Vanessa Crum ’74 and Dacia Read ’04 to Receive 2023 Founder’s Award

September 13, 2023

A composite image that includes photos of this year's Founder's Award recipients: on the left, Vanessa Crum, and on the right, Dacia Read.
(pictured left to right) Vanessa Crum ’74 and Dacia Read ’04

The Wheeler Alumni Board is proud to announce that Vanessa Crum ’74 and Dacia Read ’04 will receive its highest honor: The Founder’s Award. They will be recognized in a special ceremony during next month’s Homecoming & Reunion Weekend festivities.

Crum, who was elected earlier this year as the first Black woman to serve as a judge on the Providence Municipal Court, will receive The Founder’s Award for Achievement. The award recognizes alumni whose exceptional accomplishments in their fields have made a significant impact on their professions and/or communities, and whose lives and careers exemplify Wheeler’s mission to “learn our powers and be answerable for their use.”

Prior to her current role as associate judge, Crum was an attorney and administrator for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, a former administrator for the City of Providence, where she was responsible for women and business enterprise development, and a member of the city’s Ethics Commission.

She was born and raised in Providence. After graduating from Wheeler, Crum went on to earn a bachelor of arts degree from Johns Hopkins University and a juris doctor degree from The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law. She currently serves on the boards of two nonprofits – A.M.E.N. Inc and Building Futures – that support social justice, equity, and career support in her community.

In their letter to Crum, Alumni Board President John Clarke ’06 and Director of Alumni Engagement Danielle Kachapis wrote, “With nearly four decades of service to Rhode Island and to Providence, your career is testament to the principles of justice, service, inclusion, and diversity. Your perseverance and accomplishments have not only left an indelible mark on our city and state, but also serve as an inspiration to young people, particularly young people of color, who are pursuing careers in the legal profession.”

Read will be honored with The Founder’s Award for Service, which recognizes alumni who have demonstrated an uncommon level of devotion to Wheeler and given significant time and energy in service to the school’s mission.

She has long been committed to improving outcomes for children and families, beginning as a Wheeler student in 2001 when she was a volunteer for Breakthrough Providence (then Providence Summerbridge). Since then, she has served her local communities in New York and Rhode Island to address systemic barriers and disparities impacting children and families through various public and private sector roles, from leading a statewide legislative campaign on behalf of the Children’s Defense Fund-New York, to serving as former Governor Gina Raimondo’s deputy chief of staff in charge of the whole-of-government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to her role in the governor’s office, Read was Rhode Island’s assistant secretary of health and human services, providing executive oversight and management to the state’s child welfare, behavioral health, human services, developmental disabilities, and healthcare financing agencies. Currently, Read serves as associate vice president of regulatory and government affairs at Unite Us, a healthcare technology start-up that enables cross-sector care coordination to address the social determinants of health. She holds a bachelor of arts degree from Columbia University and a juris doctor degree from Brooklyn Law School.

“You have shown up for Wheeler in a wide range of ways through the years, including as a phonathon volunteer and a class agent to keep alumni engaged and involved,” Clarke and Kachapis wrote in their letter to Read to inform her of the award. “Most exceptional, of course, is your long history as a teacher, supporter, and leader for the Providence Summerbridge / Breakthrough program, including your recent work to help re-envision its future for continued impact.”

Read and Crum will each receive The Founder’s Award at the Alumni Awards Celebration on Saturday, October 14, preceding Wheeler Reunion Night dinners. You can register for the awards celebration event on the Wheeler Alumni community website, the Wheel.

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