The Village for Families & Children has honored Alison Coolbrith with its 2016 Woman of the Year award at the December 2 Girl Within Luncheon in Hartford. Coolbrith was a longtime advocate for women’s advancement in education and business until her untimely passing on October 31, 2015.
“Alison was fierce and fearless when it came to putting her beliefs into action,” said Jeanmarie Cooper, board member of The Village and chair of the Girl Within Luncheon committee. “Her great intelligence, energy and commitment to improving the lives of others, and especially women in the Greater Hartford region, is an inspiration to us all.”
An alumna of the Hartford College for Women, Coolbrith was a champion of the College, which affiliated with the University of Hartford in 1991. Coolbrith and her husband, Barry Lastra, were generous supporters of the University’s Women’s Advancement Initiative and its L.E.A.D. program, a leadership development program for female undergraduates. She served as a University of Hartford regent and as vice chair of the University’s Board of Regents from 2000 – 2005.
Coolbrith also was instrumental in the introduction of Hartford Public Library’s Leap Into Learning initiative, designed to prepare Hartford’s young children for Kindergarten and a lifetime of learning and growth.
Her leadership talents were many. After earning a bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, she took what was supposed to be a temporary job at Aetna. Thirty years later, Coolbrith, who lived in Bloomfield, retired from Aetna as a senior vice president. Among her accomplishments was becoming, at 46, one the first women in the industry to serve as Chair and CEO of Aetna Reinsurance in London, England.
“I think it’s safe to say that Alison was breaking the glass ceiling in the insurance industry long before the term came into vogue,” said Barry Lastra, Coolbrith’s husband and Village board member. “She refused to take ‘no’ for an answer, and was relentless in her determination to give others the chance to live up to their potential whether in the business world or in the larger community.”
Lastra will accept The Village’s 2016 Woman of the Year award on behalf of his wife and before more than 400 people expected to attend the organization’s 16th annual Girl Within Luncheon, December 2 at the Hartford Marriott. Proceeds from the event enable The Village to provide life-changing support for young women and girls in the Greater Hartford area to help them become more resilient, confident and independent.
Actor Sonia Manzano also will speak at the luncheon. Manzano overcame countless obstacles growing up in the Bronx and became one of the first Hispanic characters on national television, playing Maria on public television’s renowned Sesame Street program. She went on to win 15 Emmys, including a Lifetime Achievement award.
For more information about the event and to register, visit www.thevillage.org/girlwithin.