The Oberlin Alumni Association has established five awards to recognize outstanding contributions and achievements to the College, to society at large, and to the Association: the Alumni Medal, the Distinguished Achievement Award, the Distinguished Service Award, the Outstanding Young Alumni Award and the Alumni Appreciation Award.
2020 Alumni Award Recipients
- Alumni Medal: Walt Galloway ’69
- Distinguished Achievement Award: Debra Wise ’75
- Distinguished Service Award: William Slayton ’85
- Outstanding Young Alumni Award: Tuyet Thidiem Ngo ’10
- Alumni Appreciation Award: Cynthia Brown ’74
The Alumni Medal is the highest honor that the Alumni Association awards. The Alumni Medalist exemplifies outstanding, sustained or unique service to Oberlin College.
Walt Galloway ’69
Walt has been deeply involved in service to Oberlin for several decades. He was a member of the Alumni Executive Board from 2005 to 2008, a member of the Alumni Leadership Council, and has been a leader in planning all of the 1969 class reunions for the past two decades. He also headed the development effort for the 50th reunion gift for his class. In 2017, Walt was the first chair of the Annual Fund Advisory Board. He served as co-lead agent for the class of 1969 for over a decade, from 2003 to the present. From 1985 to 2016, Walt was a New England regional representative for the Admissions Office.
In 2005, Walt was honored as the Alumni Admissions Volunteer of the Year. Joshua Levy ’94, associate director of admissions, is quoted in the Winter 2005-06 issue of the Oberlin Alumni Magazine: “Walt Galloway treats his volunteer experience like a paying job…Walt consistently and successfully pushed for more communication between the Alumni Recruiting Network and the Alumni Office, which has helped us improve the way we disseminate admissions information to our volunteers.”
Walt has also made invaluable contributions to the EnviroAlums program almost since its inception and currently serves as chair of the steering committee. He has been a career planning mentor to many ENVS majors. Walt’s nominator underscores his willingness to go above and beyond in his service to Oberlin:
“He has also been an eager participant in many career networking events, both in his community and on campus. Walt has helped the Admissions Office plan Volunteer Leadership Summits and more, and has virtually always responded present when Oberlin has reached out for help; as is clear from the description above, he has also found many a way to step up and be a volunteer leader. In my near decade of service to Oberlin, I have known no other alum giving as much back to Oberlin, nor in as many roles.”
The Distinguished Achievement Award honoree has demonstrated in his/her life outstanding contributions and achievements that reflect Oberlin’s values in a career field.
Debra Wise ’75
Debra is a highly accomplished actor, director, and playwright. Wise is the artistic director of Underground Railway Theater (URT), and has been since 1998. URT’s mission is to “envision new possibilities by responding to vital questions in the activist and collaborative spirit of its namesake, creating theater that challenges and delights, informs and celebrates.” Wise has led in the creation of numerous plays and performances that have toured internationally. The plays Debra co-creates or directs draw from history as well as contemporary issues and movements. They spark conversation and demand deep reflection. Some examples include Sanctuary: The Spirit of Harriet Tubman, an epic that connects the story of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad to the Central American Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, The Christopher Columbus Follies: An Eco-Cabaret, which was featured in Madrid at an international festival marking the quincentennial of 1492, and Roots of Liberty – The Haitian Revolution and the American Civil War, which played for 1700 people in Boston’s Tremont Temple, where the Emancipation Proclamation was first read.
Debra has dedicated herself to uplifting new voices in theater. From 1997 to 2003, she was Artistic Co-Director of the Women on Top Festival, which premiered new works by female theater artists. As artistic director of URT, she produces works which invite community collaboration and constructive discussion. She was instrumental in developing URT’s reputation as a company specializing in non-traditional venues. She has produced various performances in dialogue with art galleries and museum exhibitions. Debra also co-directs the Catalyst Creative@MIT, which fuses science and theater. The most recent project associated with Catalyst Creative@MIT is called Untold Stories, a series of productions centering on stories of “scientists of color, women and young scientists.” One of Debra’s many recommenders writes: “As a producer, her dedication to parity in the American Theatre should be held up as a model. She celebrates women. She celebrates playwrights and performers of color. She goes deep into world-culture to find new voices and new kinds of theatre. Her theatre is a model of experimentation and diversity.”
Recently, Debra became producing artistic director of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Theater Project, a project which–though independent of Oberlin College–is very much about the abolitionist history of the College, and will result in an annually–repeating production in Lorain County, beginning during the summer of 2022, and including other faculty from the College and residents of Oberlin. In addition, Debra co-authored–with former Oberlin College English Professor Wes Sanders–an e-book about the first 20 years of the Underground Railway Theater, founded in Oberlin in the 1970's: Underground Railway Theater - Engine of Delight and Social Change.
The Distinguished Service Award recipient has demonstrated in his/her life service or volunteer activities that reflect Oberlin’s values by directly improving the quality of life for humanity.
William Slayton ’85
Dr. William “Bill” Slayton is a pediatric hematologist and oncologist and an associate professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine. He is currently working on producing a drug that more accurately targets leukemia cells. While his research focuses on finding a more effective treatment for pediatric leukemia, Bill also works hard to make the treatment process more tolerable for patients and their families. He has made his unit a one-stop shop, making screenings, treatments, and follow-up appointments more efficient. This compassionate approach “not only helps patients towards a quicker recovery but also family in more easily coping with the illness,” according to the University of Florida College of Medicine–Department of Pediatrics website.
Bill is also a very active participant in charitable organizations dedicated to ending children’s cancer. He is the endowed chair of the organization Stop Children’s Cancer, which pledges money to help fund clinical research trials. He is also a board member for the Climb for Cancer Foundation, which “exists to improve the mental, physical and social well-being of cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers through funding of enrichment programs in arts, nature, sports and medicine.” He has volunteered at Camp Boggy Creek, “a free, safe and medically-sound camp environment that enriches the lives of children with serious illnesses and their families,” every summer since 2002. He served on the Board of Directors at the Ronald McDonald House from 2002-05. He was on the Board of Advisors for the Utah chapter of Candlelighters and received the Candlelighters Light of Hope Award in 2001. Bill has been the recipient of various research grants and commendations. In 2019, he was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Pediatric Medical Student Education Award for the second time. Bill has committed his life to helping others, and has said, “The thing about being a doctor is you always have opportunities to help people, so you always leave work feeling like you’ve done something worthwhile.”
The Outstanding Young Alumni Award recipient must be 35 years of age or younger at the time of consideration and have distinguished himself or herself in one or more of the following areas: professional career, service to humanity, and service to Oberlin College.
Tuyet Thidiem Ngo ’10
Tuyet is an accomplished community leader. She has dedicated herself to serving the Asian American immigrants and refugees in her home city of Chicago. After graduating, Tuyet began working in Cleveland as a community outreach and education consultant for Asian Services in Action, Inc., where she conducted outreach and health prevention education for limited English proficient Vietnamese immigrants.
After getting her MPH from Tulane University, Tuyet spent many years working in a managerial role at the Chinese Mutual Aid Association (CMAA), which provides social services such as housing assistance, in-home care assistance, daycare programs and job support to the low-income refugee and immigrant community in Chicago. In the five years she worked for the CMAA, Tuyet managed both the in-home services and social services departments, spearheaded fundraising efforts, developed and managed the organization’s client relationship management database, and secured the enhanced rate from the Illinois Department on Aging, enabling the organization to provide health care to its 200+ homemaker employees.
In September 2018, Tuyet was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Vietnamese Association of Illinois (VAI). In this position, she helped to increase VAI’s operating budget from $4.2M to $5.6M, increasing revenue across all categories of revenue sources (individual, government, earned income, and foundation). Tuyet grew the team from 17 administrative staff to 25 administrative staff, which was nearly 50% growth across two office locations. Tuyet’s nominator writes: “Tuyet is a great example of how an education can help not only one person, but an entire community.”
The Alumni Appreciation Award honoree has performed a unique service or made a unique contribution to the Oberlin College Alumni Association.
Cynthia Brown ’74
Cynthia has served in a variety of roles for Oberlin College. For a cumulative 13 years (1998-2004, 2012-19), she was a member of the Trustee Search Committee. She was also Class President from 1992-96. Cynthia served on the Nominations Committee for five years and was on the Alumni Executive Board from 2007-11. She has also been a regional coordinator for decades, starting in 1989.
As a regional coordinator, she has planned numerous successful events, including concerts and performances, museum tours, admissions and networking events, and various educational opportunities, many with an emphasis on natural science and the environment. The Spring 2003 issue of the Oberlin Alumni Magazine demonstrates Cynthia’s enduring dedication to Oberlin–it says that Cynthia’s daughter grew up constantly in the presence of “all things Oberlin,” ultimately inspiring her to attend Oberlin herself (Kate Lansky ’03). Cynthia’s nominator writes, “Cindy Brown has shown great dedication and support for the Oberlin College community… She is such a tremendous asset to the community. She is thoughtful and just fun to work with. She exemplifies the Alumni Appreciation Award spirit.” It’s clear that Cynthia takes joy in volunteering for Oberlin.
In the February 2011 issue of the Oberlin Review, she is quoted calling Oberlin “a spa for the soul.” In her acceptance letter for this nomination, Cynthia shows deep humility in spite of her many achievements: “It feels a little odd, receiving a nomination for work that has always seemed to have brought me far more than I have given…Every time I leave after a weekend of work, and every time I come home after a regional event, I feel challenged all over again to be better and live better. It is all because of this place, and because of all of you. To be able to continue my association with this institution and this incredible community for decades after graduation has been the greatest gift.”
Nominations are to be submitted to the Offic eof Alumni Engagement by June 30, 2022. More information can be found via the below links: