Alumni with Grit and Greatness

Published: Oct 29, 2015

(Hrabowski talks to little girls at event)

UMBC alumni and faculty greeted each other with beaming smiles and excited chatter at this year’s Alumni Awards Ceremony, held on October 8, 2015. Among bright arrangements of orange roses and green orchids, caterers weaved through the crowd as everyone reconnected before finding their seats for an emotional program honoring the achievements of alumni and the faculty, staff, and other community members who shaped their time at UMBC.

As President Freeman Hrabowski kicked off the event, he offered advice to alumni back at UMBC for the first time in a few years, who might not recognize the campus after its tremendous growth. “Don’t feel old,” Hrabowski suggested, “just feel…vintage.”

UMBC’s 2015 Award Winners

It was an evening for storytelling—sharing memories of courage, creativity, commitment, and grit.

This year’s honorees included Distinguished Service Award winner Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman ’81, political science, a former state senator who worked across party lines to support marriage equality for same-sex couples.

As a child, Nicole DeBlase ’06, financial economics, had dreamed of dancing on Broadway. Through her studies at UMBC she found a new path to New York, where she is now a star on Wall Street as a Morgan Stanley executive.

Andre Gudger ’99, information systems, who currently serves in the Obama administration, received the Engineering and IT Award. Gruger was previously chairman and CEO of Solvern Innovations, which he grew to 1,300 employees in eight years.

Natural and Mathematical Sciences Award winner Yoon-Ho Kim ’01, Ph.D. physics, wrote his doctoral dissertation on quantum teleportation. Professor Todd Pittman, M.S. ’92, Ph.D. ’96, physics, who accepted the award in Kim’s absence, told the audience that his work is “almost as Star Trek as it sounds.”

Bryan Kelly ’92, economics, winner of the Social and Behavioral Sciences award, was honored as a business leader with a distinctive personal commitment to his community, as evidenced by his tangible support and mentorship of others.

The Visual and Performing Arts awardee, Lisa Urkevich ’86, music, received honors for her work as a global leader in ethnomusicology research and teaching whose work in the Arabian Peninsula transcends cultural difference.

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, Andy Gotsch ’12, and Tara Carpenter enjoy the Alumni Awards.

Andy Gotsch ’12, chemical engineering, told a particularly moving personal story in presenting this year’s Outstanding Faculty Award. He shared the tremendous, lasting impact Tara Carpenter, senior lecturer in chemistry and biochemistry, has had on his life. Gotsch failed Carpenter’s Chemistry 101 course twice and was looking at a third failure, despite his putting in hours of extra study time. Carpenter urged Gotsch to be evaluated for test anxiety and connected him with supportive resources that eventually enabled him to pass the class and go on to earn a chemical engineering degree.

As the crowd cheered, Carpenter accepted the award with tears in her eyes, telling Gotsch, “I’m so proud of you.”

Photos by Marlayna Demond ’11

See more photos from the event.

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