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UDAA Award Winners 2018
UDAA President Steven C. Beattie (left) and UD President Dennis Assanis (second from right) on stage with award recipients (from left) Kenneth C. Jones, Mary Ann Hangen Blair, Laura K. Donohue, Zachary A. Sexton, Marie E. Pinizzotto and Donna M. Fontana.

UDAA Awards ceremony

Photo by Evan Krape

UD Alumni Association celebrates the achievement of proud Blue Hens

As accomplished Blue Hens gathered at the University of Delaware Alumni Association (UDAA) Awards and recounted the University of Delaware experiences that shaped them, they kept coming back to the same word: home.

“Delaware is no longer a university or a campus to me — it is now my home, where I have family and friends and faculty members that have helped me get where I am today,” said Laura K. Donohue, a member of the Class of 2018 and recipient of the UDAA Emalea Pusey Warner Award, which she earned after creating her own opportunities to pursue animal science research on campus as well as abroad. In May, she received an honors bachelor’s degree with distinction in preveterinary and animal biosciences.

During Alumni Weekend festivities on Saturday, June 2, Donohue was among the Blue Hens recognized at a UDAA Awards ceremony in Gore Recital Hall. The celebration honored the male and female recipients of the Warner and Taylor Awards for Outstanding Seniors, two Outstanding Alumni Award recipients and three Alumni Wall of Fame Award recipients.

Each year, these awards recognize the exceptional work of Blue Hens. The Warner and Taylor Awards recognize two seniors who have demonstrated leadership, academic success and community service. The Outstanding Alumni Awards honor an alumnus and alumna for their volunteer work on behalf of UD or the UDAA and the Alumni Wall of Fame recognizes outstanding professional and public service achievements by UD graduates.

Both UDAA President Steven C. Beattie of the Class of 1987 and University President Dennis Assanis noted in their opening remarks that the accomplishments of those present are both inspiring and impressive to many future Blue Hens.

“I want to tell everybody here in the room that you're our ambassadors, you're our friends, you're our Blue Hens forever,” Assanis said. “And we will continue to depend on your love and support.”

Keeping in touch with the University, pushing boundaries and setting an example for future Blue Hens is just what the UDAA Award recipients promised during their remarks.

Having graduated only the week prior, Donohue and her counterpart, Zachary A. Sexton, the 2018 Alexander J. Taylor Sr. Award recipient, reflected on both their experiences as students and their role as alumni such as being mentors to future students.

“Knowing that you have a home to be a part of is crucial for your success,” said Sexton, who earned honors degrees in both biomedical engineering (with distinction) and public policy from UD and also helped found the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity. “I'm happy to say that I'm graduating the University of Delaware forever a Blue Hen and always ready to return home.”

Helping a younger generation of Blue Hens has been a focus of the Outstanding Alumni Award recipient, Mary Ann Hangen Blair of the Classes of 1966 and 1982. Blair who, among other activities in support of the arts at UD, has traveled abroad with the UD Chorale.

“She has been there for so many of our students over the years that she is a known entity in the Department of Music as somebody who not only loves and makes music, but as someone who brings meaning to the lives of the kids who come here,” said Paul D. Head, director of choral studies at UD and Unidel Professor of Music, as he introduced the woman he referred to as “wonderful Mary Ann.”

In response, Hangen Blair recalled her favorite lines of the alma mater: “Hail to thee proud Delaware / In loyalty we stand. / We give thee thanks for glorious days / Beneath thy guiding hand.”

“We remember the time at Delaware and the hands that held us and the blessings that we received, and I certainly remember that very well, all the hands that guided me,” Hangen Blair said. She noted how her parents sacrificed so she and her brother could attend the University.

For Alumni Wall of Fame Award recipient Vance V. Kershner, of the Class of 1979, the experience of attending UD did not merely guide him, but pushed him out of his comfort zone and encouraged him to gain perspective, which later proved useful in establishing his own global software business.

“I came to Delaware not really knowing — like I think pretty much everyone in my class — what was in front of us and what we were going to learn,” said Kershner, who was traveling abroad and addressed the crowd in a video message. “And it was the best time of my life, because I came here thinking that I had answers to everything and realized very quickly I didn't have any answers.”

The sentiment of finding community and mentorship at UD extended among the UDAA Award recipients and the people who recognized them, including John Strong, who introduced Alumni Wall of Fame Award recipient Donna M. Fontana, of the Class of 1985.

In 2016, Strong, a Ph.D. student specializing in literacy development and learning problems, received the Fontana Family Scholarship, which supports graduate students in the School of Education whose work aims to improve educational outcomes for students, especially those living in poverty.

“It's very fitting that so many of the speakers tonight have spoken about home and family, and University of Delaware is my home,” Strong said. “I feel honored to have received a Fontana Family Graduate Tuition Scholarship, because Donna has made me feel like part of her family with all the support that she has given me.”

Similarly, Outstanding Alumni Award recipient Kenneth C. Jones, of the Class of 1980, spoke of making meaningful, lifelong connections on campus. He not only met his wife on campus, starting a family of Blue Hens, but also found community through the UDAA and among fellow UD alumni who have also served in the military.

A retired lieutenant colonel from the Delaware Army National Guard, Jones was introduced to the Blue Hen Veterans group in 2014, riding a bike with them from Arlington to Gettysburg to raise money for wounded soldiers. His involvement grew, and in 2016, he founded Blue Hen Veterans and Friends to support UD student veterans.

“Family is what I got out of Delaware, that and a great education,” Jones said. “Delaware is no longer the gem that once was hidden. It is now shining bright.”

Marie E. Pinizzotto, Class of 2008, who was honored with an Alumni Wall of Fame Award, shared a similar sentiment when reflecting on the growth and future of the University.

After launching a career in medicine, she came to UD to earn her MBA, which she referred to as an empowering experience. It left her inspired to stay in touch with the University, most recently through support of biopharmaceutical innovation on the growing STAR Campus.

“I feel very proud to have gone to UD every time I walk around this campus and see what's been done,” said Pinizzotto. “I'm very proud of this institution.”

Additional information about past recipients, award criteria and annual nominations can be found here.

2018 UDAA honorees

Emalea Pusey Warner Award for Outstanding Woman in the Senior Class

Laura K. Donohue, of the Class of 2018

Alexander J. Taylor Sr. Award for Outstanding Man in the Senior Class

Zachary A. Sexton, of the Class of 2018

Outstanding Alumni Awards

Mary Ann Hangen Blair, of the Classes of 1966 and 1982

Kenneth C. Jones, of the Class of 1980

Alumni Wall of Fame

Donna M. Fontana, of the Class of 1985

Vance V. Kershner, of the Class of 1979

Marie E. Pinizzotto, of the Class of 2008

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