. We are indebted to her for the tireless work she as given to NFWFWF over the years. Thank you, Karen.