2:31 p.m., Nov. 8, 2010----The newest recipients of the University of Delaware Presidential Citation for Outstanding Achievement awards were honored during a ceremony held Friday, Nov. 5, in the Roselle Center for the Arts, as part of Homecoming Weekend festivities.
For the first time since its inception in 1992, the Presidential Citation program recognized distinguished alumni from each of the University's seven colleges.
University President Patrick Harker, who was introduced by Monica Taylor, vice president for development and alumni relations, noted that fewer than 200 individuals have received the award that honors young UD alums for outstanding professional achievement and public service.
“This isn't an honor meant for the many. It's meant for the exceptional, and you are,” Harker said. “Your achievements are singular, but they bind you together in this very small fraternity.”
While the awards represent individual achievements, Harker noted that the Presidential Citations also reflect a University that stands for the kind of idea leadership that attracts talented students and the faculty who mentor and encourage them.
“There are several measures by which a university may judge its quality, including its faculty, its support, its research or its ranking, but the measure that has to carry the most weight is the men and women whom the University graduates,” Harker said. “I thank you for reflecting so well on your alma mater, both in your professional success and in your personal commitment to service. We are watching, and we can't wait to see what you do next.”
The honorees for 2010 are:
Katherine Boehret received her bachelor's degree in political science with a concentration in journalism and a minor Spanish in 2002. One of the most widely read journalists writing about personal technology, Boehret is a reporter in the Wall Street Journal office of columnist Walt Mossberg, whose weekly consumer technology review, the Mossberg Solution column, appears every Wednesday in the newspaper and on its website.
Boehret said that her career reflects the words from “The Road Less Traveled” by poet Robert Frost -- “Two roads diverged in and wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
“I was going to do what my family had encouraged me to do, and what my friends and mentors have encouraged me to do, and that is to take the tougher road,” Boehret said. “This means to do things that aren't easy, to do things that aren't always popular, and to do things to the best of your ability.”
Laura Byham-Gray, who earned a master's degree in food science and human nutrition in 1991, is affiliated with the School of Health Related Professions in the University of Dentistry and Medicine of New Jersey. Besides serving as an associate professor directing the school's master's degree program in clinical nutrition, Byham-Gray has contributed significant articles in professional journals and also co-edited Nutrition in Kidney Disease, and A Clinical Guide to Nutrition Care of Kidney Disease.
Byham-Gray said that being a college professor reminded her of the lines written by Pearl S. Buck -- “The secret joy in work is contained in one word -- excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.”
“I really wanted to help students in their careers and to serve as a mentor,” Byham-Gray said. “It's wonderful to see the families of the students on graduation day and to see them perform so well in their professional careers.”
Natalie Durrett Crawford, who received a bachelor's degree in animal science in 2000 at UD, is a veterinary anatomic pathologist who has spent the last two years as an associate anatomic pathologist at Covance Laboratories, Inc. Her work has been published in Veterinary Clinical Pathology and The Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
Speaking via video from her home in Ashburn, Va., where she is expecting the birth of her second child, Crawford said it was nice to know that after all this time she has made a lasting impression on the faculty at UD.
“I'm very appreciative to receive this award, and it is an honor to know that in some way I have given back to the University,” Crawford said. “I hope to be involved with the University and to give back to UD.”
Colmcille DeAscanis, who earned a bachelor's degree in civil and environmental engineering in 1996, serves as president and CEO of CDA Engineering. He also has established a scholarship to assist students in the College of Engineering.
“What I like about UD is the chance to work with others,” DeAscanis said. “You can do great things, but you can't do them without help from others, and the University has been great at that.”
David Elkins, who received a bachelor's degree in economics in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics in 1991, is executive vice president and chief financial officer of Becton Dickinson Co., where he is responsible for executive management and oversight of the company's global financial operations. A mentor of students in the college's Executive Mentors-Scholars program, Elkins spearheaded the establishment of the Healthy HENS student wellness program by securing a $75,000 gift from AstraZeneca. He also is co-founder of UD's Walter Stark Scholarship, which provides financial assistance for Delaware residents in need.
“I came to UD not really knowing what career I was going to take. I had no idea I was going to go into economics and become a CFO of a company someday,” Elkins said. “One of the things that UD in general, and in particular the professors in the economics department did, was give me a thirst for learning. This is an institution that does everything to support the undergraduate students, and giving back to the University is the most rewarding thing.”
Perri Freeman, who earned her bachelor's degree in educational studies and English in 1993, is vice president of marketing and communications for the J.P. Morgan Investment Bank. She also serves on the board for the International YMCA of Greater New York and is the communications chair for UD's New York City Alumni Club.
“I credit UD for guiding me in my career path. From academics to sorority life to studying abroad, the University provided me with experiences that helped shape me and my commitment to the community,” Freeman said. “I am so glad to be able to return the favor by my continued involvement with the alumni.”
Nicholas Vrolijk, who received master's and doctoral degrees in marine studies in 1988 and 1992, respectively, is vice president for manufacturing operations at Celenge Corp., where he is responsible for technical operations and the successful commercial launch of Istodax, a non-Hodgkins lymphoma drug.
“As many of you know, you are not really sure where you are going in terms of career, or where your interests will lie,” Vrolijk said. “It was under Dean Nancy Targett's direction where I truly became inspired to follow a path in marine biology and chemistry. It led to a tremendous relationship where she has served as my mentor and now as a long-time colleague and friend.”
The ceremony concluded with a reception for the honorees and their guests in the gardens of the Roselle Center for the Arts.
Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos by Kathy Atkinson