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Honoring Distinguished Alumni

Northwestern Alumni Awards recognize achievement, service to the University

View extended profiles of the 2013 honorees.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Together, Patrick G. Ryan, a Northwestern University Life Trustee, and Shirley Welsh Ryan were given the Alumni Medal, the top award bestowed by the Northwestern Alumni Association (NAA), during its annual awards ceremony that brought together more than 300 alumni, faculty, administrators, family and friends.

Twenty-one others received Alumni Merit, Service, Emerging Leader and Achievement awards at the 80th annual Alumni Awards ceremony held March 2 at the Standard Club in Chicago.

Since 1932, the NAA has honored alumni who have distinguished themselves as outstanding professional and personal achievers in their fields and who have loyally dedicated their time and service to Northwestern. This year’s award recipients have earned acclaim in business, law, filmmaking, medicine, engineering, higher education and philanthropy.

In his opening remarks, University President Morton Schapiro thanked the award recipients for their impressive contributions to the world and to Northwestern.

The awards were presented by Chris Martin, college football analyst for the Big Ten Network and a 1996 School of Communication alumnus. Welcoming addresses were given by Dan Jones, president of the NAA and a 1961 Business alumnus, and Catherine L. Stembridge, associate vice president for Northwestern University Alumni Relations and Development who received a graduate degree from the School of Communication in 2000.


Patrick G. Ryan: BBA, Kellogg School of Management, 1959; Honorary, 2009; Life Trustee

Shirley Welsh Ryan: BA, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, 1961

Patrick G. Ryan and Shirley Welsh Ryan were honored with the Alumni Medal, the mark of highest distinction granted to a Northwestern alumnus or alumna for attaining superior professional distinction and/or exemplary volunteer service to society, with an outstanding record of service to Northwestern University.

"What Pat and Shirley Ryan care about is excellence,” President Morton Schapiro said. “They believe the very best of what we can achieve at Northwestern is what we should aspire to.”

The Ryans have been extraordinary donors to Northwestern for many years, providing leadership and support for academic programs, scholarships, the construction of Northwestern’s nanotechnology center, Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and the renovation of Northwestern’s football and basketball stadiums. They recently made the lead gift in support of Northwestern’s athletics campaign. In honor of their gift, a new multi-use athletics and recreational facility will be named the Ryan Fieldhouse.

An earlier major gift from the Ryans created scholarships for low-income students to attend Northwestern without taking out student loans, which has enabled Northwestern to attract high-achieving low-income students with exceptional leadership potential. That gift also supported graduate fellowships and facilities on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses and provided athletic scholarships for undergraduate students.

Pat Ryan is a 1959 graduate of the Kellogg School of Management (then known as the School of Business). He is distinguished as one of Chicago’s most successful entrepreneurs and prominent civic leaders. He founded and served for 41 years as CEO of Aon Corporation, the leading global provider of risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage. At the time of his retirement, Aon had $8 billion in annual revenue with more than 500 offices in 120 countries. He also founded Ryan Specialty Group where he currently serves as CEO.

A member and immediate past chairman of Northwestern University’s Board of Trustees, Pat Ryan is a member of the International Insurance Hall of Fame. In 2008, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society, reflecting his many contributions to higher education. Mr. Ryan led Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics.

Shirley Ryan is a 1961 graduate of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. She is chair of and serves on the executive committee or on the board of directors of: the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the University of Notre Dame, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Alain Locke Charter Academy. Shirley has been appointed by two U.S. presidents to the President’s National Council on Disability and has served as chairman of the Chicago Community Trust. She founded and directs Northwestern University’s invitational graduate level Learning for Life series and has been a charter member of Northwestern's Women’s Board since 1978.

ALUMNI MERIT AWARDS were given to 12 alumni for high achievement in a profession or field of endeavor. Recipients, chosen by the schools they attended, are as follows:

Geraldine M. Alexis: MM, Kellogg School of Management, 1976; JD, School of Law, 1976

Alexis is a partner at Perkins Coie LLP in San Francisco with a specialty in antitrust counseling and litigation. She has conducted several bench and jury trials and handled high-profile merger cases. She also represents clients before the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and state antitrust enforcement agencies in mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and other government antitrust investigations.

Lisa M. Caputo: MSJ, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, 1987

As an executive vice president of The Travelers Companies Inc., Caputo oversees all marketing, communications, research and brand management strategies and operations, as well as crafting and guiding the company’s message and positioning. Prior to Travelers, she held executive leadership positions at the Walt Disney Company, the CBS Corporation and Citigroup. She also served as deputy assistant to President Bill Clinton and press secretary to First Lady Hillary Clinton before serving as senior advisor to Hillary’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Steven J. Corwin: BSM, Feinberg School of Medicine, 1977; MD, Feinberg School of Medicine, 1979

Corwin is chief executive officer of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where he started his internal medicine residency and cardiology training in 1979 and has worked ever since. He develops the hospital’s capital and fundraising plan, advocates for academic medicine under health care reform and collaborates with the hospital’s medical school partners and health care system. Key accomplishments under his leadership include improvements in quality and safety, improved patient and employee satisfaction and a top-six national ranking for the hospital.

Lonnie E. Haefner: BA, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, 1963; PhD, Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, 1970

Haefner is a tenured full professor emeritus at Washington University, where he built a comprehensive program of courses and a research program. He also maintains a full-time practice as president of L.E. Haefner Enterprises, Inc., a corporation involved in the study, financing and marketing of transportation engineering and real estate development capital-intensive projects. The company also provides investment advisory and governmental affairs consultation.

David R. Harris: BSED, School of Education and Social Policy, 1991; PhD, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, 1997

Harris has a distinguished career in the field of sociology. A professor at Cornell University, he also served as Cornell’s interim provost, deputy provost, vice provost for social sciences and founding director of the Institute for the Social Sciences. From March 2010 to July 2011, he served as deputy assistant secretary of human services policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2012, he began his position as provost and senior vice president at Tufts University. Harris has written numerous articles on poverty and class, and racial and ethnic disparities.

Therese Spencer Hesser: BPh, School of Continuing Studies, 1985

Hesser, a writer, director and producer, is currently producing the documentary series “Islands Without Cars.” Her novel, “Kissing Doorknobs,” was selected as Best of 1998 by the American and New York Library associations. Her screenplay, “Till Death Do Us Part,” won first place in the Christopher Columbus Writing Competition and was optioned and developed at New Line Cinema. Hesser received Cardinal Bernardin’s Professional Excellence Award for Best Single Television Program in 1995 and won the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Gold Award in dramatic narrative category for “Protect Yourself,” a program teaching 11-year-olds how to prevent HIV infection.

Garry Mathiason: BS, School of Communication, 1968

Mathiason serves as chairman of the board of Littler Mendelson, a law firm he helped grow from a half dozen to more than 1,000 labor and employment attorneys worldwide. He is a class action litigator who oversees the Littler Corporate Compliance and Ethics Practice Group and founded the Contingent Workforce Practice Group. Ranked among the 100 most influential attorneys in America by National Law Journal, he helps disadvantaged young people through participation with The National Association of Urban Debate Leagues.

Efrat Peled: MBA, Kellogg School of Management, 2005

Peled is chairman and CEO of Arison Investments, a privately owned global investment company, and the CEO of the Shari Arison Family Office with combined assets of approximately $5 billion and a commitment to high financial returns and value-driven practices that are environmentally and socially responsible. With 27,000 employees in 38 countries across five continents, Arison Investments seeks values-based business solutions to universal human needs including food and water supply as well as advanced and sustainable infrastructure development.

Daniel H. Pink: BA, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, 1986

Pink, named one of the most influential business thinkers in the world by Harvard Business Review, is the author of five best-selling books about work and business. His latest book, “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others,” is about persuasion. Pink’s provocative ideas about what motivates people to high achievement in an information-loaded, automated age can be found in his books, “Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us” and “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.” Pink also worked as chief speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore from 1995 to 1997.

Larry B. Salzmann: DDS, The Dental School, 1979

Salzmann is a clinical professor and predoctoral program director in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s department of pediatric dentistry. Previously, he was on the faculty at Northwestern’s Dental School where he was honored with the Senior Class Outstanding Faculty Award every year from 1993 to 2000. Providing dentistry to people who might not be able to afford care is also important to Salzmann, who has worked to reduce oral health disparities in underserved populations.

Barbara L. Schneider: PhD, School of Education and Social Policy, 1979
Committed to helping those who start their lives at a social or economic disadvantage, Schneider is an educational researcher whose work has been instrumental in advancing the educational and job prospects of the nation’s youth. Her research has investigated how schools can reduce the achievement gap among students of different backgrounds, studied parental involvement in education and encouraged more students to pursue education and careers in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Today, Schneider is a professor at Michigan State University and a senior fellow at the Center for Advancing Research and Communication in STEM.

Genevieve F. Thiers: MMus, Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, 2004

Thiers is an accomplished opera singer and the entrepreneur behind, the first U.S. company to take caregiving services online. With background checks, references and reviews, the service has helped parents find babysitters and nannies since 2001 and has millions of users internationally. She also co-founded OperaModa, an opera company in Chicago that produces modern American operas, showcases young talent and has hired more than 300 performers, as well as ContactKarma, a social recommendation engine that lists business vendors with client ratings.

The SERVICE TO SOCIETY AWARD recognizes the exceptional advancement of causes or ideas that improve society. This year’s award was presented to Kevin Salwen (BS, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, 1979) and Joan King Salwen (BA, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, 1982).

In 2008, the Salwens sold their home and moved into a smaller home, in the process donating approximately $800,000 to the Hunger Project to help more than 20,000 villagers in Ghana build a brighter future for themselves. With their teenage daughter, who urged them to embark on the philanthropic project, Kevin Salwen wrote the best-selling book, “The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back.” The Salwens also helped build The Power of Half Schools Initiative to help inner-city middle and high school students recognize their power to change their trajectories. From 1981 to 2000, Kevin Salwen was a reporter, columnist and editor at The Wall Street Journal. Joan Salwen served as a business consultant for Fortune 100 clients in the U.S. and Europe and as the senior partner responsible for major accounts for Accenture. After 20 years with Accenture, she left to earn a teaching degree. Today, she is interim head of the Atlanta Girls’ School and works as a volunteer.

ALUMNI SERVICE AWARDS are given in recognition of outstanding service to the University. This year’s recipients included:

Peter M. Johnson: BA, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, 1971; MS, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, 1972

Johnson has served on the Northwestern Alumni Association’s Board of Directors since 2002 and helped establish the association’s first website. He is also a member of the Northwestern and Medill Clubs of New York and founding advisor to the Northwestern Startup Society of New York. He has co-chaired the NAA career and networking, communications, technology and young alumni committees.

Carolyn Krulee: MSED, School of Education and Social Policy, 1969

Krulee has been director at large, student committee member and membership committee co-chair of the Northwestern Alumni Association. She also has served in a variety of roles for the Northwestern Alumnae Board, University Circle and the Northwestern Settlement House. While earning her degree at Northwestern, Krulee worked full time, raised her daughter and developed programs that promoted education.

Jonathan A. Rosen: BA, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, 1981

Rosen serves as vice chair of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Board of Visitors. He was also co-chair and co-founder of the New York Regional Council for the Northwestern University Leadership Circle giving society. Rosen and his wife host an annual informational event for New York-area alumni with children about to go through the college admission process.

Robert Shaw: BS, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, 1970; MM, Kellogg School of Management, 1981

Charlene Heuboski Shaw: BA, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, 1970

The Shaws helped start the Northwestern-Chicago Botanic Garden graduate program in plant biology and conservation. They also support the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern’s School of Communication and served on the Sheil Catholic Center Advisory Board. Charlene Shaw is a member of the Northwestern Alumnae Board and the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Board of Visitors. Robert Shaw is on the advisory boards of McCormick, the Farley Center, InNUvation and NUvention medical and chairs the Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board.

The 2013 EMERGING LEADER AWARD, which recognizes an alumnus or alumna for making a significant impact in his or her profession and/or community by the age of 35, was presented to Howard Warren Buffett, who earned a BS from the School of Communication in 2006.

Buffett has made a name for himself both in public service and philanthropy, appearing in 2011 on Forbes magazine’s “Names You Need to Know” list and Fast Company magazine’s “Who’s Next in Innovative Thinkers” list. He is the executive director of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, working with his father as they revise the organization’s philanthropic strategy around global food security. From 2010 to 2011, he worked for the U.S. Department of Defense as a program director, focusing on agriculture value-chain development in Afghanistan and Iraq. He received the Joint Civilian Service Commendation Award, the highest civilian honor presented by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Previously, he served in the White House as a policy advisor to the Domestic Policy Council. He co-authored and directed the implementation of President Obama’s cross-sector partnership strategy, aimed at improving partnership with local governments, corporations, nonprofits and foundations.

The Grant Goodrich Achievement Award recognizes one outstanding individual who, although not a graduate of Northwestern, greatly enhances the University through his or her accomplishments, commitment and service. This year’s award recipient is Ann Lurie whose philanthropic devotion to Northwestern has included endowing the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, enabling the construction of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital), establishing a professorship in cancer cell biology at Children’s Memorial Hospital of Chicago and professorships in breast cancer research and oncology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She also gave a generous gift to establish Northwestern’s Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center, a 12-story building with lecture auditoriums and laboratories that accommodate more than 1,000 researchers, technicians, postdoctoral students and lab assistants. A Life Member of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees and chairman of the Cancer Center advisory board, Lurie also was appointed an adjunct assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern in 2010. 

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