2015 Award Winners - Summaries

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Leadership Awards

The annual AYA Leadership Awards for Volunteer Innovation and Service are made for outstanding individual service. Unlike the AYA Board of Governors Excellence Awards, presented to alumni groups, these awards are made to individuals nominated and then voted on by the AYA staff, the professionals who have seen the passion of their nominees firsthand.  This provides the AYA’s front-line workers with a way of recognizing each year the extraordinary accomplishments of at least a few of the many “Ambassadors for Yale” — the outstanding volunteers who have demonstrated a willingness to give back, a penchant for innovation, and a high level of selfless service on Yale’s behalf.

The following individuals are being presented with these awards for the 2014–2015 year.

Harry Chang ’84

While Harry Chang is widely known for his role in organizing the first-ever Yale Asian Alumni Reunion (2014), his extraordinary service as an alumni leader goes back more than a quarter of a century. A founding member of the Association of Asian American Yale Alumni (AAAYA), he was instrumental in its expansion, serving as first president of its Northern California chapter, a member of its national board since its inception in 2008, and more recently its vice president and president. He served as an At-Large Delegate to the AYA Assembly from 2009 to 2012. During the 1990s he raised financial support to help Yale students to work for nonprofit organizations, and helped establish a community service fellowship in memory of a fellow classmate that still funds Yale students in summer internships. For over 20 years Chang has been interviewing students as a member of the Alumni Schools Committee, most recently serving as ASC Director for Palo Alto. A role model to multiple generations of Yalies, he continues to commit his time and talent in service to Yale.

Susan E. Lennon ’85 MPPM

Susan Lennon is a phenomenal volunteer and a steadfast ambassador for Yale. One of the founding members of YaleWomen, she has chaired its Chapters Committee and currently serves as governing Council Secretary.
She has been the driving force behind YaleWomen’s gender parity initiatives in the fields of government, media and education, among others. In 2010, she co-chaired the university conference “Celebrating Yale Women: 40 Years in Yale College, 140 Years at Yale.” In addition to her work on behalf of YaleWomen, Lennon has served in many other university leadership roles, including as a member of the AYA Board of Governors, a Yale Day of Service Regional Coordinator, a member of the School of Management Alumni Association Board, and chair of the SOM Alumni Fund. Her leadership style is one which encourages others to step out and try, with the notion that failure is not only an option but a steppingstone to success. Her character and spirit are the essence of being an ambassador for Yale.

Rahul R. Prasad ’84 MS, ’87 PhD & Holly P. Welles ’88 MFS

As individuals, Rahul Prasad and Holly Welles have proven to be passionate volunteers for Yale. Both have served as AYA Delegates and as members of the AYA Board of Governors; Prasad  has been president of the Yale Club of San Francisco, while Welles has been president of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies Alumni Association. As G&P alumni, they had long lamented the lack of unity between the alumni and student bodies of Yale College, the Graduate School and Yale’s professional schools. So last year they teamed up to create a visionary plan for a program of on-campus “career days” that would bring all these constituencies together for lectures, panel discussions, receptions and other networking opportunities where alumni from all the schools could share their experience with current students. The first, “Green Careers for Yale Blues,” was held in September 2014; the second, “Healthy Career Choices,” in April 2015. These events were so successful that they inspired the creation of a new strategic initiative of the AYA, “Careers, Life, and Yale” (CLAY), which will organize similar events going forward — building on the leadership of these two dedicated alumni volunteers.

Margie Smith Whiteleather ’87

In recent years Margie Whiteleather has participated  in more alumni events than anyone beyond the alumni association’s professional staff, all without leaving her home in Geneva, New York. How does she do it? As @margiesw on Twitter since 2009, and on other platforms, she recognizes social media’s power to help alumni connect no matter how remote they are from campus or classmates. Proving that “new” media isn’t just for millennials, she joined Tim Harkness ’87 to make their class a model in using social media to share news and build 25th reunion momentum. This success prompted her to create @YaleAlumni social media accounts to engage the whole alumni family. She and Sarah Tomita ’06 have been dynamic co-chairs of SA@Y (Social Alumni at Yale), galvanizing more volunteers to use the tools of the web to share news about clubs, classes, service efforts and SIGs. She has edited 38 stories (so far!) for the Yale Alumni Storify page, helping numerous groups share their stories. “Modest Margie” makes the social media sum as good as the alumni association’s parts.

Scott R. Williamson ’80

Few alumni volunteers have served Yale in as many different capacities as Scott Williamson — and he has done so with a thoughtful approach and meaningful personal follow-through (handwritten thank you notes!).
Beyond serving twice as president of the Yale Club  of Chicago, separated by 20 years, he has helped launch new initiatives, serving as the first Regional Director for the Yale Day of Service, championing local SIG chapter development, and commencing the tutoring program at Elihu Yale School, to name a few examples. A generation of Yale applicants and scores of alumni know Scott for his 20 years as regional Chair of the Alumni Schools Committee. Closely coordinating with the Yale Club of Chicago and its scholarship foundation efforts, his outreach ensures that the 230+ alumni interviewers are equipped to be effective ambassadors for Yale, that the matriculants (from over 1,200 applicants each year) and their families feel welcome in the Yale community, and that recent graduates feel welcome in Chicago. Most recently, Scott was an Executive Officer of the AYA Board of Governors and a co-producer of the inaugural Yale Alumni Schools Ambassadors (YASA) trip to the Balkans. Throughout the years he has also volunteered for his Class, been involved in Yale Development efforts, hosted numerous Community Service Summer Interns, and participated in the first three Yale Global Alumni Leadership Exchange (YaleGALE) programs. And despite this list barely scratching the surface, no account of his dedication to Yale would be complete without mentioning that he is also a proud Yale parent twice over.

ASC Service Awards

In each city or region, the Alumni Schools Committee (ASC) is the team of alumni volunteers who interview high school students applying to Yale College. ASCs are also tasked with maintaining good relations between Yale and local high schools. The ASC program is overseen by Yale Undergraduate Admissions, and the ASC Service Awards (see p. 26) recognize committees that have provided exemplary support of Yale’s goal to reach out to the best and brightest students of the next generation.

Alumni Schools Committee Excellence Award

For the Alumni Schools Committee that exhibits overall excellence, including a strong commitment to an ambassadorial mission, superior volunteer participation and reporting to the admissions committee, and creativity in programming

United Kingdom

Led by ASC Directors Richard Burston ’82 and Alexandra Burston ’13

Alumni Schools Committee Ambassador Award

For the Alumni Schools Committee leader who exemplifies the ambassadorial mission of the program, inspires superior participation by engaging both new and experienced volunteers, and facilitates creativity in programming and communications

John N. Walsh III ’67
ASC Director for Buffalo, New York

Laura Farwell ’85
ASC Director for Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Excellence Awards

The annual AYA Board of Governors Excellence Awards recognize the superior accomplishments of Yale’s classes, regional clubs and associations, shared-identity and interest groups, and graduate and professional school alumni associations. These awards honor programs, events and best practices in alumni relations that have achieved excellence in their results and commensurate benefits for, and on behalf of, the university. The successes reflected in these prizes raise standards and contribute to the growing impact of alumni activities throughout the entire Yale family worldwide.

The following groups are being presented with these awards for the 2014–2015 year.

Highest Percentage of Returning Alumni Reunion Award

For highest percentage of returning alumni measured against total living alumni of the class and against previous reunions of the same anniversary

Yale College Class of 1985 - 30th Reunion
Yale College Class of 2010 - 5th Reunion

Outstanding BOLD Class Award

For the BOLD (Bulldogs of the Last Decade) class that exhibits overall excellence in programming, including a successful mix of educational, cultural, athletic, social and community-service programming

Yale College Class of 2013

The Class of 2013 continues to pride itself on the outstanding engagement of its members through a series of successful events in 2015, including a happy hour after the Harvard-Yale hockey game; a Young Alumni Reunion in February, held with the Class of 2014 in New York; and a tailgate at the 2015 Harvard-Yale football game. The Class has capitalized on the enthusiasm of its members through low-cost events designed to be fun. By working closely with the AYA and maximizing social media, the Class continues to be at the forefront of the BOLD classes in encouraging the involvement of young alumni.

Outstanding Major Cities Award

For the alumni association among the seven major cities that exhibits overall excellence in programming, including a successful mix of educational, cultural, athletic, social and community-service programming

Yale Club of Los Angeles

YCLA strives to address the needs of a diverse alumni body spread out over a large geographic area by serving as a focal point for collaboration between them and other community groups. It has worked with more than 30 different partners, including SIGs, other Yale Clubs, the alumni associations of Yale’s professional schools, and various community organizations. From Blue Reads and Yale football parties to tours of JPL and multiple Yale Day of Service sites, YCLA aims to continue the balanced curriculum that has seen its membership engagement approach historic highs.


YaleBoston serves as a leader in maintaining club traditions while engaging in new kinds of programming. This successful balance was represented last year between its hosting of the Yale-Harvard Football game — attended by over 450 people — and its first-ever regional cross-club event, which entailed reaching out to Yale alumni in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and other nearby regions for a hosted tour of the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston. The planning for this event has built a roadmap for future cross-club collaboration and engagement.

Outstanding Midsize Cities Award

For the alumni association among the regions ranking 8 to 20 in population that exhibits overall excellence in programming, including a successful mix of educational, cultural, athletic, social and community- service programming

Yale Alumni Association of Maryland

New leadership has revitalized the Yale Alumni Association of Maryland in recent years with a growing range of events. In addition to hosting its regular “roving” Tuesday happy hours, the Club has created an innovative “Welcome Yalies to Maryland” program; supported the performance of Scalia/Ginsburg, a new opera composed by a Maryland-based Yale alum; sponsored a member- curated art exhibit; and organized a talk with a local professional team sports analyst. Through these and other efforts, the Club has regenerated enthusiastic participation from the Yale family in Maryland, with increasing participation from graduate and professional school alumni.

Outstanding Small Cities Award

For the alumni association outside the major and mid-sized markets that exhibits overall excellence in programming, including a successful mix of educational, cultural, athletic, social and community- service  programming

Cincinnati Yale Club

The first Yale Club ever founded, traditionally a very active group, outdid itself last year for the 150th anniversary of its 1864 founding. Nearly 300 alumni, guests and friends participated in a weekend showcasing the best of of Yale in Cincinnati. Among the festivities, a local Yale- trained musician conducted music by a famed Yale composer; several Yale faculty gave lectures; and a Yale alum who is a professor of jazz at the University of Cincinnati lead a Cole Porter cabaret. The celebration, which was open to the public, concluded with a gala dinner attended by President Salovey and his wife, Marta Moret. The planning and the celebration itself bolstered ties between Yale and its community.

Outstanding International Club Award

For the international alumni association that exhibits overall excellence in programming, including a successful mix of educational, cultural, athletic, social and  community-service  programming

Yale Club of Beijing

This Club is being recognized for its service as a bridge between Yale and its alumni, between the USA and China, and between Yale alumni and their city. Over the last 12 months, YCB has orchestrated 28 events for 1,200 alumni and friends around topics of learning, fellowship and community engagement. The Yale Day of Service project this year, focusing on environmental river conservation in Beijing, drew 60 participants. Some events were hosted in conjunction with the Yale Center Beijing and alumni clubs from other universities. Most  club events are open to the public, enhancing the visibility of Yale and enriching dialogues spanning  a broad spectrum of topics from entrepreneurship, music, food safety and the Sino-US relationship to globalization, design innovation, cultural preservation and electric cars.

Outstanding G&P School Volunteer Engagement and Leadership Award

For the graduate/professional school alumni association that best demonstrates leadership in strategic planning, volunteer recruitment, financial management and stewardship

Graduate School Alumni Association

The GSAA’s “Where Do I Go from Yale?” program in May 2015, a career-exploratory event for graduate students, now serves as a model for other schools. Through this event, the GSAA hit upon a formula for connecting alumni and students, not only providing a way to re-engage “lapsed” alumni as speakers and participants but also offering leadership opportunities for the GSAA board members who did all the planning. This year’s event included sessions examining what leaders  are looking for when hiring, with recent graduates sharing tips for success, along with discussions on careers in science, law, technology and the humanities. A networking luncheon for alumni and students was one of the event’s highlights.

Outstanding G&P School Event Award

For the graduate/professional school alumni event that exhibits overall excellence in participation, marketing, education experience, and implementation

AYA Board G&P Committee and Volunteers 

Working in conjunction with alumni and current student volunteers, this committee embarked on an ambitious program to persuade alumni to return to campus and engage current students  on career choices. Its first all-day event, “Green Careers for Yale Blues,” brought back 20 alumni willing to volunteer as speakers and panelists. The 200 tickets were sold out in less than five hours. This success led to the “Healthy Career Choices” conference devoted to careers in health care, with similar success in student registrations and even more alumni volunteers. Operating on a shoestring budget, this committee has inspired new connections between Yale alumni whose experience can inspire students to develop their own career  and life plans.

Outstanding SIG Award

For the Shared Interest Group (SIG) alumni association that exhibits overall excellence in programming, including a successful mix of educational, cultural, athletic, social and community-service programming

Yale Veterans Association

The 2014–15 year was a banner one for the YVA, confirming its transition from an eager young SIG to an established leader in the alumni community. This year the YVA hosted the Yale Veterans Summit, which attracted more than 300 civilians, academics, administrators, journalists and uniformed military representatives from across the country and from other colleges. Among other recent accomplishments, the YVA helped to revitalize its New York City chapter, provided ROTC mentorship to current students, and organized a Yale Day of Service project at the West Haven V.A. Hospital’s Blind Rehabilitation Center. The YVA collaborated with other SIGs and groups to provide programming targeted to a wide variety of alumni.

Outstanding SIG Volunteer Engagement and Leadership Award

For the Shared Interest Group (SIG) that best demonstrates leadership in strategic planning, volunteer recruitment, financial management and stewardship

Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance (YANA)

YANA now has chapters in New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New England, Chicago  and Washington, DC. Its decentralized “similarity- difference-impact” planning approach not only allows different pathways to success but also  enables one chapter’s achievements to support similar activities in other chapters. YANA has “playbooks” on how to plan surveys, roundtables and service events, and how to handle Yale liaison, budget, governance, board matching and a host of other details essential to good organization. YANA is well on its path to becoming the one-stop resource for career networking, as well as expanding career and service opportunities for the broader Yale nonprofit community.

Outstanding SIG Reunion or Event Award

For the Shared Interest Group (SIG) event that  exhibits overall excellence in participation, marketing, educational experience and implementation

Yale Swimming and Diving Association

This year marked the 40th anniversary of women’s swimming and diving at Yale, and the YSDA honored the milestone with a weekend-long reunion held in New Haven in February. Katelyn Kane ’08 and Siobhan Donofrio ’90 worked closely with Yale Athletics to organize an event for current swimmers and more than 120 alumnae from the years 1976–2014. A highlight of the event was “Toasts for Time,” where participants gave remarks of a minute or two — while a pace clock ran — to share insights about the impact Yale swimming had on their lives. The event furthered YSDA’s mission to connect alumni with each other and with Yale, and to encourage support and engagement with current student-athletes. (Photo: the 1975–76 Yale Women’s Varsity Swim Team.)

Outstanding Collaboration Award

For the program or event that best exemplifies an integrated effort among two or more alumni association groups, or between an alumni group and an outside organization

Yale Club of Washington, D.C.

To further its mission to educate the public on matters of national concern, this Club has cosponsored the annual Congressional Forum for the past 12 years in partnership with prominent  civic policy groups. The Forum brings Republican and Democratic lawmakers together with business and civic leaders to discuss differing policy perspectives and innovative approaches to current national issues in a nonpolitical, bipartisan setting before a public audience that includes local students invited by the Club to experience important policy dialogues firsthand. This collaboration  also has generated funding for dozens of Summer Community Service Fellow interns serving local community charities.

Outstanding Innovation Award

For a new event or program, preferably one that has completed its second year of implementation

Yale Global Alumni Leadership Exchange (YaleGALE)

Supplementing its signature international outreach visits with university alumni groups in their home countries, YaleGALE has added a four-day alumni relations conference in New Haven called “YaleGALE@Yale,” designed for participants from previously visited institutions. The conference education through alumni engagement, allowing international alumni staff to see AYA volunteer is timed to mesh with the the annual AYA Assembly to take advantage of alumni and staff already coming back to Yale. This conference supports the university’s desire to advance higher
leadership and best practices firsthand. YaleGALE has created the structure to provide the basis for a continuing program at Yale coordinated with future AYA Assemblies.

Yale Club of San Francisco

When a YCSF-sponsored survey revealed that some of its older members did not feel comfortable attending Club events popular with younger alumni, the Club decided to organize a mini- reunion this past winter especially designed for Yale alumni in degree programs of the ’70s and ’80s. This wider inclusiveness encouraged greater participation from G&P alumni. In addition to general announcements and newsletters, the Club sent targeted these alums with special e-mail promotions. The response was overwhelming: 90 attendees gave rave reviews for an event finally “meant for them.” Since then there has been popular demand for follow-up activities aimed at this newly reconnected alumni group. Another mini-reunion this past spring had similar attendance, two-thirds of which represented alumni who hadn’t been at the winter event.

Best Marketing, Branding and Communications Effort Award

For the effort that best exemplifies a successful communications effort based on design, creativity, implementation and response

Yale Lightweight Crew

The award goes to a 40-minute documentary film entitled Y150: The Yale Lightweight Crew Story, written and produced by Andy Bacas ’80, a varsity athlete and alumni head coach. Three years ago, Bacas worked with other leaders of the Yale Lightweight Crew Association to raise $1.5 million for the endowment of a varsity coach position. Fifteen Y150 oarsmen from the early 1980s raised $20,000 to fund the making of this film, which is a video history of a century of lightweight rowing at Yale. It is a touching testimony of the athleticism and camaraderie of Yale’s crew teams and the impact of rowing on the lives of these alumni. The film serves not only as a marketing and recruiting tool for Yale Lightweight Crew, but also as a “thank you” to all contributors to the association.

Emerging Leaders Award

For the alumni association that best identifies, recruits, engages and sustains new volunteer leaders

Yale Club of Oregon and Southwest Washington

For some years, the general level of engagement at this Yale Club had been stagnant. But 2014 saw a turning point: a “pep rally” visit by AYA Executive Director Mark Dollhopf ’77 in which he reminded the local Yale family of its untapped potential. Since then, the Club has seen tremendous growth in leadership and volunteerism, adding five new board members and a new community service committee, and launching a new website and Facebook page. The Club designated 2015 as its “Year of Service,” scheduling six service projects over 12 months, including one that drew 47 participants — the largest in its history. New cultural and social events have attracted alumni who had never participated in local Yale events before. The Club has deliberately nurtured and new leaders, and has built an officer pipeline that facilitates governance succession.

Outstanding Large Day of Service Award

For the alumni association that demonstrates the most successful Day of Service engagement with 25 or more people in attendance

Yale Club of Los Angeles

YCLA elevated its Yale Day of Service commitment this year through an active partnership with its host city and the goal of restoring the Los Angeles River as a focal point for the entire area. Working together over the entire year leading up to the Yale Day of Service, alumni organized the Los Angeles River Public Art Project and sponsored  four DoS sites along the river (in addition to almost two dozen other YCLA sites elsewhere) tied to the development of a Cultural Master Plan to be presented to civic leadership. Participating alumni included environmental and nonprofit experts and staff members of the mayor’s office. Follow-up planning and events have allowed Yale alumni to remain engaged in making the Los Angeles River Public Art Project a reality.

Outstanding Small Day of Service Award

For the alumni association that demonstrates the most successful Day of Service engagement with fewer than 25 people in attendance

Yale Club of Central New Jersey

Led by two inspirational alumnae, a “Career Explorations” program was held for its second year at a high school in a severely disadvantaged area of Newark. Working in an area with limited local counseling resources, the program filled an important need by creating a one-day event to help some 50 high school students with career planning, life skills and college application strategies, and to advise their parents as well. This project brought Yalies from many different classes, schools and career backgrounds together to work with these “first-gen” students and their families. Establishing this ongoing program in a troubled school is an accomplishment in itself, but the two alumnae organizers’ dedication to keeping the program going exemplifies the best qualities of being Yalies.

Outstanding Student Engagement Award

For the alumni association program or event that best integrates and engages current Yale students

YaleWomen, Inc.

This award is made for YaleWomen’s “Gender Rules” symposium held last November at the  Yale School of Management, which drew 200 Yale alumni and 100 current students. The agenda focused on access, outcomes and equality of women in academia, business and political sectors. With a generous grant from the Seymour L. Lustman Memorial Fund, students were able to attend free of charge. Participants heard from President Salovey, Provost Polak, Yale faculty and others on the topic of gender equality, and engaged in active discussions throughout the conference and its networking social events. The symposium was an excellent example of successful collaboration among Yale’s alumni, faculty and student.