Clearfork Institute founder to address new students during CIRCLES ceremony 


A woman who came to Appalachia nearly 50 years to support education and self-sufficiency initiatives will guide the next class of Union College students during the annual CIRCLES ceremony.

Marie Cirillo, Co-Founder of the Clearfork Community Institute, was selected to provide this year’s address for the ceremony. The event will be held on Aug. 24, at 8 p.m. inside the Conway Boatman Chapel.

“It is going to be a pleasure to welcome Marie back to the Union College campus,” said Union President Marcia Hawkins. “Marie has served our area for most of her life and is a wonderful example of what we expect all Union College students to carry forth from our campus.”

Cirillo came to Appalachia in 1967 from Brooklyn, New York. She banded together with Marie Webster in the Clearfork Valley near Eagan, Tenn. There, the pair founded the Clearfork Community Institute beginning a lifelong mission of empowering local families with education initiatives, development of housing and businesses and promotion of self-sustainability. Cirillo retired from the Institute in 2013.

Cirillo visited Union College in January as a guest of President Hawkins and participated in spring convocation. At that time, President Hawkins recognized Cirillo for her “untiring support and dedication to the people of Appalachia.”

The CIRCLES ceremony has been part of the Union College tradition for more than 10 years. CIRCLES is an acronym for Celebration, Integrity, Responsibility, Civility, Learning, Engagement and Spirituality. Those core values are integrated into all aspects of the Union College academic experience to help students recognize their own successes, but to also recognize “the promise in others, in our region and in the world.”

The CIRCLES ceremony includes all incoming freshmen, as well as faculty, staff, current students and members of the community. During the event, each student vows to uphold the CIRCLES principles, while the Union College community promises to help them succeed in this endeavor. Each student is then presented

Union’s Integrity of Character Medallion, which they keep throughout their college career. Upon graduation, these students will present the medallion to a mentor that helped them during their four-year journey.