Scarsdale Bowl Honors Jackie Irwin

Volunteer extraordinaire Jacqueline E. Irwin was awarded the 2010 Scarsdale Bowl on Wednesday night April 7 at Lake Isle Country Club. A large swath of the village leadership came out to hail a woman who has supported Scarsdale for thirty years. Past recipients of the Bowl, the Village Trustees, School Board members, Village Managers, leaders of community organizations, family and friends were all on hand to commend Jackie for her service. The bowl is one of the highest honors bestowed on a Scarsdale resident in recognition of voluntary service and is presented by the Scarsdale Foundation, which was formed in 1943.

Jackie, an active community member and working mother, moved to Scarsdale in 1980. She quickly got involved in the PTA’s of both the Heathcote and Middle Schools and served on the League of Women Voters, as Director of the Land Use Committee and as Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Elected to both the School Board Nominating Committee and the Citizens Nominating Committee she is an advocate for the non-partisan system. From 1995-2001 Jackie served on the Scarsdale School Board and following her term she became the co-chair of STEP and the Vice President and then President of the TVCC. One of her biggest accomplishments was the establishment of the Scarsdale Child Care Association which later evolved into Kids’ BASE and the Little School.

Seth Ross, Chair of the Scarsdale Bowl Committee led the evening events. Ross, along with fourteen Scarsdale Bowl Committee members and two non-voting members chose the honoree and organized the dinner.

Lively and entertaining speakers included William S. Miller, President of the Scarsdale Foundation, Jackie’s daughter Chrissie Irwin Sainvil, dear friends Evelyn Stock and Stephen Holden III and Jacqueline E. Irwin herself.

Her daughter Chrissie Sainvil and friend Evelyn Stock shared their comments about this remarkable woman with Scarsdale10583 and here they are for you:

Comments from daughter Chrissie Sainvil:

I am honored to be here tonight to honor my mother, Jackie Irwin. I would also like to thank the Scarsdale Bowl Committee for hosting this event in her honor.

Over the years, I have heard all about the infamous Bowl Dinners. It seems like I have been to so many, but in fact this is my first. For the past several years that my mom has been involved with the Bowl Committee, she would tell me all about each year’s event, the honoree, his or her achievements, and of course, the wonderful speeches given by their children. So when my mom called to tell me that she was this year’s honoree, I was not surprised, I knew this day was coming! I mean from the time I can remember, she has always been doing volunteer work, from Kids Base Director, to the PTA, to School Board President, and more recently STEP, the TVCC, and the Scarsdale Foundation to name a few.

What I wasn’t expecting, was the speech she gave me when she called to tell me she was becoming this year’s honoree. Instead of calling me all excited and cheerful, the phone call went something like this: Mom: “Hi Chrissie its your mom, Me: Oh hey mom, what’s up? Is everything ok, you sound serious?” Mom: everything is fine but I have to tell you something”. Me: oh ok. Mom: “I am getting honored at the Scarsdale Bowl Committee, now I want you to give the speech, but the dinner is on a Wednesday, so you will have to take off work, oh and the speech has to be funny”! She went on to give me all the details of the event, the date, the flight, how much work I would miss, whether I should bring my daughter or not, and who would take care of her while we were at the dinner. She pretty much had everything planned out before I could even say congratulations!

But that one conversation is my mom in a nutshell…modest of her achievements and always planning EVERYTHING! Instead of letting me congratulate her and basking in her achievement, she went straight into planning mode. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised though…she is a planner at heart! When we were younger and would take annual family vacations to Vail to go skiing or hiking, my mom would type out a packing list for all of us just to be sure we didn’t miss anything, even though it was the same trip every year. All throughout middle and high school, and even before that, she would plan dinner for the week and write out a weekly menu. As we got older, this became a running joke with my friends, where they would call up or come by just to see what was on the menu for the week!

Even when she wasn’t working, my mom was still busy planning and volunteering. In fact, I don’t really remember a time when she hasn’t been volunteering. Up until middle school, it seemed like she had a full time job with the amount of volunteer work she did. It wasn’t until 5th or 6th grade when the NY Times came to do a story on women returning to the workforce after raising children, did I actually realize that all that time she was out “working” during elementary school, she was not actually getting paid! I just assumed she had a great job that allowed her to come to all my school events and work when my sister and I were at school.

And now since she has retired, she is even busier volunteering. For a retired woman, she doesn’t have that much time on her hands! Sometimes, I wonder which one of us is busier! I have been joking with her to come down to Miami and relax and live the snowbird life that so many retired New Yorkers do, but this New Yorker cannot ever fully retire! She’s even thinking about going back to school so that she can go back to work!

Now I am not sure if I have inherited this determination or if I will ever fully live up to her achievements, but I can say that I am motivated everyday by everything she does and everything she is. I hope one day that my daughter will be as inspired by me as I am by you mom.

Thank you.

Comments from friend and Bowl Reicipient Evelyn Stock:

When Jackie asked me to be one of her speakers, I was both honored and humbled. I welcomed having the opportunity to celebrate all she has done and continues to do—the problem was how to keep it within the time allotted.

But first, I was asked to bring greetings and congratulations from Beverly Cunningham who regretted she could not be here. And lest you think that you ever stop being mentored, our conversation concluded – Now Evelyn remember to talk slowly.

I first met Jackie when she was part of the group that in 1982 created the Child Care Association—the forerunner of Kids Base. The group included Eve Landau and Sandy Older who are here tonight. We met frequently that summer on my porch at 13 Wakefield Road. We did the unthinkable then and now Scarsdale—we completed our task quickly. We started meeting in the Spring; the doors opened that fall. The success of the organization was due in no small part for Jackie’s leadership.

It was soon clear that Jackie was a star— very smart, very deliberate, very serious, and also lots of fun. It was also clear that she was only going to be “at home” for a limited time. I quickly asked her to come onto the Scarsdale League board. Perfectly normal idea now when people join an organization in Scarsdale and immediately become president but then board members first had to pay their dues. Fortunately for the League and Scarsdale, she agreed; her portfolio--Planning and Zoning turned out to be splendid preparation for the Board of Appeals.

Jackie has a way of pursuing information, never challenging just trying to understand. She crosses every t, dots every i. Someone said when Jackie describes a property, you have a complete view of every inch of every tree. And thus she started on the conveyor belt of volunteer work in Scarsdale. This has included auditing most Scarsdale organizations, being their treasurer and often serving as their leader. Our Bowl program tonight could not include everything. What is unique about Jackie -- after leading an organization, she stays around to solve the glitches and problems. These range from ensuring airplane connections for a STEP student to exploring how to get more people to run for the School Board Nominating Committee. All the while she is available to mentor and encourage those who follow her.

Unlike most of us, Jackie is always enthusiastic It is really great to call her and hear – “Well hello” as if she had been waiting for your call. Most of us volunteers on occassion kvetch — how much to do, how little time. Not Jackie. She embraces the most difficult tasks. Case in point. Many of us were surprised when she agreed, after six tough years on the school board to be the TVCC VP – the one that goes on to be president. Most surprising was why she said yes—she actually wanted to run the non-partisan campaign for Village trustees—the job of the Vice President. I am sure Jackie is the only one who has ever welcomed that job.

Three Jackie stories demonstrate her sensitivity and kindness. Story No. 1 A few years ago, Jackie called and asked if I had an extra Chanukah menorah she could borrow. Strange request from a Catholic friend. The reason--she and David were going skiing to their condo in Colorado and her brother and his wife, who is Jewish, were joining them. Jackie thought it would be nice to be able to light candles.

Story No. 2 . Nine years ago, my husband was going for his third stem cell transplant and I would be staying in the hospital with him for five weeks. Jackie offered to take my dog. This was a huge favor. It was December--snow, cold, and my dog likes to be walked. I was more than grateful. Jackie said she loved walking Bogey and assured me that there would be a Christmas present for him to open on Christmas morning. Her dog Tammy, who had died, would get very upset when there were no presents for her. I said Bogey doesn’t know from Christmas--he is a Jewish dog. Well, five weeks later, when I packed up Bogey’s stuff, there was his Christmas present to take home.

And Story No. 3.--just two weeks ago, when I had no electricity or heat and my friends were happy to invite me but less happy to have my dog, I called Jackie to see if she would take him. Of course, bring him over. I had barely hung up when she called back to say she would take me too.

Jackie is a devoted wife, daughter, sister, friend, mother, and now grandmother. She clearly adores her husband David, who is just entering his 4th year as Village trustee, and Chrissie and Pam and granddaughter Eve. I want to thank them all for sharing her. Volunteering often forms the foundation for a life-long personal relationship—sharing walks around the track, coffee, lunch, and parties and the joys and the losses of a lifetime. And sometimes you get surprises. I just learned that Jackie plays bridge—for money and has for years.

A friend said newcomers to Scarsdale should attend the Bowl Dinner to see what happens at the end of a volunteer life. But for many, it is not the end. Jackie exemplifies those for whom the Bowl Award is only a thank you along the way.

Thank you Jackie for all you have done and continue to do for Scarsdale and for the gift you gave those of us who stayed at home and were not VP’s at Citibank. You continually affirmed what we did and who we were-– that indeed we were valuable and as capable as those who stayed in the corporate world.

I am lucky-- I can look forward to working with her on the Scarsdale Foundation… and who knows what else.