Judging by the Founders’ Day award ceremony Friday, Knox alumni are making a worldwide impact from Tucson to Laramie, and Wyoming to South Sudan.
The annual ceremony is held to present the Alumni Achievement Awards to recipients chosen by a selection committee of the Alumni Council. This year’s recipients, who had been asked to talk about how their experiences at Knox have affected their lives, spanned a breadth of professions and passions.
Alumnus Ross Kelly, ’03, recipient of the 2011 Young Alumni Achievement Award, was honored for his humanitarian work in South Sudan. As described during his introduction by Professor of English Robin Metz and Professor of Theatre Elizabeth Carlin-Metz, Kelly worked with Teach for America, teaching art for two years in a rural Arkansas school. He had planned to go to graduate school, but he deferred those plans.
“I left for Sudan with the intention of making a documentary about the construction of a children’s home,” Kelly wrote in his blog, “Deep South Sudan.” “Things didn’t go as planned.”
Kelly ended up working for the children’s home, serving as a father figure for Sudanese children. His documentary fell apart, and he blogged about his experiences.
“[At Knox] I discovered the secret of pretending to know what I’m doing,” Kelly said. “I have had some success in applying this method to my life.”
This changed when he started at the children’s home.
“A strange thing happened, though,” he said. “As I pretended to know what I was doing, I became something real. For all intents and purposes, I became a father to those kids.”
He dedicated the “attention and honor” of his award to the kids in Sudan.
The first Alumni Achievement Award was presented to Valerie Cwik, ’77, a specialist in neuromuscular diseases and Executive Vice President of Research, Medical Director and chief spokesman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. She has taught at the University of Arizona and the University of Alberta in Canada.
“What was most special about Knox, and in my mind is the college’s biggest asset, is the faculty.” Cwik said. “It was pretty clear that the faculty wants the students to succeed, and they inspired us to excel.”
She also lauded the campus community and the Knox student’s ability to make connections and develop relationships with faculty members.
The second Alumni Achievement Award recipient was William Reiners, ’59, an ecologist who has worked at Rutgers University, Dartmouth College and the University of Wyoming, where he currently teaches. Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman introduced Reiners as “one of the most prominent ecosystem ecologists in the world.”
Reiners talked about how friends, environment and faculty were the three elements of his Knox education which influenced him most.
“Knox launched me on a lifelong quest to seek what is right, what is beautiful and what is true,” Reiners said.