Waterford - Steve and Jeanne Sigel, the husband-and-wife team that has run the Garde Arts Center in New London for more than two decades, will be recognized Nov. 8 as winners of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut's top service award, the region's largest business organization announced today.
The William Crawford Distinguished Service Award is handed out periodically by the chamber to a person or persons who have contributed to eastern Connecticut's quality of life and who promote neighborly connections.
Bill Stanley, a vice president at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital and past president of the chamber board, said during a short ceremony at the chamber office that he was surprised the Sigels' names hadn't come up before in connection with the Crawford award.
"The work the Sigels have done to provide a high quality of life for the citizens of eastern Connecticut, as well as maintaining one of the finest arts centers in the state of Connecticut, is long overdue for recognition," Tony Sheridan, chamber president and chief executive, said in a statement.
"The work they do here isn't really work - it's their lives," Stanley said. "It's a labor of love."
Steve Sigel said eastern Connecticut is a very disconnected region. His aim, he said, has been to help people from various walks of life connect in one place.
"It's really about the lobby; it's not about the stage," Sigel said. "It's about who is connected by working together and the repercussions it has over time."
Jeanne Sigel said her husband brought a vision to the community that goes way beyond mere entertainment. Among their latest efforts, she said, is an educational program to help transform local schools.
"If we could change that school system, we could change New London," she said.