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Ballester said that the identity of this year's award recipients "has been
one of the worst kept secrets," and then went on to say that two things he has
accomplished are "making Jerry Davidoff laugh uncontrollably, and making Denny
Davidoff cry uncontrollably." He then went on to describe and laud Jerry and
Denny Davidoff, recipients of this year's award, the highest conferred in
Ballester, in sharing the citation on the award, said:
"Recognizing the delegate standing at the 'Con' microphone, the Moderator
demanded, 'Are you there to help or just to make trouble?' The delegate replied,
'You and I have been trying to answer that question for forty-three years!'"
It was but one encounter in the lives of Denny and Jerry Davidoff, who have
worked and led in our UU movement for half a century. Ballester said, "Their
lives testify to Margaret Mead's truth that a small group (in this case, a group
of two) thoughtful and committed people can change the world. Together, they
have changed ours."
He continued: "Jerry: lawyer, wit, raconteur, searcher of hidden meanings,
confidant of ministers." Jerry Davidoff has served on the Commission on
Appraisal and the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. He is known as a "rules
maven, canny advocate of excellence, cheerleader, mentor and truth-teller to
ministers." Ballester said Davidoff's enthusiasm for ministers extends to
wearing red socks on Sundays since this is the color of the academic hood for
divinity degrees. Beyond the UUA, Jerry Davidoff has served as trustee and
secretary of the Alban Institute, has been a long-time member of his local
Westport, CT, Board of Education (as chair for two years), and founder and
original board member of the Connecticut Women's Educational and Legal Fund. He
has served as board chair of the Westchester Institution for Training in
Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Davidoff also turned his law practice away
from adversarial struggle toward the arts of reconciliation so as to better
serve justice. Ballester said, "The inventory of Jerry Davidoff's achievements
could easily be extended, yet nothing on that list could rival the one
accomplishment that dwarfs all others: he married well."
Turning to Denny Davidoff, Ballester said, "For over three decades she has
taught us what we must be about; taught us with wit and insight, sympathy and
understanding; and even on those occasions when lesser mortals succumb to
exasperation and despair, she could go to her well of good humor, teaching and
guiding us while we were almost too busy laughing to notice." He recounted her
professional career in advertising and marketing, and then said that "in 1973
she was elected to the Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation (UUWF) board
and never looked back." In addition to her work for the UUWF, she has served on
the General Assembly Planning Committee, and is best known as UUA Moderator from
1993 to 2001. Ballester said her fingerprints are on every substantive UU
organization. "One week's agenda may include her chairing the Partner Church
Council's task force on economic fairness in New York; chairing the Board
meeting of the Church of the Larger Fellowship in Boston; attending the trustees
meeting of Meadville/Lombard Theological School in Chicago." She is also
co-founder of The Interfaith Alliance Foundation and a trustee of the World
Conference on Religion and Peace.
Ballester concluded, "Denny and Jerry, you are ever ready to help us with our
problems and, when we shrink from that responsibility, you give us trouble. You
hold us to your high standard, requiring of us no less than what you require of
yourselves: that the liberal religious vision of truth, justice and love be
incarnated in our deeds and in our lives." With that, they were presented with
the 2006 Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism.
In response, Jerry Davidoff told delegates that when Denny was elected
Moderator of the UUA, he quipped that he knew precisely what his job would be:
to walk four paces behind. He said, in forty-some odd years of marriage, he had
seldom gotten that close! He also shared his gratitude with the Unitarian
Universalist community for offering one of the greatest gifts that anyone can be
given: the opportunity to love.
Denny Davidoff began by saying that she, too, married well. She then
recounted the beginning of her involvement in UU leadership. It began in 1971
when she arrived in Washington, D.C., for General Assembly. She was then, she
said, "Mrs. Jerry Davidoff." But upon the urging of Mary Lou Thompson, the
Deputy Director of the UU Women's Federation, she stepped up to "notice" that
the leadership on the stage at that General Assembly were all men. She said that
with this act, "a GA career was begun."
"I tell you this tonight," said Davidoff, "to acknowledge the mentoring role
of Mary Lou Thompson and to do it publicly. And to let you know that
someone—many someones—helped me be who I am." She and Jerry would not have gone
to their first GA without Ed Lane, their minister, encouraging them, she said.
"All along the way, I have been guided, formed, educated, encouraged, loved into
power. We all need help. We all need each other. And I have tried to
reciprocate: to lend support, to lend a hand, to guide and to love others into
power. We are stronger and more effective when we are in right relationships. We
are all in this enterprise together." She ended by quoting the covenant that is
said every week in her home congregation, and as the delegates joined in, these
words were heard: "Love is the spirit of this church and service its law. This
is our great covenant. To dwell together in peace. To seek the truth in love.
And to help one another."
The plenary erupted in thunderous applause and a standing ovation in
recognition of the huge impact Denny and Jerry Davidoff have made on Unitarian
Universalism and the UUA.
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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.
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