Siena Friars Present Francis Medal to Administrator for her ‘Franciscan Heart’

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. – A former Siena College administrator was honored with the Holy Name Province Francis Medal for her more than three decades of work with academically and financially disadvantaged students. Many of those who know Carol Sandoval say that her deep commitment and advocacy work as director of Siena’s Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) gave more than 300 students, who otherwise would have been denied opportunity, access to a world-class college education.

Friary guardian Mark Reamer, Carol Sandoval and Dan Dwyer during the Oct. 4 Mass. (photo courtesy of Siena College)

The friar community at St. Bernardine of Siena Friary, on the Siena campus, nominated Sandoval for the Francis Medal – an award established in 1998 by then-Provincial Minister John Felice, OFM, that acknowledges those who have exemplified the values and ideals of St. Francis of Assisi in their personal and professional lives.

“Carol had a Franciscan heart and spirit in everything that she did. She was a fierce advocate for students in the program, and she always brought friars into a close relationship with the program and with the students whom she served,” said Dan Dwyer, OFM, associate professor of history at Siena, who has known Sandoval more than 30 years. He and  Mark reamer, guardian of the friary, presented her with the medal at an Oct. 4 Mass on the feast of St. Francis, celebrated by Michael Tyson, OFM.

“Carol always asked me and other friars to come to the welcoming reception for new HEOP students, or to academic awards dinners – and, in my case, to be part of faculty panels that met each summer to evaluate presentations by prospective eligible students,” said Dan, a 1974 Siena graduate. “She often consulted with me and other friars when her students were experiencing difficulties.”

Lauding Sandoval for running one of the most effective HEOPs in the state, Dan said that under her leadership, service, and dedication the Siena program had a remarkably high graduation rate.

“She helped the alumni in this program go on to achieve higher degrees and important professional positions. In fact, her successor is a graduate of the Siena HEOP program,” added Dan, who met Sandoval 25 years ago when he was first assigned to the college, and who worked with her over the years in other programs and activities, among them, serving as chaperones during a student trip to Russia.

Sandoval, who earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from New York University, managed Siena’s HEOP since 1986 before retiring this past summer. She had been hired by then-Siena president Hugh Hines, OFM, who now lives in Boston and who penned a testimonial letter on Sandoval’s behalf upon learning that she was a candidate for the Francis Medal.

The prospect of honoring Sandoval arose in a conversation between Dan and Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, who knew her from his service as president of Siena from 2007 to 2014.

“We talked about Carol exemplifying Franciscan identity and spirit. Kevin said he would be pleased to consider a request to award her the medal if I raised the proposal at our next house chapter,” Dan said. “After consulting with the guardian, the friars unanimously approved Carol for the Francis Medal.”

Kevin, who has served as provincial since 2014, said that Sandoval’s impact and true success is seen after her students graduate.

“Every year when I was president, I always met alumni, either on campus or around the country, who were proud HEOP participants and successful Siena alumni. The first question they would always ask me was ‘How is Carol?’ They spoke of the supporting role she played in their lives and credited her for their success,” Kevin said.

“They knew, as we all do, that Carol Sandoval was and is the heart and soul of HEOP at Siena College. We will miss her and we will never forget her. Thank you, Carol, for your work and for your passion for assisting young people – ensuring their access to and success in higher education,” Kevin added.

At Sandoval’s retirement reception in September, Cynda Brousseau, the associate director of Siena’s HEOP, praised her mentor’s work.

“Carol’s entire professional career and life’s work have been dedicated to helping students and their families break the cycle of poverty by providing them access to a college education,” said Brousseau, who worked for and with Sandoval for 30 years.

“As a result of Carol’s program leadership and her commitment to the college’s Franciscan mission, more than 300 graduates are now doctors, lawyers, professors, social workers, school psychologists, and successful businessmen and women who have families of their own and give back to Siena in a variety of ways,” Brousseau continued.

“I have had the privilege and honor to work side-by-side with Carol for 30 years. She has been my trusted supervisor, colleague, mentor, and dear friend,” added Brousseau.

Yasmin Fisher, who succeeded Sandoval as director of Siena’s HEOP, recalls  Sandoval’s compassion both when she was a HEOP student and after she graduated in 2010.

“I’ll never forget how extraordinarily helpful she was when my mother died,” said Fisher who is a graduate of Siena’s Higher Education Opportunity Program.  “She’s also been very supportive and encouraging in the years after I left campus.” Fisher began her new position on Nov. 11

 – Jocelyn Thomas is the director of communications for Holy Name Province.