Alumni Award Recipients 2015
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.
Elaine Allen '70 loves data. An award-winning epidemiology and biostatistics professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, she teaches students and researchers innovative ways to use biostatistics and data analytics to address complex issues effecting human health. As a serial entrepreneur, she's equally at home coaching them on how to launch successful biotech start-ups. But Allen is also well known for deftly applying multivariate statistics, analytics, and data visualization to help Major League Baseball teams elevate their performance, businesses continue to innovate, and academics chart the future of online education. She's built a distinguished career based on her exceptional facility with statistical research and more than a little creativity—both attributes, she says, that have their roots in her Skidmore experience.
Allen was first introduced to data analysis in an experimental psychology course taught by Skidmore professor William Spears. She also enjoyed a business math class that involved marketing statistics. The psychology major realized she didn't want to be a psychologist but rather "someone on the data end of the field." In her senior year, Spears recruited her to help develop a prototype for a campus-wide crisis hotline, a project that involved gathering and analyzing data. "We designed a survey and did the computation on calculators!" she recalls. For Allen, the experience was a turning point. "I was sold on the power of data to provide evidence." After graduation, Spears wrote to let her know that the hotline had been implemented. "I thought, wow, we really made a difference with data."
She went on to earn a master's in mathematics from the University of Evansville and a Ph.D. in statistics from Cornell University before launching a remarkably diverse career in business and academia.
Allen held faculty appointments at the Wharton School of Business and the Medical College of Pennsylvania before taking on executive positions in the healthcare and biotechnology industries. Her entrepreneurial spirit soon led her to strike out on her own. She launched StatSystems, a medical device company; ARIAD Pharmaceuticals, a publicly held biotechnology company; and MetaWorks, an evidence synthesis company.
After a number of years, Allen decided to return to the academic world because "it keeps you honest and constantly learning." She took a position at Babson College, where she is an emeritus professor of statistics and entrepreneurship. At Babson, she served as faculty director of the Center for Women's Leadership and research director of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship. As director of the Babson Survey Research Group, she was in charge of large annual projects including a survey of global entrepreneurship that involved 160,000 respondents in more than 65 countries. She was honored with Babson's Women Who Make a Difference Award and the Faculty Award for Outstanding Research.
Today, Allen consults with researchers, gives workshops and teaches courses in multivariate statistics, analytics and data visualization, and evidence synthesis at UCSF. She also serves as a mentor for its start-up incubator, QB3. In 2013, she was named Consultant of the Year by the university's Clinical and Translational Science Institute and received CTSI's Faculty Award for Most Impact on Research in 2014.
A fellow of the American Statistical Society, she has published widely on statistical issues in meta-analysis, analytics and data mining, survey research methods, and clinical research methodology.
Allen is also co-founder and chief scientist of the Quahog Research Group, a statistics, survey research, and information technology consulting firm that grew out of the Babson Survey Research Group. QRG clients include the London School of Business, the World Bank, and the Sloan Foundation, which funds an annual survey on the state of online learning among U.S. higher education institutions. Now in its twelfth year, the Sloan Survey of Online Learning has become the most widely quoted and respected source of information on trends in online learning. Allen and her co-director, husband Jeff Seaman, received the Sloan Foundation Board of Directors Award in 2013 for "accurate, exemplary survey methodology, and impartial evaluation of the growth and general status of online education."
Through QRG, Allen also continues to consult in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and sports industries. The longtime baseball fan spent two years consulting with the Toronto Blue Jays, analyzing data and creating a model that let the team manager know when to bring minor league players up to the majors. Although he dismissed Allen's conclusions, eventually it became clear that she was right on the mark—and the manager was fired. She has also done studies (with her daughter and collaborator Julia Seaman), on building a better fantasy baseball team and how the timing of injuries impacts team performance that have been covered by ESPN.com, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal. Her equally provocative paper on Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's "Moneyball" strategy landed her a guest spot on Bloomberg Business television in 2012. Allen has also worked with the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
She sees lots of opportunity for creativity in everything she does. "One example is taking the techniques that have worked well in medicine, where the use of biostatistics is everywhere, and seeing that you can apply them to baseball. Epidemiologists have many measures that they use to examine differential life span or calculate how a specific disease or treatment will shorten or lengthen your life. In the work I have done for the LA Dodgers, we took a look at these measures and I created a model to estimate how long a player will be on the disabled list based on age, playing time, position, and lots of other baseball-specific factors. Now we are using this model and other external data factors to forecast salaries." Moving in another direction, my daughter and I have applied the principles of 'Moneyball' to entrepreneurship and continued innovation in business."
The ability to move fluidly across different fields of knowledge is one of the hallmarks of a liberal arts education, something for which Allen is grateful. "Grounding in the liberal arts was way more important than my major," she says. But there is more to her Skidmore story. When Allen arrived on campus, it was her first time away from home. "I think that Skidmore taught me independence, gave me the strength to choose what I wanted to study, and most importantly, gave me wings to go wherever I wanted to go and do whatever I wanted to do. Skidmore sent me out in the world on firm footing," she reflects.
Looking over her career, she says she has gotten the most satisfaction from co-authoring baseball articles with her daughter and psychological research and statistics articles with her son, Chris.
She is gratified to be selected recipient of the CTM Award of Distinction. "I feel very proud to be honored by Skidmore and my peers for a career that included lots of diversions and never followed a straight path. In fact, my kids call it the "short attention span award!"
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.
Forensic psychiatrist Neil Kaye '80 knows his way around a courtroom. One of the most sought-after expert witnesses in the country, he has testified in over 100 criminal, civil, and regulatory cases as well as worked within the family court system. Kaye is an internationally recognized authority on infanticide and has extensive experience in the evaluation of neuropsychiatry (mental disorders attributable to diseases of the nervous system), psychopharmacology (the effect of drugs on thinking and behavior), medical malpractice, traumatic head and brain injury, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He brings his special knowledge of these areas to help juries understand the science involved in the facts brought before them.
"In the courtroom, a good forensic psychiatrist is essentially a teacher who educates 'the trier of fact,' meaning judge, jury, or hearing board, about the medical science involved in a case, so that they can apply the facts to that science and reach an informed decision or verdict. I love to teach," says Kaye, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at The Thomas Jefferson University College of Medicine and guest lecturer at Widener University School of Law. "The courtroom is another venue for that."
His work has included some notorious criminal cases. He testified for the defense in the trial of teen couple Amy Grossberg and Brian Peterson for the murder of their newborn child in a New Jersey motel in 1996—a crime for which the prosecution initially sought the death penalty. Kaye recalls, "I tried to explain the reasons and science behind infanticide and why society has always looked at it differently than premeditated murder. By humanizing the defendants and helping the jury understand their behavior, the outcome was justice: they each got by-the-book sentencing for manslaughter, which was appropriate." The same year, Kaye shared his expertise on behalf of the prosecution in the trial of high-profile Delaware attorney Thomas Capano for the murder of his mistress, Ann Marie Fahey. Kaye's conclusion, that the defendant's extreme narcissism caused him to react to Fahey's plan to end their relationship with violence, helped deliver a first-degree murder conviction. He reflects, "Both cases required extensive work and in the latter, a very challenging cross examination. I love the mental sparring that takes place in the courtroom and the Capano trial was a great opportunity to outwit the defense lawyer."
Although his criminal work rivets the public, Kaye says his favorite cases involve complex civil and regulatory issues. He has testified in a case involving sick building syndrome, in which he was able to prove that a family was experiencing psychosomatic reactions based on a mistaken belief that they were being poisoned by mold remediation chemicals. In the regulatory arena, Kaye was employed by U.S. Department of Justice to review hospitals for potential violations of the civil rights of incarcerated and involuntarily admitted patients.
In every case, he says, thoroughness and precision are critical. "Part of what makes forensic psychiatrists special is that we translate legal and medical jargon for the lay person, which can be tricky because there are words such as 'causation,' which have an entirely different meaning in medicine than it does in law. Good lawyers seek out experts who understand these nuisances and get it right—big cases often hinge on details like that."
Kaye is known as an activist in his field. He is founder and past chairman of The American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law's Task Force on Psychopharmacology and the Law, past president of the Psychiatric Society of Delaware and chair of its Ethics Committee. He currently serves as chair of the Medical Society of Delaware's Mental Health, Alcoholism, and Drugs Committee and a member of numerous national organizations including the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.
He has racked up numerous professional honors over his career. Named a Top Doc by Delaware Today magazine for three consecutive years, he was ranked a Top Psychiatrist by the Consumer Research Council of America. But the accolade closest to his heart is earning his hospital's highly coveted Golden Apple Award, given to the one faculty member (among 500) whom residents unanimously select as the best instructor they have had all year, across all disciplines. As a clinician in private practice who has evaluated over 10,000 patients, he is also gratified by the trust of patients and colleagues "who honor me with referrals, often sending family members, or coming in themselves for evaluation and treatment."
Kaye arrived at Skidmore already knowing he wanted to be a psychiatrist, like his beloved father, Jesse. An Exeter coxswain and junior national rowing team member, Kaye had been recruited by Harvard for crew. But after doing some research, he discovered that 100 percent of pre-med Skidmore graduates were admitted to medical school, not the case at Harvard. "I had no interest in the cut-throat atmosphere at the Ivies," he recalls. The biology-chemistry and psychology major was nurtured by a first-rate faculty; psychology professor Gus Lumia was "a wonderful mentor." Biology professor Rob Myers was "highly influential," as was Kaye's advisor, Chemistry Department chair Paul Walter. "They created an atmosphere for learning. Basically there were eight pre-med students and they made it possible for all of us to work together and support one another—and all of us got into med school." A point of pride for Kaye was learning that chemistry students at Skidmore scored higher on national chemistry exams than their counterparts at RPI. "Choosing Skidmore was one of the great decisions I've made in my life." He went on to graduate from Albany Medical College, then did his residency in psychiatry there before completing a fellowship in forensic psychiatry at Syracuse University.
In addition to getting an excellent education at Skidmore, Kaye freely admits that he also learned how to put together a top-notch crew. In the fall of 1977, acting on a tip from a local rower, he located a four-man shell (circa 1910) that was collecting dust in the barn of melon farmer A.A. Hand. He recruited four novice women, including Abby Peck '78, to sign on as Skidmore's first-ever crew team. After three weeks of training and a couple of chocolate chip cookie sales in Case Center, they headed to Cambridge, Mass., for the country's premier regatta, the Head of the Charles. To the group's utter amazement and delight, the Thoroughbred four, with Kaye shouting commands, came in 25th of 40 boats. Back on campus, they laid claim to being the first Skidmore team to defeat Ivy League teams.
Kaye later founded a crew teams at Albany Med and established others for Albany Law School, SUNY Albany, RPI, Union College, and the City of Albany, almost singlehandedly reintroducing the sport to the Capitol Region. These days he is busy building the Wilmington Youth Rowing Association, which he helped create to bring together youth from inner-city and suburban neighborhoods through the sport of crew. "It works!" he says.
He also spends time flying his own helicopter. As a member of Angel Flight, a national nonprofit that dispatches volunteer pilots to fly people for non-emergency medical treatment free of charge, he is responsible for serving the entire East Coast. Kaye, who is often called upon to service areas where planes are unable to land, has been recognized by organization's Pilot of the Year Award.
Skidmore has played no small part in his remarkable career. "Getting a solid foundation in the liberal arts was essential, because it taught me to think critically. I learned how to ask the right questions and challenge my professors. But I went to Skidmore for the purpose of getting into medical school—and Skidmore delivered."
He adds, "Receiving this award really is an incredible honor. It shows me that Skidmore
continues to care about me as an individual and is proud of my accomplishments and
success. Without my Skidmore experience, I would never have achieved as much nor have
been as successful, in all the myriad ways in which success can be measured."
Honors one member of the 50th Reunion Class who has demonstrated outstanding service to the College.
From the time she was a small child, Sue Steele Isbell '65 knew she wanted to be a nurse. When it came time to select a college, she was attracted by Skidmore's reputation for excellence as well as its proximity to her hometown of Syracuse, N.Y. "Meeting with the warm and welcoming Dean of Nursing, Agnes Gelinas," she recalls, "sealed the deal." At the time, few institutions offered students the opportunity to get both an R.N. and B.S. degree in four years. She set her sights on that goal, knowing that to reach it she would need to spend her sophomore and junior years as well as two summers in training in New York City. But as her junior year approached, Sue faced a heart-breaking decision. Eager to be closer to her fiancé, a medical student in Ann Arbor, Mich., she wrestled with the impulse to leave Skidmore as a licensed practical nurse and transfer to a school in the Midwest. Knowing that would jeopardize her dream of obtaining dual degrees, she ran to the office of a favorite instructor, Grace Davidson, seeking advice. "How relieved I was when she looked at me and said firmly, 'Sue, take stock of what you have invested in yourself. What are two short years in a long married life?' My answer instantly became clear. That turned out to be very sage advice to a conflicted student who is now celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary and her 50th Skidmore reunion."
Those experiences with faculty had a profound impact on Sue's life. So too did a curriculum that combined practical nursing skills with a strong foundation in the liberal arts. Courses in art, literature, and sociology taught her how to communicate effectively and give the kind of comprehensive care required in public health nursing. "When I went out to schools and homes, I had to think on my feet and make decisions independently. I was treating patients within a family living within a community, not just someone in a hospital bed." Her Skidmore training, she says, gave her the professional confidence that allowed her to flourish in her first nursing job at the Visiting Nurses Association in Rochester, Minn. It also taught her the value of teamwork, something Sue found essential to raising her family—and launching a career as a community volunteer.
After Sue and husband Bob, a radiologist, moved to Tampa, Fla., Sue stayed home to raise their three young daughters. She also started taking on a daunting number of leadership roles in local arts and civic organizations. These included stints as secretary of the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony Guild, president of a fundraising group for Berkeley Preparatory School, and V.P. of the University of Florida Town and Gown Association. Sue also led the Friends of Henry B. Plant Park as president, long-range planning chair, and chair of its annual two-day fundraiser. She helped plan an annual gala for the Tampa Bay History Center, and served on the board of directors of the Gasparilla Distance Classic, a charitable run that draws over 30,000 participants each year.
An avid quilter, Sue became co-owner of a small business, The Quilted Sampler, in 1988. After five years of teaching and helping to run the shop, she decided she needed more time to keep up with her growing brood of grandchildren.
She reconnected with her Skidmore family when she attended her 25th reunion in 1990. Although she had kept in touch with a few classmates over the years, being "way down in Tampa" had kept her from seeing Skidmore friends or returning to Saratoga. That first reunion was a revelation. "It was a blast—I was absolutely blown away. I had no idea it would be that much fun." Most importantly, she says, renewing relationships with classmates was "a joy." She was hooked.
Inspired by the camaraderie and a renewed appreciation for her Skidmore education, Sue started making calls for the Annual Fund and helping to plan future reunions. She signed on for a five-year term as class president in 2000 and then stepped up to chair her 40th reunion (she also served as nursing chair) in 2005. She is currently reprising her role as class president and continues her longtime service as class agent.
"Working with co-president Lenore Wersten '65 and other Reunion Planning Committee members has been rewarding and fun. This energetic group sets the stage for uniting classmates in reminiscing about our happy student days and sharing our lives as busy, productive adults."
She is gratified to be acknowledged for her gifts of time and talent. "I am honored and humbled to receive this award, which I did not earn on my own. So many others have contributed countless hours and other resources toward the advancement of Skidmore. I've also been fortunate to have had the steadfast support of my husband. The indispensable administrative staff is ever helpful and always appreciative of alumni involvement. I thank them and my classmates for the opportunity to serve."
When not volunteering for Skidmore or other institutions near to her heart, the former
marathon runner stays busy walking, running, swimming, and keeping up with her 11
Outstanding Service Awards
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 ten years as an alumna/alumnus, trustee, faculty member, administrator, staff member, parent or friend. Alumni recipients must be members of a celebrating reunion class.
When it comes to supporting education and the arts in the city of Lancaster, Pa., you'll find few residents as active as Judy Farmer Fulton '65. A consummate volunteer, she has made a career of enriching her local community and others—including Skidmore. Volunteerism, she says, was part of her upbringing. But the appreciation for those institutions she has chosen to support, and her thoughtful approach to doing so, are rooted in her Skidmore experience.
Judy arrived on campus "not really knowing what I wanted to do or be." She immersed herself in the liberal arts, studying the subjects she loved, including history, art, and government. At the end of her sophomore year, she chose an American studies major to integrate her diverse interests. She found Erwin Levine's government courses to be challenging and thought-provoking—and especially relevant at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement. "He really made ideas come alive," she recalls. The lessons she learned in Levine's American Government class would pave the way for her election as a Republican committee woman after graduation. Judy's eyes were opened to the beauty of the built landscape while studying American architecture with James Kettlewell. Taking music appreciation classes inspired her lifelong support of the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra. She also points out that the small size of these classes "gave students the opportunity to speak out and be heard in a safe environment of respect and congeniality as well as become campus leaders." Then there are the lasting friendships that were made in the dorm smokers, across the bridge table, and while celebrating Happy Pappy weekends. "My Skidmore education," she reflects, "with its broad grounding in the liberal arts, helped me to become a creative and independent thinker with a love of learning and a desire to give back to my community."
After graduation, Judy married and raised three active children—all while steadily taking on volunteer leadership roles in Lancaster. She was elected board president of the Lancaster Country Day School in the early 90s and is now a life trustee. She also served as president of the Lancaster Junior League and the Lancaster Museum of Art, where she and husband Rufus were honorary co-chairs of its 2006 capital campaign.
Judy's passion for education has been reflected in her work on the board of the Penn Manor Education Foundation, which provides funding for Penn Manor public school initiatives not supported by district budgets. As a board member of the Fulton Family Foundation, she helps the organization advance its mission of providing educational enrichment for students attending under-resourced public schools. These schools often lack the "extra dimension" afforded by arts programs and other extracurricular activities. When some concerned citizens rehabbed an old warehouse in downtown Lancaster and transformed it into a "science factory" museum serving elementary and middle school students, as well as the larger community, the Fulton Family Foundation stepped in as one of its founding supporters
Judy enjoys fundraising for nonprofit organizations in which she passionately believes. Skidmore, she says, has always been at the top of her list. A former class agent and Friends of the Presidents chair, Judy has served as class fund chair since 2012. During that time, she inspired her team of class agents to break class records for reunion giving for their 40th and 45th. She continues in that role for her 50th. Along the way, she has also had a hand in planning reunions. Judy does it all with a personal touch; she continues to send handwritten thank-you notes to classmates who have made gifts to the College. In 2011, she represented Skidmore at Franklin & Marshall's presidential inauguration.
Judy's Skidmore ties include nephew Alexander Jarvis '12 and an aunt, Mary Farmer Wooley '38, whose raccoon coat Judy wore all four years at the College.
She is quick to underscore what drives her dedication to her alma mater.
"Skidmore provided me with a quality education, and opened my eyes to a world I might not have known. I gained the skills necessary to feel comfortable and confident in new and different environments. Somebody was there to provide the necessary funds to run the College for us in the 1960s. It is now our turn and responsibility to do the same, and thereby ensure the College's future."
Judy is gratified to be recognized by an institution that means so much to her. "I
am both proud and humbled to receive this award. My four years at Skidmore were most
special to me. Over the past fifty years it has been a privilege to give back only
a minute portion of what was given to me."
"Supporting Skidmore is more than just bricks on walkways or plaques on buildings," says Jane Roberts Alpert '70. "It's about changing lives." A dedicated alumna volunteer and consummate fundraiser, she has been helping the College do just that for over a decade. The Newton, Mass., resident and mother of five has also built an extraordinary career serving community schools and other institutions that have made a difference in children's lives. She is a firm believer in the transformative power of education, a perspective that has its roots in her Skidmore experience.
Jane arrived at Skidmore with the intention of majoring in history, but discovered that she loved writing and literature. "It was Ralph Ciancio's freshman composition class—at 8 a.m., no less—that did it. Majoring in English was the perfect choice for me. Literature teaches you so much about human nature. It's really philosophy in story form."
Married a few months after graduation, Jane and husband Mark moved to New York City, where he pursued a J.D. at Columbia Law School and Jane headed up the school's information desk. She supervised a number of work-study students, from whom she happily accepted the moniker "Miss Informed."
Their family grew rapidly when Jane gave birth to triplets, Jonathan, Lauren, and Courtney, who joined older brothers Joshua and Gregory. If there is ever a situation that demands creativity, Jane has observed, it is juggling the needs of five young children. "I still have a vision of my two older boys, waiting at the edge of the living room for dinner, while the babies were fed continuously. Then I discovered my own system of being able to feed all three babies at once by myself; I arranged their infant seats on the floor, propped bottles in place, and burped them one at a time while I drank my morning coffee."
Jane's second son was born with developmental disabilities. When he entered a special needs preschool, Jane went along with him as a volunteer classroom aide. She became deeply involved with the students and was recognized by the supervising teacher as the only mother to become a true asset in this challenging environment. Supporting her son's development was and is a big part of her life. Jane reflects, "It was my business to make certain my son was receiving the best services, to be the best he could be. He was my job. You might say, we were in business together. You adjust your goals—and progress is a never-ending story. We've always had a great support system with the schools and government agencies. Everybody needs a good support system for success. It's crucial."
A desire to become more personally involved with all of her children's education led Jane to volunteer in Newton public schools. She is proud of the many programs she helped bring into the classroom, including Understanding our Differences, an initiative that fostered community among students of diverse backgrounds and learning abilities.
Jane's career as an alumna volunteer began as "a wonderful accident." While accompanying the triplets to Skidmore's Junior Admissions Workshop in 2001, she started chatting with a woman sitting next to her in the Admissions Office. Jane shared how impressed she was with how the College had developed, and pondered out loud how she might volunteer on its behalf. She soon discovered that the woman beside her was Carol Strickland '72, then Friends of the Presidents chair on Skidmore's Alumni Association Board of Directors.
Jane signed on as class fund chair for her 35th reunion, a role she has held ever since. "It was a little difficult at first. My daughter would walk by while I was on the phone and say, 'So, you're a telemarketer now?'" But Jane kept at it. "When the class fund reached a certain level, my husband would say, 'Jane, your class has just funded a student for a Skidmore education.' He remains my biggest supporter and cheerleader."
She came to understand that her efforts could transform a prospective student's life. "These gifts to Skidmore create the opportunity to add enormously talented students to our Skidmore family. Who knows what will come from a student who gets the opportunity to attend Skidmore because of the caring and generosity of alumni? Supporting the College is really about having the best students, the best professors, and the best facilities."
For Jane, effective fundraising takes more than just making calls. "It takes a plan, a great staff, and tenacious and wonderful class agents. I've always had the best of all three. It is an unbeatable support system!"
In addition, she has helped plan reunions and served a seven-year stint on the Alumni Board Nominating Committee. "I had the pleasure of working and developing friendships with some of the most dedicated and smartest people associated with Skidmore—a priceless experience."
As a member of the Skidmore-Boston Planning Committee, she hosted holiday parties for local alumni at her home each December for years. On several occasions, she and Mark also hosted Skidmore's male a capella group, the Bandersnatchers, to entertain the crowd. "These were special moments. The most remarkable thing about these gatherings was the wide range of ages among attendees. We were all just Skidmore alums having a wonderful evening together."
When not volunteering for Skidmore, Jane has offered her time and talent to Union College, daughter Courtney's alma mater. When husband Mark served as president of Tuft's alumni association for several years (he and other family members are Tuft's grads), she enjoyed her role as "First Lady."
Although she never expected recognition from Skidmore, Jane is delighted to receive
an Outstanding Service Award. "It just feels so good to know that I am helping the
As group president for Ralph Lauren, Wholesale, the Americas, Kim Roy '80 enjoys leading teams and growing business in a highly competitive, results-driven corporate landscape. She draws upon over 30 years of experience in the retail and wholesale industries building brands into market leaders, developing strategies for long-term growth, and adding shareholder value. Key to her success is the ability to bring together highly talented people to partner with groups across the organization as well as with leaders from all accounts. Bringing people together is easy, she says, when you "believe in the people and the strategy, love the product, and connect with the consumer!" This commitment to motivating teams and sustaining strong relationships is something that Kim believes was modeled for her at Skidmore. She's been committed to giving back to the College ever since.
A business major, Kim took a number of courses with then department chair Betty Balevic, who she also assisted as a work-study student.
She was impressed by Balevic's real-life experience in the business world, which "made her all the more credible in the classroom," as well as the professor's devotion to her current and former students. "She was able to maintain her authority as a teacher and department chair while simultaneously connecting on a very personal level with her students. It spoke volumes about the depth of her caring."
Originally planning to work in retail for a few years before going to law school and pursuing a legal career, Kim joined Abraham & Straus as an executive trainee. From there, she embarked on a remarkable career trajectory that brought her to top-level positions in executive management at Liz Claiborne, Inc., Ann Taylor Corporation, and Ralph Lauren Corporation. As Lauren's division president, Kim transitioned the brand from a licensed model to an owned Ralph Lauren business, and led all functions from design through production as well as sales, retail development, marketing, and the brand's financial results. She was subsequently named group president of Lauren brands, managing the organization's portfolio of women's brands, including Polo Women's, Lauren, Chaps, and American Living. Last year, Kim was promoted to her current position of group president, Wholesale, the Americas and is responsible for Ralph Lauren Men's, Women's, Children's, and Home brands.
She's never regretted her decision to forgo a career in law. "I was fortunate enough to join an industry with a lot of great people and to continuously grow and learn in every position. I take responsibility seriously yet enjoy and have fun in every career experience. I've been so lucky experiencing so many culturally rich things too, including watching the Far East develop into such an economic force. I also enjoy being with Ralph and our teams bringing to market beautiful product for every day of our customers' lives. And it's rewarding to engage with retail partners from Saks to Macy's, developing strategies to grow our business together."
As Kim made her mark in the corporate world, her relationship with Balevic and Skidmore continued to deepen. The professor attended Kim's wedding, and over the years, invited her back to campus to share her experiences with students and serve as a departmental resource. Kim has been an executive panelist for MB 107 presentations and has delivered the luncheon address at that event. Mentoring young people is clearly something she is passionate about. She has encouraged scores of Skidmore students to pursue careers in business and hosted many of them at her workplace. Kim has also been instrumental in offering students access to internships and executive trainee programs at Ralph Lauren, as well as sending company recruiters to campus. "I remember what it was like to be in their position, she recalls. "I really believe in giving back. I encourage young people to be curious and push themselves to learn from every experience. I believe they should be well prepared for discussion with potential mentors and that they deserve good guidance along the road to success. I always tell them, 'The sky is the limit and the future is theirs!'"
Kim says she is also motivated by appreciation for what Balevic did for her and many others. "For her entire 40-year teaching career, she was devoted to current and former students and made a personal investment in their success. It's extraordinary that she took an interest in her students for the rest of their lives."
When Kim was elected to Skidmore's Board of Trustees and Alumni Association Board of Directors as an alumna trustee for a four-year term in 2009, she brought her executive experience and leadership skills to bear on wide-ranging institutional issues, not the least of which is preparing students for successful post-college careers. Kim served on the Advancement, Strategic Planning, and Student Life committees. And as a member of the Academic Affairs Committee, she helped shape and strengthen Skidmore's Transitions and Transformations initiative, which includes annual networking events where students and grads get career coaching and individual guidance from alumni and parent mentors in a wide range of fields. "It's an ambitious undertaking," she notes. "T&T benefits students seeking grad school as much as it does those pursuing careers in business or the arts and sciences. Having a strong commitment to career development is critical for the college's distinction in this competitive landscape. It's important for the College's success as the well as for students." Kim was guest speaker at a T&T event in New York City earlier this year.
Skidmore, she says, continues to influence her career as well as her personal life. She entered a new phase of involvement with the College when children Katharine Tofalli '10 and Christopher Tofalli '13 decided to enroll. "They both had a fantastic experience at Skidmore and are doing so well in the city, enjoying the early years of their careers. My husband and the love of my life, Chris, and I are so proud of our children and delighted that both Skidmore and Saratoga continue to be play a meaningful role in our family life."
Kim is a firm believer in the value of a Skidmore degree. "I believe one of Skidmore's most distinguishing and appealing points of differentiation is that, over so many years, business has been one of the top majors, and is offered in a strong liberal arts environment. That balance embodies what for me has been a lifelong appreciation for the interdependence of the arts and business. At Ralph Lauren we call it the balance of creative and commerce. Having the ability to appreciate the unique skill sets of those from the most creative designer to the most analytical financial partner, as well as bring those diverse people together to create a motivated, productive, committed, and successful team is one of the most valuable and rewarding aspects of my professional life. And personally, the friendships and appreciation of people with such range brings real dimension to life!"
Skidmore is not the only beneficiary of Kim's time and talent. She is a former member of the Weight Watchers International Board of Directors and its Audit Committee. In 2012, she was selected to join the YWCA of New York's Academy of Women Leaders.
A grateful alumna and Skidmore parent, Kim is also gratified to be acknowledged by
her alma mater. "Receiving this award is humbling because others do so much more.
But it signals that Skidmore understands the devotion of its volunteers and the work
they do. That's rewarding because it shows that my passion for and commitment to the
College is recognized. Thank you!"
"When I see the hashtag #Skid4life, I think, that's me," quips Toby Weisberg Rubinstein '65. The longtime Skidmore volunteer has been serving her alma mater in myriad roles for decades. She's done it all while building an impressive career with the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Workers' Compensation Programs and then her own consulting firm. An expert on the development and appeals of federal workers' compensation claims, she possesses a keen, analytical mind—something, she says, that she developed at Skidmore.
As a teenager, the Newton, Mass., native had heard good things about the College from two alumnae who lived in her neighborhood. The extraordinarily warm and welcoming demeanor of her admissions interviewer solidified Toby's sense that Skidmore was indeed "the right fit" for her.
Already intrigued by politics when she arrived on campus, Toby found a home in the Government Department, where she took 54 credits rounded out with classes in history and philosophy. "This coursework helped me to draw the conclusions necessary to solve problems and clearly express my thoughts," she notes.
The brightest moment in her Skidmore experience was completing her senior thesis, a quota sample study of whether a political candidate's image, party affiliation, or policy preferences would be more likely to persuade the electorate in her hometown. Not only did she predict the outcome of the presidential election there within three percentage points, she was one of two students to earn the top grade in her class. "Of course I was also hoping to impress Erwin Levine, a favorite professor at that time," she recalls.
Setting her sights on working for the federal government, Toby spent a few years with the Social Security Administration before starting a 21-year career with the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP), where she steadily rose up the management ranks to supervisory claims examiner. Serving as a key liaison to agencies including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Parks Service, she drafted training materials and conducted seminars that helped department heads navigate the complex system of regulations, policies, and procedures involved in the administration of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FICA). She interfaced regularly with members of Congress and helped design and implement major technological advances in processing claims at the OWCP. An unyielding commitment to excellence earned Toby three Department of Labor Secretary's Exceptional Achievement awards.
She now runs her own consulting firm advising attorneys nationwide on FECA claims, specializing in complex occupational disease cases. She also represents individual claimants before the OWCP. Toby is the only non-attorney in the country consulting for attorneys and claimants alike.
"Any success I've had can be attributed to my ability to analyze evidence, research precedent, and write cogent arguments—I give Skidmore significant credit for that," she says. She also believes a solid foundation in the liberal arts fostered the creativity that helped her launch and market her own business.
All along the way, Toby never lost touch with her Skidmore roots. She signed on as an admissions correspondent and class agent soon after graduation, and was later elected president of the Skidmore Club of Northeastern Pennsylvania. That led to her being tapped for the position of vice president of clubs on Skidmore's Alumni Association Board of Directors in 1977. That year, she returned to campus to address the entire senior class, encouraging them to become active alumni (which, coincidentally, was the last time she experienced a fear of public speaking.) She also served as a Wide Horizons Campaign volunteer. Toby helped plan her 25th reunion in 1990 and has had a hand in planning those celebrations ever since. She served on the Alumni Awards Committee in 1992 and returned to the alumni board as a member-at-large in 2004. She is a three-time class historian, currently collaborating with Pamela Ghents Ness '65 and Sarah Smith Munley '65. Class secretary since 2000, she is also class planned giving chair and a member of the Legacy Society Advisory Council.
Toby has enjoyed sharing classmates' lives through class notes and loves the joyful camaraderie of Reunion. She is especially delighted by the photos included in the 50th reunion class history; "I can actually see the resemblance between some of my classmates and their grandchildren," she notes.
"Skidmore is in my blood," she reflects. "Initially, I became involved because I wanted to stay in touch with old friends, but the more I volunteered, the more I wanted to give back to the institution that gave so much to this daughter of an immigrant. I have always felt that my efforts have been appreciated. Skidmore has been special to me since my neighbors encouraged me to apply, and I have felt its warmth from the day I interviewed for admission to the present."
Honors one alumna/us graduated one to ten years and who has demonstrated outstanding service to the College. Service may be evidenced through a variety of forms.
Claire Solomon '10 comes from a long line of exceptionally dedicated community volunteers. Her paternal grandparents are proud of their southern Jewish heritage and deeply committed to civic life in the town of Helena, Ark., where the Solomon family has lived since the Civil War. So much so, that her 98-year-old grandfather is still active on a number of local boards. Claire has not only embraced this tradition of service, she is creating a powerful legacy of her own. Through her volunteer roles as counselor, interfaith activist, and educator, she has been steadily building and enriching communities for over a decade.
By the time she arrived at Skidmore, Claire had already interned at the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, where she helped develop a youth service learning initiative. In her sophomore year, the American studies major was selected as one of 20 Interfaith Youth Core fellows across the U.S. charged with promoting interfaith dialogue and service learning on college campuses. While completing her extensive training, Claire initiated and facilitated a year-long discussion group on spirituality and diversity at Skidmore. She also served as Hillel Religious Committee co-chair and Shabbat service leader.
Claire involved herself in virtually every aspect of student life. A peer mentor for Skidmore's First-Year Experience, she signed on as chair of the Student Government Association's Willingness to Serve Committee. While accompanying her mother and aunt on a cultural outreach trip to the Ukraine in 2006, Claire met documentary filmmaker Patrice O'Neill, whose award-winning film on hate crimes, Not in Our Town, she found inspirational. The following year, Claire partnered with faculty, students, and administrators to secure funding to bring O'Neill and her film to Skidmore for a week of campus-wide anti-hate events.
In 2008 Claire returned to SGA as Vice President for Academic Affairs. She chaired and revitalized Academic Council and led students in the development of college-wide Goals for Student Learning. As student representative on two faculty committees, Claire voiced student concerns about key educational policy issues. "Through SGA I was privileged to be a community builder and organizer, and to have a seat at many different tables with faculty and administrators, where I was treated as an equal. I learned how to speak publicly, how to run a meeting (you should probably provide snacks), how to compromise, and how to be fiercely proud of an organization and an institution," she reflects.
Her leadership did not go unnoticed. In 2008, Claire was recognized with the Jane Anne Hapeman Distinguished Service Award, and she finished her senior year as the recipient of the Katherine Scranton Rozendaal Citizenship Award and the Candace Carlucci Award, the latter in recognition of her "boundless energy, contagious enthusiasm, and capacity to energize."
All the while, she never lost sight of her own academic goals. Claire won the Candace Carlucci Backus '66 First-Year Experience Prize for her paper about Jews in Jackson, Miss., during the Civil Rights movement. As a senior, she received the American Studies Faculty Award for an honors thesis that involved a year-long ethnographic study of retirement community residents using music as a means of understanding historical memory. The subject grew out of her senior seminar with advisor and mentor Dan Nathan and a passion for serving older adults. "Professor Nathan enabled me to find my voice and own it," she recalls. "Much of what I studied with him in broadened and deepened my personal and professional interests in memory, community, storytelling, and story gathering." Claire's commitment to exploration and community building also had its roots in the one-credit freshman seminar Imagination, taught by Mary Ann Foley. Students in the course remained so close throughout their time on campus that Foley felt compelled to offer Imagination II to the same group in the last semester of their senior year. "Our class of eight became a family. I credit so much of what we shared with how I think about and engage in the world," Claire notes.
After graduation, drawn by an interest in exploring her heritage, she accepted a position as an education fellow at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Miss., where she was responsible for leading religious school programs, teacher-training workshops and adult education classes for 11 partner communities in the region. She spent two years there before relocating to New York City to work for The Covenant Foundation, a nonprofit that funds innovative Jewish education programs around the country. As a program associate, she analyses grantee reports, coordinates marketing and communications, and serves as an editorial assistant.
But that's just her day job. Claire's passion for volunteering remains as strong as ever. These days, she strengthening familiar communities and building new ones.
A member of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia Young Alumni Board, she also helps fundraise for the Interfaith Youth Core Alumni Advancement Team. Thanks to an invitation from Melissa Ross '10, Claire has spent two summers as a volunteer counselor at Camp POWER, a week-long overnight camp for at-risk youth from East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Red Hook, Brooklyn. She also co-founded a chapter of 92Y Shababa, a program designed to create community for young adults through music. A member of the Jewish Women's Archive Institute, she was one of 25 Jewish educators selected for a four-day professional development conference on Jews in the U.S. civil rights and labor movements. As a volunteer for a program that matches young adults with seniors, Claire spends time most Friday's singing and playing the piano with her 85-year-old friend, Natalie.
Determined to stay in touch with her Skidmore family, she signed on as class Friends of the Presidents Chair and alumni admissions contact immediately after graduation, and later took on the role of class secretary. While living in Mississippi, she actively sought a volunteer role that would bring her back to campus and ended up sitting on the Alumni Awards Committee. Once settled in New York City, Claire joined the Skidmore-New York Planning Committee. She is now co-president of that group, a member of the National Friends of the Presidents Committee, and will step into the role of admissions chair on Skidmore's Alumni Association Board of Directors this fall.
Claire's Skidmore ties include many classmates and fellow alumni with whom she remains very close. This summer, she will officiate at the wedding of Jessica Thorn '10 and Ross Goldberg '10.
She will also begin a three-year dual-master's program in social work and public health at Columbia University. It's another choice, she says, that was influenced by her work with the elderly as a Skidmore student.
"Everything that I do is modeled after the American Studies Department and the way in which I engaged both academically and socially at Skidmore. In my previous work at the ISJL, my current work at The Covenant Foundation, and, I imagine, my future work as a social worker/public health professional, I will always need to think on my feet, to be an 'informed, responsible citizen,' and to foster a community that embraces dialogue and exudes compassion. My Skidmore experience also taught me to be creatively empathetic, creatively kind. I think many of my accomplishments at Skidmore and in my life have been grounded in those attributes."
Claire says she is "humbled and grateful to be recognized by the College," but insists that none of the work could have been accomplished without the support of family, friends, faculty, mentors, and fellow volunteers. "I don't think we can be ourselves by ourselves," she says.
Honors one alumna/us graduated one to ten years who has utilized her or his Skidmore education in a quest for excellence demonstrated by personal achievement.
When Rachael Beard '05 sees an unmet need, her instinct has always been to find a way to fill it, whether by marshalling and refining existing resources, or creating something new. Drawing upon her interests in education, art, and technology, she has been building and sustaining communities since her student days at Skidmore. As director of Global User Services at the International Rescue Committee, a nonprofit that responds to the world's worst humanitarian crises, she ensures access to critical information and resources for IRC employees across 40 countries and 22 U.S. cities. It's not the first time she's been passionate about a mission.
The Skidmore art and psychology major was just a year out from graduation when she and Anna Markowitz '05 developed and launched LinkEducation, a nonprofit network that connects parents of school-age children with educational services in New York City. Rachael was managing a database for Teach for America when she approached Anna, a TFA colleague, about the lack of quality, affordable afterschool, arts enrichment, and academic support programs for children in the city's under-resourced schools. Parents also had difficulties navigating the highly complex school system to locate existing services. While still holding down their day jobs, Rachael and Anna interviewed hundreds of parents, schools, organizations, and businesses to assess the need and pinpoint resources, which Rachael aggregated into an easily searchable online database, "a sort of Craigslist for education." As executive director, she developed strategic partnerships with key community organizations, such as the New York City Department of Education, New York University, and Teach for America. She, Anna, and another TFA colleague, Rachel Brill, recruited a staff of 30 volunteers, drafted a business plan, put together a fundraising team, and incorporated the new venture, which formally launched in 2007. In addition to building and marketing the website, Rachael led in-person outreach at events including the annual K-12 Education Expo. When it came time to assemble a founding board, she turned to her Skidmore connections. At its inception, LinkEducation's board of directors was headed up by business executive Gay Hartigan '73 and Barbara Beck, Skidmore's associate VP of finance and administration and director of Human Resources, who, Rachael says, provided "invaluable guidance on structuring the organization." Good friends Craig Hyland '05, Lizzie Neary '05, Risa Shoup '05, Christina Barsky '06, Jessyca Dudley '06, and Brittain Mason '06 agreed to lend their expertise to LinkEducation's advisory board. The nonprofit gained success in New York City and merged with the national organization Greatschools.org in 2010.
That year, Rachael was already employed by the IRC, where she steadily worked her way up the ladder from content management to project management for the company's online collaboration tools. More recently, she progressed into directing the newly formed Global User Services; restructuring the help desk team and reorganizing its members into a global service desk staff stationed around the world. These days, she is in charge of that team as well as comprehensive application support and training for all 10,000 IRC employees.
"I believe in the mission of the company, even if I don't work directly with the people we serve. I love knowing that I'm providing a service to my colleagues who are literally saving lives every day. If my team does their job the way we should, our colleagues in the middle of places like South Sudan or Afghanistan have the technology operating seamlessly so they can focus on the people they are helping."
The IRC's humanitarian mission is one that Rachael is passionate about, but her dedication to overcoming educational inequity and "taking education to the next level" remains close to her heart and in the forefront of her mind.
While networking at a LinkEducation event in 2010, Rachael met several educators interested in establishing a charter school in the underserved West Harlem neighborhood where she used to live. In 2011, Rachael signed on as a founding board member and chair of the Global Community Charter School, an aspiring international baccalaureate preparatory years program school offering an arts-integrated curriculum with a strong intercultural focus. She helped draft the school's charter and was instrumental in the planning and fundraising that opened its doors in 2013. GCCS started with two classes of 75 kindergartners and 75 first-graders and will eventually expand into a K-8 program. Rachael continues to serve as a board member and maintains close ties to its students and staff.
So how did this art and psychology major end up founding a nonprofit, helping to open a school, and managing IT user services for a global humanitarian relief organization? "Education has always been a passion, so that drew me to Teach For America, which ultimately led to the start of LinkEducation, and that connected me with GCCS," she says. "But everything I've done is so intertwined and compliments the next door that opens for me: My art major has helped me in countless ways. The visual design and perspective gained from those courses has informed my user experience decisions and communications designs for materials our IT department produces. Because of my painting focus, I decided very quickly out of college that I needed to have a web presence, so I learned some basic HTML/JS practices. The interest in web design led to an interest in web marketing and search engine optimization. This entire path started me working with applications, building LinkEducation, and eventually into the IT department at the IRC. My psychology major has also opened up a number of doors: understanding how and why people operate has greatly informed my daily work leading the IRC's Global User Services team. Relationships are all about human behavior, so the study of human behavior has helped me manage and lead teams in ways I hadn't anticipated."
At Skidmore, some of her most important lessons took place outside of the classroom. Rachael served as a member of the search committee that brought President Philip A. Glotzbach to campus. In 2005, she earned the Skidmore Thoroughbred Award for her leadership as class president and member of the Student Government Association, where she sat on the Budget and Finance Committee. That year, she was honored with the Catherine Scranton Rozendaal Outstanding Citizenship Award for founding Skidmore's sailing team and raising $23,000 to purchase boats.
Rachael also left her mark on Skidmore and Saratoga Springs with her large, colorful paintings, which hang in Scribner House and in private homes including that of former mayor Michael Lenz. She is currently leasing an art studio, where she plans to return to oil painting.
"At Skidmore I learned that if you take advantage of opportunities, there is so much you can do. If you see a gap in some area you can fill it by creating something new or refining what's there," she notes.
"I am completely humbled and honored by this award. There are so many amazing, accomplished individuals I know that deserve recognition—classmates who are doing incredible things, who care, and give back. It is really an honor, and I hope I can represent it as well as I know those others would."