Alumni Association Awards

Each year Wesleyan’s Alumni Association recognizes an extraordinary group of alumni and members of the Wesleyan community with Alumni Association Awards. These awards recognize individuals who have made remarkable contributions or achievements in their professions, their communities, or the creative arts. Traditionally presented at the Wesleyan Assembly and Annual Meeting during Reunion & Commencement Weekend, the awards this year are presented virtually by President Michael S. Roth ’78 in the below video as part of Virtual Reunion 2021. Congratulations to all of the esteemed recipients!

Distinguished Alumni Award

Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented to alumni in recognition of achievement in their professions. Awards are traditionally presented at the Wesleyan Assembly and Annual Meeting during Reunion & Commencement to alumni who are celebrating their class Reunion.


citation_W.jpg2021 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

  • Laurence M. Mark ’71

    Producer extraordinaire, you have garnered the industry’s most prestigious nominations and awards and the deep affection of your audiences. Name any handful of your iconic films: Dreamgirls, As Good as It Gets, Jerry Maguire, and watch smiles form as we remember the magic.

    Pitch perfect, you draw the deepest understanding of what it is to be human from your team. We love your films not only for what we saw, but for how they made us feel.

    Dubbed “Wesleyan’s first film major" - even before Wesleyan offered this - you have blazed a trail to the pinnacle of your field with brilliance, intelligence, and generosity, ever willing to return to alma mater to share your creative journey. For the exceptional richness and stature of your work in film and television, Wesleyan is honored to proclaim you a Distinguished Alumnus.

  • Christopher S. Weaver MALS ’75, CAS ’76

    Distinguished professor, you first arrived on campus nearly four decades ago, eager to pursue the unlikeliest of academic mashups: physics and computer science with Japanese ethnomusicology.

    With your flexible intellect and delight in cultivating interdisciplinary connections, you created the gaming art of the future, bringing the laws of physics onto a virtual gridiron, releasing players into infinite possibilities of true-to-life action. But games are also your potent tools, solving the puzzle of traumatized brains, teaching the next generation to make sense of their world.

    Practical intellectual and creative scholar-teacher, you are at home in both humanities and technology. Your students will be your legacy as you engage with them to forge their own unlikely connections across disciplines and to develop solutions in a future we never could have fathomed, for which Wesleyan is proud to proclaim you a Distinguished Alumnus.

  • Christopher J. Graves ’81, P’17

    “Combinatorial creativity,” making connections across disparate fields of study, is the superpower you honed at Wesleyan and brought to bear in the world. Rising to the top of two prestigious careers, you’ve embarked on a third most crucial one. Founder of the Ogilvy Center for Behavioral Science, you’ve become, through intensive research, a leader in the science of effective health communications.

    With a focus on vaccine hesitancy - and with clients that include the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and a major vaccine maker - it is your unique intelligence, curiosity, dedication, and scholarship that will allow researchers to provide key information in ways that constituents can hear, and in turn, make life-saving choices.

    For the combinatorial creativity you bring to this critical arena, Wesleyan is honored to proclaim you a Distinguished Alumnus.

  • Ellen R. Green ’81

    Artist, filmmaker, and writer, we saw your brilliant trajectory begin even before your honors thesis explored the 1920s discourse on African American art. In your prodigious oeuvre since, you have used different media to examine our perceptions and beliefs, offering conflicting yet simultaneous perspectives that challenge our concept of “otherness.”

    Critics have lauded your work as prescient and compelling. Mesmerized by your questions, visions, and insights, we follow you to find that, not only have you shown us this object, this building, this institution, but also you have brought us to a greater understanding of ourselves.

    For your groundbreaking work, your collaborations, your insights revealed and interwoven through installations, books, films, and art, Wesleyan is honored to proclaim you a Distinguished Alumna.

  • Spencer Phipps Boyer ’91

    If we rest easy on any given night, it is because you are one who is keeping a finger on the pulse of the world. Tapped to be the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe, you serve as a point person for NATO nations, strengthening bonds between allies and instilling confidence as you speak for our country.

    Specialist in public international law and the work of multinational organizations, you have honed your wisdom in legal matters around the world: The Hague, Zurich, and Paris all sites for your work. Prestigious media outlets seek your insight and commentary. Georgetown University, the Brookings Institution, the Obama administration, the Brennan Center for Justice - these and more have been beneficiaries of your leadership and teaching, your collegial spirit and rigorous intellect, your research and analysis of European and Eurasian affairs, Russian influence in Western democracies, and U.S. public diplomacy.

    In humble gratitude for your brilliance in service to our democracy and the unity of free nations, Wesleyan is proud to proclaim you a Distinguished Alumnus.

  • Candace C. Nelson ’96

    Pastry chef, entrepreneur, cookbook author, TV celebrity, and philanthropist, you began your career as an investment banker, a likely path for an economics major.

    Then, following a passion, you pivoted to the unexpected, creating Sprinkles, a single-item bakery at the height of the low-carb craze. Always an innovator, you’ve added cupcake ATMs, reality baking show hosting, and Neapolitan pizza to your repertoire. Your through-theme is commitment to quality products with investment in the community. In every Sprinkles locale, we find your philanthropy, established so it is uniquely geared to the needs of that region.

    For inspiring others with your entrepreneurial enthusiasm, fearless innovation, and mouthwatering success, and for always placing philanthropy as an essential ingredient in your business plan, Wesleyan is proud to proclaim you a Distinguished Alumna.

James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award

Established in 1959 by the class of 1936 in memory of James L. McConaughy Jr. '36, the James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award recognizes a member of the Wesleyan family (including students, faculty, alumni, parents and members of their respective families) whose writing or other creative achievement conveys unusual insight and understanding of current and past events.


citation_W.jpg2021 McConaughy Award Recipients

  • Bruce Eric Kaplan ’86

    Author, television writer, and producer of work that captures the zeitgeist; cartoonist whose drawings encapsulate our struggles in a single frame: we thank you for understanding us and for sharing your perspective on our lives. Your characters on screen and page mirror our secret anxieties: we live in unusually fraught times; we have reason to be insecure, life abounds with disappointments. Yet your art renews our courage and cheers us.

    Through pulling back the curtain on your own angst and ours, you bridge the isolation we have felt as sole keepers of these fears. Through cheerfully acknowledging our quite valid causes for pessimism, you tease out the charm and humor of our collective foibles.

    For your deep insight, your ability to render the ironic truths of modern life in ways that give us joy, Wesleyan is proud to bestow upon you the James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award.

  • Kirsten Kimberly Greenidge ’96

    Boston’s playwright laureate, you are prolific in your work, reaching the critically acclaimed heights of garnering both Obie and PEN/Laura Pels awards. With a focus on the complex intersection of race, class, and gender, you write at the place we stand in our history, in our hopes, and in our contemporary quandaries. You breathe your complicated characters into their life upon the stage with an honesty, a vibrancy that both delights us and challenges any pat response.

    As a writer-in-residence, you engage in dialogue, provide roles that offer multi–dimensionality for those previously overlooked, and provoke change in our core expectations. As a professor, you foster within the heart of each student a creative dynamic that reveals an indelible story of resilient characters.

    For your award-winning work that makes theater a life-enhancing experience, Wesleyan is honored to bestow upon you the James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award.

Outstanding Service Award

The Outstanding Service Award is presented to alumni, parents or other members of the Wesleyan community in recognition of outstanding volunteer service to the University, their community or the nation. Awards are traditionally presented at the Wesleyan Assembly and Annual Meeting during Reunion & Commencement Weekend. 


citation_W.jpg2021 Outstanding Service Award Recipients

  • Neil J. Clendeninn ’71 MD, PhD

    Class leader, physician, professor, pharmaceutical and biotech researcher, architect, lifelong learner: you are unique in your wide-ranging talents. Bold, committed undergraduate, your activism on behalf of Black students forged a firm path for those seeking a medical career, a legacy that endures in the annual award founded in your name. Brilliant, inspired researcher, your critical work helped transform AIDS into a treatable illness and continues to tame humanity’s scourges. Creative urban planner, your vision enriches the Hawaiian city of Lihue.

    Throughout all, your service to Wesleyan inspires us: class secretary through decades, you fostered our vital connections to each other and alma mater; trustee, your wisdom has girded University goals; Reunion planner, you’ve strengthened bonds through celebratory homecoming.

    Grounded in liberal arts and always with an eye to the future, your work is a source of pride and Wesleyan is honored to bestow on you the Outstanding Service Award.

  • David M. Rabban ’71

    A university can be only as strong and true as the people who nurture it. Your energy and service have fostered not only Wesleyan but also universities across our country.

    Friend and scholar, the voice of sound reason in any debate, your name is top-of-the-list when classmates seek a cohort to discuss matters of consequence. A former chair of the Alumni Association, ex-officio member of the Board, tireless contributor to committees that inform our governance, your good sense and deep affection for Wesleyan and its diverse constituents have helped to shape wisdom-driven actions across decades.

    Distinguished author and professor of law and legal scholar, your scholarship on the history of free speech and the law have helped reshape our understanding of the constitutional underpinnings we hold dear. Your extensive commitments to Wesleyan and the American Association of University Professors have demonstrated devotion to academic freedom and civil discourse throughout all institutions of higher education, and Wesleyan is honored to bestow upon you the Outstanding Service Award.

Check the Alumni Association Award website for recipients of the Wesleyan University Service Award.