Alumni return for awards
Since 1950, the Alumni Association has organized the annual Alumni Awards ceremony to honor the contributions of distinguished graduates, faculty, and students. Approximately 300 people attended this year’s ceremony, held on Friday in Rangos Hall.
Vice President for University Advancement, Alumni Relations, and Annual Giving Andy Shaindlin; Alumni Association President Antoinette Ungaretti; and University President Jared Cohon introduced the honorees and spoke briefly about the alumni association and awards ceremony.
“This event is something I look forward to every year,” Cohon said. “It’s the one moment each year when we pause to celebrate all our alumni and what the alumni mean to this institution. These are remarkable people.”
The first awards were Student Service Awards, given to Meg Hayes (HSS ’11, HNZ ’12) and current senior policy and management and statistics double major Sonia Siok. This award recognizes current students’ service to the university community and surrounding Pittsburgh community. Siok is a mentor through her position of house council president and her membership in Amnesty International and Student Government.
“Seeing these students grow and learn has been and will continue to be one of the greatest rewards of my student service,” Siok said.
The Honorary Award was given to Dean of University Libraries Gloriana St. Clair. This award is rarely given out and recognizes the honoree’s unwavering support to the university, student body, and community.
St. Clair was named an Honorary Alumna for her work with the Million Book Project, Carnegie Mellon’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and more.
“The quality of instruction here over the last 14 years has been awesome,” St. Clair said. “I’ve learned so much from my colleagues and students. I learned to think globally, use duct tape, and be tough. I learned to inspire others, create change, be ready to reposition, tell your story, and that olives aren’t just for martinis.”
Recent Alumni Awards were given to Sam Franklin (HNZ ’07) and Jordan Jamieson Green (CIT ’03). This award recognizes professional accomplishment or service to the university by those who have graduated within the last 10 years.
Green is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University and a co-founder of Johns Hopkins’ Translational Tissue Engineering Center.
“Carnegie Mellon built such a strong foundation on the professional and personal side,” Green remarked. “I met my future wife in Calc 3-D. I can’t imagine where I would be in my life without Carnegie Mellon.”
Erik Larson (TSB ’96) and Jeffrey Meckler (TSB ’89, ’90) both received Alumni Service Awards. Larson is a partner for Accenture, a global management consulting company, and the president of the Carnegie Mellon Chicago Alumni chapter.
“Two things came back to me while walking around campus,” Larson said. “The pride and energy of students and faculty. It’s that passion that gets you up at 4 a.m. to push buggies up a hill and also what makes you want to bring something back to the university community.”
Five Alumni Achievement Awards were given to Dara Birnbaum (CFA ’69), Kevin Dowling (MCS ’83, SCS ’94, ’97), H. Scott Matthews (CIT ’92, TSB ’96, ’99), Paul Rizzo (CIT ’63, ’64, ’66), and Kenneth Russell (CIT ’64). This award recognizes accomplishments and leadership in the honoree’s field.
Birnbaum is a renowned feminist artist whose work explores gender roles. “Running across both boys and girls in the architecture school today really made me feel like the school had grown,” Birnbaum said. She was the only female student in her architecture class of 1969.
Dowling was the first employee at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, and helped to build NASA’s mobile robots and the first self-driving car. He is now vice president for research and development at MC10, a company that develops electronic systems, and serves on Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science advisory board.
“My wife and I both graduated from Carnegie Mellon, and we have a kid here now,” he said. “We bleed plaid.”
Russell is a professor emeritus of metallurgy and nuclear engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and mentored several students who later became Carnegie Mellon faculty members.
“It’s really, really rewarding to receive more from a school that’s already given me so much,” Russell said. “I started looking around for more education, and most of my engineer buddies were working night degrees at Carnegie.... I came to Carnegie after being accepted at three other places and never regretted it.”
Three alumni — Margaret Johnston (MCS ’72), John Shaffner (CFA ’76), and Joe Stewart (CFA ’77) — received Distinguished Achievement Awards. The award recognizes longevity and consistency of accomplishment over one’s professional lifetime and is not awarded every year.
Johnston is a senior program officer managing tuberculosis vaccine and HIV research funding for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For over 20 years, she worked for the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and became a global leader in HIV vaccine research.
“Very little that I’ve accomplished has been as an individual, but as a team,” she said. “There are hundreds of people who have helped me do what I do.”
Shaffner and Stewart are award winning television production designers and have used their firm, Production Design by Shaffner/Stewart, to help School of Drama students make connections in the entertainment industry.
They have worked on projects such as The Big Bang Theory and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Shaffner and Stewart have won seven Emmy Awards and an Art Directors Guild Award.
Cohon closed the ceremony with a short speech on the importance of alumni to the university.
“These alumni are living, breathing manifestations and representations of what Carnegie Mellon is all about,” he said. “It shows us the power of our values and the power of this institution.”