2017 Award Winners - Summaries

*** Click here for 2017 Awards Reception photos! ***

AYA Leadership Awards
The annual AYA Leadership Awards for Volunteer Innovation and Service recognize outstanding individual contributions. Candidates are nominated and selected by AYA staff who get to witness the passion of their nominees firsthand. This award provides a way to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of a few of the many ambassadors for Yale — volunteers who have demonstrated a willingness to give back, a penchant for innovation, and a high level of service on Yale’s behalf.

The following individuals are being presented with these awards for the 2016–2017 year.

Renata V. Cesar '79
Anant Rajnikant Jani ’09 PhD
Thomas J. Opladen ’66
Christopher M. Quander ’86
Colin A. Weil ’88

Renata V. Cesar ’79
Renata has a passion for engaging alumni as global citizens. This dedication resulted in her founding of the Yale International Alliance in 2012. Working to position the YIA as an umbrella organization for student and alumni SIG international efforts, she provided the strategy for both virtual and physical YIA events such as the 2012 "Global Citizen: London" event, the "Journeys" virtual lecture series, and the Alumni Map project. Renata has lead the group for several years with her own brand of elegant determination often serving as the international strategist and partner for many SIGs. Her selfless volunteer spirit centers around the desire to create a truly representative alumni experience and her work with the YIA is a stellar example of service in action.

Anant Rajnikant Jani ’09 PhD
Anant is not merely a scientist. Yes, he is the architect behind the YIA website which provides a platform for Yale Alumni, faculty, and students to share events and experiences, including the live streaming of presentations and activities. And though the website is impressive, it is Anant's dedication as a volunteer that is commendable. Anant was instrumental in providing insights on behalf of the YIA to the Alumni Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion which helped cast a global lens to the Task Force’s objectives resulting in additional programming.  His willingness to build bridges for current students to public health career paths should not go unnoticed. And his general curiosity has positively touched his fellow volunteers prompting us all to pursue a deeper level of inquiry in our engagement efforts.  

Thomas J. Opladen ’66
As a long-standing and dedicated Yale volunteer and leader, Tom has held, and continues to serve in, a number of alumni leadership positions, including Class Treasurer, At-Large Delegate, and as a member of the AYA Board of Governors.  Perhaps his most visible and defining alumni leadership role, however, is founder and president of the Yale Veterans Association (YVA), a shared interest group representing a robust community of about 10,000 alumni who have served in the military.  In the relatively short time since its founding, the YVA under Tom’s leadership and guidance has flourished, becoming a veteran’s service organization of significance.  While not the first or necessarily the biggest Ivy League veteran’s alumni association, the YVA has become the benchmark upon which its institutional peers aspire to emulate.  None of this would have been possible without Tom’s vision, passion and commitment.

Christopher M. Quander ’86
Chris has been instrumental in the success of several AYA and Yale Chicago initiatives from reinvigorating the Yale Black Alumni Association Chicago Chapter to serving as the Vice President of Yale Chicago focusing on program development. He is thoughtful in his proactive outreach to local SIG chapters so to amplify their events through Yale Chicago’s media channels and to incorporate their volunteers into the broader Yale community. He has launched and shepherded many program ideas himself, including “Made Visible” a lecture in collaboration with the Yale Art Gallery and the Yale Alumni Art League to highlight the diversity of the YUAG’s collection, “Violence: A Faithful Response” with the Yale Divinity School, and he supported Yale Chicago’s 150th Anniversary Celebration. A long-time ASC interviewer and supporter of local outreach efforts, especially for welcoming incoming students of color into the Yale community, Chris always finds the humor in the challenges while empowering and coaching others to be outstanding volunteer leaders.

Colin A. Weil ’88
Colin Weil ’88 is an exemplary alumni leader - he has led groups through change, founded new alumni groups, and organized important events and initiatives across multiple alumni communities and constituencies for more than two decades. As a young alum Colin served on the board of the Colony Foundation, which supports his senior society, Berzelius. He served as a board member of the Yale Club of Los Angeles, where he helped develop the club’s strategic plan, outreach initiatives to SIG’s, and Day of Service efforts. Colin founded Eli’s Mishpacha: Yale’s Jewish Alumni Group (now merged with the Yale Jewish Alumni Association, of which he is National co-Chair), organizing high profile events in NY, DC, LA, SF and on campus. As an active member of his class, Colin was on the organizing committee for his 25th reunion and led the effort to for his class’ 50th birthday celebration, and is currently helping to plan his 30th reunion. He is a key volunteer for Yale GALA: Yale’s LGBT Alumni Association organizing events and engaging strategic partners and sponsors; he was instrumental in the launch of the Yale AIDS Memorial Project, securing Christie’s as the venue for the event. And Colin has been part of the NYC ASC team, interviewing Yale College applicants for the past three years.


Alumni Schools Committee 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, and who liaise between Yale and local high schools. The ASC program is overseen by Yale Undergraduate Admissions, and these awards (see p. 00) recognize those who have provided exemplary support of its goal to engage the best and brightest students of the next generation.

Alumni Schools Committee Excellence Award

For the ASC 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

* Boston
Led by ASC Director Ilisabeth S. Bornstein ’97 (Boston South & Cape Cod)
    ASC Director Donald C. Hancock ’84 (Boston North)
    ASC Director Gregory S. Rutan ’89 (Boston South & Cape Cod)
    ASC Director Dr. Miriam A. Schizer ’87 (Boston West)
    ASC Director Murray Wheeler Jr. ’62 (Boston)

Alumni Schools Committee Ambassador Award

For the ASC 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.
* Dr. Gaurav Khanna ‘94
ASC Director for California – Silicon Valley
* Robert E. Luckett Jr.  ‘99
ASC Director for Mississippi


Excellence Awards  

The annual AYA Board of Governors Excellence Awards recognize the superior accomplishments of Yale’s classes, regional clubs, shared-identity and interest groups, and graduate and professional school alumni associations. 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 receiving these awards for the 2016–2017 year, to be presented at the AYA Volunteer Leadership Awards Reception on Friday evening.

Outstanding Class Award

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

• Yale College Class of 1952

Last year was a landmark year for the Class of 1952: members celebrated their 65th reunion in record numbers, surpassed their class gift goal by more than $2 million, and produced the seventh-largest class gift in the history of the AYA. The class also exceeded its Alumni Fund goal and registered a participation rate of more than 76 percent, far above all other Yale College classes. Meeting in New Haven every year on the morning of the final home football game, the class council is committed to reconnecting classmates via reunions, class notes, an active website, e-mail and phone calls. The dedication and remarkable success of the Class of 1952 serves as an inspiration to us all.

• Yale College Class of 1993

At Yale, the Class of 1993 represented a bridge between the eras of traditional learning and tech-based engagement; today the class continues to combine the intimacy of community with innovation and modern technology, pioneering model platforms for alumni investment and involvement. Piloted in 2016, the class’s “Virtual Common Room” uses video-based technology to unite classmates globally for lively discussions, from politics to popular culture. The class also maintains an active calendar of non-virtual events, including family hikes, art workshops, and social service projects addressing early literacy, global warming, and mass incarceration.

Highest Percentage of Returning Alumni Reunion Award

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

• Yale College Class of 2002 (15th Reunion)

Outstanding Major Cities Club 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 Chicago

Yale Chicago serves as a focal point for collaboration. Its two major events this past year — the Yale Chicago 150th anniversary and the Anti-Violence event (see p. 69) — each attracted more than 200 people, uniting alumni across class years, geography, SIG and other diverse communities. Its educational panels have ranged in topic from emotional intelligence to financial planning. Its cultural events have featured the Whiffenpoofs, the Yale Gospel Choir and other Yale singing groups. Yale Chicago grants SIG leaders seats on its board, and partners with SIGs on programming — this year including the BSAY 50th Anniversary, the GALA Mixer, AAAYA Speed Networking, and a Day of Multicultural Inclusion Roundtable. It also engages across class years with various social mixers.

Outstanding Midsize Club 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 Oregon and Southwest Washington

This club’s upward trajectory continues with a renewed sense of purpose and robust programming that appeals to a broad range of local alumni. It continues the tradition of monthly Yale Club luncheons that bring renowned local speakers to Yale alumni and the public, often drawing 30–40 attendees. In addition, the club strives to connect alumni as a community: it held nine social events in the last academic year, ranging from Feb Club Emeritus to a brewery tour and a prix-fixe dinner. The group continues to organize at least two service projects a year. The Yale Alumni Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington is commended for the breadth of its alumni engagement.

Outstanding Small Club Award

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

• Yale Alumni Association of Central Florida

This award is given to Central Florida with special mention of its “New Student Meetup with Current Students” program, which allows incoming first-years to meet with current students in an informal setting. The meetings were restricted to new and current students — no parents — so that the incoming students could talk with their future peers, and get real insights into life at Yale. By reaching out to incoming students with practical “inside” information, Central Florida is giving them the chance to make friends who can help in the transition to New Haven, while building alumni ties at the earliest possible moment.

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 London

The Yale Club of London receives this award for the range of programming and activities it has sustained. Special mention should be made of its mentorship program, which exemplifies the creative ideas that make London such a vibrant club. When it was launched last year, this program carefully defined a realistic commitment on the part of mentor and mentee, and it began with 20 founding members. Since then it has grown to over 120 active volunteers in either role, and some in both. As one club leader noted, “When this group finally came together and started this project, the energy it generated within the club was incredible.” The success of the mentorship program can be a model for other alumni organizations, and is an excellent example of the successful programming that makes London an outstanding club.

Outstanding G&P School Award

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

• Association of Yale Alumni in Medicine (AYAM)

AYAM is being honored for its 2017 reunion, which took the theme of “Celebrating the Yale System of Education.” The goal of the reunion was to honor the Yale System, a teaching methodology that sets the Yale School of Medicine apart from other medical schools, and to remind deans and faculty who were planning curricular changes of the school’s distinctive heritage. Reunion speakers included alumni who are national leaders, including a Nobel Prize winner, a medical school dean and several CEOs, each of whom talked about how the Yale System had influenced their lives and careers. As part of a reunion module called The Yale System: I Was There, a documentary filmmaker assisted by current medical students recorded interviews with alumni for availability as YouTube videos. And returning alumni had opportunities to learn about changes in the curriculum and offer questions and comments. All these efforts represented a significant examination of university policies by alumni, and a model for other groups who want to help Yale preserve its legacy.

Outstanding G&P School Event Award

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

• Yale School of Management Alumni Association Boston and Connecticut Chapters

These chapters collaborated on two events that invited alumni to study the forces behind General Electric’s impending move from Fairfield County (Connecticut) to Boston. The event in New Haven, held in October 2016, was entitled “GE Whiz, What Happened? Lessons for Connecticut’s Economic Growth,” while the one in Boston, held in February 2017, was called “Old City, New Ideas: Will GE’s move to Boston Catalyze Further Growth?” At both sessions, SOM alumni were invited to voice their ideas, criticisms, praise and concerns about their regional economy, while SOM alumni around the world and current MBA students were invited to participate online or via livestream video. The crowd-sourcing approach the chapters used for organizing these events was remarkable, with over 300 alumni and students taking part.

Outstanding G&P School Volunteer Engagement and Leadership Award

For the G&P alumni association that best demonstrates leadership in strategic planning, volunteer recruitment, financial management and stewardship

• Yale School of Nursing Alumnae/i Association

This group is recognized for its 2017 Yale Day of Service event, “Newborns in Need,” which engaged alumni, students, faculty, family members and staff to fill bags of goods for newborns of mothers who deliver at the Hospital of St. Raphael’s. The project group brought over 70 participants together to sort and count thousands of donated diapers, wipes, soap, socks and blankets into presentation bags for the new mothers. Some 150 white onesies (infant jumpsuits) emblazoned with “Future Yale Nurse” were donated, as were books from alumni from around the country. A note of congratulations to the mothers in English, Spanish and Arabic was tucked into the donation bags. Alumni association board members served as team captains, and School of Nursing faculty pitched in — including the school’s dean, Dr. Ann Kurth ’90 MSN.

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 Science and Engineering Association (YSEA)

YSEA has been in existence for over a century, and has a long track record of supporting current Yale and high school students, providing research grants, and sponsoring local science fairs. The group has materially increased its alumni outreach efforts in recent years, creating a strong program of alumni activities to include networking events and faculty lectures that connect alumni in various major cities. YSEA has organized hands-on science days for children, an annual potluck picnic, happy hours, laboratory tours, formal dinners, and many other STEM-based events. The group’s members are always eager to volunteer their time and expertise to connect Yale alumni with students.

Outstanding SIG Reunion or Event Award (tie)

For the SIG event that exhibits overall excellence in participation, marketing, educational experience and implementation

• Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance (YANA)

The Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance (YANA) is being awarded for its Annual Spring Benefit held at the Yale Club of New York City. YANA used the principles of “Convening, Collaborating and Connecting” to guide programing. The benefit drew nearly 200 diverse attendees, including faculty, friends, alumni from every decade from the 1950s through the 2000s, and over 30 current students. Success was achieved through marketing, promotion and social media in collaboration with the AYA, Dwight Hall, the Yale Club of NYC, the Yale Black Alumni Association and the Yale Alumni Football Association. Proceeds from the benefit provided funding for two students in the YANA-Dwight Hall Summer Fellowship Program, which supports underserved Yale students seeking careers in social impact. Funds were also allocated to the Calvin Hill Day Care Center — the great Yale running back Calvin Hill ’69 attended the event in person — and to Shades of Yale, the undergraduate singing group celebrating music from the African American tradition.

• Yale Glee Club Associates

In October 2016, the Yale Glee Club (YGC) celebrated its 155th anniversary with a reunion weekend in New Haven. Members of the Yale Glee Club Associates, the YGC’s alumni group, collaborated with current Glee Clubbers to plan a reunion that would bring together over 500 alumni, guests and students to attend a weekend full of singing, camaraderie and campus festivities that culminated in a free concert in Woolsey Hall featuring alumni and current YGC singers. The event provided an unusual opportunity for alumni and current students to interact directly, sing together, and forge new relationships.

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 Chicago, Yale Divinity School

On April 3 of this year, 300 people convened at the Chicago Temple for a panel conversation entitled “Violence: A Faithful Response to the Plague in our Neighborhoods and Nation.” Organized jointly by Yale Chicago and the Yale Divinity School, this event was a timely discussion among civic, academic, theological and religious leaders — some with a Yale affiliation, some without. Audience members participated with their own questions, and the Chicago Tribune reported on the panel, which was free and open to the public. Many who could not attend in person viewed the webcast remotely. The event highlighted Yale Chicago’s intent to be a relevant player in the Chicago community, and brought the Yale Divinity School directly into the heart of the city to address issues facing a community far from campus.

Outstanding Innovation Award

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

• Yale GALA, Yale School of Public Health, AYA Major Cities

Expanding the realm of alumni-university cooperation, Yale GALA: Yale’s LGBT Alumni Association partnered with the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) in a unique effort to highlight the groundbreaking work of Professor John Pachankis in a presentation on June 14 of this year at the Yale Club of New York City entitled “Advances in the Science of LGBTQ Mental Health: From Policy Impact to Clinical Practice.” Supported by the AYA’s Major Cities group, the event attracted over 100 attendees and served to highlight Yale’s prominence in this field of study. The event established a new model for how Yale alumni groups, especially SIGs, can assist Yale schools and departments in connecting with alumni, community partners, potential donors, news reporters and members of the general public who are interested in their research.

Outstanding Student Engagement Award

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

Yale Black Alumni Association

The Higher Education Initiative (HEI) is a signature program of the Yale Black Alumni Association. Held at least annually, HEI is a week-long service project that allows Yalies to mentor youth in foster care. HEI was held in San Francisco in 2016, and in Atlanta in 2017. During the project, alumni volunteers coach current students on the preparation and delivery of a series of workshops that share information about post-secondary education with children and youth in foster care. Each time the project is held, 8-15 Yale students and up to four alumni participate. Typically, 80-90 foster youth attend these college workshops during the week. The workshops inspire the foster youth and are transformative for both the Yalies and the alumni who participate. HEI allows current Yale students to learn from alums, and makes life for kids in foster care a little better than it was before.

Best Marketing, Branding and Communications Effort Award

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

For the effort in front of the curve, based on design, creativity, implementation and response

• Yale Club of Beijing

Over 18,000 audience members have watched talks and panel discussions organized by the Yale Club of Beijing via live-streaming on Tencent, the largest social networking platform in China. Overcoming local limitations on access to U.S.-based social media, the club leadership team uses the local mobile application WeChat from Tencent to promote club events, register attendees and pay bills, as well as to celebrate club activities and events. The club is making great strides in engaging its constituents: over the past 12 months, it has held 41 educational and social events and seven community-service events, resulting in some 2,500 in-person encounters among alumni.

• YaleWomen

This award is presented to Yale Women for its excellence in creative use of technology as demonstrated in two webinars it produced this past year, “Women in Politics” and “Salary Negotiation.” One of Yale Women’s priorities for the current year is to maximize the engagement of alums, and these webinars, delivered in a format accessible both to alumni and students, support that goal. YaleWomen has developed a large cybernetwork: of the 10,000 alums who have joined YaleWomen, 3,400 are members of its Facebook group page, thereby comprising a virtual chapter. The open-and-click rates for YaleWomen’s e-newsletters exceed industry standards, as do the success of its webinars, which engage students across Yale College and the graduate and professional schools and alumni around the world.

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 Black Alumni Association Los Angeles Chapter

For the 2017 Yale Day of Service, the Los Angeles Chapter of the Yale Black Alumni Association held a “teach-in” on the Constitution of the United States. Partnering with the Center of Hope in Inglewood, California, Yale and community volunteers conducted a six-week planning effort and facilitated an exercise in civil discourse on the contents of the Constitution and the rights and responsibilities of citizens. The event was attended by people of all ages, from a variety of backgrounds, and across the political spectrum. Creative and interactive strategies were used to explain concepts, such as the three branches of government, how a bill is passed, and what the Bill of Rights says. For some younger attendees, the event was their first civics lesson; for others, it was a reminder of the basic components and processes of American government. Discussions regarding interpretation of certain portions of the Constitution were lively yet respectful. Each attendee received a pocket version of the Constitution, handouts that illustrated sections of the document, and a bookmark showcasing the Bill of Rights. All were encouraged to explore ways to actively engage in the political process, from voting to holding office. Opportunities to continue the collaboration and dialogue are currently being explored.

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 Washington, DC

This award goes to the Yale Club of Washington, DC, for its work with the Capital Area Food Bank at the Urban Demonstration Garden. The garden is a half-acre urban farm adjacent to the Food Bank’s warehouse. For Day of Service participants this was an opportunity to learn about urban agriculture, nutrition and hunger in the District of Columbia. Alumni started in the garden weeding and composting, then worked on painting signs, and finally moved on to harvesting and cooking. Family-friendly activities were designed for all ages and abilities, and everyone could participate in the garden. The nutritional value of each plant in the garden was explained, and after participants harvested some of the crops the children present were asked to make a salad — washing the greens and strawberries, chopping the radishes and tossing the salad in a yogurt dressing. Sharing the final product was a powerful way to end the day. Volunteers and their families left with a new understanding of urban agriculture, and a reminder of how simple access to good, nutritious vegetables can improve the lives of generations.