MONTVILLE, NJ – The 75th Cecilia Gaines Holland Award was presented to Towaco resident Terry Cavanaugh at the New Jersey State Federation of Woman’s Clubs annual convention on May 7. Cavanaugh is a member of the Suburban Woman’s Club of Pompton Plains.

The Cecilia Gaines Holland Award is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a New Jersey member, according to the state Women’s Club website. Named after the second president of the New Jersey State Federation of Woman's Clubs (NJSFWC), this prestigious award is given annually to one member who performs outstanding volunteer work that extends above and beyond service to her club. Rosemarie Saviello nominated Cavanaugh for the award.

Cavanaugh was an adjunct professor at Montclair State University Graduate School in special education. She has worked with youths with learning disabilities, taught special education at MTHS for 17 years, and mentored special education undergraduate students. She is affiliated with the Learning Disabilities Association of New Jersey and America and their Healthy Children’s Project, according to Laura Badger, NJSFWC Honors Chair.

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For the past eight years Cavanaugh has answered the Learning Disabilities Association’s hotline. She provides information to school nurses and the Visiting Nurse Association of New Jersey. She informs parents about toxins in non-flammable materials in children’s bedding, toys, and car seats, and toxins in cleaning products that cause developmental disabilities and childhood cancers.

Cavanaugh is a charter member of the Towaco Civic Association, the Montville Township Residents with Disabilities Advisory Committee, Montville Educational Foundation, UNICO National New Jersey Education Association, and the Morris County Retired Teachers Association, according to Badger.

Cavanaugh told the assembly at the convention, “When I was 17, just graduated with honors from high school, working full time at Prudential Insurance, and paying my own tuition to attend Seton Hall University, I was a business major – this was before I totally lost my mind and became a teacher.  My father told me I could be in the College of Life Underwriters, the highest level of insurance underwriters.  My advisor said – not to me but to my father, ‘Tony, she can get the highest grade on the exam, but she will never be in the College of Life Underwriters because she is a woman!’

“It was a turning point in my life – from that time on, I tried to work for the ‘underdog’ and the devalued – and, of course, my 47 years in NJSFWC were definitely the place to continue this journey! I have been very fortunate to have been given awards before, but this is the most humbling, because I know what my fellow clubwomen have done, and will continue to do.”

In 2004 Cavanaugh was named to the Montville Hall of Fame and in 1998 she was named Citizen of the Year by the Montville Township Chamber of Commerce.

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