ALUMNI NEWS: College honors alumni, faculty at awards dinner

Kathryn Szumanski

“Inspiring,” “thought-provoking,” “affirming.” These are some of the words used by students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to describe the college’s annual Alumni Medallion and Founder’s Award ceremonies, which were held on Nov. 11 in the Villanova Room of Connelly Center. For the first time this year, current students – select junior and all senior members of the college’s academic honor societies – were invited guests. The Alumni Medallions were given to Sean M. Carroll, Ph.D., ’88, for astronomy and astrophysics and honors; Chauncey Fortt, Ph.D., ’73, for psychology; and Naomi Karam Koerwitz, ’88, for political science. The award represents one of the highest and most prestigious honors a Villanova graduate can receive from the University.The Graduate Alumni Society of Arts and Sciences presented its annual Founder’s Award to Joseph H. Jacovini, Esq., ’67, for political science and Klaus Volpert, Ph.D., an associate professor of mathematics at the University and editor of the interdisciplinary journal, “Concept.””We wanted to include students in the event so that they had the opportunity to see and hear first-hand how these alumni have applied all that they learned at Villanova to their professional and personal lives,” said Robert I. Blanchard, assistant dean for external relations in the college. “As this year’s award recipients demonstrate, our current students also have the potential to do extraordinary things in their lives after they graduate.”During the ceremony, each award recipient was introduced and presented with a special medallion by a member of the University community who knew the honoree. Following the presentation of the medallion, the recipients spoke about their time at Villanova and how their education here continues to affect their lives in profound ways. Among the evening’s attendees were University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A.; University Vice President Helen K. Lafferty, Ph.D.; Vice President for Acadmic Affairs John R. Johannes; Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Kail C. Ellis, O.S.A., Ph.D.; and other University officers and faculty members.Volpert, who received one of this year’s Founder’s Awards, summarized many of the sentiments shared by the other honorees in his heartfelt and touching remarks to the audience. “I had an English teacher back in high school in Germany, where I grew up, who took a dim view of my English skills and who told me to ‘stick with math,'” Volpert said. “I thought that it was a very thought-provoking and inspiring evening,” said Molly Grace, a senior honors/English major and member of both the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies from Baltimore, Md. “As a senior liberal arts major, I am facing much uncertainty about what I want to do next year. Many of my friends are students in the College of Nursing and the Villanova School of Business and are therefore much more certain of their career plans for next year. This awards ceremony gave me another opportunity to see that Villanova graduates of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences can do amazing things with their degrees.” Lindsay Matteo, a senior mathematics and computer science double major and member of Phi Beta Kappa from New Hope, Pa., said that it is inspiring to see how accomplished the award recipients already are in their fields at such young ages. “The College of Arts and Sciences is often denigrated among students as the ‘what are you going to do with that’ school, but each of these recipients proved that stereotype wrong,” Matteo said. “As a science major myself, I was elated to hear Sean Carroll speak about how grateful he was to have a liberal arts education and how that helped him pursue his career in astrophysics. I truly agree with the idea that being a well rounded person – body, mind and soul – is essential to being a great scientist. Learning to think logically, communicate effectively and put our skills in the context of social justice – these are all things that liberal arts and sciences students have to do on top of their specialized majors.”Jill Kropa, a junior biology major and member of the Alpha Epsilon Delta Honor Society from Cranford, N.J., added, “While some people may fail to recognize the merits of a liberal arts education, just listening to the honorees’ accomplishments could dispel any doubts. This night showed me that a student can really go into many different fields with a degree in arts and sciences.” The Alumni Medallion is an annual award given to recognize the accomplishments of select graduates, identified by the department chairs within the college, who have excelled in their professional endeavors. The Alumni Medallion also honors college graduates who have demonstrated service to their communities and to the University. Every effort is made to ensure that the individuals selected are representative of the college.The Founder’s Award is presented annually to an alumnus/a faculty member of the Graduate Studies program of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who have demonstrated excellence in their fields and commitment to Villanova ideals. The award was established in 1992 in honor of Dr. Bernard Downey, professor emeritus of chemistry and founder of the Graduate Alumni Society of Arts and Sciences.To hear the award ceremony in its entirety, along with the award recipients’ biographies and remarks, visit iTunes University.