Each year, the Oberlin Alumni Association recognizes alumni whose achievements or contributions to Oberlin and/or society are considered to be exceptional. Twelve such alumni were honored during 2011, most of them at the Alumni Council’s fall dinner and awards ceremony. All Oberlin alumni are encouraged to nominate their outstanding classmates for consideration for these annual awards.
The Alumni Medal is the highest honor the Oberlin Alumni Association bestows and it is usually presented during the Commencement exercises of the college. This year, however, it was presented posthumously at an extraordinary gathering in honor of Dr. Wendell M. Logan. It is most often presented to alumni who have given of themselves, in extraordinary measure, to Oberlin. There are also occasions when the medal is presented to those whose contributions have been so remarkable, and so far reaching, that they have become alumni by virtue of their efforts on behalf of Oberlin and its students. Dr. Wendell Logan was such a man, and his many accomplishments and exceptional life have been chronicled in the obituaries and newspaper articles that have appeared since his death in June 2010.
Wendell Logan arrived at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1973 and built, from the ground up, one of the most respected jazz studies programs in the United States. Logan was Professor of African American Music and Chair of Oberlin’s Jazz Studies Department, and was an important compositional presence within his musical generation. Throughout his distinguished career as composer, performer, and educator, he received numerous commissions and won many awards, including four from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lakond Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a dozen or so ASCAP awards, three Ohio Arts Council grants, and, in 1991, the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and the Cleveland Arts Prize in Music. In 1994, he was a fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Study and Conference Center in Italy. His instrument was the soprano saxophone, and he performed in Africa and the Caribbean, in Europe, and throughout the United States.
Clyde Owan ’79, a former president of the Oberlin Alumni Association, wrote, "Wendell Logan brought jazz studies to Oberlin, embedding an important musical form into the College’s life and widening opportunities for a more diverse community of students. He persevered in the face of social and institutional barriers, advocating virtually alone. He changed an institution and lives."
Wendell died on Tuesday, June 15, 2010, in Cleveland, Ohio, at age 69.
Awards for Distinguished Achievement, Distinguished Service, Outstanding Young Alumni, Alumni Appreciation, and Volunteers of the Year are typically presented during the annual meeting of the Alumni Council in September.
The Distinguished Achievement Award recognizes outstanding contributions and achievements that reflect Oberlin’s values in a career field. This year’s recipient, Karen Pollitz ’80, will be recognized during the Alumni Association’s Executive Board meeting in March 2012, for her accomplishments in the field of healthcare access and coverage, as deputy director for Consumer Support at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO).
Karen helped shape the historic healthcare legislation that recently passed into law, and gave testimony seven times before U.S. congressional committees in 2009, shedding light on the underhanded insurance practices designed to deny coverage, raise premiums unreasonably, and/or spur less desirable patients to leave. In her testimony, she also laid out goals for achieving universal access to healthcare and described how reform could achieve them.
In a nomination letter, Marcia Harrington ’80 and Sarah Heald ’80 wrote: "(Karen) embodies the Oberlin ideal of public service and idealism; is smart, compassionate and effective; and has made a difference in the healthcare legislation recently passed. Beyond her professional accomplishments, she has served on numerous boards serving the public interest and has been a loyal Obie alumna, attending her 25th reunion in 2005, staying in touch with Obie colleagues, contributing annually, and encouraging prospective students to apply. (Two of them now attend Oberlin.)"
The Distinguished Service Award recognizes service or volunteer activities that reflect Oberlin’s values by directly improving the quality of life for humanity. This year’s recipient, Betsy Samuelson Greer ’61, was presented with this award at the Class of 1961’s 50th anniversary dinner over Commencement/Reunion Weekend.
Betsy describes herself as "an advocate for those who suffer serious mental illness," and, as a full-time mental health volunteer, has worked to obtain community-based services and support needed to achieve recovery. She is active at the national NAMI and local Arlington NAMI levels, and has worked on the NAMI Helpline, which responds to requests about mental illness from across the nation.
She facilitates support groups and educational courses on the topic of mental health, and coordinates advocacy efforts. In 2006, she received a James B. Hunter III Community Hero Award for Lifetime Achievement in Arlington, Virginia.
In her nomination letter, Barbara Elliott Keish ’61 wrote, "I have thought Betsy most worthy of this award for several years and finally am putting my thoughts into action… Betsy Greer has certainly made an impact on our community."
This is the second year for the presentation of the Outstanding Young Alumni Award, given to alumni who are 35 years or younger who have distinguished themselves in one or more of the following areas: professional career, service to humanity, and service to Oberlin College.
Aimee Lee ’99 meets those criteria easily. A prolific interdisciplinary artist whose work examines the nature of being human, Aimee works primarily in papermaking, book arts, installation, performance art, and writing. In 2006, she received an MFA from Columbia College, Chicago, in Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts. Recently, Aimee has taken up the craft of hanji, Korean handmade paper, which she studied as a Fulbright Fellow in South Korea from 2008-2009. She’s exhibited her work around the world, in galleries and museums in Miami, New York, Germany, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Japan, and Oberlin.
The Alumni Appreciation Award recognizes exceptional volunteer service or contributions to the Oberlin College Alumni Association. This year’s recipient, Dick Anderson ’54, has been a dedicated servant of Oberlin for nearly two decades. He first served as a class officer while a student at Oberlin, and was a member of Gilbert & Sullivan, Glee Club, Mock Convention, College Choir, College Chorus, the men’s baseball team, and more.
As an alumnus, he has served as a lead agent since 1998, a Class of 1954 Reunion Gift Committee member since 2003, an Awards Committee member from 2006-2009, a career counselor, and class president from 1992-1998. In addition, he served as Treasurer of the Alumni Council Executive Board for two terms (four years).
"He is always very generous and co-operative, and holds such a positive attitude," wrote Cynthia Meyer Grubb ’54 in her nomination letter. "This extends to his looking on the bright side of every person or situation."
The recipients of these awards are chosen by the staff of the Alumni Association, the Alumni Fund, and the Admissions Office. They recognize alumni who have given an extra measure of themselves on behalf of Oberlin.
The Alumni Association recognized Sally Kerr ’61 as Volunteer of the Year for her work on behalf of her class’s 50th reunion. Sally utilized her extensive publishing skills to create a reunion directory that showcased the photos, personal reflections, memorial memories, and contact information in a beautiful and interesting format. Throughout the process she tracked the submissions, communicated with her classmates, and encouraged reunion participation. In fact, she received and sent more than 1,000 emails related to the directory project. Sally’s classmates were very appreciative of her work and were thrilled to receive their directories and read all about the lives of their 1961 friends from Oberlin. Her dedication, and the enormous amount of time she volunteered in reconnecting friends with each other, and with Oberlin, are much appreciated.
The Alumni Association recognized two outstanding Co-Regional Coordinators who have spent a great deal of personal energy and initiative on behalf of Oberlin College and the Conservatory for the largest alumni club – the Oberlin Club of New York. This "dynamic duo" has organized alumni events that have promoted as many Oberlin connections as possible, yielding multiple events featuring Oberlin alumni, students, parents and friends – including the Annual Summer Picnic, the Annual Oberlin Cares – Alumni Day of Service, Alumni Day at the Ballpark, numerous museum tours, and monthly happy hours.
The Office of Admissions recognized Nachie Castro ’98, Oscar Reyes ’95, and Jes Sheridan ’98 as Admissions Coordinators of the Year. Nachie, Oscar, and Jes are long-time members of the Alumni Recruiting Network and have served as New York City Coordinators for the past several years. They work closely with the Admissions Office to help recruit students from the largest market for enrolling students. Oscar is a tireless interviewer. Nachie and Jes are essential when it comes to the behind-the-scenes organizing required for Oberlin’s annual Fall Preview, a spring reception for admitted students, and the January Interview Day, an event at which more than 180 applicants have interviews.
Nachie, Oscar, and Jes all regularly return to campus to share their opinions and to offer thoughts on how Oberlin might be able to do a better job of recruiting these talented students.
Chloe Bird ’86 has been an exemplary volunteer for Oberlin College in taking on her role as the Chair of the 25th Reunion Gift Committee. As the chair, Chloe continuously made countless phone calls, sent e-mails and wrote letters of encouragement to her fellow classmates. She never once said that she couldn’t make a phone call or reach out to someone because she was too busy. Her efforts paid off as the class exceeded their annual goal of $71,000 by raising well over $85,000 and achieving 40 percent participation. Chloe’s unselfish spirit and positive work ethic glorifies the true nature of what it means to sincerely be an Oberlin volunteer.
An abbreviated version of this appeared in the winter 2011-12 issue of Oberlin Alumni Magazine.