2008 Nassau BOCES Education Partner Award Honoree
Alice F. Willett
Former Executive Director
Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association
Alice F. Willett has dedicated her life to serving others and tackling the challenges facing public schools. In her quest, she has held multiple roles at the local, state and national levels.
She began as an advocate for public education while a student at Hunter College, serving on the Dean’s Advisory Committee and representing the college on local radio shows.
Straight out of college, Willett learned first hand how difficult it was to get a teaching job and “ended up” working for a major insurer. While this was far from what she dreamed of doing, her job at the insurance company exposed her to new experiences, including playing a minor role in of the legendary scientific Manhattan Project. She says that despite the many clues provided by the engineers in the insurance paperwork, she never guessed they were developing the first nuclear bomb.
A career in the business world, followed by marriage and family led to Willett’s membership in the Syosset Public Schools PTA. She quickly moved up the PTA ladder, becoming New York state president for three years before serving on the National PTA Board. In this position, she worked with educators, scientists and political leaders — those serving in Nassau County as well as in the White House.
But she wanted to do more than encourage policy changes; she wanted to make them herself. In 1967 she won a seat on the Syosset Board of Education. Eight years later, she was ready for the next challenge; joining the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association (N-SSBA). Once again, her insight and dedication impressed fellow board members, and she was asked to serve as executive director, a position she held from 1975-2000. Since 2000, she has represented the Suffolk Region PTA on the Long Island Coalition. The Hudson Long Island Coalition for responsible school financing, WLIR-21 advisory service committee and N-SSBA representative for the Council of Local School Boards Association.
Through the years, Willett has earned a reputation as an expert in public educational systems, having toured districts throughout the U.S. as well as Russia and Japan.