May 13-19, 2004
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
Three Individuals are Honored for their Service by Catholic Charities
Three individuals will be honored on May 26 at the annual House of Providence dinner hosted by Catholic Charities of Onondaga County for their dedication and generous service to the Syracuse community. The event which is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the OnCenter, will pay tribute to John Cowin, Syracuse’s Fire Chief; Fran Nichols, managing partner with Eric Mower and Associates; and Juli Boeheim, an active participant and board member of several not-for-profit agencies throughout Central New York.
Fire Chief John Cowin will be presented with the Bishop’s Medallion –– an award given to those that demonstrate extreme selflessness in serving their community. Cowin is a 27-year veteran of the fire department and became chief in 2001. Throughout his career, he has served in the busiest companies in Syracuse and on a special forces unit, the Rescue Company. Chief Cowin has been commended for his work at the World Trade Center following the attacks of 9/11. Chief Cowin was part of the first team of rescue personnel from Syracuse who responded to the call for aid. “They were looking for assistance for search and recovery. We went down to assist them with Emergency Medical Services,” said Cowin. He said he and his crew spent a week working on ambulances and digging through rubble searching for survivors. They caught snippets of sleep on a hospital naval ship anchored nearby. “Until that point, I don’t think there was much that could shock or appall me, “said Cowin. “I’d seen a lot of horrific things in my 24 years of service. But that was indescribable.” Cowin also said that the scene touched him deeply. “There were thousands of people working, digging with their hands. When a fire fighter was found, everything and everyone stopped until the body was brought out, draped in an American flag,” he said. Cowin said that if there was one positive thing that came out of that tragedy it was that it changed the rest of the world’s opinion about firefighters. “While it has faded a bit, I think that there is still a new respect for firefighters,” he said.
Chief Cowin is actively involved in multiple organizations in the community. He serves on the boards for The American Red Cross and the Everson Museum, Hope for Bereaved, Emergency Preparedness of SUNY Upstate Medical University, the Onondaga County Fire Advisory Board and is Chairman of the Board for the Syracuse Fire Department Employees’ Federal Credit Union. He enjoys sharing his knowledge with agencies that focus on helping people. As a member of the advisory board for Hope for Bereaved, Cowin said he is able to add his expertise and technical ability to the organization. “I’ve seen a lot of people who have lost multiple family members in fires and accidents,” he said. “When I return to the station, I can somewhat remove myself from it. But I wonder how people go on and live with that loss. Hope for Bereaved is a place for family and friends to go to for support. It’s a good organization.” Chief Cowin said he was surprised and honored to be receiving the Bishop’s Medallion. “I accept it on behalf of all firefighters for all that they do,” he said. “My heroes are the people I’ve worked with for the past 27 years.”
Fran Nichols will receive the President’s Medallion in recognition of his immeasurable contributions to the community. He has held multiple leadership positions as past president of the Regional Learning Services (RLS) Career Center, past president of the Syracuse Home Foundation and past treasurer of the Syracuse Rescue Mission. Nichols continues to serve on the board of all three organizations. He is also a member of the Syracuse Children’s Chorus board. “You have to be passionate about the organizations you are involved in to be a good board member,” said Nichols. “RLS Career Center was important to me because adults have few places to go and learn and get assistance with career changes,” said Nichols. “They have helped a lot of people who were unhappy, change careers.” The Displaced Homemaker Program, which is run by RLS, helps women learn skills and find employment. The services offered at the Rescue Mission are particularly significant to Nichols. “It was important to me because it was a stop my brother made on his road as someone addicted to alcohol,” explained Nichols. “He didn’t survive it, but if anyone could have saved him it would have been the Rescue Mission.”
Nichols saw how much the Rescue Mission reaches out to the community in a variety of ways. “There are a lot of initiatives that try to help young people before they become addicted. They help at-risk youth as well,” he said. Nichols’ involvement as a board member for the Syracuse Symphony brings him much enjoyment. “The real appeal to me is the impact the symphony has on our city. The symphony not only credentials our city but is a major force in the economic development of Syracuse.” “I feel what I contribute to the community often pales to what others are doing,” said Nichols about his award. “I’m very honored that they thought of me. Hopefully, part of what’s being recognized is the organizations I’ve worked with.”
Juli Boeheim will receive the Humanitarian Medallion for consistently demonstrating a willingness to give back to the community in which she lives. Boeheim serves on the board for ARC of Onondaga County and the Syracuse Community Health Center. She is currently involved in the development of Casey’s Place –– a respite house in Syracuse that helps families who have children with special needs. With her husband Jim, she helped create Coaches vs. Cancer, which raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for local American Cancer Society Programs. Boeheim also finds time to support Rescue Mission activities and has served as an honorary chair for local hospitals and not-for-profit fundraising events.
When asked how she finds time to be involved with so many agencies while raising three small children, Boeheim responded, “We are blessed. We have great help with our children.” While Boeheim admits that her schedule is very busy, she does have full days at home with her children. She said that her volunteer work gives her and her husband the opportunity to work on things together. “It does a lot for my relationship with my husband,” said Boeheim. “It adds another dimension to our marriage. We are like a team out in the community.” Boeheim said that while there is not much she can do for her husband’s career, their volunteer work, especially Coaches vs. Cancer, puts them on common ground.
Like other women who struggle to juggle outside commitments while raising a family, Boeheim admitted that some days she is at war with herself. “I question whether I took more on than I should,” said Boeheim. She shared a story of her daughter riding her toy car around the house. “She said to me, ‘Mommy, I’ll be back soon. I just have one quick meeting to go to.’ But when it’s over and I know that I’ve made a difference, I know it’s what I needed to do and want to do,” said Boeheim. “It’s God’s will. He put me in this position for a reason,” she said. “I am doubly blessed. “It goes both ways in the fulfillment that I receive.” Boeheim said it’s a tremendous honor to be recognized with this award. “To be associated with Catholic Charities is an honor,” she said. “I don’t feel like I deserve it. I appreciate it and am truly honored.”