ROCHESTER — She claims to have simply continued missions that were already in place. Yet Jann K. Armantrout has done this so well, her work has garnered major recognition from her pro-life colleagues.
Armantrout, who serves as life-issues coordinator for diocesan Catholic Charities, became the 11th recipient of the annual Leo Holmsten Human Life Award during a Sept. 21 banquet at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The honor was bestowed by the Leo Holmsten Human Life Committee. Also that night, Armantrout was cited by the Monroe County Legislature for her accomplishments.
“I’m extremely honored when I think of the people in the community, people who have worked on conception-to-birth issues since I’ve been in Rochester. I am really taken aback, privileged to receive this award,” she told the Courier.
Armantrout, 53, was born in Buffalo. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from SUNY College at New Paltz in 1976. After moving to Rochester in 1985 she worked extensively with people with developmental disabilities in the areas of social work, residential management, vocational rehabilitation, program development and administration. She said it was during these years that her appreciation for human life in all its forms grew profoundly.
Armantrout has been married since 1988 to Kenneth Arnold. They have two sons, Christopher and Gregory, both of whom attend McQuaid Jesuit High School. She attends St. Paul Parish in Webster.
She began working for the Rochester Diocese in 2000 as life-issues coordinator. She noted that her chief function isn’t so much to launch new initiatives as to support “all the people who are doing this work in so many diverse ways. This office helps get the needs they’re advocating for turned into public-policy initiatives.”
Armantrout speaks, writes and lobbies intelligently and passionately on such life issues as abortion and euthanasia. Much of her current focus is on promoting the use of adult stem cells and decrying that of embryonic stem cells. In November 2004 she engaged in a public debate with Mark Noble, a stem-cell researcher at the University of Rochester who strongly favors embryonic research and treatment. Armantrout also was a leader of the 2005 diocesan public-policy campaign for which stem-cell research was a major policy issue. That same year she became founding vice president of the Rochester-based Adult Stem Cell Initiative Inc.
Armantrout, in her acceptance speech for the Holmsten Award, emphasized that as Americans we’re living in a culture of death, and that to defend life issues “is as essential to the survival of Western civilization as the heart is to the body.”
Yet Armantrout takes little individual credit, saying she has “had a privilege of being a hub in the wheel. But the wheel was already there.” She cited such initiatives as the Pledge for Life, Project Rachel, Women’s Care Center and Birthright.
On the other hand, “Jann Armantrout’s list of accomplishments would be impressive for a small army, let alone one person,” remarked Dorothy Hayes, president of the Leo Holmsten Human Life Committee.
The Holmsten Award, which is cosponsored by numerous Catholic and other pro-life groups, was begun in 1997. Its inaugural recipient was the late Dr. Leo Holmsten, a former abortion provider and Planned Parenthood medical director who later became an outspoken pro-life activist. Armantrout said she never got the chance to meet Holmsten but “he sounded like a most interesting man. He certainly had his moments of conversion.”
Previous Holmsten Award recipients are: 1998 — David C. Hoselton; 1999 — Dr. Thomas R. and Jeanne D. Sweeney; 2000 — Father James E. Hewes; 2001 — Sen. Joseph E. Robach; 2002 — Dr. William R. Morehouse; 2003 — Carol and Richard Crossed; 2004 — Justice William P. Polito; 2005 — Geraldine Oftedahl; and 2006 — Dr. Barbara and Jan Fredericks.