For more than 30 years, Myra M. Oliver of Trumbull, CT dedicated herself to ensuring that her “girl” would grow into a beautiful “woman.” Her “daughter,” The International Institute of Connecticut, an organization that reaches out to new immigrants and refugees as they integrate into American life, continues help thousands of people receive their citizenship every year. If still with us today, Myra would have been proud of the progress her “daughter” has made.
It has been two years since Ms. Oliver passed away at the age of 69, from a long battle with cancer. An impassioned and committed advocate for the cause of immigration, she continued to work until her death in July of 2008. The legacy of Myra’s dedicated work ethic and her passion for improving the lives of men, women, children and families embarking on the road to American citizenship, lives on through the work of the IIC.
Myra M. Oliver was born on October 8, 1938 in Waterbury, CT to Frank Manzo and Claire Beland. Her parents had immigrated to the country, her father from Italy and her mother from France. As a young child Myra was sent to a boarding school in Baltic, Connecticut along with her sister, and she enjoyed her time there. From there she went on to graduate from high school and later from Central Connecticut State University. Oliver earned her Masters from the University of Bridgeport.
In 1974 Myra assumed the role of Executive Director of the IIC, where she worked eagerly and tirelessly with new immigrants and refugees on their path to full American citizenship. Her dedication to the IIC’s mission of assisting people’s transition into American life was far reaching. Under Myra’s leadership, the IIC was able to expand its operations to a statewide level with three offices, in Stamford, Bridgeport and Hartford. When she first took over in 1974, the organization’s budget stood at about $54,000 today it boasts a $1.2 million budget. During Myra’s tenure 10,000 new Americans have graduated to full citizenship. The organization also grew to provide service for almost 7,000 immigrants and refugees every year. Currently, the institute sponsors the largest naturalization ceremony annually in Connecticut.
Dedicated to helping the countless families she worked with in whatever way she could, Myra took immigrants into her home for days or weeks at a time until she could find them more permanent housing.
Myra’s respect and admiration for the many immigrant and refugee families she assisted, inspired the work she did. Their courage and perseverance in building lives in a new place cultivated a profound respect and appreciation for her own freedoms and privileges as an American.
In celebration of her tremendous contributions to both Connecticut and the nation at large, Myra was honored by Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT) in 2004 as “One of Connecticut’s Best.” Senator Lieberman lauded Ms. Oliver saying, “It is a founding principle of our great nation that immigrants have the chance to realize the American Dream that brought my grandparents, wife and so many others here in search of opportunity. For so many of CT’s immigrants the tireless work of Myra Oliver and the International Institute of CT provide crucial components for reaching that goal.”
In addition to her work at the IIC, Myra Oliver was a dedicated and loving wife and mother. For 48 years Myra Oliver and her husband Raymond J. Oliver supported and uplifted each other in a loving marriage that produced four sons.
NWHM remembers and honors the life of Mrs. Myra M. Oliver for the lasting impact she has had and continues to have in the lives of so many Americans.