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Plame, Quindlen to speak

Valerie Plame Wilson, a former CIA agent, and Anna Quindlen, a Newsweek columnist, will speak at separate events this week aimed at empowering women and girls as leaders in business and local communities.

On Thursday, Quindlen will speak at the fifth annual luncheon for The Women's Fund of Essex County at the Peabody Marriott. On Friday, Plame will be the keynote speaker at the Women's and Professional Development Conference, organized by Bay Path College, at the Sheraton Ferncroft in Danvers.

Bay Path, a private college in Longmeadow, is opening a satellite campus at Burlington High School, offering Saturday classes for women with an emphasis on business education. The conference was planned to launch the new campus, where graduate courses were due to start yesterday. Undergraduate classes start Nov. 3.

"We're not the same old, same old night school program," Carol A. Leary, the college president, said in an interview. "We really are believers in what we can do for women, but it has to be on their own terms. A Saturday program is much easier for them to earn a degree."

The Danvers conference will focus on the theme of resilience. Workshops will address key issues facing working women: balancing work and life, stress management, leadership and communication.

Plame will deliver the keynote address, speaking on the challenges she has faced since her covert identity as a CIA agent was revealed by Washington Post columnist Robert Novak in 2003. The disclosure sparked a grand jury investigation into the leak, which resulted in the prosecution and conviction of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby was found guilty of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to federal investigators during the probe. President Bush later commuted his 30-month prison sentence.

Plame has written her autobiography, "Fair Game, My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House," and her visit to Danvers will be her first public speaking engagement since the book was released this month, according to Leary.

"Resilience is certainly something she knows about," Leary said.

In Peabody, Quindlen is expected to discuss work-life balance issues before the Women's Fund of Essex County. The nonprofit has raised $450,000 over the last five years to fund programs aimed at improving the fortunes of low-income women and girls.

"We started with 10 women sitting in a kitchen asking 'How can we make a difference?' " said Robin Falzone, one of three women chairing the luncheon. "We think we have."

The group gives out grants ranging from $500 to $15,000. This year, nine organizations, including some located in Haverhill, Lynn and Salem, will receive a grant at the luncheon. Quindlen - a best-selling author and former Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at The New York Times - is the first guest speaker the group has hosted for its annual luncheon.

"Five years is a milestone," Falzone said, noting that a donor has paid for Quindlen's speaking fee. "We thought a guest speaker would be a good way to mark it."

Tickets are still available for each event. Contact Bay Path at 1-800-782-7284, ext. 1293 or e-mail wpdc@baypath.edu. The Women's Fund can be reached by contacting Falzone at 978-526-4449 or at thewomensfund@gmail.com.

Union leaders meet on plant closing
Union leaders and public officials will meet today in Haverhill to discuss the impact of the Alcatel-Lucent telecom plant closing on the Merrimack Valley.

Workers and retirees are expected at the meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Technology Center at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill. The plant, which has about 500 employees, manufactures transmission equipment for telephone and cable television companies.

Alcatel-Lucent, based in France, rejected a proposal created by CWA Local 1365, the union representing about 250 workers, to keep the plant open. The company, which has cited excess manufacturing capacity elsewhere as a reason for the closing, expects to shutter the plant in mid-2008. The plant is on the North Andover/Haverhill line.

Tonight's meeting will discuss the union's efforts to secure severance packages and job training for laid-off workers. Benefits for retirees also will be discussed. In addition to national union leaders at the CWA, others expected to attend are Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini and Ken Messina of the Commonwealth Corp., a Boston-based workforce development agency.

Former mayor takes job at Verizon
Former Salem Mayor Stanley J. Usovicz Jr. has a new job as the regional director of Public Affairs for Verizon in Massachusetts. Usovicz, 53, will be Verizon's primary contact for local and state officials, the media, and customers in Northeast Massachusetts. He served eight years as mayor, from 1998 to 2006, when he lost in a primary. He later served as the town manager in Smithfield, R.I. He is also is a former economic development planner in Lynn and Gloucester.

"He brings in-depth experience in public service, community relations and corporate communications to the company," Peter Bowman, vice president of external affairs, said in a prepared statement.

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com.

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