2011 Excellence Award Recipients

The University at Albany Alumni Association traditionally recognizes alumni and friends of the University for their outstanding achievements and service to the University and community. These individuals personify the University's commitment to excellence and service and bring distinction to themselves and to our alma mater.


  Bertha E. Brimmer Medal
Deborah Mayne Brandau Ph.D. ’94

Citizen of the University
John Delano

Distinguished Alumni Award
Richard Lehrer MS ’76, CAS ’82, Ph.D. ’83

 Excellence in Alumni Service Award
Michael Borys BS '78, MBA '79

 Excellence in Arts and Letters Award
David Pietrusza BA ’71, MA ’72

 Excellence in Business Award
Stacy Bash-Polley BS ’89

 Excellence in Community Service Award
Robert Paeglow BS ’76

 Excellence in Education Award
Charles S. Dedrick MS ’91

Excellence in Entrepreneurship
Alan Mantel BS ’85  

Excellence in Public Service
Honorable Nancy Groenwegen BA ’79

 Excellence in Science & Technology
Jonathan Newman BA ’85, Ph.D. ’90

  International Alumni Award for Exceptional Achievement
Laiwu Zhang MA ’93, Ph.D. ’95


Bertha E. Brimmer Medal


Deborah Mayne Brandau Ph.D. ’94

Capable. Competent. Flexible. Deborah Brandau is all three, and those qualities have helped to make her a highly respected educator and mentor for more than three decades.

Brandau taught for 30 years in the Wheelerville Union Free School (WUFS) District, a small rural district in New York’s Adirondacks. While she has been a K-8 remedial and developmental reading and writing teacher, she also has taught technology, science, home and careers, and writing. In addition, she has taught children with disabilities, as well as gifted and talented students. As her colleague Lynn Lair points out, “I have not met a teacher as versatile as Deborah.”

While teaching, Brandau also served as director of the Learning Center, supervising and scheduling remedial instruction. For 25 years, she wrote grants for district technology, school improvement and staff development programs; Chapter 53; and the Rural Education Advisory Committee. She also coordinated district testing and test reporting for the New York State School Report Card and interpreted data for the local Board of Education.

Brandau’s colleagues laud her commitment and her ability to meet the needs of such a wide range of students. “I was always amazed at how she created a positive classroom environment which fostered cooperative learning and an open exchange of knowledge given such a diverse population of students,” said colleague Michael Frollo. “Her ability to effectively analyze a student’s academic challenges and offer common-sense solutions was a definite asset. She knew what a child needed and was able to deliver it.” Indeed, Lair notes: “During her career at WUFS, our school was named both a gap closing school and a most improved school in English Language Arts by the State Education Department. She played a vital part in making that happen.”

In order to understand her students better, Brandau focused her doctoral research on the nature of literacy learning and culture in her local community. The resulting paper, Schooling and Work: A Literacy-Based Inquiry in a Rural Working-Class Community, was published in a top journal; Brandau also presented it, and subsequent work, at a number of state and national conferences. Her research increased her commitment to her local community, where she continued to teach until her retirement in 2010.

While Brandau has retired from public school teaching, she continues to share her knowledge and expertise with educators and future educators through her instruction in graduate-level literacy courses at the University at Albany. As a core adjunct faculty member in the School of Education’s Online Teaching Program, she now serves K-12 students by teaching their beginning teachers.


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Citizen of the University

John W. Delano

University at Albany Distinguished Teaching Professor John Delano has been honored with numerous awards, including the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the UAlbany President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. But it’s a measure of the man that he gauges his success in a very different way: Delano keeps a folder of what he calls ‘unsolicited compliments’ from students, a folder that has grown gratifyingly thick over the years.

Delano’s passion for teaching is sparked by an innate curiosity about how things work and a desire to nurture and inspire the next generation. His fascination with the universe was triggered in 1957 when he caught a glimpse of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite launched into outer space. A few years later, he heard Americans would be traveling to the moon, and the idea of studying samples from the moon had him hooked. His early fascination with understanding the basic questions of the universe translated into his decision to study geochemistry. After receiving his Ph.D. in geochemistry, he began research in astrobiology with NASA, which he continues today with colleagues from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).

“I think it is fair to say that John epitomizes the ideal of a professor,” said Bruce Watson, professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at RPI and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. “He has remained at the leading edge of his scientific field for decades. Equally importantly, he has grown into a creative and gifted educator and an effective leader. John is passionate about science and starts every day on a mission to learn something new. He is equally passionate about education, and devotes a major portion of his time not only to innovation in the classroom at UAlbany, but also to outreach activities and public lectures on astronomy and planetary science.”

A former chair of the University Senate, Delano has served on numerous committees, task forces, and councils during his almost three decades at UAlbany. He’s also participated as a speaker at hundreds of events for prospective and current students, alumni, faculty and community members and is constantly on the lookout for new and innovative ways to teach students. “John always engages and delights his audiences,” said Edelgard Wulfert, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “His enthusiasm, his indefatigable energy and his sincere desire to help others understand the world of science make him one of the most popular and inspiring professors on campus.”

On a national level, Delano has also had an impact. By invitation, he testified before a presidential commission convened by President George Bush to address NASA's strategic goals for human spaceflight. Delano, who has also served on and chaired numerous NASA advisory committees, is currently associate director of the NASA-funded New York Center for Astrobiology and principal investigator of the NASA Astrobiology Program. “He leads our outreach efforts with exceptional vision and energy,” Watson said. “He remains a fundamentally humble man who is committed to leaving as small a footprint as possible on our planet. He has already left some big footprints in his scientific field and at UAlbany.”

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Distinguished Alumni Award

 

Richard Lehrer MS ’76, CAS ’82, Ph.D. ’83

Restoring leadership in math and science education that will prepare children to meet the challenges of the 21st century is at the forefront of the nation’s academic agenda. As educators, government and communities question how to achieve this lofty goal, Richard Lehrer is providing some of the answers.

Lehrer is an internationally recognized scholar and pioneering researcher whose work focuses on the design of learning environments, the development of representation and representational systems, and the learning of mathematics and science. He investigated the potential of computer tools for learning and subsequently conducted ground-breaking work in children’s spatial and geometrical reasoning. In addition, Lehrer developed ways to incorporate geometry into the earliest grades and to grow these mathematical ideas progressively through early middle school.

As associate director of the National Center for Instruction and Learning in Mathematics and Science at the University of Wisconsin, Lehrer expanded his focus to orchestrate district-wide school reforms that organized mathematics and science instruction around modeling approaches, including longitudinal studies of changes in teacher practices and the growth of student learning. “Rich’s work is unique in its firm grounding in classrooms, its attention to supporting students’ knowledge and reasoning resources, and its commitment to ongoing teacher learning as an important mechanism of change,” said Robert Pruzek, professor of educational psychology and methodology at the University at Albany.

In 2002, shortly after moving to Vanderbilt University, where he is now the Frank W. Mayborn Professor at Peabody College of Education, Lehrer led an investigation of data modeling. His ground-breaking research has changed the way educators view the nature and complexity of the mathematics and science that young students can accomplish, Pruzek said, and his findings have been incorporated into national standards and curricula. In addition, Lehrer is conducting classroom-based research to formulate and test a life sciences “learning progression” that engages young students with the foundations of evolutionary thinking. He is involved in an engineering-education initiative that investigates the nature of learning when children design kinetic toys and pop-up books. An unbroken record of research support by funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Office of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences supports Lehrer’s initiatives.

He has also made many other significant contributions to the field, serving on three National Research Council committees in recent years and contributing to subsequent volumes on student learning assessment, science assessment and engineering education. Lehrer, who has published 47 journal articles, contributed chapters to 33 volumes and co-authored or co-edited six books, recently completed a five-year term as co-editor in chief of Cognition and Instruction.

“Dr. Lehrer’s scholarship is extraordinary in a variety of ways,” said Annemarie Sullivan Palincsar, associate dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Michigan. “His scholarship is of the highest caliber, advancing our understanding of the development of children’s qualitative and quantitative reasoning, opening new vistas for teachers, and ultimately providing students access to powerful tools and ideas with which to understand the world around them.”

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Excellence in Arts & Letters

David Pietrusza BA ’71, MA ’72

David Pietrusza has been called a “scholar, author, editor, and renaissance man” as well as one of the best historians in the United States. He has produced a number of critically acclaimed works concerning 20th century American history and America’s favorite pastime – baseball.
Pietrusza is a noted presidential scholar, and his book 1960: LBJ vs JFK vs Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies was named by ForeWord Magazine as among the best political biographies. Pietrusza's 1920:

The Year of the Six Presidents was honored as a Kirkus "Best Books of 2007" title, and was named an alternate selection of the History Book Club. Historian Richard Norton Smith listed the book as being among the best studies of presidential campaigns. "David Pietrusza has a gift for making the past both real and dramatically gripping,” Smith said. “In 1920 he has an extraordinary cast of characters with which to work his magic ... An unforgettable group portrait of America on the brink of modernity."

Pietrusza brought his rich and compelling writing style to his biography of Arnold Rothstein, Rothstein: The Life, Times & Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series. The book was a finalist for the 2003 Edgar Award, and his audio version won an AUDIOFILE Earphones Award. “Pietrusza’s skills as a researcher and a teller of tales stands out,” said Richard Hamm, professor of history and public policy at the University at Albany. “His works are deeply written, informative … his works on these topics have superseded all previous works, and I predict they will stand the test of time.”

Pietrusza's Judge and Jury, his biography of baseball's first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, also earned accolades – the book received the 1998 CASEY Award, was a finalist for the 1998 Seymour Medal and was nominated for the NASSH Book Award. His Lights On!: The Wild Century-Long Saga of Night Baseball was a 1997 CASEY Award finalist. Pietrusza also collaborated with baseball legend Ted Williams on an autobiography called Ted Williams: My Life in Pictures. From 1993 to 1997, Pietrusza served as president of the Society for American Baseball Research and was later the editor-in-chief of the publishing company Total Sports.

Pietrusza’s books have been used as text at numerous colleges, and he has been a frequent guest on ESPN documentary series such as “SportsCentury,” “You Can't Blame” and “Who's Number 1?.” He has been interviewed on NPR, MSNBC, C-SPAN BookTV, C-SPAN American History TV, SIRIUS-FM, The History Channel and Bloomberg Radio, among others. He has produced and written the PBS-affiliate documentary, "Local Heroes."
“David Pietrusza writes history the way that novelists strive to write fiction,” says writer and presidential historian Anthony Bergen. “Pietrusza takes a seminal event, introduces us to a broad, fascinating cast of characters, and ties together numerous stories filled with drama and even humor to create an exciting, addictive tale. History books walk a fine line and it’s difficult for historians to be informative and entertaining. Pietrusza makes it look easy.”

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Excellence in Business

Stacy Bash-Polley BS ’89

At a time when Wall Street was on a slippery slope, Stacy Bash-Polley was holding steady as co-head of Goldman Sachs’ Fixed Income Sales in the Americas unit. How? By keeping communication lines open with clients and staff, a key component of Bash-Polley’s arsenal of skills.

After graduating from the University at Albany with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Bash-Polley worked for several years in Ernst & Young’s Information Technology practice. She then earned a master’s in business administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 1994 and joined Goldman Sachs as a fixed income sales and trading associate. She quickly climbed the ranks and was promoted to managing director in 2002 and partner in 2004.

Her group’s division, Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities, contributes the largest share of the firm’s revenues. “Stacy has led the sales business during extraordinary times – keeping her people focused, motivated and positioned to deliver outstanding results,” Harvey Schwarz, co-head of Goldman Sachs’ Securities Division, told US Banker in October 2009. “She has a unique ability to think qualitatively about our industry and client landscape.”

Bash-Polley is known for her ability to develop strong client relationships. She believes in studying her clients and understanding their businesses before offering them customized solutions. “Bash-Polley is known as a good listener who asks people what’s on their minds,” Jill Elswick of US Banker wrote in the publication’s October 2010 issue. Dean Backer ’88, global head of Sales and Capital Introduction in Goldman Sachs’ Global Securities Services business, notes that Bash-Polley’s ability to understand and communicate with clients has been a key to her success. She was ranked No. 4 in US Banker’s October 2010 list of the “25 Most Powerful Women in Finance.”

Recognizing and promoting talented staff is another Bash-Polley strength. “She is said to be a keen observer of talent,” Elswick wrote in US Banker, “often positioning good employees for promotion opportunities by giving them tactical opportunities to lead.” Backer confirms that Bash-Polley also is known for being an excellent mentor and advocate for her employees and undergraduate and graduate students at UAlbany, particularly young women.

As a woman working in a predominantly male industry, Bash-Polley is cognizant of the lack of women role models. Never one to sit back and wait for things to happen, she applied her experience in building client relationships to developing a women’s network for Wall Street professionals. The network enables members to share challenges and solutions, and Bash-Polley ultimately hopes to provide better mentoring to young women professionals on Wall Street than was available to Bash-Polley and her contemporaries.

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Excellence in Community Service Award

Robert Paeglow BS ’76

Over the course of his career, “Dr. Bob” has seen more than 100,000 patients on five continents and led more than 30 medical missions in developing countries. His commitment to the poor of the world, and to those in his own backyard, is boundless and an inspiration to all those who meet him.

Paeglow was busy raising a family and working in radiology at a local hospital in Albany in 1986 when he saw a news story about a single mom who couldn’t afford to take her kids to the doctor. He burst into tears. “I saw my life before me,” recalls Paeglow, “and the world was no better off because I had lived in it.”

He pursued medical school and became a family doctor. In 2000, Paeglow began to feel a call to return to his old West Hill neighborhood, which had degenerated into the poorest, most crime-infested, desperate area in the city of Albany. Selling the family home and investing everything, he and his wife, Leane, moved to the inner city and Paeglow co-founded Koinonia Primary Care, located at the Capital Region Prayer and Healing Center.

Koinonia provides primary care and mental health services to the poor, and never turns away a patient who can’t pay. “Dr. Bob” makes house calls to the ill and infirm and participates in community health programs. “He is committed to providing compassionate and effective care to the underserved in our community and globally,” said James Barba, president and chief executive officer of Albany Medical Center. “His humility and passion for addressing the needs of the community is evident and ever present.”

As an associate professor in the Albany Medical College (AMC) Department of Family and Community Medicine, Paeglow is a role model for aspiring doctors. He created the Care From the Start Program, which gives medical students first-hand experience caring for the poor and opens their eyes to the issues faced by the most needy in our communities. “He is a firm believer that these students will remember the value of caring for the underserved long after they leave AMC,” Barba said. “His vision is all encompassing.”
Dr. Bob” doesn’t take a salary from the clinic and draws only a small salary from his work at AMC. Yet he continues to reach into his own pockets to help those who call on him – paying for one patient’s medicine; for visits to a counselor for another; and for a new coat, gloves and a race track for a patient who didn’t have the money to buy Christmas gifts for her son.

Paeglow was the recipient of the 2009 Jefferson Award for Community Service and also received the AMC Humanism in Medicine Award. In its Dec. 4, 2006, issue, People magazine hailed him in its “Heroes Among Us” section.   “People say, ‘I’m inspired by what you do,’ ” he says. “That feels good.”

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Excellence in Community Service Award

Robert Paeglow BS ’76

Over the course of his career, “Dr. Bob” has seen more than 100,000 patients on five continents and led more than 30 medical missions in developing countries. His commitment to the poor of the world, and to those in his own backyard, is boundless and an inspiration to all those who meet him.

Paeglow was busy raising a family and working in radiology at a local hospital in Albany in 1986 when he saw a news story about a single mom who couldn’t afford to take her kids to the doctor. He burst into tears. “I saw my life before me,” recalls Paeglow, “and the world was no better off because I had lived in it.”

He pursued medical school and became a family doctor. In 2000, Paeglow began to feel a call to return to his old West Hill neighborhood, which had degenerated into the poorest, most crime-infested, desperate area in the city of Albany. Selling the family home and investing everything, he and his wife, Leane, moved to the inner city and Paeglow co-founded Koinonia Primary Care, located at the Capital Region Prayer and Healing Center.

Koinonia provides primary care and mental health services to the poor, and never turns away a patient who can’t pay. “Dr. Bob” makes house calls to the ill and infirm and participates in community health programs. “He is committed to providing compassionate and effective care to the underserved in our community and globally,” said James Barba, president and chief executive officer of Albany Medical Center. “His humility and passion for addressing the needs of the community is evident and ever present.”

As an associate professor in the Albany Medical College (AMC) Department of Family and Community Medicine, Paeglow is a role model for aspiring doctors. He created the Care From the Start Program, which gives medical students first-hand experience caring for the poor and opens their eyes to the issues faced by the most needy in our communities. “He is a firm believer that these students will remember the value of caring for the underserved long after they leave AMC,” Barba said. “His vision is all encompassing.”
Dr. Bob” doesn’t take a salary from the clinic and draws only a small salary from his work at AMC. Yet he continues to reach into his own pockets to help those who call on him – paying for one patient’s medicine; for visits to a counselor for another; and for a new coat, gloves and a race track for a patient who didn’t have the money to buy Christmas gifts for her son.

Paeglow was the recipient of the 2009 Jefferson Award for Community Service and also received the AMC Humanism in Medicine Award. In its Dec. 4, 2006, issue, People magazine hailed him in its “Heroes Among Us” section.   “People say, ‘I’m inspired by what you do,’ ” he says. “That feels good.”

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Excellence in Education Award

Charles S. Dedrick MS ’91 

Before and after earning two master’s degrees at the University at Albany, Charles Dedrick was committed to pursuing excellence in advancing educational services and training future practitioners in the field. His commitment has led to a rewarding career spent serving the field of public education in many capacities for more than 25 years.

Currently district superintendent of the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), a joint appointment with the New York State Education Department, Dedrick represents the State Education Department in addressing the needs of all students in the region. As the sixth-largest BOCES of the 37 in the state, Capital Region BOCES delivers more than 300 educational and administrative services to it 23 component school districts and to the City School District of Albany. Combined, these districts educate more than 80,000 public school students.

Prior to his appointment as superintendent, Dedrick served as a social studies teacher, school principal, business manager and superintendent of schools in the Green Island District and as superintendent of Cohoes City Schools. James Butterworth, executive director of the Capital Area School Development Association (CASDA), remembers charting Dedrick’s remarkable progress at Cohoes during the time Butterworth worked at the New York State Education Department. The department, “always on the lookout for promising urban practices, identified Cohoes as a ‘High Achieving, Gap Closing District’ as a result of the dramatic increases in student achievement found there. Upon investigation, we determined that the truly remarkable array of promising practices found in this challenged district was attributable in large part to Dedrick’s outstanding leadership.” With Dedrick at the helm, the district also implemented a full-day Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program, developed an award-winning character education program and created joint programs with a number of local universities.

Strongly committed to the training of future educators, Dedrick has served as an adjunct faculty member at Hudson Valley Community College, the College of Saint Rose, and the Sage Graduate School. Now an associate in educational administration at the University at Albany, he teaches and mentors current and future leaders in educational administration through the New York State Council of School Superintendents Academy and CASDA. Dedrick also has been a guest speaker at numerous programs sponsored by colleges and other organizations advocating for education. “Chuck extends his knowledge, skills and experience to his peers and junior colleagues,” said Robert Bangert-Drowns, dean of UAlbany’s School of Education. “He is an outstanding contributor to regional and statewide educational initiatives.”

Dedrick’s commitment and achievements have been recognized with numerous awards, including the 2009 Alumni Hall of Fame Distinction from the Council on Independent Colleges and Universities, the 2008 New York State Council of School Superintendents’ Appreciation Award and the 2004 Character Education Award for Outstanding Capital Region School Administrator. “Charles Dedrick is an exemplar of excellence in education – long-standing commitment to the profession and to students and high-impact involvements at all levels of education,” said Bangert-Drowns. “He is a positive force in enhancing quality educational services, both in the Capital Region and throughout New York State.”


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Excellence In Entrepreneurship

Alan Mantel BS ’85

Having the right answers is a valuable asset – but sometimes asking the right questions is even more important. That’s one of the key strengths Alan Mantel has brought to each endeavor he’s undertaken, and one of the key factors that has made him a successful businessman and entrepreneur for more than 25 years.

Mantel has been a partner in Snow Phipps Group, a private equity firm focused on small to mid-market control investments, since its inception in 2005. With more than $1.2 billion of assets under management, Snow Phipps targets companies primarily located in North America, with enterprise values ranging from $100 million to $500 million that require equity investments ranging between $40 million and $100 million.

Alan has a deft touch in the way he handles Snow Phipps’ portfolio companies,” said Edward Elanjian, chief executive officer of EnviroFinance Group, where Mantel is a board member. “He nurtures them by providing a sounding board, insights and resources to help them succeed, while at the same time exhorting them to grow, improve and build value for their shareholders. As the CEO of one of Snow Phipps’ companies, I never have to guess what Alan will say: ‘Does this make sense? Is it our best option? Is it what you want to do? Is it the right way to conduct ourselves?’ ” 

Mantel has a long history of excelling in the business arena. Prior to the formation of Snow Phipps, he was a partner at Guggenheim Merchant Banking. Previously a managing director in the Leveraged Finance department at Credit Suisse, he held a similar position at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette prior to its merger with Credit Suisse. He began his career at Ernst & Young LLP, serving as a senior accountant and a certified public accountant.

I respect Alan’s judgment and practical approach to business,” said Chris Farrar, chief executive officer and president of Velocity Commercial Capital.” Mantel, a Velocity Commercial Capital board member, “has a unique ability to recognize value and then act quickly and decisively to capitalize on the opportunity. Our company has greatly benefited from his wisdom, experience and leadership. The last few years have been difficult to navigate, but Alan has been a pillar of strength to me, personally and professionally.”  

Both Farrar and Elanjian say that, beyond his outstanding business acumen, Mantel is distinguished by his commitment to upholding the highest personal and professional standards. “Alan’s integrity and hands-on attention to detail are essential to building lasting business relationships, and I consider him a true partner,” Farrar said. “These unique attributes allow him to succeed while helping others reach their goals, as well. In a world where trust and straight talk are rare, Alan stands out as a respected mentor and a leader to all who interact with him.”
Elanjian noted that Mantel is known throughout the industry for his honesty and direct approach. “Two things always come up whenever anyone mentions Alan: integrity and values. Alan’s moral compass always points toward ‘do the right thing,’ and he inspires others to do the same – both in his personal life and in business.”


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Excellence in Public Service

Honorable Nancy Groenwegen BA ’79

Over the course of more than two decades of work in or related to state government, Nancy Gleason Groenwegen has developed an expertise in public-sector employment and labor law and a reputation for excellence and integrity that have made her a valued partner in advancing New York State.

As counsel to the state comptroller since December 2010, Groenwegen oversees the Division of Legal Services. The division, which comprises more than 80 staff, provides legal advice and services to the comptroller and staff of all the operating divisions of the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC), including the Division of Retirement Services, which is responsible for administering the New York State and Local Retirement System. “Nancy Groenwegen has built a reputation for integrity, leadership and a strong legal mind,” said Thomas DiNapoli, state comptroller. “New York is facing a very challenging time, and Nancy’s skills, advice and counsel will help us meet those challenges. She’ll be a tremendous asset to OSC.”

DiNapoli also collaborated with Groenwegen during her tenure as New York State Department of Civil Service commissioner, a post she was appointed to in 2007. The comptroller noted: “I have observed her leadership, expertise and dedication to advancing the interests of New Yorkers. In negotiating complex legal, regulatory and bureaucratic issues, she is always animated by a clear sense of the importance of the project for New York’s employees, government and citizens. She is a problem solver, a master of details and an energetic force for progress.”

John C. Egan, former commissioner of the New York State Office of General Services, also lauded Groenwegen’s keen insight and commitment. “I have always valued her opinions on highly technical matters. She develops logical and cogent viewpoints. Her decisions are well reasoned and fair. This sensitivity for the law, as well as for individual circumstances, typifies her incisive rulings on very complicated regulations.”

Previously, Groenwegen held a variety of positions in the administration of Governor Mario Cuomo. She was assistant counsel in the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations, then assistant counsel to the governor himself for labor, public pension and economic development matters. She later served as deputy commissioner and general counsel to the departments of Civil Service and Labor, and as an assistant attorney general in the New York State Department of Law. In addition, Groenwegen was the counsel for Policy and Employee Relations Services at the New York State School Boards Association.

“Nancy has come to exemplify all that is best about public service,” said former New York State Governor David Patterson. “Her honest counsel, her integrity, and her commitment to policies that advance the long-term interests of all New Yorkers have proved invaluable.” 


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Excellence in Science & Technology

Jonathan Newman BA ’85, Ph.D. ’90

If you visit Jonathan Newman’s Web site, you’ll see the following quote: “I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for the truth: and the truth rewarded me.” This same questing spirit and a thirst for knowledge have led Newman to become a highly respected educator and an internationally acclaimed scientist.

After completing his doctorate in theoretical ecology at the University at Albany, Newman accepted an appointment in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford, where his main research centered on problems in large mammal grazing systems. Four years later, he took his first faculty position at Southern Illinois University and began a new phase of his research career: the study of the ecological impacts of climate change.

In 1999, Newman returned to Oxford as director of the Krebs Field Station, an ecological research center, and as a teaching fellow at St. Peter’s College. While he developed his research program in climate change biology, he also pursued a graduate diploma in learning and teaching in higher education from Oxford. In 2004, Newman joined the University of Guelph (Ontario) as a professor in environmental biology. Five years later, he co-founded and was named director of the School of Environmental Science there.

“Jonathan’s research interests have broadened with each move, and he has distinctly impacted disciplinary thinking in each endeavor,” said Thomas Caraco, associate professor in UAlbany’s Department of Biological Sciences. At Oxford, Newman and his collaborators developed a new paradigm for understanding long-term interaction between herbivores and the plants they eat, earning Newman international acclaim as an expert in this field.

His research changed direction after moving to Guelph, where he advanced to prominence in the study of grassland ecology and climate change biology. “His work in this sometimes contentious arena included a program of experimentation, research on applied statistics and careful analysis of both historical and current patterns,” explained Caraco. In 2011, Newman published Climate Change Biology, which summarizes prevailing scientific understanding of the ecological consequences of climate change.

Neman, who works collaboratively with scientists around the world, has a number of long-standing research collaborations in New Zealand. “Jonathan Newman has throughout his career ... been and remains an unceasing flow of new insights, new thinking and the offering of how whole new disciplines of science and math theory can be brought to bear to solve problems ranging from gene expression, through insect ecology, to behavioural ecology, climate change impacts and not least agricultural production and biosecurity,” said A.J. Parsons, professor at Massey University in New Zealand. “He has a powerful capacity to convey excellence at all times and the willingness to offer his best efforts to anyone he encounters.”

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International Alumni Award for
Exceptional Achievement

Laiwu Zhang MA ’93, Ph.D. ’95

Innovation will be the key to success in the People’s Republic of China, says ZHANG Laiwu. And innovation is certainly one of the key factors that has led to ZHANG’s impressive rise to the position of vice minister of the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST).

After four years of labor at the end of the Cultural Revolution, ZHANG completed his undergraduate degree in mathematics at Fudan University,  then went on to earn a master’s and a doctorate in mathematics from Peking University in 1987. After teaching for three years in the School of Management at Peking University, he took a sabbatical in 1990-1991 at the University at Albany and subsequently entered UAlbany’s doctoral program in economics.

After graduating, ZHANG returned to China and served as the vice president, then executive vice president, of China Youth University for Political Sciences from 1995 to 1999. During this period, he substantially improved the quality of the academy’s teaching and research, said colleagues, resulting in a significant increase in the number of students moving on to graduate school. ZHANG’s achievements were not limited to the academic field, however: He also pioneered and advocated the outsourcing of logistic supplies and services in Chinese institutions of higher education. This reform promoted competition and fully utilized social resources, hence reducing the economic burden on both the government and the institutions. His experiences offered precious lessons for similar reform in higher education institutions nationwide.

In 1999, ZHANG entered provincial government and rose rapidly through the administrative ranks. He served in various capacities in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and for two years was the director of the Management Committee of Yinchuan Economic and Technological Development Zone. In Ningxia, he was instrumental in designing an infrastructure that improved communication and information flow, resulting in increased agricultural yields and farm incomes. In addition, he succeeded in modifying the tax structure, which helped to improve the standard of living in rural areas of the region. These projects have had far-reaching influence all over the country, said Da LEI of the School of Economics of Renmin University of China.  LEI says through ZHANG’s leadership, Ningxia greatly strengthened its scientific and technological research ability, reaping enormous economic and social benefits. The Ningxia model, which guides science and technology resources to farmers through the entrepreneurship of science and technology experts, is now being employed throughout the country.

In 2008, ZHANG became vice minister of MOST, which is charged with developing national policies to foster science and technology and research and development. It proposes and administers laws, regulations and subsidies for this purpose and promotes infrastructure development. “MOST is arguably one of China’s premier ministries,” notes Terrence Kinal, chair of UAlbany’s Department of Economics. “Dr. ZHANG has used his position for the improvement of China and its citizens in numerous ways. This is truly an exceptional achievement.”