2015 Duke Alumni Award Winners

DAA recognizes top alumni, volunteers with annual awards

The Duke Alumni Association announced 32 individuals and groups as winners of its 2015 awards. The awards, presented each fall, honor outstanding achievement and commitment to Duke and its alumni around the world. Nearly all winners will be honored during Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 2-3. The Distinguished Alumni Award, the association's highest honor, is presented as part of Duke's annual Founders' Day convocation.  

Distinguished Alumni Award

Kimberly Blackwell '89, H.S.'00 -- Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Leading the way in cancer research

Kimberly Blackwell embodies the innovation, passion and drive that make Duke University the special place it is -- and the way she is using her talents makes her the special person we want to honor.  

As a clinical oncologist at Duke since 1994 and now as the director of the breast cancer program at the Duke Cancer Institute, Blackwell has dedicated her time, research and expertise to the mission of fighting breast cancer and saving the lives of women everywhere.

Kimberly Blackwell

Over the past several years, Dr. Blackwell developed a new breast-cancer treatment known colloquially as the "smart bomb." The FDA approved the treatment -- officially named T-DM1 -- in 2013. T-DM1 attacks a particular protein found in an aggressive type of late-stage breast cancer while leaving the healthy cells untouched. The results are nothing short of miraculous. Women undergoing Dr. Blackwell's treatment are surviving at higher rates and experiencing fewer chemotherapy side effects. 

Blackwell also played a major role in the development of another breast cancer drug known as lapatinib. Her research work at Duke as the principal investigator for these two drug trials established Duke as the place where two of the last six drugs approved for breast cancer were engineered.

Blackwell's groundbreaking research in the fight against cancer earned her a spot on TIME Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" list in 2013.

In addition to her innovative research, Blackwell also serves as professor of medicine and assistant professor of radiation oncology at Duke University Medical Center and maintains an active clinical practice. Her clinical and research interests surround the formation of blood vessels in breast cancer, breast cancer in younger women and hormonal therapy. 

"The Duke community is what kept me here," Blackwell says. "The brain-tumor group at Duke has a slogan: 'At Duke there’s hope.' And that's really true. We do things here that can't be done anywhere else." 

Beyond Duke Service and Leadership Awards

Maria Gibbs
Maria Gibbs ’12 -- South Bend, Indiana

Service by a Young Alumna/Alumnus

Building bridges to economic empowerment

Maria Gibbs understands more than most how to bridge the gap between poverty and prosperity. The recent Duke engineering graduate demonstrated that fact by earning recognition as one of the "New Faces of Civil Engineering" from the American Society of Civil Engineers for her incredible work designing and building footbridges to isolated communities around the world. Gibbs' passion for this area of work first ignited when she learned of a rural community in El Salvador whose elementary school students had to swim across a flooded river to get to school during the rainy season. Spurred to action, she traveled to El Salvador to help these students with a Denver-based nonprofit organization called Bridges to Prosperity. Since then Gibbs has traveled to Nicaragua and Rwanda to help build and test suspension footbridges over impassable rivers. It is her desire to alleviate poverty by using her knowledge and experience to create safe access to education, health care and economic opportunities. Gibbs received the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and studies bridge aeroelasticity, focusing on wind-induced effects on Bridges to Prosperity's suspension footbridges. She is earning her Ph.D. in engineering at the University of Notre Dame.


Mark Hecker
Mark Hecker ’03 -- Washington, D.C. 

Service to a Local Community

Tutoring 2.0

Oftentimes it's in helping others that we help ourselves. Mark Hecker's revolutionary approach to tutoring is built on this concept and embodies the Duke principle of helping our peers. Hecker's nonprofit organization Reach Incorporated has built a unique and flourishing tutoring community in the greater Washington, D.C.-area by pairing high-school students struggling in reading with elementary school students who are also having trouble reading at grade level. The Reach program trains the high-school students to be effective reading tutors and then pays them to tutor the elementary school students. Both groups are helped through the interaction. Best of all, the program has proven results with all ages improving and attaining success in their reading efforts. Hecker -- who holds a bachelor's degree from Duke, a master's of social work from the University of North Carolina and a master's of education from Harvard University -- is a 2011 Echoing Green Fellow and a 2013 Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network Fellow. Nominator Mike Ambrose, a former teacher and current education policy advocate, says of Hecker: "I spend my days thinking about how to bring better educational opportunity to all students. If possible, one of my first steps would be to clone Mark Hecker. Where much of the country sees low-achieving high-school students who are statistically too late for intervention, Mark sees untapped talent and new hires who can positively shape the next generation of D.C. students."


Bill and Sally Rankin
Sally Rankin M.S.N.’78 and Rev. William W. Rankin II ’63, Ph.D.’77, A.M.’79 -- Tiburon, California

Service to the Global Community

 Dedicated to global health

The Rev. William (Bill) and Sally Rankin would be the first to tell you that their work is just a drop in the bucket of what needs to be done in the global health arena. However, their dedication to putting knowledge in service of society is bringing hope to thousands in the sub-Saharan nation of Malawi. In 2000, while working with an interfaith peace-building organization, Bill learned that a $4 dose of an anti-retroviral drug could halt the transmission of HIV from mother to newborn. That information was transformative for Bill. In response, he founded the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA), which brings HIV/AIDS health care and education to the estimated 930,000 Malawi citizens with HIV/AIDS and to their families. Sally's contributions to global health match Bill's in passion and reach — most notably her research on the adaptation of patients and their families to chronic illnesses, particularly families dealing with the challenges of HIV/AIDS. Sally is also recognized as a public health scholar and expert and has worked with GAIA to empower women and to expand the number of trained health care professionals in Malawi. Collectively the Rankins have authored 16 books or book chapters and more than 141 peer-reviewed articles. Both Bill and Sally have taught at the university level for more than 20 years and have held major leadership positions -- he as dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and she as associate dean for global health at the School of Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco.


Charles A. Dukes Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Services

Stuart Dean
Stuart Dean ’75, P’03, P’11 -- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Connected to the best

Known as a trusted and thoughtful leader, Stuart Dean sees his volunteer work at Duke as a way to give back just a measure of what was given to him during his days at Duke. For 25 years, Dean has served as General Electric’s key executive for Duke, using his integral position to help guide, direct, facilitate and foster the engagement between the university and GE. Over the years, GE has given millions of funding in support of teaching and research programs and offered Duke graduates first consideration for jobs with GE. Dean's role at GE is CEO of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is a dynamic and emerging economic region. Dean has lived in Southeast Asia for 24 years and possesses a deep knowledge of the region, culture and economic and legal practices. He plans to retire to the region. Dean's international experience and expertise profits Duke through his commitment to DukeEngage. He offers networking opportunities through his contacts in the private and public sectors and leverages his connections for the benefit of Duke programs benefiting students and faculty. He also serves on the Trinity Board of Visitors and has made significant personal contributions to the university.


Sally Searcy Kleberg
Sally Searcy Kleberg ’66, P’91, P’94 -- New York, New York

Forever Duke, Deep in the Heart of Texas

Volunteerism is at the heart of Duke University, and Sally Searcy Kleberg took her commitment to volunteerism and Duke with her deep into the heart of Texas. Since moving to Texas in the late 1960s, Kleberg has been integral to keeping the Duke community strong in the Lone Star State's biggest cities. She, along with her husband Kip, began a Duke alumni group for Central Texas that included San Antonio and South Texas alumni. When they arrived in San Antonio, they connected with local Dukies only to discover a very scattered alumni group in the South Texas region. Sally worked tirelessly to bring the group together, eventually building the official Duke Alumni group for South Texas. The Klebergs' commitment to Duke did not stop there. She and Kip chaired the regional campaign committee for major gifts when the university launched the capital campaign for the building of the Bryan Center. Kleberg also served on the Board of Trustees in the late 1970s. In 1990, Kleberg relocated to New York City bringing her love of Duke and her commitment to its alumni with her. She still remains an active member of the Duke Alumni group of New York. She also has served on the Nicholas School of the Environment’s Board of Visitors since 1991, currently in the role of chairman of its development committee.


Harsha Murthy
Harsha Murthy ’81 -- Washington, D.C.

Preserving the role of volunteer

Harsha Murthy's list of volunteer roles at Duke couldn’t be contained within the allotted space on the award nomination sheet. Much of his volunteer time has been spent in service to the Library Advisory Board (LAB) of which he was a member for 15 years and the board's chair for the last four and a half years. During his tenure as the LAB chairperson, Murthy oversaw many projects at Duke Libraries, most notably the recent renovation of Rubenstein Library and the launch of the Duke Forward campaign. Murthy has attended events on behalf of Duke Libraries including the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest in Washington, D.C., a special event at the Library of Congress hosted by Duke Trustee David Rubenstein '70 and dinners with President Brodhead. Murthy is a member of Duke's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Taskforce. He is also involved with the Duke University Financial Partners and has been a guest lecturer for students in the Duke in New York Financials Markets and Institutions program. Murthy is also a member of Duke’s leadership board in Washington, D.C., and is a member and donor for the Duke Chronicle Development Committee. Last but not least, Murthy has participated in the Alumni Admissions Advisory Committee (AAAC), serving future generations of students. He says that volunteering for Duke brings him personal satisfaction and is just plain "fun." We have to agree with him.


Karl Sheffield
Karl Sheffield ’54 -- Naples, Florida

The best kind of yes-man

"Karl is an alumnus who says 'yes' to Duke, no matter the request," says nominator Stacy Davis, senior assistant director of Leadership Giving. "From his involvement with athletics that spans many decades to his support of our new comprehensive reunion model to his gift planning leadership, Karl continues to say 'yes' to Duke." During the preparation for his 60th reunion, Sheffield authored a letter to his class -- sharing his reasons for supporting Duke with a planned gift. The passion of his words inspired many classmates to give their support, and the result was a record-breaking 1954 class gift. Sheffield was a key leader during the reunion event, with roles that included introducing President Brodhead and representing the class of 1954 on stage with the class gift. Sheffield's service to Duke reaches every corner of the university. In addition to his reunion leadership, he has served on the Campaign Steering Committee, Athletics Advisory Board, Athletics Leadership Board, Duke Forward Athletics Leadership Campaign Committee, Women’s Athletic Scholarship Campaign Committee, Development Council in Atlanta and the Regional Campaign Council. 


Gregg Tenser
Gregg Tenser ’89 -- Manhattan Beach, California

Reputation for excellence

Surpassing goals has been a signature move of Gregg Tenser throughout his service to Duke. As co-chair for the class of 1989'’s 20th and 25th reunions, Tenser’s leadership helped the class exceed their Annual Fund reunion goals on both occasions. While this feat is remarkable on its own, what makes it and Tenser’s leadership even more impressive is the fact that the class of 1989 had never reached a previous reunion fundraising goal. As a result of Tenser's great work as a fundraising volunteer, he was appointed to the Annual Fund Executive Committee (AFEC) in the summer of 2009. Since joining the committee, Tenser has been an active member by attending every meeting (often flying in from overseas), hosting alumni events in Los Angeles and advocating for an inter-reunion engagement program. Thanks to Tenser's diligence and passion, the class of 1989 holds a reputation for being a fantastic reunion fundraising class. Tenser has helped form the strategic direction for the AFEC, which will be setting its sights on increasing fundraising goals exponentially -- and we know how Tenser handles goals. "The impact of his leadership will be felt for years to come," says nominator Jen Cameron.

Forever Duke Awards

Jeremy Block ’03, M.P.P.’10, Ph.D.’10 -- New York, New York

Sarah Borns ’72, P’02, P’08 -- Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Kwang-Lu Amy Chen ’00 -- Boston, Massachusetts

Cuyler Christianson ’76 -- New York, New York

Thomas Fousse M.B.A.’94 -- London, England

Alex Guttler ’05, M.B.A.’12 -- New York, New York

Brian Greene’ 05 --  Marina Del Rey, California

Andrew Hananel ’01 -- Chicago, Illinois

Sarah Hostetter ’09 -- Washington, D.C.

Katherine Hutton ’05, M.B.A.’11 -- West Point, New York

Jason Jones ’91 --  Dunwoody, Georgia

Brooke Levin ’06 -- Durham, North Carolina

Leslie Lewis ’79 -- Longmont, Colorado

John Lipe ’02 -- Charlotte, North Carolina

Pam Liu ’11 -- Cambridge, Massachusetts

Lyda Molanphy ’88 -- Austin, Texas

Nicole Pilo ’95 -- Charlotte, North Carolina

Kim Reed ’86 -- Potomac, Maryland

John Shen M.S.’96, A.M.’98 -- Long Beach, California

Jennifer Snook ’04, M.B.A.’11. M.E.M.’11 -- San Francisco, California

Doris Stoessel ’67 -- Tahoe City, California

Denis Weinstein ’12 -- London, England

Class of 2009 Reunion Co-Chairs

Samantha Abramson ’09; Kathy Sunyoung Choi ’09; Bari Claster ’09; Kendall Dabaghi ’09; Alex Gorham ’09; Jin-Soo Huh ’09; Sunny Kantha ’09; Madison Li ’09; Mhoire Murphy ’09; Shannon Nelson ’09; Megan Neureither ’09; Sam Payton ’09; MBA’11; Kevin Thompson ’09; MMS’10

Duke Proceed Committee

Jamaal Adams ’97; Sanders Adu ’94; Brenda Armstrong ’70, H.S.’79; Audrey Ellerbee Ph.D.’07; Isaac Green ’83, P’14; Pamela Martin Green ’85, P’14; Winston Henderson ’90, J.D.’96; Janet Hill P’94; Jeffrey Howard ’76, P’06, P’09, P’11; Reginald Lyon ’84; Naakoshie Nartey ’02; Ann Pelham ’74, P’06; Danielle Squires ’02; Hardy Vieux ’93; Anne Sempowski Ward ’94, M.B.A.’04; Janice Gill Williams ’72, P’93