Four to be honored at Yale-Jefferson Public Service Awards ceremony

Two alumni and two current students will be honored for their work in the community with Yale-Jefferson Public Service Awards.

The Association of Yale Alumni, Students and Alumni of Yale (STAY) and the Jefferson Awards for Public Service launched the Yale-Jefferson Public Service Awards in 2012 to recognize those who inspire the Yale community through innovative, impactful, and sustained service for the greater good. The awards will be presented during the annual assembly of the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA), being held Nov. 10-11.

This year’s recipients include the founder of the movement that made same-sex marriage legal in the United States, the founder of a group that links Yale students and youngsters in local hospitals through song, and the founder of an organization that encourages underserved middle and high school students to pursue careers in science. Also being honored at the Yale-Jefferson Awards ceremony is a Yale sophomore who earlier this year received a Jefferson Award for Outstanding National or Global Service by a Young American 25 for her dedication to using science to solve world problems.

Biographies of this year’s recipients follow.

Evan Wolfson ’78

Evan Wolfson was founder and president of Freedom to Marry, the campaign that won same-sex marriage in the United States. Wolfson is widely considered the architect of the movement that led to nationwide victory in 2015. In 1983, Wolfson wrote his Harvard Law School thesis on gay people and the freedom to marry. During the 1990s he served as co-counsel in the historic Hawaii marriage case that launched the ongoing global movement for the freedom to marry, and has participated in numerous gay rights and HIV/AIDS cases. Wolfson earned his B.A. in history from Yale College in 1978; served as a Peace Corps volunteer in a village in Togo, West Africa; and wrote the book “Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry” (Simon & Schuster, 2004). Citing his national leadership on marriage and his appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale, the National Law Journal in 2000 named Wolfson one of "the 100 most influential lawyers in America." Newsweek/The Daily Beast dubbed Wolfson "the godfather of gay marriage" and Time magazine named him one of "the 100 most influential people in the world." In 2012, Wolfson received the Barnard Medal of Distinction alongside President Barack Obama. Having achieved in 2015 the goal he had pursued for 32 years, Wolfson now devotes his time to advising and assisting diverse movements and causes in the U.S. and around the world eager to adapt the model and apply the lessons that made the Freedom to Marry campaign so successful.

Wolfson will also take part in two events during his stay on campus: He will join Professor George Chauncey in a discussion following the screening of the film “The Freedom to Marry” 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10 in Rm. 250 of the Loria Center, 190 York St. Earlier that day, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., he be at open house held in conjunction with an exhibition of archives from the Freedom to Marry movement at Sterling Memorial Library, 128 Wall St. Both events are free and open to the public.

Dan Rubins ’16

Dan Rubins founded Hear Your Song in 2014 to provide life-changing experiences for Yale students to connect and collaborate with children in local hospitals. To date, 75 Yale students have worked with 52 young patients. With each child, Yale students write song lyrics, set them to music, and bring those songs to life in recording sessions, improving the health and motivation of children in the process. RUBINS also advocated for special-needs children through Advocates for Children of New York; was a policy intern with the Center for Arts Education in New York City; and worked as an intern at Worthington Hooker Middle School in New Haven, where he served as a liaison between the school and the Yale community. Dan earned his B.A. in English and education studies from Yale College in 2016. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in Shakespeare Studies at King's College London and a second master's degree in Elementary Inclusive Education at Teacher's College of Columbia University.

Zlatko Minev, Ph.D. candidate (applied physics and quantum computing)

’14 M.S. (applied physics), ’15 M.Phil. (engineering and applied Physics),

Zlatko Minev, a Yale graduate student in physics and quantum computing, founded the Open Labs organization at Yale in 2012. Open Labs’ mission is to reach out to underserved middle and high school students, and to make both science and science career pathways accessible by showing them what it is like to step into the shoes of young scientists at the cutting edge of knowledge. This mission is carried out by a network of Open Labs fellows united by the shared passion to work with aspiring young minds drawn to the excitement of science and its ability to redefine the landscape of tomorrow. Open Labs’ effort to bridge the disparity gap in New Haven has already reached more than 1,200 public school students and parents, and has now expanded to the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Columbia. The Open Labs model is supported by an American Physics Society/NSF grant award and alumni donations. Minev continues to serve the Yale community as a member of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, and as a Timothy Dwight fellow. He has also been honored as one of two inaugural graduate fellows of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences — the third-oldest learned society in the United States. This year, Minev was appointed to the American Association for the Advancement of Science Program for Excellence in Science, but he says he misses his days rowing with Yale’s graduate crew team.

Sophia Sanchez-Maes ‘19

Under 25 winner of Jefferson Award for Outstanding National or Global Service by a Young American 25 or Under

A Yale College student, Sanchez-Maes has taken every opportunity to coach, mentor, and teach – serving as a powerful role model for young Latinas as she innovates in these traditionally underrepresented fields. Sanchez-Maes founded Girls Get Tech, a series of summer workshops for young Latinas in Los Angeles. Sanchez-Maes is a young scientist from Las Cruces, New Mexico known for her contributions to algae fuel research and her work at NASA. She has worked to optimize and economize the product ion of algae biofuel at both the growth and conversion phases. She has also worked to realize the goal of energy-positive wastewater treatment, using an extremophile algae from Yellowstone. For this work, she was a National Science Foundation Young Scholar. President Obama recognized Sophia for her research contributions. She was also honored at the Teen Choice Awards for the global implications of her work toward clean energy adoption. A mathematician and coder at heart, with an eye to the global good, Sanchez-Maes pursues big questions, and has approached simulating such problems from metastatic cancer, to planetary orbits, smart lighting, and particle physics. Working for NASA, she has contributed work to both the Curiosity Rover on Mars, and the Mars 2020 mission — and will start employment in their Exoplanet Exploration division this summer.