|Address||52 Lawrence Dr. |
Lowell, Massachusetts , United States
|| April 26, 1946
Dec 05, 2011 09:42pm
Caucasian - Greek - Widowed - Greek Orthodox - Straight -
|Info||Niki Tsongas grew up the eldest of four sisters in a military family, an experience that would shape much of her approach to life—teaching her the purpose of service and sacrifice, the importance of working for your community, and the value of family. |
She was born April 26, 1946 in Chico, California. Niki's mother, Marian Susan Wyman, was an artist and copywriter. Her father, Colonel Russell Elmer Sauvage, served as an engineer in the United States Air Force and was a survivor of the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor.
By the time Niki was 14, her family had been stationed at air bases all across the US and Europe, including California, Texas, Virginia, and Germany, where her father was part of the team that oversaw the build out of Ramstein Air Force Base—the very air base currently used to bring US soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
Niki attended an American high school in Japan while her father was stationed at Fuchu Air Force Base and then spent one year at Michigan State before attending Smith College in Northampton, MA.
In 1967, with her father now stationed at the Pentagon, Niki spent the summer between her junior and senior years in Alexandria, Virginia. It was then that she met Paul Tsongas who was working as an intern for then Fifth District Congressman Brad Morse.
In 1968, inspired by the late John F. Kennedy’s vision for a new and better world, Niki found herself participating in American politics for the first time—as a volunteer for Eugene McCarthy’s campaign for president. She spent the winter months traveling throughout New Hampshire with the anti-Vietnam war candidate and fell in love with the positive approach of his campaign.
After graduating from Smith, Niki moved to New York City where she took a job as a social worker for the Department of Welfare. Paul meanwhile returned to Lowell where he started to work on his race for city council. However, the two could only take a year of the buses, trains, and planes between Massachusetts and New York to see each other, before they married in 1969 and took up permanent residence in Lowell. Niki took a job with the Catholic Charitable Bureau and helped Paul with his campaign for city council, which he went on to win and where he served until 1972. That year, Paul was elected Middlesex County Commissioner.
1974 would turn out to be a landmark year for Paul and Niki: they gave birth to their first daughter, Ashley, and Paul would run (and win) his race for Congress.
In 1978 Paul launched his run for the US Senate. With another 1-year-old in tow, their second daughter Katina, Paul and Niki won yet another improbable race.
Paul thrived as a Senator, but in September of 1983 the Tsongases were forced to rethink all their aspirations and face their toughest challenge when Paul was diagnosed with cancer.
Paul chose not to seek reelection in order to focus on treatment for his illness and spend more time with his young family. Leaving Washington, Niki attended law school and held the family together while pushing Paul to fight the disease. He wrote at the time, “Niki could be a tough battler in ways that her gentleness did not suggest.”
After a bone marrow transplant, Paul beat back the cancer. Five years later, in 1991, filled with new vigor, audacity, and inspiration, he announced his candidacy for President of the United States. Niki once again found herself back in those small gatherings in New Hampshire as she helped her husband run an inspired campaign that many observers say defined the national debate that year. Paul won primaries and caucuses in New Hampshire and nine other states before eventually losing the Democratic nomination to Bill Clinton.
Sadly, in 1996, Paul faced a second well-known fight, this time with complications from cancer treatments, which he lost in 1997.
Inspired by their life together, Niki has continued her dedication to public service, building on what she and Paul had accomplished. As a committed community leader in Lowell, actively serving on the Lowell Civic Stadium and Arena Commission which oversees the Tsongas Arena and the LaLacheur Ballpark, the Lowell Plan and the Merrimack Repertory Theater, Niki continues to work for the revitalization of the city she has called home for 35 years.
Niki has a law degree from Boston University and started Lowell's first all-female law practice. She is currently the Dean of External Affairs at Middlesex Community College - the largest community college in the Commonwealth.
In 2001, Niki was appointed by Congressman Marty Meehan to head up a foundation to provide educational funding for the children of the victims of the 9/11 tragedy. And she's been the member of numerous corporate and non-profit boards because of her strong belief that business must be constructively engaged in the fight for social and environmental justice.
But of all her accomplishments, Niki is most proud of her three daughters, who like their parents, have also met the call of public service. Ashley, now 33, works for Oxfam America. Katina, now 29, is coordinating Barack Obama's presidential campaign in New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District. Molly, 25, is the Pennsylvania State Director for a non profit marketing organization dedicated to promoting clean, renewable energy.