Each year, the Yale Alumni Association Leadership Awards celebrate the accomplishments of volunteers, both for their service to Yale as well as their innovative leadership, whose efforts reflect the YAA’s mission and core values.

In 2019, the awards encompass a wide range of the volunteer experience, recognizing the recipients for their work with alumni of the professional schools as well as the YAA, with both regional clubs and shared interest groups, for endeavors in person and online. Their common link is a desire to make a difference and enhance the Yale alumni experience.

This year’s ceremony will take place on campus at Yale on York on Friday, November 22, in conjunction with the 2019 YAA Assembly and Yale Alumni Fund Convocation.

Candidates/honorees are nominated and selected by alumni relations staff members.

The 2019 recipients of the YAA Leadership Awards are as follows:

Jamila Abston ’17 MBA

A leader, role model, mentor, and exemplar volunteer, Abston embodies the mission of the Yale School of Management both professionally and personally. Whenever alumni are called upon by the MBA for Executives admissions team for help, she is the first to respond. As an admissions ambassador in reaching out to prospective and incoming students, in participating in information sessions, and as a panelist for the SOM Women’s Leadership Symposium, Abston shares her passion and enthusiasm for the program with other candidates. She is also a role model for women in the industry, both in the public sector as a regulator and now as a partner at Ernst and Young, always championing community and inclusion efforts.

“We are thrilled and lucky to count her among our most passionate EMBA alumni volunteers,” said Kavitha Bindra ’05 MBA, assistant dean of alumni relations at the Yale School of Management. “Jamila is going places, and the Yale brand is stronger for being associated with her.”


Lise Chapman ’81 MBA, Xiaoyan Huang ’91, Billy Kolber ’86, Kevin Winston BA (Yale Alumni closed Facebook group)

On their own initiative, Chapman, Huang, Kolber, and Winston (along with Christine Walsh ’73 MD) founded the Yale Alumni closed group on Facebook. In doing so, they filled an evident need and fostered a healthy exchange of interests and ideas, bringing alumni closer to each other and to Yale. And by using Facebook, they utilized a platform that was easily accessible and relevant to alumni. The four collaborated as administrators and spent – and continue to spend – hours of their time facilitating and promoting discussions and driving alumni to join. The impact of their efforts has been impressive. As of today, the group has more than 18,000 members and discussions regularly garner hundreds of likes and comments, expanding the Yale community worldwide.

“I cannot think of a single alumni initiative that engaged a few hundred alumni within a week of launch, and within a month or two, an additional thousand more alumni,” said YAA Executive Director Weili Cheng ’77. “What they’ve accomplished is as impressive as it is incredible – and an incredible resource available to all Yale alumni.”


Lauren Graham ’13 MEM

Graham has made an impact among alumni on a wide array of fronts, emerging as an alumni leader in environmental and sustainability issues and in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Her roles are many – chair of the alumni shared interest group Yale Blue Green, a former member of the YAA Board of Governors, a former at-large delegate for the YAA Assembly, and a member of the YaleWomen Council and former member of the Yale Alumni Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – and she has excelled in all of them. In addition, she has been actively engaged with other alumni groups, such as the Yale Black Alumni Association, and initiatives, including the Yale Environmental Sustainability Summit.

“Time and again, Lauren has proven herself to be the type of leader who doesn’t shy away from challenges and problems,” said Henry Kwan ’05 MA, director for shared interest groups of the YAA, “but rather faces them head-on and collaborates with others to find workable solutions.”


Rob Greenly ’83 MBA

In 2018, Greenly, in collaboration with Yale School of Medicine alumni leaders, piloted alumni panels about career transformations for the medical school’s Alumni Weekend. Through his diligent efforts, two panels were convened – one for alumni who had experience in career transitions within practicing medicine and one for transitioning outside the medical practice – and a third session was added for attendees to explore their own career transitions. Greenly personally interviewed each invited panelist and speaker, moderated the panel discussions, and led a workshop in the afternoon, traveling to New Haven to participate in reunion activities. The program was repeated in 2019, once again to rave reviews, with 95% of responders to the post-reunion survey rating the program was “excellent” or “good.”

“Rob’s enthusiasm for embracing our efforts demonstrates his commitment to Yale and Yale alumni,” said Debby Jagielow, former director of alumni affairs, Yale School of Medicine. “Without his leadership and guidance, these YSM reunion sessions would not have happened. With his leadership, they were well thought out and very well received.”


Stephanie Grilli ’74 MA, ’80 PhD

During her nearly four years as president of the Colorado Yale Association, Grilli has worked tirelessly to strengthen both the club’s organization and the Yale family across the state. In addition to establishing regular meetings of the club’s board and updating the its bylaws, she has personally reached out to dozens of alumni and encouraged younger and newly arrived alumni to join the board in a successful effort to diversify both the CYA leadership and the types of activities being organized. She has also traveled to and supported events in cities throughout the state, constantly reminding everyone that the club is for all Yalies, not just the ones in Denver.

“Stephanie is a diligent motivator who engages others to get involved and share their passions,” said Bob Bonds ’71, associate director for regional clubs for the YAA. “She has been an inspiration to many other club presidents around the U.S., and she is all the more remarkable for maintaining a low profile and always making sure that other volunteers get recognized and thanked for their efforts.”


Photo: The 2019 YAA Leadership Award winners (clockwise from top left): Jamila Abston ’17 MBA, Lise Chapman ’81 MBA, Xiaoyan Huang ’91, Billy Kolber ’86, Stephanie Grilli ’74 MA, ’80 PhD, Rob Greenly ’83 MBA, Lauren Graham ’13 MEM, and Kevin Winston BA