For the NVCC Family, Carmen Maria (Velez) Núñez (1926-2019) was more than a major donor. Mother, grandmother, friend, benefactor, mentor, role-model describe her relationships with NVCC President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, students, faculty and staff of the College. The Juan and Carmen Núñez Atrium at the entrance to NVCC’s Founders Hall and the Center for Heath Sciences is a stately and elegant reminder of her generosity and commitment to the College.
In her honor, President De Filippis hosted a memorial service celebrating the life of Carmen Maria (Velez) Núñez. Dr. Elsa Núñez, daughter of Carmen Maria Núñez and President of Eastern Connecticut State University; Antony Wormack, grandson of Carmen Maria, and Director of NVCC’s Center for Job Placement and College Opportunities; and Estela Lopez, Vice Chairperson of the Connecticut State Board of Education; were among the featured speakers.
The program was a tribute to the life of Carmen Maria (Velez) Núñez through poetry. President De Filippis opened with remarks defining the event as “a celebration of gratitude for her spirit of generosity and sacrifice.”
Referring to the influence and generosity of Carmen Maria (Velez) Núñez, President De Filippis described how she had done so much to help a Latina move forward in education. She summarized, “The light in each of us is the most important part of our humanity.”
Poetry readings followed where each speaker chose a poem that was fitting as a tribute to the celebration of life. For the first reading Antony Wormack, Director of Center for Job Placement and College Opportunities, read the poem, A Wonderful Grandmother, by an unknown author. Wormack noted, “I chose this poem because I felt that in its simplicity, it conveyed a warmth that was very reminiscent of my Grandmother and her approach to life.”
I had a wonderful grandmother
One who never really grew old
Her smile was made of sunshine
And her heart was solid gold.
The next reading by Waldemar Kostrzewa, Dean of Community Engagement, Muere Lentamente, (You Start Dying Slowly), by Martha Modeiros, was selected to honor Núñez because, “Its inspirational content uses admonitions (If you do not…) to create a ‘recipe’ toward a full life.”
The third reading by Dr. Lisa Dresdner, Dean of Academic Affairs was from the poem, Starlings in Winter, by Mary Oliver. Dresdner noted, “Mary Oliver often turns to images of nature to create meaning when language limits us; in this poem she uses starlings to speak to the way grief is a part of life. These ‘chunky and noisy’ birds suddenly become ‘acrobats’ that ‘float like one stippled star,’ and by referring to them as ‘this wheel of many parts,’ Oliver reminds us that we are all part of a process and that we can move through the dark parts of life: ‘I am thinking now / of grief, and getting past it; I want to be light and frolicsome. / I want to be improbably beautiful and afraid of nothing, / as though I had wings.’ “
The fourth reading by Dana Elm, Interim Dean of Administration, was from the poem, Remember, by Joy Harjo (United States Poet Laureate.) Elm commented, “I selected this poem because I fell in love with its message. The poem urges us to remember our connections to nature – and to be grateful for them – because they shape us into the unique person we become. Given the occasion of celebrating the life of Dr. Núñez’s mother, I found the following lines to be particularly stirring: “Remember your birth, how your mother struggled to give you form and breath. You are evidence of her life, and her mother’s, and hers.”
The celebration ended with closing remarks by program moderator, Dr. Estela Lopez. She reminded the audience that the life of Carmen Maria (Velez) Núñez was lived example. She expressed gratitude and admiration. “This is the story of parents who were brave and left everything behind to ensure the future of their children.”