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Geraldine Bond Laybourne ’69 Receives Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal Award

Geraldine Bond Laybourne ’69 received the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal Award, which recognizes and honors individuals and organizations that reflect the ideals of the former First Lady and human rights advocate. The award is bestowed annually by the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill (ERVK) to those “who have made significant contributions in areas that were the focus of the work of Mrs. Roosevelt’s life such as education, advocacy, social justice, public service, and human rights.”

Geraldine Bond Laybourne '69

Laybourne, former executive at Nickelodeon and founder and former CEO of Oxygen Media, has been hailed as a “change agent” by the center, “an advocate for women’s leadership and serial entrepreneur in media and technology.”

“Like Mrs. Roosevelt, she is committed to helping the women of the world as evidenced by her ‘Global Mentoring Walk,’ a national program for shaping the next generation of leaders,” ERVK officials stated.

She launched the mentoring walks, which bring together established women leaders and emerging women leaders to discuss their professional challenges and successes. The initiative is helping to empower young women professionals across the United States and around the world.

Laybourne also shared her innovative spirit, creativity, and foresight during her terms as a Vassar trustee and AAVC board chairperson.

The Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill presented the 2014 awards on October 19 during a ceremony and luncheon at the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site in Hyde Park, where Mrs. Roosevelt lived after the death of her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This year’s ceremony is also a celebration of the 130th anniversary of her birthday.

“This is our opportunity to honor those who bring to life the values of Mrs. Roosevelt’s legacy,” said Chris Roellke, ERVK board chairman and dean of the college at Vassar. “This year’s medalists come from all walks of life and are role models for the global community.”

Other 2014 honorees are:

  • Diana Nyad, champion athlete, journalist, and humanitarian. Nyad’s own words are an example of the similarity between her and Mrs. Roosevelt when it comes to living a life that is meaningful and impactful to oneself and others: “We should never ever give up.”
  • Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist and advocate for women and girls. Gbowee, who served as Vassar’s 2012 Commencement speaker, was selected for her stellar contributions as a transformational change agent for peace.
  • Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, whom the center described as “an exemplary leader and advocate for human rights and social justice throughout the world.”
  • William vanden Heuvel, founder and chairman emeritus of Four Freedoms Park Conservancy Inc., and former U.S. ambassador to the European Office of the United Nations.
  • Astor Services for Children & Families, a Rhinebeck-based nonprofit that champions and advocates for empowering healthy children and families.

In addition to honoring the recipients, the awards ceremony raised funds to support the Eleanor Roosevelt Leadership and Human Rights Legacy programs at the center, including Girls’ Leadership Worldwide, which empowers girls to be principled leaders and catalysts for creating sustainable change; the Eleanor Roosevelt Emerging Leaders Program for community college students; and other initiatives.

The center’s founders were instrumental in having Val-Kill declared a National Historic Site. Today, ERVK inspires and empowers individuals and organizations to use their time, talents, and resources to build a just and sustainable world, both close to home and abroad.

For more information on the awards ceremony, visit

Photo by Erica Berger.