Alumni honored for leadership and service at annual assembly

Alumni were honored for their outstanding work on behalf of both society and the university at the annual assembly of the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA), held Nov. 21-23.

Yale is thought to be the first college, starting in the 18th century, to organize graduates on the basis of their class years, and reunions of Yale College classes remain a strong tradition — with new attendance records set at the most recent reunions in June 2013.

Alumni also connect with each other wherever they live and work, around the nation and the world. The first regional alumni association was founded nearly 150 years ago, in Cincinnati, in 1864, and there are now more than 120 domestic and 40 international alumni groups. In newer innovations, Yale alumni are also increasingly connecting in shared interest groups and in community service in their home communities through the annual Yale Day of Service and globally in the Yale Alumni Service Corps.

The strength of alumni engagement was evident at this year’s assembly. The 2013 gathering had higher attendance of delegates and guests than any of the 72 previous assemblies according to Robert Bonds ’71, assistant director of the AYA for club and association relations and lead staff organizer for this assembly.

A highlight of each year’s assembly is the recognition of outstanding efforts by leading Yale alumni volunteers and exemplary contributions both to society and to the university. The longest standing honor is the Yale Medal, the highest award presented by the AYA. Conferred solely to recognize outstanding individual service to the university, it has been given to only 293 people since its inauguration in 1952. Yale President Peter Salovey ’86 Ph.D. and Jimmy Lu ’77, chair of the AYA board of governors, presented the 2013 Yale Medals to six honorees at a dinner in Commons on Nov. 21: Nina Relin Adams ’69 M.S., ’77 M.S.N.; G. Leonard Baker Jr. ’64; former Law School dean Guido Calabresi ’53, ’58 LL.B.; William Folberth ’66; Jane A. Levin ’75 Ph.D.; and former Yale president Richard C. Levin ’74 Ph.D.

Alumni groups were honored at a reception on Nov. 22, where 23 AYA Board of Governors Excellence Awards were given to recognize “the superior accomplishments of Yale’s classes, regional clubs and associations, shared identity and interest groups, and the graduate and professional school alumni associations.” The reception also honored five individuals with AYA Leadership Awards for Volunteer Innovation and Service for their accomplishments as “Ambassadors for Yale” and leaders in bringing the AYA’s strategic plan to life. The 2013 individual honoress were Christina Coffin ’74, Conner Fay ’51, Kenneth Inadomi ’76, Michael Madison ’83, and Robert Mitchell ’54 ’60 Art.A.

Later that evening, the Yale Athletics Department also recognized exemplary alumni as it conferred its George H.W. Bush ’48 Lifetime of Leadership Awards at the biennial Blue Leadership Ball in the Lanman Center at Payne Whitney Gymnasium. The awards honor former student athletes who “have gone on in life to continue to show the drive, determination and leadership that gave them such success while wearing the Yale uniform,” according to Karen Yarasavage  ’87, chair of the event. The 2013 awardees were: Rear Admiral Richard Lyon ’45; Patricia Melton ’83; Bruce Alexander ’65; Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn ’56; and Jerome Kenney ’63.

A recent tradition was renewed at this year’s assembly with the second annual presentation of the Yale-Jefferson Public Service Award, given to alumni who exemplify Yale’s values of service and achievement, and a commitment to social responsibility. The first Yale-Jefferson Public Service Award went in 2012 to J.B. Schramm ’86, founder of College Summit. This year’s honorees included a married couple, Patricia Gibbs ’87 M.D. and Richard Gibbs ’86 M.D.; and two recent graduates, Natalia Emanuel ’13 and Kara Scroggins ’13 M.Div. Emanuel and Scroggins are the inaugural winners awards for service by students.

The Gibbses were recognized for founding and sustaining the San Francisco Free Clinic (SFFC), which provides urgent medical care to uninsured people in San Francisco. More than 8,000 patients visit the clinic each year to receive medications and care at no cost. For nearly 20 years, the Gibbses have taught, mentored, and inspired Yale medical students doing their Primary Care clinical rotation at the clinic. With the precedents established by SFFC, and with their help as early advisors, the Gibbses were instrumental in the development of the HAVEN Free Clinic, Yale School of Medicine’s student-run free clinic.

Patricia Gibbs said that she is “drawn to public service because there continues to be such great need and suffering in the world. I cannot fix all these things, but I can do something about those things within my powers.” Richard Gibbs added, “The medical education at Yale is truly unique. It's an environment of the highest level of academic pursuit, and at the same time one is encouraged to see the ‘whole patient,’ never forgetting that you are a human being reaching out to help another.” Patricia Gibbs concurred: “The education I received at Yale School of Medicine has been a critical factor in my ability to contribute to the public good.”

Scroggins' award honored her impact at Yale and New Haven in mobilizing the Yale Divinity School (YDS) for community outreach. She helped generate a YDS database of volunteer opportunities, organized the YDS Day of Service, and led numerous outreach programs as the student volunteer coordinator at YDS. “While a student at Yale, I was given more green lights for creating and engaging in community service than I could have imagined,” Scroggins said.  “The body of collective wisdom in the Yale community, coupled with the enthusiasm of my peers and the willingness of the administration to provide resources, nurtured my passion for service and harnessed my energy in fruitful ways.”

During her time as a student in Yale College, Emanuel worked with the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project in the Prison Education Program. She also helped draft policy for inmate rights for the New York City Department of Correction and contributed to the creation of the first Social Impact Bonds system in the United States for the state of Massachusetts. Reflecting on her undergraduate days, Emanuel noted, “I have had the blessing of truly wonderful professors and mentors who have continuously provided guidance and encouragement, often modeling with their own lives what it means to be committed enhancing our world.” She added, “Yale surrounded me with peers whose ideas and contributions have been an inspiration to me.”

Yale administrators, Students and Alumni of Yale (STAY), the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA), and the national Jefferson Awards program oversee the awards collaboratively. A committee of 14 Yale students, alumni, administrators, and staff selected this year's Yale-Jefferson award winners. Candidates were evaluated based on the depth, breadth, and scope of accomplishments to public service, and to the contribution of Yale resources in this process. 

Edward “Ted” Schmid, a doctoral student in the department of immunobiology, contributed reporting for this article.

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