Partners for Youth with Disabilities is joyful to introduce our third and last (but certainly not least) Legends Honoree, Melissa M. MacDonnell, President of Liberty Mutual Foundation and Vice President of Liberty Mutual Insurance. Melissa sat down with us to discuss her career path and who inspired her journey along the way. She is an example of kindness. She defines herself through the impact she has on friends, family and mentees, not external accolades.
Even though she holds a prominent position at Liberty Mutual Foundation, Melissa describes herself as an introverted person. Her goal is to “keep her eyes on the prize” to help the most vulnerable in our communities. She thinks about the impact she can have by doing her job well; she holds great respect for Liberty’s CEO David Long who himself is deeply committed to the community, and in particular, accessibility and inclusion. Melissa’s courage and motivation come from her passion in giving back to the community. In addition to working at Liberty Mutual, she also serves on the boards of Horizons for Homeless Children and the Don and Marilyn Rodman Foundation. She is a member of the Leadership Advisory Board for Rosie’s Place, and is a volunteer at the Sudanese Community Center. For fifteen years, she acted as a big sister for a young woman from Germaine Lawrence, a residential treatment program for girls. She’s also served as a Vice Chair for both the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts and Mass Mentoring Partnership, the Chair of Faith and Action at United Way, and as a board member of Bruce Wall Ministries. Think that’s all? Not even – Melissa has helped chair record-breaking fundraisers for the Big Sister Association, Whittier Street Health Center, Salvation Army, and Community Servings, and was also a participant in LeadBoston and Boston Women Build in the Bayou.
In recognition for her great contributions to the community, she’s been awarded the Women for Whittier Award, named to the YWCA’s Academy of Women Achievers, and listed as one of the Top 40 Under 40 by Boston Magazine. While humbled by all of these honorable awards and incredible achievements, in her opinion, helping a woman from Sudan get her driver’s license is one of her greatest personal successes. Melissa has mentored the woman, who spoke very little English at the time. It took her four times to pass the permit test and seven tries to pass the road test–all to be able to drive a car– a task that for many of us, comes with the kind of freedom and liberation we often take for granted. Melissa understands the impact of aiding others in achieving even the smallest things, and because of that, she’ll continue to keep mentoring and supporting as many groups as possible. “[Your] dream always has to be bigger than a job,” Melissa advises young adults. “Follow [your] gut, and embrace who you really are.” Her dream, which included philanthropy, stems from her deeply compassionate family and her role model of a mom. Her own parents and family served as a host family welcoming in youth in addition to having ten kids of their own. Motivated by her parents’ caring words and deeds, she is dedicated to giving back to the community.
According to Melissa, PYD is succeeding in meeting the important needs of young people with disabilities and providing them with comprehensive programs to help them thrive. As a center for inclusion, PYD puts great efforts into reaching deeper into the community and encouraging more and more young people with disabilities to find their own identities.
Melissa appreciates that “PYD opens up an entire world for young people with disabilities.” PYD is humbled to have Melissa as our respectable honoree and to have this chance to recognize the greatness she has contributed to the community. We hope to see everyone on May 18th to join in the expression of gratitude to such an influential person.
This post was written by Juan Zhou, Jackie (Xiao) Yan, Olicia Mannion, and Mary Grace Alcaro of the BU PRLab. Edited by Nicole Malo.