2011 Alumni Award Recipients
The Distinguished Achievement Award - Dr. Terry Thomas Fulmer ’76
This award annually honors one alumnus or alumna, 10 years or more beyond his or her
Skidmore graduation, who has translated that experience into distinguished achievement
in professional activities and/or community service.
A pioneer and leading authority in the field of geriatric nursing,Terry Thomas Fulmer ’76 has built a distinguished career as a geriatric nurse practitioner, professor, and researcher focused on the acute care of the elderly, with special emphasis on the subject of elder abuse and neglect. She is the Erline Perkins McGriff Professor and dean of the College of Nursing at New York University. She has served as the Anna C. Maxwell Professor of Clinical Research at Columbia University School of Nursing and held academic appointments at Boston College School of Nursing, the Harvard Division of Health Policy, and Yale School of Nursing. The author of award-winning textbooks on geriatric nursing, she has developed new models for the delivery of care to the elderly and created the most widely used assessment tool for evaluating the health of older adults in the country. Fulmer was the first nurse to be named president of the Gerontological Society of America and to serve on the board of the American Geriatrics Society. She was recently elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine. Her contributions to research, pedagogy, and practice are said to have provided the foundation for advances in the field of geriatric nursing over the last twenty years. The Skidmore clinical nursing major says she can trace the roots of her success to the strong academic foundation she received as an undergraduate.
As a freshman at Skidmore, however, she was not so sure she was up to the task of the freshman nursing curriculum. A graduate of a small rural high school in Upstate New York, it took her “a solid year” to adjust to the rigorous academic environment at Skidmore. She met her college roommate and lifelong best friend Sarah Morgan Schwartzstein ’76 through their shared chemistry tutor. But she soon adjusted and thrived, becoming president of her sophomore nursing class. She even accelerated her program to finish in three years.
“By end of college, I gained both the extraordinary knowledge provided through the curriculum as well as the confidence that I could be a leader. Graduate school was an easy transition for me because Skidmore had prepared me so well. There was an expectation from the Skidmore faculty that all of us would become leaders in the profession.
She completed a master’s at Boston College in 1977, finished her Ph.D. at Boston College in 1983 and completed a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner Post Master’s Certificate from New York University in 2001.
It was at her first position as a staff nurse at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital, one of Harvard’s teaching hospitals, that she discovered a passion for caring for the elderly. She was also “captivated” by the research-intensive environment. Fulmer began to ponder what she saw related to the clinical care of older adults. “We could restart their hearts and mend fractured hips, but there were few best practice protocols for geriatric care and there was no comprehensive approach to planning for the complex transition so many older adults must make after discharge from the hospital.”
A determination to elevate the quality of geriatric care inspired Fulmer as she went on to pursue teaching and research appointments. These included associate professor of nursing at Boston College, lecturer in social medicine and health policy at the Division of Aging at Harvard University, research scientist and associate professor of Gerontological Nursing at Yale University School of Nursing, and professor and associate dean for research at Columbia University. There, she also served as a fellow of the Stroud Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology.
She was the first nurse to be named a Brookdale National Fellow—an honor reserved for those with exceptional potential for leadership in expanding the gerontology and geriatric knowledge base. Fulmer joined the NYU nursing faculty in 1995, where she was appointed as professor and director for the Pless Center for Nursing Research. In 2002, she was appointed, after a national search, as the Erline Perkins McGriff Professor and head of the Division of Nursing at NYU. She successfully worked with the university administration to realign the nursing program from a division of nursing in the Steinhardt School of Education to a College of Nursing at the NYU College of Dentistry. In 2005, when the college was founded, Fulmer became the first sitting dean.
She is committed to nursing education that is steeped in a liberal arts college experience. “At NYU, we work closely with the College of Arts & Sciences, in order to think carefully about the coursework that can best prepare our nursing students to move through their undergraduate experience with both the breadth and depth that is required to be an excellent professional as well as well educated citizen upon graduation.” Over her tenure, enrollment has grown from 600 to 1,500 students. This year, NYU’s College of Nursing was ranked the top school in the nation for geriatric nursing by U.S. News and World Report.
An interdisciplinary focus informs Fulmer’s work. Over the years, she has mentored and collaborated with countless geriatric physicians and social workers. She directed the Geriatric Interdisciplinary Team Training Project, a national initiative funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation, Inc., that has created new team-based training models for the delivery of care in managed care settings. She is also co-director of the John A. Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing and co-director of the Consortium of New York Geriatric Education Centers, which delivers interdisciplinary education to healthcare professional faculty and clinicians. She currently co-leads the Macy-funded NYU3T: Teaching, Technology & Teamwork intraprofessional education grant with Dr. Marc Triola at the medical school.
A leading figure in geriatric research, she has been long recognized for her ongoing NIH-funded research on the identification and treatment of elder neglect and abuse. Fulmer is also nationally renowned for helping establish and lead Nurses Improving Care to Health System Elders, a national nursing program that provides research-based tools and resources to providers of care to hospitalized older patients. NICHE is operating in 320 hospitals across North America.
She has authored ten textbooks on acute care of the elderly. Three have received American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Awards. Her textbook, Critical Care Nursing of the Elderly, is used extensively by nursing students and practitioners nationwide.
She has been honored as a Distinguished Practitioner by the National Academy of Practice and a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and the American Academy of Nursing. In 1994, she was recognized with a Skidmore Alumni Periclean Scholar Award.
A longtime alumna volunteer, Fulmer has served Skidmore as a class fund and Friends of the Presidents chair, a member of alumni board Awards Committee, alumni board secretary, and admissions correspondent. When she joined the Skidmore College Board of Trustees in 2007, she quickly became the driving force behind an effort to create a program that would allow Skidmore students to obtain nursing degrees through a partnership with NYU’s College of Nursing. (Skidmore’s own Nursing Program was discontinued in 1985.) Fulmer saw the opportunity to create a rigorous, science-based program that would meet the surging demand for healthcare education and reconnect Skidmore with a critical piece of its rich legacy in the sciences. In an articulation agreement between the College and NYU that was formalized in 2009, qualified Skidmore students seeking certification in nursing gain automatic acceptance into the NYU College of Nursing. A 3.0 GPA and several prerequisites are required, but students do not have to be science majors. Students earn a baccalaureate degree from Skidmore College and a second baccalaureate degree in nursing from NYU in either an accelerated 15-month or an 18-month program.
Fulmer says the program is structured to provide a “seamless transition” from college to professional nursing education. “We want to make it easy for people to progress into their graduate education.” She is delighted that the program is attracting increasing numbers of students and looks forward to graduating Skidmore students who go on to earn doctoral degrees and become nurse-scientists. “My passion to forge this Skidmore-NYU link comes from knowing the excellence of the Skidmore student body and the value of having Skidmore, once again, participate in preparing nurses for the future. I am very excited.”
Fulmer also serves Skidmore’s board of trustees as chair of the Advancement Committee.
She has vibrant memories of her days as a student in Skidmore’s Nursing Program. She recalls the intensity of the bonds formed among her peers as they lived together and worked together—in NYC hospitals, homecare agencies and social service agencies. “I have never had such an extraordinary group of nursing friends; they were and are bright, talented, and exceptional. I will never forget the camaraderie.”
It is the quality of these lasting relationships with all her Skidmore friends that makes receiving this award so meaningful to her. “There is nothing more significant than being recognized by your peers—and my Skidmore peers honor me by recognizing me in this way. As a trustee, I am very aware of the exceptional body of alumni out there, so being selected is truly humbling.”
Fulmer is quick to share the honor with her husband of 37 years, Keith Fulmer, and their children Nina, Holly and Sam. “They have always been my center, my inspiration my cheering squad, and the central architects of my very happy life.”
Creative Thought Matters Award- David Luks ’96
Recognizes an alumna/us who has made a demonstrated contribution through innovation
and/or creation of a fresh approach that inspires or enlightens the lives of others
and contributes to the greater good. This contribution may have been made in the
scope of the award winner’s career, community work, government, or volunteer service.
Throughout Skidmore’s history, the College has challenged itself to make no small
plans—to make no ordinary choices—and this award recognizes an alumna/us who purposely
demonstrates this belief in his or her life and work.
David Luks ’96 is a firm believer in the power of creativity, coupled with hard work, to transform a simple idea into something far greater. The founder and CEO of Honeydrop Beverages, the only line of ready to drink teas and juices sweetened exclusively with honey, discovered in that substance not only a key ingredient to a healthier lifestyle, but also inspiration for an award-winning brand of premium beverages.
By the time he launched the Brooklyn-based company in 2009, Luks already knew plenty about marketing and the beverage industry. After graduating from Skidmore, David worked in market research at ACNielsen for clients such as Colgate Palmolive, Hain Foods, and Revlon. In 1999, he entered the beverage industry working for PepsiCo, helping the company develop short and long term sales strategies. After earning an M.B.A. from Georgetown University in 2003, David returned to PepsiCo, where he managed such brands as Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi’s energy drinks, and SoBe Beverages. Deciding to strike out on his own, Luks later founded LSD Partners, an independent marketing consultancy that helped clients in the beer, food, and spirits industry develop, launch, and distribute new products.
The inspiration for Honeydrop, however, originated in a personal challenge. In 2006, Luks was diagnosed with cancer; he set about studying ways to improve his health by avoiding products containing artificial preservatives, processed sweeteners, and chemical residue. At the prompting of a nutritionist, he delved into research on the health benefits of honey. He discovered that honey contains antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and, due to its lower place on the glycemic index, is better at regulating blood sugar levels. It helps soothe sore throats and coughs more effectively than most over-the-counter medicines and protects against chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Because honey is metabolized more slowly than refined sugars, it provides the kind of sustained energy that promotes better athletic performance and restores muscles after strenuous exercise. Luks investigated the composition of existing bottled drinks to find that most were sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, or crystalline fructose, which are all refined sugars. Those that purported to contain honey actually used artificial honey flavoring and very little honey. Discovering that there was no beverage available on the market sweetened solely by pure honey and unaltered with refined sugars, Luks had an epiphany. “I realized there was an opportunity to create a brand that uses honey to its full potential—and that consumers could actually benefit from its unique nutritional composition.” He perfected a singular formula: each bottle of Honeydrop contains all-natural juices or teas, is “powered” by one tablespoon of wildflower honey, and ranges from 70 to 90 calories. Handcrafted in small batches, the drinks originally came in blood orange, blueberry, and chamomile flavors. Luks took care to package the products in recyclable plastic bottles manufactured without Bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial chemical that is thought to remain in plastic containers and potentially leach into food.
His simple idea made a big splash. Launched at the Natural Products Expo East in 2008, the beverage line captured the BevNET Best in Show Award, a prestigious industry honor.
Luks is committed to continually seeking opportunities to innovate and enhance Honeydrop’s product line, which now includes Green Tea, Lemon Tea, and Lemon Ginger flavors. He recently opted to switch from plastic to custom glass bottles in response to consumer preference. His hard work has paid off: Honeydrop Beverages are being sold by Whole Foods Markets and leading gourmet retailers nationwide.
He says that Honeydrop’s formula is good for the environment, too. The company has started to contribute a portion of proceeds of every bottle sold to local beekeeping associations to help build more local hives and combat Colony Collapse Disorder, a growing phenomenon in which worker honeybees disappear or die, which is thought to be caused by a combination of environmental stresses and pathogens. “This is a serious issue that impacts all consumers. Bees pollinate a third of all produce we eat. In fact, bees pollinate 100% of almonds, 90% of apples, and 90% of oranges, just to name a few. At Honeydrop, we believe in making a difference. That’s why every bottle you buy helps to build a new hive to increase the bee population—one bottle, one bee at a time.”
Luks points to lessons he learned at Skidmore that have shaped his approach to business. “The BU107 experience influenced me in many ways. First, it taught me the value of working and collaborating in a team environment, which has been invaluable for me in my career. Secondly, it showed me that nothing happens without hard work—and a couple of beers with friends!”
The strong liberal arts foundation he received at Skidmore, he says, gave him the ability to appreciate diverse fields of knowledge and critically analyze situations. “I credit this foundation for helping me to think creatively and not necessarily conform to preconceived ideas. In fact, the personal mantra I use with my colleagues, “Bee Different or Bee Dead” is heavily influenced by my time at Skidmore.”
In addition to his duties at Honeydrop, Luks lends his creativity and talent to others as a consultant to several start-up companies in the consumer products industry. He also serves as a marketing and development advisor to the I’m Too Young for This! Cancer Foundation, the nation’s largest support community for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers between 15 and 40 years old.
Luks is a member of the New York City Chapter of the Skidmore Business Network.
“I am truly humbled by this award. Skidmore has a unique place in my heart, so for me, this award is very special. In the corporate world, I was frequently typecast as a numbers guy. So it is with great pride that I will now tell former colleagues that I am, indeed, considered creative!”
50th Reunion Service Award - Jacqueline Jung ’61
Honors one member of the 50th Reunion Class who has demonstrated outstanding service
to the College.
When it comes to Skidmore, Jacki Jung ’61 can always be counted on to accept a challenge, roll up her sleeves, and get the job done. This was evident when she was elected as a freshman to become class president during sophomore year. Her first duty was to uphold Skidmore tradition by inscribing the names and hometowns of 400 incoming members of the freshman class on oilcloth bibs, to be worn for the entire first semester. With characteristic resolve, Jung organized her twin brother and parents into an “efficient, albeit low-paying, production line” and joined them to complete the project in a matter of weeks.
As an alumna, she has accepted and met challenges on behalf of the College with dedication, passion, and pluck for more than 30 years. A consummate fundraiser, Jung has excelled in helping Skidmore advance its mission in multiple leadership roles, often juggling many of them simultaneously.
At Skidmore, the sociology major recalls “the fun of learning from incredibly caring, knowledgeable, and accessible faculty and the wonderful broad curriculum they taught.” One course, in particular, gave Jung the opportunity to learn and practice essential leadership and management skills. Hosted by General Electric at their Schenectady headquarters, it served as the catalyst for her continued interest in honing professional skills that complemented a strong liberal arts foundation. This background served her well as she launched a 30-year career in public relations at New England Telephone, now Verizon Communications.
Living in Boston in the mid-1980s and established in her profession, Jung felt it was her time to do something for Skidmore “as a way of saying thank you” for all she had gained from her education. “Since green has always been my favorite color,” she quips, “naturally I gravitated to fundraising.” Her first forays were spent assisting staff with Annual Fund phone-a-thons. That led to becoming a class agent, and later, class fund chair. She also served on the Boston Regional Planning and Friends of the Presidents Committees. Over time, it became clear that her ability to motivate classmates could produce notable results. In 1991, she led her class to a then record-setting 30th-reunion Annual Fund gift. Soon thereafter, Jung was asked to join the alumni association board of directors as chair of its reunion giving program, a role she held until 1996. She also chaired the Reunion Giving Program Advisory Committee, a group that worked with class agents and fund chairs, cheering on their efforts to obtain pledges and gifts. Her leadership was instrumental in one of the most successful reunion fundraising efforts to date—$1 million in total gifts from reunion classes. Beyond the satisfaction of working with others to cultivate and share the finer points of fundraising administration, Jung proudly says she received the “priceless gift” of lifelong friendships with other alumnae, including former REGPAC members Deborah Sehl Coons ’72, Sibyl Waterman Haley ’71, Kim West ’79, and the late Charlotte Smith King ’35.
As class FOP chair for over 15 years, Jung drove fundraising campaigns for some very special projects in honor of her past three reunions. To commemorate their 40th reunion in 2001, the Class of 1961 dedicated the grand staircase in the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery in memory of their classmate, the late Frances Young Tang ’61. To mark their 45th in 2006, she, together with co-fund chairs Joan Horowitz Behr ’61 and Linda Brafman Berke ’61, rallied classmates to support the establishment of the Class of 1961 Term Professorship, which, for the last five years, has funded the work of Professor of Health and Exercise Science Denise Smith, a nationally recognized researcher and expert on the risks and causes of sudden cardiac events among firefighters. This year, the trio galvanized classmates to celebrate their 50th reunion by working toward one of key objectives of the College’s Strategic Plan: increasing the amount of financial aid available to deserving students. As of this writing, the Class of 1961 is very proud to present its 50th reunion gift of between 40 and 45 scholarships, which will be awarded over the next several years.
Jung has received her share of recognition. In 1995, she was interviewed for a video celebrating the launch of The Skidmore Journey: A Campaign for Our Second Century. When her remarks were screened during the campaign’s Boston kick-off celebration, she received a standing ovation. In 1996, she was asked to chair the newly formed alumni board Leadership Committee—she was then serving the College in six other volunteer positions, including as a member of the board’s Nominating Committee. That year, it came as no surprise that the alumni association chose to honor Jung with an Outstanding Service Award.
She decided to return to Saratoga Springs in 2000 to be closer to her family and Skidmore. In addition to a year-long stint on the alumni board in 2001, she immersed herself in the life of the College as well as her new community. In addition to being class FOP chair, she continues to serve on the National FOP Committee and its Executive Committee. In 2004, the nascent SaratogaReads! organization asked Jung and Beverly Becker, professor emerita of physical education, to serve as program liaisons for the Saratoga Springs retirement community. Later, she and Florence Andresen ’57, trustee emerita, served on the organization’s board of directors, managing public relations and promotion. Jung is also a former board member of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation. For the past ten years, she has been a member of the Palamountain Scholarship Benefit Auction Committee.
She also recalls with great fondness her student days on the original campus next to Congress Park. “I loved living in the midst of the gorgeous Victorian homes on Union Avenue, many of which were converted to become our dorms. And from my very first day, I was impressed with the open friendliness and warmth of the other students and knew I had chosen the right college. Back then, the only common meeting area on campus was the bustling snack bar in Fathers’ Hall. We all spent a lot of time there between classes and any serious issue of the day could be debated in that warm and welcoming space.”
Jung says she is “most honored and humbled” to receive this award. “Volunteering my time and energy to our College just seems like the right thing to do and, over the years, I feel it has become a natural part of who I am. More important, I am privileged and energized to work toward a common goal alongside two highly knowledgeable, committed, and dedicated staff in the Development Office, specifically, Marny Krause and Lori Eastman ’87. So today, this award belongs to each of them as well. For the consummate skills and exceptional work ethic they exhibit, as well as the countless contributions they have made, over many years, to ensure Skidmore’s successful Annual Fund results, I commend you both and thank you for your wonderful guidance and friendship.”
Outstanding Service Award Recipients
Honors up to five members of the Skidmore community who have demonstrated outstanding service to the College. Each recipient must have served Skidmore for at least 10 years as an alumna/alumnus, trustee, faculty member, administrator, staff member, parent or friend.
Steven Cornell ’81
Steven Cornell ’81 knows something about building and leading teams. As a freshman at Skidmore in 1977, he led a singular effort to transform men’s ice hockey from a club sport into a varsity team. As starting goalie and team MVP, the history major shaped the players into a cohesive force, persuaded the Athletic Department to upgrade the team’s play schedule, partnered with Admissions to recruit players, and lobbied the College for the support necessary to enter intercollegiate play. Named Most Dedicated Player in 1979, ’80, and ’81, Cornell was team captain his junior and senior years, returning as coach in 1982 to lead the team to dominance in national level collegiate competition. Named MVP on the men’s lacrosse team in 1979, and Outstanding Defensive Player and Quad Captain in 1981, he joined that team as assistant coach in 1982. That year, he also coached the newly formed women’s ice hockey team through its first winning season. In many ways, Cornell has never stopped serving in the roles of team builder, leader, and coach on behalf of his alma mater; he has spent years galvanizing people and resources to benefit a cause about which he is passionate—Skidmore Athletics.
Those early leadership experiences served Cornell well as he moved forward in his banking career. After earning an M.B.A. in information systems from New Hampshire College, he worked in IT for Bank Boston before moving on to National Iron Bank in Salisbury, Conn., where he is executive vice president.He gives equal credit to the quality of the liberal arts foundation he received at Skidmore. “Skidmore taught me to think on my feet.” Cornell says he benefitted enormously from personal attention from faculty; he recalls spending hours with the late Tad Kuroda, professor emeritus of history, learning to refine his writing skills.
As an alumnus, Cornell has maintained a strong commitment to the men’s ice hockey program. He played a key role in the establishment of its home facility, the Weibel Avenue Ice Rink, in 1994. Rarely missing the annual alumni hockey game, he has kept close ties with a network of former players. When budget cuts threatened the program in late 2002, Cornell went to work rallying this group of former teammates and friends. Along with brother Michael Cornell ’92 and Skidmore parents Jim Ricker and Joyce Benedict Ricker ’69, he spearheaded a fundraising campaign that successfully helped to reinstate the program in 2003. Those efforts, which involved gathering pledges as well as support for an annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and the Thoroughbred Cup and Golf and Tennis Tournament, led to the reinvigoration of the Friends of Skidmore Athletics (FOSA), an initiative that was established a decade earlier but had been dormant for years. FOSA seeks to strengthen the entire spectrum of the College’s athletic offerings and ensure that all student-athletes can compete and succeed at the highest levels. Donors to FOSA can choose to support the overall program, specific athletic teams, intramural activities, or fitness and recreational programming. Cornell signed on as co-chair of the inaugural Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony dinner in 2004, continuing in that role until 2007. He helped plan the FOSA Thoroughbred Cup Golf and Tennis Tournament in 2006, and stepped up to chair the event in 2007 and 2008. That year, Cornell also came on board as chair of the FOSA Committee. Since then, he has worked to refine event programming and fundraising activities, enhance athletic facilities, and carefully plan for the future of Skidmore Athletics. A special focus of Cornell’s is extending the FOSA brand to current students and promoting their attendance at athletic events. A tireless advocate that one staff member says “bleeds yellow and green,” Cornell is intent on making support of athletics central to the College’s culture.
Cornell continues to strenuously promote alumni involvement with Skidmore Athletics and FOSA. “Athletics is a rallying point for an institution. Getting together with other alumni to attend games generates school pride and greater connection to the College.” He especially wants other former student athletes to know how rewarding it can be to participate in FOSA events. “Working on the Thoroughbred Cup allowed me the opportunity to play golf with alumni from a wide range of class years and work toward a common cause. It was a great experience.” Clearly, Cornell believes in leading by example. In addition to attending FOSA and on-campus sporting events, he is there to cheer on Skidmore traveling teams whenever he can. Even a recent hip resurfacing failed to stop him from playing in this year’s alumni hockey game.
He was inducted into FOSA’s Hall of Fame in 2006 with Special Recognition for his efforts on behalf of the men’s ice hockey program.
In addition to his work on behalf of Skidmore Athletics, Cornell has served the College in a range of other roles, including class Friends of the Presidents chair, member of the alumni board Nominating Committee and the Reunion Giving Program Advisory Council, reunion volunteer, and class agent.
It is his contributions to FOSA that make Cornell most proud. “What’s happened with athletics at Skidmore has gone beyond my expectations. When I was a student, my dream was for Skidmore to be able to play head to head with Union, St. Lawrence, and similar schools. That has been achieved. Today, we have nationally ranked teams.”
He is gratified to be recognized for those contributions. “Winning this award is an honor but the real reward is getting to watch women’s field hockey make it to the Final Four, men’s basketball go to the NCAA Tournament, and the riding team emerge as national champions. It’s seeing men’s ice hockey and men’s lacrosse get national recognition—to witness all of our nationally ranked teams—that’s the payoff.”
Closer to home in Salisbury, Cornell serves his community as president of the Washington Township Scholarship Fund. A former treasurer of the local Rotary, he was head hockey coach at Shepaug High School for 12 years and continues to coach the Shepaug Goalie’s. He also serves on The Litchfield Hills Lacrosse Board.
He and his wife, Sarah, are the parents of three children, Alexander, Nicholas, and Christina. Nephew Ben Cornell ’11 is a member of the men’s lacrosse team.
Sandra Lipson ’71
Sandy Lipson ’71 arrived at Skidmore during a time of extraordinary change. In 1967, the civil rights, anti-war, and women’s movements were transforming not only American culture, but also life on campus. By the time she was a sophomore, a new group of young faculty had arrived and the entire College curriculum was being reconstituted. Lipson, who served as a student representative on a committee overseeing that process, recalls the excitement of being given the opportunity to provide input that would impact her own and other students’ education as well as College governance. “It was a terrific and empowering circumstance,” she reflects. The English major, who graduated with undeclared minors in theater and film, “spent four years with my brain wide open. I think I was astounded by something every day, whether in the classroom or in the world.” Her Skidmore experience laid the foundation for a mindset that values broad thinking, experimentation, creativity, and the ability to make connections. That foundation would serve her well as she built a career in corporate recruiting and human resources; she retired in 2007 as vice president for strategic talent management at Fidelity Investments in Boston. Today she works with social enterprises, helping them to build organizational capability so that they can grow and achieve sustainability.
Lipson has also spent many years using her talents and experience to create lasting connections—among ideas and people—to benefit the College and its alumni. From 2006 to 2010, she served as chair of career and professional development on the Alumni Association Board of Directors. Partnering with the staff of the Office of Career Services, she helped to promote and implement programming to assist students and alumni in need of career guidance and resources. She helped shift the focus of its Real World event from an etiquette dinner to an opportunity for students to learn about effective networking and interviewing techniques from a panel of alumni in a range of professions. More recently, she has participated in Career Jam, a successful career exploration program sponsored by Parents Council, the President’s Advisory Council, and Career Services.
She has also reached out on her own to help alumni and students navigate career pathways. During Reunion 2008, she developed and delivered (along with current chair of career and professional development Louise Mallette ’74) a life and career transition workshop for baby boomers. In that same year, she created and presented “The Art and Science of Networking”, a session held during Celebration Weekend for students and their parents. Lipson, who continues as a member of the Career Network, regularly coaches and makes connections for students and recent graduates. Hearing back from students whom she has helped, she says, “gives me great joy.”
A passion for the intersection of art and ideas drew her interest to the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery; she has been a member of its National Advisory Council since 2004. As a past member of NAC’s marketing committee, she helped promote the museum’s fifth anniversary in 2005 and continues to develop and implement strategies for increasing its visibility nationwide. Much of Lipson’s work involves partnering with Susan Rabinowitz Malloy ’45 Curator Ian Berry and Dayton Director and Professor of Liberal Studies John Weber in efforts to engage alumni, parents, and those in the art world with the museum and its offerings. She serves as an advocate and ambassador, often making productive introductions among these groups. Closer to home, Lipson organizes networking events for Boston-area alumni artists and gallery owners. Currently she chairs the NAC’s governance committee, working to formalize a leadership structure that promotes the recruitment of new members and fosters diverse perspectives.
Her diverse portfolio of alumna volunteer activities includes her role as a founding member and supporter of World Class, an organization started by Judy Willsey ’71 and Barbara Tsairis ’71, now joined on the board by Mimi Freund Tilton ‘71 and Chris Werner ‘71, that provides access to credit, clean water, and sanitation to communities in greater Amasaman, Ghana. Along with Deborah BozBeckian Raptopoulos ’71, Lipson served as an advisor during the launch and early development of the organization. She continues to be a strong supporter, and dedicated her 60th birthday party, which she themed “Dance to My Loo,” to fundraising for the organization’s first latrine project.
Lipson has also spent time serving as a class agent, and reunion volunteer. She remains a familiar and welcoming presence at regional club, Tang, Career Network, and Skidmore Business Network events.
She values the constellation of Skidmore relationships she has cultivated over the years, including former and current members of the faculty and administration. Lipson is clear that her work as an alumna volunteer is not primarily about giving. In fact, she considers it a self-serving pursuit. “The opportunities I’ve had to engage with Skidmore feed my intellect, support my interests, expand my professional capabilities, and enhance my social/cultural life. Looking across these four decades, it makes the original tuition expenditure one of the best financial values ever.”
Humbled by this award, Lipson is, nonetheless, gratified by the appreciation she receives from the Skidmore community, and she recommends to all alumni that they think about engaging with the College in ways they may not have considered or known was possible before. “The benefit derived is absolutely mutual.”
Ellen Rein Goldin ’61
Ellen Rein Goldin ’61 fondly recalls the late Phil Krawiec, professor of psychology, punctuating his lectures with the observation, “As you get older, you become more and more of what you are.” Goldin is inclined to agree. She is also certain that her Skidmore experience played a critical role in shaping her life. The psychology major discovered a passion for French language and cultural studies that she continues to cultivate in weekly French classes—“an ongoing source of joy.” An introductory art history course with Professor Emeritus of Art Peter Baruzzi, “opened my mind to an understanding of the creative process,” knowledge that Goldin has drawn upon throughout her diverse careers in finance, arts administration, and volunteerism. “Most of all, Skidmore is the place where I became independent, began to take charge of my life, and learned to take responsibility for my choices.”
Those choices included heading to New York City after graduation, where she did a stint as personnel counselor before working as an administrative assistant and then stock broker for Prudential-Bache Inc. After time off to raise sons Edward and Spencer ’93, she accepted a position as special projects coordinator for the Westchester Council for the Arts, a job she loved. For one initiative, Goldin brought together third-grade students, published poets, and nursing home residents for a poetry workshop celebrating grandparents. She notes, “I learned a lot about the importance of doing what you are passionate about from observing Skidmore faculty.”
Throughout the years, Goldin’s passion for serving the College as an alumna volunteer has never wavered. Immediately after graduation, she agreed to serve as an admissions correspondent and then steadily expanded her focus to take on a remarkable array of volunteer positions and leadership roles.
A dedicated and seasoned fundraiser, she started as a class agent and then rallied classmates to support the College as a two-term member of her class’s Annual Alumni Giving Leadership Committee. In 1985, she signed on as a member of the Westchester County Regional Campaign Committee for the Celebration Campaign, playing a key role in expanding the donor base in that region.
Beginning in 1993, she served as a National Screening volunteer and member of the National Leadership Gifts Committee during Skidmore’s Journey Campaign and helped drive efforts that yielded a record-shattering number of donors and gifts. In 1995, she stepped up to serve two terms as a member of the National Friends of the Presidents Committee, maintaining a promise to “keep spreading the message about supporting Skidmore.”
Goldin has also spent considerable time working in partnership with the Office of Admissions. A longtime admissions correspondent, she served two terms as Westchester County Admissions Correspondents chair. She was also a member of the Admissions Task Force.
Her desire to ensure and enhance the quality of the student experience led Goldin to join Parents Council in 1990.
In 1992, she further deepened her involvement with the College when she accepted a four-year commitment to serve as an alumna trustee. In this role, she helped formulate and implement initiatives that enhanced support for scholarships, athletics, the sciences, distinguished professorships, and the reconstruction of Scribner Library. Goldin says the experience gave her a new understanding of Skidmore and its culture. “I discovered that the College is constantly evolving and always open to new ideas.” She also witnessed her board colleagues guiding Skidmore through a period of remarkable growth. “It was exhilarating to work with a group of people so committed to doing the best possible job for the College.”
She also spearheaded the establishment of the Westchester Alumni Club and served as its president. A longtime reunion volunteer, she was co-class historian for her 45th reunion in 2006.
Goldin has been a supporter of Skidmore scholarships for many years. Last May, in honor of her 70th birthday, her husband, Joel, established the Ellen Rein Goldin ’61 Endowed Scholarship Fund, which provides support for students with financial need who demonstrate exemplary academic achievement.
Her dedication to Skidmore has been passed on to son Spencer ’93, who has served on the alumni board of directors, Young Alumni Task Force, Friends of the Presidents Committee, and Reunion Giving Program Advisory Council. He received the Porter Award for Young Alumni Volunteerism in 2003.
Goldin has also used her skills as an organizer and fundraiser to benefit her community. She leads a monthly book club, via conference call, for elderly, homebound, and visually impaired people. For two years, she coordinated the annual Literary Symposium at Westchester Community College in Valhalla, N.Y. She is a former board member of the Pleasantville Music Theater and was a founding member of the Friends of the Greenburgh Public Library.
As for her award, Goldin reflects, “It is so nice to be recognized for something you love doing. All my experiences at Skidmore since graduation—attending reunions, renewing friendships, even presenting the Skidmore Cup at the Saratoga Race Course—have contributed to making this occasion one that I shall always cherish.”
Alexandra “Sandy” Linen Halsey ’56
“There is so much to be said about a liberal arts education,” remarks Alexandra “Sandy” Linen Halsey ’56. At Skidmore, she started out majoring in music. She has vivid memories of a harmony class with Hoyt Irwin, former professor and department chair, in which students had to “perform on command.” The class was difficult, but what she learned there has proven useful over the years. Ultimately, Halsey found the music major “too disciplined,” and switched her major to English, thinking it “would be more beneficial for the rest of my life.” After graduation, she worked at Oxford University Press before getting married and starting a family. She and her late husband, Tony, had four children—three of whom went to Skidmore: Wendy ’82, Anthony ’87, and William ’89 (he married alumna Rebecca Shimkin Halsey ’91, daughter of Suzanne Elsesser ’60). The Halseys served as co-chairs of the Parents Council and later signed on as alumni parent chairs.
In the 1960s, as a member of the Junior League in Summit, N.J., Halsey was on a planning committee that looked into how a rubella epidemic affected babies. “The mothers had contacted German measles while pregnant, and their babies were born deaf or learning-impaired,” she recalls. “We established the Summit Speech School for preschool children, using auditory training rather than signing. We taught them to use whatever residual hearing they had and then to speak orally. This was the only school of its kind in the metropolitan area.” Halsey volunteered in the classroom for years and says, “it was rewarding to hear a child finally speak.” She later became secretary of the board, then vice president, and president. She is proud of her service with the school and says it is still thriving today. Most of the 40 or more children there will “mainstream to regular schools and lead a fairly normal life—quite an accomplishment.”
In New Jersey, Halsey also served on the board of Morristown-Beard School, where her son was enrolled and where she herself had been a student. After moving to Mystic, Conn., she volunteered at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London and then became a board member. For more than six years, she held various jobs, including coordinating volunteers and running three galas. She currently volunteers two weekends a year at Mystic Seaport and serves on the Development Committee at the Mystic Arts Center.
Halsey’s involvement with Skidmore dates back to her time in New Jersey, where she was president of the Central New Jersey Alumni Club. Upon relocating to Connecticut, Halsey discovered that the Skidmore club in the Mystic area was inactive. The College sent her a list of alumni in the area, and she and her friend, the late Nancy Ryon Richardz ’56, organized several functions at the Old Lyme Inn, owned by a fellow Skidmore graduate.
Currently a class agent, Halsey has served as class president, reunion chair, class fund chair, class FOP chair, and reunion fund chair. Now accustomed to phoning classmates for annual giving, she admits, “I used to groan when I knew I had to make those calls, but once I started, I loved talking with everyone and catching up with their lives.”
With Skidmore such a family affair for Halsey, she has been able to spend a lot of time in Saratoga Springs and says she’s been “amazed and pleased with how the new campus has changed and evolved. I loved the old campus, but what a wonderful decision it was to move. It is beautiful today.”
A highlight in her work for the College, Halsey attests, was being class president for the fiftieth-reunion celebration—an experience she will “remember dearly.” She adds, “Skidmore has been very important in my life, and I am so grateful to be deemed worthy of the Outstanding Service Award. To be recognized by the Skidmore community in this manner makes my 55 years of service feel very special.”
Joan Agisim Odes ’66
When it comes to her alma mater, Joan Agisim Odes ’66 is the first to say, “Skidmore has influenced me in pretty much every area of my life since 1962.” As an undergrad, she took all the social work courses she could and majored in sociology, since a social work major was not offered at the time.
“I grew up in a relatively homogeneous town, and sociology opened my eyes to the different kinds of lives people live, especially regarding poverty and the causes and effects of it,” she says. Odes went on to earn a master’s in social work from Rutgers University in 1968 and a certificate in psychotherapy from the Alfred Adler Institute in 1976 before working at a family service agency and then going into private practice in psychotherapy in 1984.
She notes, “Although I chose a career in clinical social work rather than working with the economically depressed, what I learned at Skidmore also informed my political views in many ways.” In particular, she cites former Sociology Professors Howard Abramowitz and Elizabeth Ferguson as being influential in both her academic and personal development. “They were very unlike each other, but they each connected with me in a deep and meaningful way.”
Odes specializes in individual and marital therapy. She was previously a casework supervisor at the Jewish Family Service Agency of Central New Jersey for ten years. In the mid 1970s, she was involved with the United Jewish Appeal of Essex County, NJ, including two years as a board member of the Women’s division, co-chair of the Young Women’s division, and co-chair of the Business and Professional Women’s division. She also sat on the board for a number of organizations, including the New Jersey Society for Adlerian Psychology, the Alfred Adler Institute of NYC, the West Orange Public Education Committee, and the Playhouse Nursery School. Odes is currently a disaster preparedness volunteer for the New York City Medical Reserve Corps.
Her volunteer efforts have included serving Skidmore in various capacities since 1966. As a Reunion Committee member, she has worked on every class reunion from her fifth to the current 45th. She has also been a class agent, class fund chair for ten years, Friends of the Presidents chair for her 25th reunion, and a member of the Reunion Giving Program Advisory Council. In addition, she has been president of the Class of 1966 for the past ten years.
Despite her longtime dedication to Skidmore, Odes says, “If someone asked me as a student, I could not have foreseen the tie that I developed with the College. It started out slowly, not many years after graduation.” Over the decades, she has stayed connected with her Skidmore roommates, who she considers among her closest friends, and others she knew as a student. And with her extensive volunteer work, her circle of contacts has widened to include graduates from other classes as well—among them the classmates of her daughter, Naomi Odes Aytur ’94.
“I enjoy being part of what Skidmore is and was, and what it is becoming,” says Odes. “One aspect of Skidmore that I have always admired is the ability to move and grow—and also take chances, which has prevented the College from becoming stodgy and irrelevant. I want my own excitement about the school to be contagious to other people, and to have them share the fun and pride I feel about being connected to Skidmore.”
Mike Sposili is a firm believer in the power of relationship-building to create robust communities that support their members, individually and collectively, in the attainment of common goals. For more than a decade, he has dedicated himself to building and enhancing a framework within which Skidmore alumni engagement with one another and the College has flourished.
As director of the Office of Alumni Affairs and College Events, Sposili oversees a team that creates opportunities for alumni to connect in many ways—including by attending events such as Reunion Weekend, Skidmore Business Network meetings, the Friends of Skidmore Athletics Hall of Fame Benefit, and regional gatherings. Sposili and his staff also enable alumni to stay in touch by offering career networking and travel programs and access to online interaction via Skidmore Connect, the College’s alumni social network.
Sposili came to Skidmore with a distinguished career in higher education administration, including positions such as executive director of college relations at Hartwick College, of which he is an alumnus, and assistant vice president for admissions and financial aid at The Sage Colleges.
At Skidmore, he quickly set to work forging partnerships across campus and within the alumni community, helping to develop and launch innovative initiatives that have re-engaged alumni with the College and changed the nature of the alumni experience, both on and off campus.
He worked with the alumni association board of directors and its former president, Beverly Harrison Miller ’67, to establish the Colton Alumni Welcome Center, giving alumni a dedicated place to relax and orient themselves while visiting campus. Partnering with donor Lee Peyser ’81 and former Director of Athletics Jeffrey Segrave, Sposili helped create the Skidmore Athletics Hall of Fame in the Williamson Sports and Recreation Center, the first space on campus created to honor the College’s athletic history. In 2005, he identified the emerging, alumni-driven Skidmore Business Network as a critical resource for alumni seeking career and business opportunities. Partnering with founder Frits Abell ’94 and other alumni, he continues to provide support that has helped SBN to thrive.
Sposili also joined forces with alumni volunteers and on-campus partners to coordinate the College’s Centennial Celebration and the Inauguration of President Philip A. Glotzbach in 2003.
As chief staff liaison to the alumni association board of directors, he has worked closely with three board presidents. Known as a consummate facilitator, he provides board members with what they need to achieve their goals—and does it all with exemplary skill and a warm personal touch.
Board president Judy Roberts Kunisch ’69 observes, “Mike is first and foremost an alumni affairs professional. He understands the importance of alumni relations in terms of strengthening the relationships between alumni and the College. As the largest active constituency in the College community, alumni are critical to promoting the image of the College in areas far and wide. Mike plans, staffs, and executes events across the country. He is innovative and creative, thorough and complete. Mike is also fun to work with; he truly enjoys his work and Skidmore alumni!”
Former board president Deborah Sehl Coons ’72 recalls Sposili’s initial interview with the board. “What struck me then was his earnest desire to connect—such a great natural attribute!—and his empathy and sincerity. Mike is truly genuine and that quality is critical to making the volunteer experience successful. He manages to strike the delicate balance between promoting the alumni and the administration’s agendas, which are not always in sync, with unfailing good humor and grace. On any issue before the board, Mike ensures that alumni feedback is solicited, and gives it serious and due consideration. Although he is able to translate sometimes necessary compromise into a win-win situation, he’s never failed to put the board and the alumni association first. Mike’s partnership with the board has been key to attracting and retaining board members during his tenure.”
Former board president Beverly Harrison Miller ’67 reflects, “It was clear to all of us on the board from the start that Mike has an uncommon ability to forge relationships. He was relaxed and intuitively sensed that his relationship with the board would be one of partner rather than board and staff member. Over the course of my two terms as board president, we spoke regularly, and I tremendously valued his counsel as we worked together to serve all of Skidmore's alumni.”
Sposili says these and other relationships he developed with alumni over the years have been the most rewarding part of his work. “I have thoroughly enjoyed them. Whether working with the members of the alumni board or class, regional, or reunion volunteers, our collective goal has been constant—to strengthen the connection that alumni feel to the College and help them as well as future alumni (our students) realize that Skidmore is a transformational place.”
He is encouraged by changes he has witnessed over the past decade in the way alumni view their relationship to the College. “I believe that our alumni have become increasing aware and proud of the unique and prominent place that Skidmore occupies within the higher educational marketplace. The brand Creative Thought Matters has helped generate a greater sense of connection to the College. In the daily work of the Alumni Affairs and College Events staff, however, we’ve coined our own variation: Relationships Matter. We are dedicated to strengthening the relationships that our alumni have with Skidmore and with one another.”
Sposili says he is “quite humbled and truly honored” to receive this award. He adds, “Working in partnership with alumni and the exceptional staff members within the Office of the Alumni Affairs and College Events team to serve the alumni community is a challenging and rewarding experience that I look forward to each and every day.”
He is a member of the North East Alumni Relations group and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. He and his wife, Michele, live in Clifton Park, NY, with daughters Alison and Lauren.
Honorary Alumnus Award Recipients
This award is presented from time to time to honor and acknowledge the extraordinary
efforts of a non-alumna/us to promote the success of Skidmore College. The honoree
also demonstrates through professional, personal, civic or philanthropic pursuits
the values that the alumni association and Skidmore promote. The award is presented
on reunion weekend and includes honorary membership in the Skidmore College Alumni
Association and an alumni association ring.
Skidmore College has been a part of Bob Ladd’s life ever since he can remember. The son of the late Helen Filene Ladd ’22, trustee emerita, recalls that “whenever my father couldn’t find my mother, he would say, ‘Well, it must have something to do with Skidmore.’” Ladd understood and shares his mother’s intense devotion to the place she considered her “other home.” For more than three decades, Ladd, a trustee emeritus, has worked to preserve and build upon the legacies of service and philanthropy established by her and the Filene-Ladd family.
A Bard College graduate with a doctorate in education from the University of Virginia, Ladd did post doctoral work at the University of Oxford in England before launching a career as an educational consultant. He remembers that when he arrived on campus as a new trustee in 1978, “there were almost as many construction vehicles as there were students.” The College was in the process of transformation—from an all women’s school to a coeducational institution on a brand new campus—and he quickly lent his expertise and passion to guiding its growth.
Along with other members of his family, Ladd was deeply committed to carrying forward the vision of his parents, George and Helen Filene Ladd, to strengthen the music program at Skidmore. Working with former Chair of the Department of Music Isabelle Williams and former Director of Planned Giving Don Richards, the family set out to find a way to attract students of the highest caliber of musicianship to Skidmore. In 1981, they facilitated the creation of the Filene Music Scholarship Program, which recruits and funds talented students from across the country to study and perform with distinguished teachers and guest artists while pursuing a liberal arts education. Throughout the years, Bob Ladd has always been on hand to personally cheer on young musicians at the Filene Competition each spring and the performances of select Filene Scholars in the fall. He has cultivated close and enduring relationships with many of them. Ladd has faithfully served as an ambassador for the scholarship program to parents, prospective students, and alumni.
“The success of the Filene Music Scholarship Program,” observes Isabelle Williams, “certainly contributed to the growth of the Music Department. The funding came at a propitious moment, breathing new life into the music program at a time when national funding for the arts was being taken away.”
Ladd was also there to help as the Music Department outgrew its home in the Filene Music Building. Recognizing the need for greater performance space and seeing the opportunity to fulfill his mother’s dream of creating a first-class recital hall at Skidmore, he again took up the role of key advisor and advocate for the College, helping to secure support from the Filene-Ladd family and the Lincoln and Therese Filene Foundation for the establishment of the Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall in the Arthur Zankel Music Center.
A member of the Infrastructure, Special Programs, Advancement, and Student Life Committees on the board of trustees, he worked on numerous initiatives that moved the College forward on a remarkable trajectory toward its position as a top-ranked national liberal arts institution. As a member of the Student Life Committee, on which he served continuously throughout his tenure as a trustee, Ladd was committed to ensuring that students received fair representation and the opportunity to have their voices heard at board meetings. He spent countless hours in the Murray and Aikens dining halls and Case Center listening to and encouraging them.
Former Skidmore President David Porter observes, “Bob Ladd has always felt it crucial for trustees and students to get to know each other, and year after year he worked to make this happen. He arrived before board meetings started or stayed after they ended in order to arrange times when interested students could meet with him. Before, during, and after campus events, one continues to see Bob engaging in lively conversation with groups of students. Students often think of themselves as the last people to whom a trustee would wish to talk; Bob Ladd has for decades sent the opposite message—that Skidmore is above all about students, that he loves meeting and talking with them, and that doing so was essential to his work as a board member.”
Former Dean of Student Affairs Pat Oles agrees. “Bob always wanted to hear from students while he considered questions before the board. To his credit, he would also speak directly and frankly to them, even when he was taking an opposing view. His long history at the College and personal warmth gave him a special status; informal historian, wise elder, and trusted advisor.”
A firm believer in the power of personal interaction, Ladd also forged important and enduring connections with parents, alumni, faculty, and staff.
Indeed, Ladd feels strongly that many of his most important contributions took place outside the board room. “I made myself available to those at the College who had need and asked them what the board could do to help them. I preferred to do this informally, on a one-on-one basis. That’s what my mother did. It was more than just committee assignments. I simply devoted myself to getting done what needed to be done.”
In 2007, the board of trustees presented him with the Denis B. Kemball-Cook Award for his service to the College, lauding him for his “wisdom, fierce loyalty, warm-hearted generosity, and abiding affection for students.”
He says he is happy to have played a part in the physical and intellectual development of the College. “There has been a significant amount of construction, but the greater change has been the academic one. The faculty, administration, and the board of trustees have worked continually to upgrade academic programs, resulting in national and international recognition of Skidmore.”
In addition to membership in numerous professional organizations, Ladd has served as chairman of Central Maine Guidance Council and chairman of the Education Committee of the Board of Trustees of Green Fields School in Tucson, Ariz. He is a board member of the Friends of the State Museum in Augusta, Maine.
He has passed the family tradition of service to Skidmore on to son Bill Ladd ’83, a trustee who is vice chair of the Student Life Committee and a member of the President’s Advisory Council, formerly Council of 100. Bill has also taken on the role of Filene Scholarship Program ambassador. A two-term chair of reunions on the alumni association board of directors, Bill is a longtime class, club, and reunion volunteer. Like his father, he is unabashedly devoted to Skidmore.
Bob Ladd is delighted to be recognized as an honorary Skidmore alumnus. “I have had quite an education in the development of Skidmore. The College is a particular love of mine—it is very unique. Because I have lived with Skidmore most of my life, the feeling of pride in receiving this honor is immense.”
Jim Ricker is first and foremost a proud Skidmore father. Inpartnership with his wife, Joyce Benedict Ricker ’69, the Hamilton College alumnus enthusiastically supported sons Jason ’91, Justin ’96, and Evan ’97 in their athletic careers at Skidmore. Jason, a member of the men’s ice hockey team, was men’s baseball team MVP his senior year. Justin played on the men’s ice hockey team for four years, helping to bring home three consecutive Eastern College Athletic Conference South championships for the Thoroughbreds. Evan played lacrosse and captained the men’s ice hockey team, helping to capture four ECAC South championships. Over the years, Ricker not only spent countless hours cheering them on, he also formed close bonds with the other athletes and their families. When the men’s ice hockey program was threatened by budget cuts in 2002, he drew upon those connections to help save the program—and in the process, built a foundation for a new level of support and recognition of Skidmore Athletics.
In the fall of 2002, the Rickers spearheaded an intense campaign to rally alumni and parents around Men’s Ice Hockey. Together with Steven Cornell ’81 and Michael Cornell ’92, they helped raise an unprecedented amount of financial support for the program in just two months. With thoughtful determination, Ricker communicated the group’s level of commitment to newly appointed President Philip A. Glotzbach and other college administrators. Those efforts resulted in the reinstatement of the men’s ice hockey program in 2003. Ricker reflects, “It was a wonderful experience—being energized by the passion of the alumni (and even hockey players from other colleges) who could not imagine Skidmore without this terrific sport. I also learned that Skidmore was very fortunate to have Phil Glotzbach as its new President. During this process, he was approachable, compassionate, and not afraid to change his mind.”
Ricker then graciously partnered with the administration to revive the Friends of Skidmore Athletics (FOSA), an initiative started in the 1990s. FOSA is comprised of a committee of alumni, parents, and friends who work with the athletic director and Advancement staff to promote the ongoing enhancement of the College’s athletics program. Its mission is to ensure that student-athletes are able to compete and succeed at the highest levels.
As co-chair (along with Joyce) of the FOSA Committee from its inception in 2003 to 2007, Ricker helped to develop a robust fundraising structure and cultivate a group of dynamic volunteers, while generously leading the way with gifts. He helped drive the establishment of the Annual Friends of Skidmore Athletics Benefit and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, and the Thoroughbred Cup Golf and Tennis Tournament, both highly successful events that continue to draw new members into the FOSA family and unite alumni, coaching staff, and current student athletes in new opportunities for collaboration.
He helped promote the creation of the Skidmore Athletics Hall of Fame (donated by Lee Peyser ’81 and Cathy Peyser) in the Sports and Recreation Center. The Hall of Fame has honored student-athletes, teams, and staff from across six decades of Skidmore athletic history.
Ricker also developed a strong partnership with the Department of Athletics, Fitness, and Recreation and its director, Gail Cummings-Danson, helping to identify, plan, and implement major initiatives that address the ongoing needs of the athletics program.
Since 2008, he has served as FOSA representative on the Athletics Committee on Facilities, a body that helps ensure the growth and enhancement of athletic facilities needed to attract top-level student-athletes to the College. He is playing a key role in the development of an athletic facilities master plan that will ensure Skidmore remains competitive into the future.
Ricker is delighted with the progress made towards improving the athletic experience at Skidmore over his tenure as a FOSA volunteer. He points to the renovation and upgrading of the Williamson Sports Center and Wachenheim Field and the addition of new softball and field hockey fields. “These facilities are comparable to any of the schools with whom Skidmore competes.” In addition, says Ricker, “Each team now has its own coach, the training staff has grown and provides support to several teams for away games, and travel conditions are much better. In short, the quality of life for a Skidmore athlete has greatly improved—making it special to be competing for Skidmore.”
Cummings-Danson credits Ricker’s work as a major catalyst for that improvement. “Skidmore Athletics would simply not be at the point where we currently find ourselves without the involvement of Jim Ricker. His dedication, passion and commitment to Skidmore College, and in particular, Skidmore Athletics is second to none. The many ways in which he has contributed to the overall progress of our department is inspirational and we feel truly blessed to have someone with his resolve champion our cause.”
In 2007, the Rickers were presented with the FOSA MVP Award in recognition of their commitment to enhancing the Skidmore athletic experience and promoting excellence across all programs. They were inducted into the FOSA Hall of Fame with Special Recognition for their dedication to Skidmore Athletics in 2008. Last year, they were joined by son Evan, who was inducted along with other members of the 1996-97 men’s ice hockey team.
Jim and Joyce have never missed a FOSA event, faithfully attend alumni hockey games, and make time to support the men’s ice hockey team—on campus and at away games.
Ricker’s service to Skidmore, however, extends beyond athletics. A real estate consultant for Boston-based CRESA Partners, he helps students and alumni interested in that field as an Office of Career Services’ Career Network mentor. He has also evaluated student business plans as a judge for the Department of Management and Business course MB 107. He is a familiar presence at Boston area alumni regional and career networking events.
Among the rewards of his long association with Skidmore, Ricker says, are the close relationships he has built with many of his sons’ former teammates and their families, whom he enjoys seeing at alumni games. “I’m particularly moved by watching these young men develop into husbands, fathers, and citizens.”
He has also enjoyed getting to know coaches, trainers, and other member of Skidmore’s athletics staff. “We have a dedicated and talented group of people working with our student-athletes, he observes. “I have had the great privilege of knowing and working with three athletic directors, Tim Brown, Jeff Segrave, and Gail Cummings-Danson. They have all made a huge impact on Skidmore Athletics: Tim in building the department during times of tight budgets and outright opposition from some who did not see the value of athletics in a liberal arts education, Jeff for ushering the department through a time of transition at several levels within the College, and Gail for looking for excellence in all 19 sports as evidenced by the performance of the teams, and more importantly, for stressing academics. Skidmore athletes now carry a higher GPA than the general student body and nearly half of athletes become members of the Thoroughbred Society by achieving a GPA of 3.67 and higher.”
He is especially gratified to “witness Skidmore openly recognize athletics as an integral part of a quality liberal arts education—the institution has evolved tremendously.”
Ricker is honored to be recognized by alumni for his contributions to helping elevate the status of athletics at the College. “It means that these efforts have made a difference to a much broader part of the Skidmore community than I realized. When Joyce and I were inducted into the Hall of Fame, I realized what our efforts meant to the athletics community. But discovering that our work is meaningful to the College’s greater alumni body is extremely moving.”
Joseph C. Palamountain Award for Young Alumni Achievement - Jessa Blades ’01
Honors one alumna/us graduated one to 10 years who has utilized his or her Skidmore
education in a quest for excellence demonstrated by personal achievement. The recipient
must have a continuing concern for the Skidmore community.
Jessa Blades ’01 is widely regarded as a pioneer in the eco-beauty movement, a trend towards the use of natural, environmentally friendly cosmetics and personal care products. While working as a makeup artist in the fashion industry, she learned about the health and environmental risks posed by toxic ingredients contained in traditional cosmetics and began doing extensive research into healthier and “greener” alternatives. Armed with a conviction that a woman shouldn’t have to choose between health and beauty, nor ignore her conscience, she founded Blades Natural Beauty in 2008. The New York City-based company provides consultation and makeup artistry services using only natural and organic products to clients in the beauty and fashion industries as well as to individuals. As her business has grown, so has Blades’ role as a leading advocate for empowering women to make healthy choices about cosmetics.
While at Skidmore, the psychology major (who also studied studio art) discovered she could combine her interests into a career as a makeup artist. “I think of it as creating art on people—I work on half-painted canvases, with personalities and facial features, and my goal is to help women look and feel their best, and thereby enhance their self esteem.”
After graduating from Complexions Makeup Artistry School in Toronto, Canada, in 2002, she worked for MAC Cosmetics. She did a stint as the sole makeup artist on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John before heading to New York City, where she worked in the fashion and beauty industries.
There, she discovered that many traditional beauty products contain toxic ingredients, which brought her into serious conflict with the profession she loves. Not only could these products threaten women’s health, but they are also harmful to the environment. Most disheartening, there is virtually no information on the products to alert consumers to their potential danger. “I was truly surprised to find out that, even with all of my education and training in makeup and beauty, I didn’t know about these ingredients. And if I didn’t know, other women would likely not be aware either.” Blades began exhaustive research into cosmetics and personal care products, culling out those with harmful chemicals and identifying natural, environmentally friendly brands. Drawing up on a keen interest in medicinal herbs, she handcrafted a line of plant-based products that promote healing. These efforts culminated in the decision to launch her own company. She now offers consultation and makeup artistry services using only natural and organic products to individuals for weddings and photo shoots in addition to helping clients in the fashion and beauty industries embrace “green beauty.”
For Blades, building her business isn’t enough. She says she is driven to spread the message that women “can look and feel their best without harming their bodies or the environment.”
She spends a lot of time conducting workshops that teach women how to select and use beauty products wisely, without sacrificing well being or glamour. “It’s my mission to educate women about how to look like the best version of themselves, using the absolute best products available.”
A longtime environmental activist and advocate for women’s health, Blades has used her expertise to help inform multiple generations of consumers. She works as a lead consultant to Teens Turning Green and The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, both non-profit organizations committed to making the use of makeup and personal care products a healthier experience for girls and women.
She has also emerged as a go-to expert in natural beauty. A frequent contributor to Vogue.com, and Whole Living, Natural Health, Organic Spa, and Elegant Bride magazines, Blades has appeared on NBC’s Today Show and PAPERmag.com. In 2009, she was featured as one of Glamour magazine’s 70 Amazing Eco-Heroes, and this year, was selected Best Green Makeup Artist by sustainability multimedia source TreeHugger.
She appreciates the opportunity to reach greater numbers of women but values most the personal interaction with clients. “The most gratifying part of working with natural products is when people tell me that I’ve opened their eyes to thinking about what they put on their body. Something I’ve said has stuck with them and they have made real changes—when that happens, it makes me feel like I am effecting real change, one person at a time. My ultimate goal is to help women feel and look better and by doing this, shift the billion dollar beauty industry in a healthier direction.”
Blades credits the interdisciplinary foundation she received at Skidmore for helping her to “weave my own personal path” towards a fulfilling career. “My Skidmore education allowed me to enjoy learning, to first study what I was interested in without pressure to make sense of how it would all work out in the end. I was encouraged to combine my interests in art, psychology, business, and sociology. My professors taught me that everything was connected and I trusted them—and took them up on it.”
Over the years, she has continued to stay connected to her alma mater. An alumni admissions contact, she interviews prospective Skidmore students in the New York City area and is also an active member of the Skidmore Business Network’s New York City Chapter.
Her Skidmore connections also run in the family. Her mother, Betsy Smith, is a parent volunteer who also conducts admissions interviews; she formerly served as vice president of community service for Skidmore’s Philadelphia Regional Alumni Club. Brother Ethan Blades ’07 is an alumni admissions contact in the Philadelphia area and sister Wesley Blades ’10 is a graduate of Skidmore’s University Without Walls program.
“Winning this award is truly an honor. To be recognized by Skidmore for all of my hard work is a truly rewarding, full circle experience. I owe so much to the institution and my professors, as well as to the friends I made here. Working as hard as I do running my own business, I can sometimes feel isolated in my own bubble. It was a very special surprise to learn that Skidmore is not only curious about what I’m doing, but is making the effort to both honor me for it and remind me that I am still a part of the College community.”