BATAVIA — Ceremonies last week at the United Nations in New York City honored a Batavia native and Genesee Community College graduate for her work planting the seeds of what is now an international effort aimed at advancing global friendship and international understanding through the creation of peace gardens and cultural programs around the world.
Paula Savage, who graduated from GCC in 1976, initiated the first Peace Garden in 1990 while representing the Canadian capital of Ottawa in the tourism and hospitality industry.
Back then, she orchestrated the gift of 4,000 tulip bulbs from Canada to the United States, and worked with the National Park Service to create the first International Peace Garden, which honors the International Boundary as the longest undefended border in the world.
From those humble beginnings sprouted the International Peace Garden Foundation, which serves to foster world peace and friendship through the creation of Peace Gardens across the globe. Savage serves as International President of the IPGF (http://ipgf.org/), which has gardens in North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.
The ceremony at the U.N.’s Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on April 12 marked the beginning of the World Harmony Run, which carries a flaming torch to countless schools in more than 100 countries around the world to promote international friendship and understanding. Savage was honored with the Torch-Bearers Award for her efforts to promote those goals.
“I am humbled and overwhelmed to be in the company of such remarkable people,” Savage said.
Previous U.S. award recipients include renowned athletes Billy Jean King and Carl Lewis and business magnate Russell Simmons. The honor will also bring the torch through Batavia in early August as it makes its way from Buffalo to Albany on its 10,000-mile U.S. journey.
Savage’s long-running affiliation with GCC dates back to the school’s very beginnings, when she was among the first students to enroll, and she has continued her relationship by serving on the Advisory Committee for Tourism and Hospitality. She also serves on the selection committee for the Alumni Hall of Fame, and was among the first graduates to be inducted into the Hall in 2007.
GCC will honor Savage when the college celebrates the inauguration of President James M. Sunser next month. As part of a week-long series of events to mark the prestigious occasion, GCC will celebrate the opening of the Honorary International Peace Garden in the new outdoor courtyard by the Conable Technology Building. The ceremony will take place at dusk on May 3.
“Having the garden at GCC is quite an honor,” Savage said. “It sends a message to students that the choices we make during our time at GCC will ultimately have an impact on the path we take in life and where that path leads us.
“I will be the first to admit that many of the skills needed to administer the International Peace Gardens were developed during my time at GCC,” she said.
Savage also leads tourism efforts in Rochester as the director of tourism for the Visit Rochester Association.