Matthew Quinones, CEO
About the Scholarship
One of our mom’s favorite lines was “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” She believed it was imperative to the success of every community that concerned citizens become actively involved, whether through public service, civic advocacy, education and/or politics. She led by example, and always encouraged others to roll up their sleeves and make a difference as well. As an educator, politician, and strong believer in the success of the next generation, she was particularly delighted when she saw young people getting involved. Her passion and enthusiasm inspired many to make it a lifetime commitment.
We created this scholarship to preserve her legacy – in the hope it will continue to inspire others by rewarding promising students driven by a passion for making a positive difference in their communities, and beyond.
— Keith Camhi & Glenn Camhi
About Ellen Camhi
After starting her career in the 1960s as a second grade teacher, Ellen Camhi's passion for public education led her to become an adviser to various school boards as well. Driven to make a bigger difference, in 1971 she ran for the Stamford Board of Education, where she served for 12 years – including several terms as President. During her tenure, she helped reform a troubled system, oversaw major desegregation and redistricting efforts, worked tirelessly on behalf of students to implement programs as far-reaching as free/reduced cost lunch for students in need and Project Explore for gifted students, and helped solve many challenging and controversial issues to bring the Stamford schools to unprecedented levels of success that would last a generation.
Camhi was then drafted into service as chair of the Stamford Democratic party, where she served for an unprecedented 28 years. In that role, she worked relentlessly on issues dear to her heart, most notably education, and was also widely credited with breaking down the longstanding "club" system and uniting her fractured party to make it an effective force in the community and state.
Encouraged by then-Governor William O'Neill to get involved in state politics, she began to identify and nurture budding public service careers at both the local and state level. Her leadership swiftly made Stamford a powerhouse in getting outstanding local, state and national candidates elected — and her legacy lives on in them. She also served as a delegate to State and National Conventions, and as a member of the Stamford Democratic Women’s Club, the Connecticut State Technical Colleges Board of Trustees, and the Democratic National Committee (for 25 years).
Throughout her decades of public service, her greatest passions were improving public education and fighting for the equal civil rights of all. She received many awards and honors for her work — among those she was especially proud of was the Governor William A. O’Neill Award, presented at the 62nd Annual Jefferson Jackson Bailey Dinner in 2010.
Back when she'd been president of the Stamford Board of Education decades earlier, she identified a Westhill High School student named Dan Malloy as a rising star. He later became one of the many political candidates and champions of public education she'd groom and advise. In 2011, as Governor, Malloy appointed her to the State Board of Education. Coming full circle, she left politics to return to the school system, where she served until her death in 2013.
“I grew up thinking that public service is always something you should do,” Camhi said, having been influenced by her father’s social and political involvement. “My top priority, and the thing I work very hard at is getting people involved in democracy. ‘Democracy is not a spectator sport.’”
❝ She was the master of the mechanics of politics... she knew how to do it, and she got the job done. But more than the mechanics, it was her passion for doing the right thing, for changing the world and making it better. ... It wasn't just Republican or Democrat. She had respect and admiration for anyone who stepped forward to become involved in public life, and she lent her support to them with her heart.❞
—U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal
❝ I think fundamental to understanding Ellen was her deep rooted love for all of humanity, born in part from her flooring contractor father’s Depression era passion for social justice, in part from watching and experiencing while growing up the struggles of blacks, Jews, women and, later, gays and lesbians to achieve social equality, and in part because that was Ellen, that was who she was. She wanted all of humanity to succeed through the creation of a better, fairer, and more equitable society. And for that to happen, those who chose public service would need to be the right people, whom she would help step up, and succeed.❞
—former Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen