These nine alumni were nominated by their peers, selected by the Alumni Board, and honored by the Macalester community with Alumni Awards on Saturday, June 3, 2017.
Distinguished Citizen Award
The Distinguished Citizen Award recognizes alumni who have exercised leadership in civic, social, religious, and professional activities. It is given because the Macalester community believes that a college education should be the training and inspiration for unselfish and effective service to the community, the nation, and the world. Recipients demonstrate a practical acceptance of these obligations in their lives and work.
Edwin Andersen ’57 graduated from Macalester with a passion for history and a job offer to teach it. Just before he started work, though, plans changed: Andersen’s principal needed him to teach math instead.
That changed assignment launched an extraordinary career in math education, and today Andersen’s legacy stretches beyond the thousands of children he taught himself. Over four decades at Minneapolis Public Schools and the University of Minnesota, where he completed a PhD in math education, Andersen changed how students engage with math. He helped shift instruction from traditional exercises to broader problem-solving, emphasizing adopting new technology. “When I started teaching in 1957, you’d put the algebraic rule on the board and ask students to memorize it,” he says. “But the world changes. We have to move forward.”
Funded by National Science Foundation grants and other support, Andersen helped prepare more than 1,000 teachers to teach comprehensive math programs. He also studied how effective new methods were, building a database with 10,000 students and then tracking their performance at 35 colleges. Andersen co-authored eight books on bringing Apple and Macintosh computers and graphing calculators into the classroom. He led Minneapolis to be the first major city to include instructional computing in all secondary schools. Outside the classroom, he co-founded Minnesota’s Math League for high-schoolers and taught at Macalester’s Twin Cities Institute for Talented Youth for 25 years.
“On the stage of math education, Ed is a star: an innovator and a consummate professional, reaching out with boundless creative energy to a broad audience and beloved by his students and colleagues,” writes his nominator. “Ed is a model of Macalester scholarship, dedication, service, and outreach.”
In 1963, Yuko Nii’s arrival on campus marked the Japanese transfer student’s first time in the United States.
The transition wasn’t easy, but Nii found a home in Mac’s art department, thanks to painting professor Jerry Rudquist, who became a dear mentor. Nii says, “One day he told me, ‘I will give you a big canvas, and you can paint whatever you want.’ I was liberated! That canvas opened up a new world.”
After graduation, Nii enrolled in the Pratt Institute’s graduate program in painting. Then she outgrew the studio set up in her New York City living room. She bought a brick building upstate that needed renovation, which she tackled almost entirely with her own design and labor. In search of the ideal studio location, she bought, renovated, and sold additional properties. With each sale’s revenue, Nii began dreaming of creating her own foundation someday. Her painting career flourished, with her work appearing in many museums and galleries. In 1986 Nii found a bigger loft in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, which was shedding its dangerous reputation and becoming an international artists community.
Identifying the neighborhood’s need for exhibition and performance spaces, she bought a historic building. In 1996 she opened the nonprofit Williamsburg Art & Historical (WAH) Center.
The center’s mission to build bridges among diverse artistic communities is reflected even in its name: In Japanese, wah means harmony, peace, and unity. Nii’s accolades include being named New York State’s Woman of the Year and honored by then-governor George Pataki as a “Woman of Excellence with Vision and Courage.” More recently, Pratt Institute celebrated her illustrious legacy as an artist, philanthropist, and innovator.
Dziwe Ntaba is an emergency physician and global health practitioner who has devoted his life’s work to serving where the need is greatest.
While a graduate student at Harvard, Ntaba befriended classmate Deogratias Niyizonkiza. The two would go on to found Village Health Works (VHW), which serves an impoverished rural community in post-conflict Burundi.
After completing his training in emergency medicine and global health, Ntaba set out to help bring dignified health care to Burundi, which faces some of the world’s most challenging health problems. He lived and worked on site to help establish the clinic, and now serves on the VHW board.
The clinic’s story is told in Tracy Kidder’s 2009 book Strength in What Remains. After 10 years of operation, VHW provides not only quality healthcare, but also delivers hydroelectric and solar power, and programs in education, economic development, and sustainable farming. Through this work, VHW has been widely recognized as achieving successful community-driven, peace-building outcomes that serve as a stabilizing influence in the region. VHW is now beginning construction on a 120-bed teaching hospital.
Ntaba has also served on the clinical faculty at Columbia University, New York University, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and has developed a clinical practice at several large U.S. urban teaching hospitals.
When Ebola struck West Africa, Ntaba joined the emergency response for over a year as training program director with the International Medical Corps in Liberia. For their “tireless acts of courage and mercy,” Time magazine chose the collective group of Ebola fighters as their Person of the Year in 2014.
Today Ntaba works at the U.S.’s oldest public hospital, Bellevue in New York.
Paul Schendel retired as vice president at Wyeth after a successful career in pharmaceutical research and development, during which he led teams of scientists in the development of products used in the treatment of cancer and blood disorders.
After retiring, Schendel and his wife Jessica spent several months as volunteers with an NGO that runs schools in Kanungu, a remote community in western Uganda. During the course of their work, they found that the region had almost no native doctors, engineers, or other professionals whose careers required a foundation in science. Before they left, Schendel proposed creating a science department at the local college, which initiated discussions with community leaders.
The Schendels wanted to be sure that “we were doing something that the people of rural Uganda wanted and needed rather than something that we thought they should want.” These conversations identified the lack of high quality science teachers as the primary obstacle for young people seeking to pursue science careers. Therefore, they determined that a science education department was needed, and the vision of the Science Education to Enhance Development, or SEED Institute, was born.
In 2011, the SEED project was launched. Money was raised; a building was designed and built; a director was hired; and in August 2015 the institute was opened. Thirty-two students are enrolled in the institute’s first class, with a goal of 60 new students per year in the future.
Schendel has led the project since its inception and now serves as international director of the SEED Institute. He continues to raise money and provide guidance for the Institute.
Gail Mastenbrook Schoenfelder is disinclined to sit by when she perceives a need. After Macalester, she served with VISTA in Pittsburgh, providing after-school enrichment for underserved African American girls and educating renters about their rights. She then married Patrick Schoenfelder ’68 and went on to earn a master’s degree in speech and language pathology, helping children as young as three to develop intelligible speech and age-appropriate communication skills.
In her 50s, Schoenfelder retired from speech pathology and engaged full time with issues of justice. In 1999, she was inspired by plans for a rally against gun violence to take place in Washington, D.C. Soon she had organized the regional Million Moms March group, which held a successful rally at home in Duluth, sent a busload of people to the Washington march, and continues to advocate for public policy addressing gun violence.
For nine years she served on the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial board, which developed a memorial to three African American men who were hanged in Duluth by a mob in 1920, having been falsely accused of rape. She now serves on the committee that awards a scholarship to a high school senior committed to social justice.
A longtime member of Duluth’s League of Women Voters, Schoenfelder has championed voter rights, organized candidate forums, and served in many capacities, including that of president.
Since 2010, Schoenfelder has served on Duluth’s Trafficking Task Force, raising awareness of trafficking and sexual exploitation and raising funds for the emergency needs of victims and survivors.
Her many accomplishments have been recognized with awards by organizations from the St. Louis County Commissioners to the YWCA. To this we proudly add Macalester’s Distinguished Citizen award.
Young Alumni Award
The purpose of the Young Alumni Award is to recognize alumni who have graduated in the past 15 years. This award pays tribute to those who are making an effective contribution to the communities in which they live, or moving forward rapidly in their careers, and living the kind of unselfish, caring life for which their Macalester education prepared them.
Although in his first year at Macalester, Ben Pederson ’07 didn’t know he’d become a doctor, he was already interested in global health. Fast forward a dozen years and Pederson is a family medicine resident in Portland, Oregon, gearing up for a career combining his interests in global health and treating underserved populations.
It was a freshman year medical anthropology course with Professor Sonia Patten that Pederson found “incredibly impactful,” sparking his desire to pursue medicine. That led to him earning a biology degree, during which time he was mentored by Professor Paul Overvoorde. After his first year of medical school, Pederson spent the summer in Tanzania working with USAID on a child health program, and upon his return organized fellow medical students to support small-scale public health initiatives in Peru, Uganda, and Tanzania.
While in medical school at the University of Minnesota, Pederson was selectedfor two honors: to be one of two participants in a program called MetroPAP, designed to help the underserved urban community of North Minneapolis; and as a winner of an NIH Fogarty Clinical Research Scholars fellowship working with tuberculosis diagnosis in Kenya.
While in Kenya, Pederson also began helping a small NGO called Organic Health Response, based on an island in Lake Victory. He has continued to work with the organization ever since and plans to continue doing so “for years to come,” assisting them with their vision of community resilience and health, which includes such diverse areas as sustainable farming practices and HIV education.
Alumni Service Award
The Alumni Service Award is presented to alumni of Macalester whose significant service and consistent loyalty to the college has set an outstanding example of volunteerism.
When Julie Lehnhoff made her way from Greybull, Wyoming, to St. Paul in 1993, there were more students at Macalester from Zimbabwe than there were from her sparsely populated Western state.
But the determined young woman knew what she wanted from a college—a prelaw curriculum, Model UN and mock trial teams, among other things. Thus “Macalester had a tremendous impact on who I became,” she says. “Not just in academic studies but because it fostered within me a desire to participate in community service, fight for social justice, and travel internationally, and it opened my eyes to the wider world around me.”
As a San Francisco lawyer and former U.S. senate and nonprofit staffer, Zhu has done all that and more. Determined to help other young people enjoy the same stellar academic experience, Zhu has spent the last decade as a hard-working volunteer and cheerleader for her alma mater.
According to her nominator, associate alumni director Daymond Dean, Zhu has “generously given her time to support any Mac venture that has come to the Bay area,” helping organize many events and activities for alumni in the area.
She was the sole Bay Area chapter contact before recently recruiting some help, served two terms on the Alumni Board between 2009 and 2015, works as an Annual Fund Class Agent, is serving on her fourth Reunion planning committee, and has participated in several alumni trips around the world.
“Julie always answers the call to volunteer for Mac,” says Dean, “and exemplifies the ultimate engaged Macalester alumnus.”
Charles J. Turck Global Citizen Award
The Charles J. Turck Global Citizen Award honors the legacy of Charles J. Turck, president of Macalester College from 1939 to 1958. Lawyer, educator, social activist, internationalist, and churchman, President Turck championed internationalism throughout his tenure. This award recognizes alumni who have advanced the spirit of internationalism and lived up to the exhortation, “to be a worthy son or daughter of Macalester, you must listen to your hopes and not your fears.”
At Macalester, Jane Lucas ’67 volunteered with children through a program run by Chaplain J. Maxwell Adams. That work piqued her interest in global health, though she never expected to travel far. “Macalester introduced the world to me and sparked a desire to travel, live, and work abroad,” Lucas says.
Today the social psychologist and public health educator is internationally recognized for designing methods and materials to help families all over the world promote healthy child development. Bringing together innovative vision, compassion, and a cross-cultural mindset, her efforts have improved services for children at risk for malnutrition, poor health, and delayed development.
Over more than 30 years, she has implemented global child health programs, mainly for the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Her latest project is the WHO and UNICEF intervention Care for Child Development, an approach to improve a parents’ responsiveness to support children’s psychosocial development and health. In the past year alone, the global program has been shaped by Lucas’s work in Iran, Lebanon, Barbados, Belize, and Brazil. “Each new experience expands my understanding of how to adapt our work to places where health, education, disability, and child protection services are limited,” she says.
The number of children, families, and countries reached by Lucas’s work is impossible to quantify. “Her work is affecting today’s young children caught in cycles of poverty,” writes her nominator. “But more broadly, it will improve healthy child development among successive generations of tomorrow’s children all over the world.”
Catherine Lealtad, Class of 1915, Service to Society Award
The Catharine Lealtad Service to Society Award is given to alumni of color who have used their education to distinguish themselves in service to community.
In winning the Catharine Lealtad Service to Society Award, Michael Curry ’91 has come full circle. As a student in the late 1980s, he was a Catharine Lealtad Scholarship winner, an award that he acknowledges provided him with much-needed financial assistance.
While at Macalester, where he majored in communications, Curry was president of the Black Liberation Affairs Committee (BLAC). In that role he successfully advocated for an increase in the college’s student of color population and led an effort to have students help with recruitment. “That experience taught me that as you challenge institutions, it is always more persuasive to come with solutions and a willingness to help address the issue,” he says.
Since graduation, Curry has continued his commitment to the causes of diversity and civil rights. In 2010 he was elected president of the Boston chapter of the NAACP, and was reelected in two subsequent elections. In 2014 he was elected to the group’s National Board of Directors—the first representative from the New England area in many years.
Professionally, after earning a law degree, Curry worked on landmark health care reform as a senior policy adviser for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and today works as legislative affairs director for the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers.
“Michael has used his Macalester education and experiences to make a difference in civil rights and health care,” says nominator Dr. Jo-Elle E. H. Mogerman ’92. “As a volunteer he is involved in the critical issues of our time—police-involved shootings, repairing the Voting Rights Act, fighting for quality public education, and ending mass incarceration.”