Fairfield University nominated for prestigious 2009 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award


Fairfield University has been nominated for a prestigious Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the highest recognition given by the United States government to employers for their exceptional support of employees serving in the National Guard or Reserve. 

Freedom Award nominations are especially significant because only members of the National Guard and Reserve may recommend their employers for the honor. In Fairfield's case, Robert Chop, of Ansonia, a computer technician in the University's Computing and Network Services (CNS) who is serving in Iraq, recommended the University. He is a member of the Army National Guard 2nd Battalion, 104th Aviation, and is scheduled to return stateside sometime in 2010. 

Chop said the University was very amenable to his demanding training schedule that required him to fly training missions in Windsor Locks before deployment. The University also covered the difference in his salary when he needed to go on extended training exercises, so his income was not affected, and tuition remission benefits continue for his wife, Melissa, even though he is on active duty. Meanwhile, his seniority and time of service at Fairfield will remain unchanged. "I felt so much support from the University and its staff from Human Resources and CNS that this was the least I can do to show my thanks to an employer that deserves so much more from me."

A national review committee of senior defense officials and business leaders will soon narrow down the field of 3,200 nominees to 15 recipients who will be honored at the White House. 

The University was among 32 employers in the state recognized by the Connecticut Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Inc. for its Freedom Award nomination at a July 18 ceremony. The Rocky Hill-based organization also presented the University with an "Above and Beyond Award," recognizing employers who have gone above and beyond the legal requirements for granting leave and providing support for military duty by their employees. Today, 1.2 million Americans serve in the Guard and Reserve, representing more than half of the country's military. 

James Estrada, vice president for Information Services at Fairfield, accepted the award on the University's behalf at the recognition ceremony conducted at the Connecticut Air National Guard Base in East Granby. The very inspiring ceremony recognized both private and public employers, including AETNA of Hartford and the Connecticut State University System, Estrada said.

Fairfield has a long history of being an institution supporting veterans and soldiers dating back to its founding by the Jesuits in 1942. Early on, the University's classrooms were full of World War II veterans. Today, veterans still grace its campus. Earlier this year, Fairfield launched a new Veterans Pride Program that offers qualifying veterans tuition-free enrollment at Fairfield. Fairfield has committed to offering the highest amount of supplemental tuition needed. The School of Nursing continues its longtime clinical rotation program at the West Haven VA Hospital, and the School is one of a handful of nursing schools nationwide taking part in a pilot program launched by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs improving healthcare of veterans. Other programs helpful to veterans at Fairfield include the Dolan School of Business's participation in the GMAC Military MBA recruitment program.


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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on July 23, 2009

Vol. 42, No. 13

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