Congratulations to the 2022 Alumni Award Recipients. These nine alumni were honored by the Macalester community at the Grand Celebration: An All Alumni Celebration at Reunion 2022, June 4, 2022.
Young Alumni Award
The Young Alumni Award recognizes 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.
Catharine 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 the community.
At a museum in Medford, Massachusetts, Kyera Singleton ’11 is centering enslaved people’s stories—and connecting their histories to the current movement for racial justice.
Kyera is the executive director of the Royall House and Slave Quarters, the only known freestanding structure where enslaved people lived in the northern United States. During the pandemic, her innovative leadership included creating virtual events to bring the museum to new audiences.
Kyera views her work as “anything but neutral,” writes her nominator. “Her museum asks audiences to reflect deeply on uncomfortable truths, and to question firmly held cultural assumptions.” She emphasizes enslaved people’s humanity and resilience by highlighting acts of resistance and moments of joy and pleasure.
In a recent Macalester Today article, Kyera said, “You have to center Black people as political agents in their own history. We have always fought for our own freedom, and everyone else’s, and continue to do so today.”
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.”
“James Cummings ’86 is a fiercely effective advocate for promoting education across borders,” writes his nominator. “He has been a teacher in rural Kenya, a teacher and international bridge-builder in the US, and the founder of a critical African educational initiative—using his own resources and creativity.”
Cummings founded Kijana Educational Empowerment Initiative in 2002. The US- and Kenya-based educational nonprofit has invested in more than 30 schools in Kenya and opened its first independent school, the Kijana Global Innovation School, in 2020.
“My aims with Kijana are not only to assist and build schools in Kenya, but to develop cross-cultural connections and advance American schools and culture.” Cummings says. “While the US is advanced in technology, we have much to learn from older, perhaps more socially advanced cultures. In sharing resources, experiences, and ideas, Kenyans and Americans can together advance human society.”
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.
For nearly forty years, Carol Runyan ’72 has worked in the public health discipline of injury and violence prevention. She is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina, Gillings School of Global Public Health
After having founded and led the renowned UNC Injury Prevention Center for over two decades, Runyan founded the Program for Injury Prevention, Education and Research at the University of Colorado.
Throughout, Runyan says she has taken great joy in helping students “learn principles of public health and injury prevention as a way to fulfill their dreams of making the world better through both research and practice.”
Her work has proven the life-saving impact of smoke detectors and included core research in home safety and young worker safety, as well as the prevention of violence, suicide, and drug abuse.
“We in public health can’t ever know which specific people we helped,” she says, “but as one school of public health puts it, ‘We save lives, millions at a time.’”
Before each basketball practice, Brian Cosgriff ’83 huddled his team together and reminded them to “never become satisfied.” He told them: “Always work to be your best on the court, in the classroom, and in your life.”
Cosgriff models those values, devoting his career to teaching elementary school physical education and coaching high school basketball. Cosgriff built the Hopkins Girls Basketball Program into “one of the most premier high school programs in the country,” writes his nominator, with 50 players continuing on to collegiate, professional, and Olympic basketball. Others became doctors, nurses, lawyers, and military officers.
“I love how my players have gone on to do amazing things in their lives—not only with their careers, but with their families,” Cosgriff says. “Seeing them use the skills and work ethic that they learned through playing basketball brings me joy.”
After college, Damian Anthony Vraniak ’72 wrote to university faculty nationwide in hopes of helping with some of the top research on parenting.
“My passion and gift was engaging children,” he says.
Following a doctorate in psychology from Vanderbilt University, Vraniak went on to substantially impact the nurturing of American Indian children and families, from preschool programming to doctoral-level training.
Vraniak’s many accomplishments include designing and directing one of the first gifted programs for American Indian public school students; writing the first $1 million grant to study emotional development in American Indian children, which helped jump-start a prestigious national mental health center; beginning an annual international gathering of American Indian and Alaska Native psychologists and graduate students, now in its 35th year; and designing a unique, culturally-based environmental education program.
“Damian has invariably served others first,” writes his nominator. “He has worked tirelessly to foster the health and well-being of American Indian and Alaska Native children and their families.”
Rosalind Santos Moldwin ’57 dreamt of becoming a doctor. “I enjoy working for the good of families and communities,” she says.
After marrying and having three children, she applied for medical school. But the interviewers told Moldwin that her age disqualified her.
Moldwin didn’t give up. She enrolled in a physician assistant program and worked to empower the role. In Michigan and Connecticut, governors appointed Moldwin to the first state licensing boards for physician assistants. She helped define the accreditation of physician assistants, including their ability to write prescriptions.
Born in the Philippines, Moldwin served as president of Macalester’s Cosmopolitan Club, promoting friendship between US and international students. Her leadership continued to shine at Hartford Seminary and as director of religious education at First Congressional Church in Austin, Minn.
“Rosalind has exhibited her Mac values by not letting her race, sex, or age stop her from accomplishing much throughout her life,” her nominator writes. “She has touched many lives for the better.”
After co-founding Macalester’s mock trial team as a first-year student, Toby Heytens ’97 pursued a distinguished law career, including clerking for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, teaching law at the University of Virginia, serving as solicitor general of Virginia, and arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Macalester’s values of civic commitment and social justice have defined Toby’s career,” writes his nominator. “He defended Virginia’s decision to remove statues of Confederate war figures, a job at which he succeeded.”
In 2021, President Biden nominated Heytens to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Senate confirmed his nomination in November.
“My first job after law school was as a law clerk to a federal court of appeals judge,” Heytens says. “That job changed my life, and I treasure the thought of getting the chance to play a similar role in other people’s lives.”
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. Awardees were nominated and selected by Macalester staff.
As much as Burke Strickland ’69 values his college geography courses, he’s quick to clarify that the sum of his Macalester education was much broader, with many layers added through civic engagement, cultural events, and opportunities around campus.
He applies the same big-picture lens to his dedication to the global Mac community. Over the years, Strickland has fostered connections by planning and hosting regional chapter events in Texas and mentoring students in their academic work and career exploration. Most recently, he inspired a Big Questions program audience with his Macalester story, and facilitated a strategic planning listening session. Beyond his extensive Macalester engagement, Strickland—who concluded his career at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center—is active in Houston organizations and an avid traveler.
“Burke is a true champion for the college—he is always thinking of ways to connect alumni across generations, with the goal of building a stronger community,” writes his nominator. “He’s an amazing volunteer and ambassador for Macalester.”