Martha “Martie” Strayer Russel Receives the 2016 Mary Harriman Award at the 94th Annual Conference of The Association of Junior Leagues International

New York, May 19, 2015 –  The Association of Junior Leagues International today announced that Martha “Martie” Strayer Russel is the winner of the 2016 Mary Harriman Award for Community Leadership. The award, which is The Junior League’s most prestigious for an individual League member, was made at AJLI’s 94th Annual Conference in Atlanta on May 13th.

The long-time member of the Junior League of Toronto joins such past winners as former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; Martha Rivers Ingram, chairman of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trustees and a noted philanthropist and patron of the arts; Karen Cullen Luke, lifelong civic leader in Oklahoma City and vice chair of the committee that built The Oklahoma National Memorial & Museum; Florence Shapiro, a long-time member of the Texas Senate; and Samira Modad, a tireless advocate for public health and education initiatives in Mexico, as well as last year’s winner: the Junior League of Dallas’ Lyda Hill, a noted philanthropist.

Ms. Russel has been a trailblazer since joining The Junior League at 21. In addition to the many leadership roles she took on within the Junior League of Toronto, she has served on close to 20 nonprofit boards. Among her other contributions to the Toronto community, she was the founding director of Fife House, which provides supportive housing for people living with HIV/AIDS; a founding trustee for Wellspring, which provides, at no charge, a network of community-based cancer centers providing support and education to people who are coping with the non-medical side of cancer; and a founding director of The Toronto Commandery Hospice, where she is working to help raise $5 million to build a new hospice.

“Martie is a consummate leader and fundraiser as well as a natural mentor, known far and wide in the Toronto community for a willingness to share her skills and expertise,” said AJLI President Ellen Rose. “For more than 30 years she has been an enthusiastic advocate for The Junior League and the value of voluntarism—not just within her League but also through the many community organizations and programs she supports. Martie is truly someone whose dedication to creating lasting community impact reflects the example set by Mary Harriman more than 100 years ago.”

About the Mary Harriman Community Leadership Award

In 1901, Mary Harriman, a 19-year-old debutante with a unwavering social conscience, rallied 80 of her peers to improve the squalid living conditions of immigrants on New York City’s Lower East Side, forming the first Junior League. Eighty-nine years later, in 1990, the AJLI Board of Directors created the Mary Harriman Community Leadership Award as a way of recognizing an individual Junior League member whose volunteer efforts embody Mary Harriman’s pioneering spirit, her sense of social responsibility, and her ability to motivate others to share their talents through effective volunteer action. It serves as a modern-day link to our rich heritage—and to the tradition Mary began.      

About The Association of Junior Leagues International

Founded in 1901 by New Yorker and social activism pioneer, Mary Harriman, the Junior Leagues are charitable nonprofit organizations of women, developed as civic leaders, creating demonstrable community impact.

Today,  The Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) is comprised of more than 150,000 women in 291 Junior Leagues throughout Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States. Together, they constitute one of the largest, most effective volunteer organizations in the world. 



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