News Release icon Contact: Media Relations Office (518) 956-8150


Alumni Association Bestows Excellence Awards

Current doctoral student Kamiar Alaei and his brother, Arash Alaei, were recognized with the Citizen of the University Award.

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 24, 2013) – Two doctors and brothers who were imprisoned in Iran for their efforts on behalf of AIDS patients, a pioneer in the area of nanomechanical sensors, and a fifth grade reading teacher in North Colonie who has instilled a love of reading in students from Nigeria to the Middle East, are among 15 honored April 20 with a 2013 University at Albany Alumni Association Excellence Award.

The 2013 Excellence Awards Recipients include:

• Citizen of the University – Arash Alaei, M.D., and Kamiar Alaei, M.S., M.P.H., M.D. Drs. Arash and Kamiar Alaei are internationally known for their work in serving AIDS patients. They founded the Institute for Health and Human Rights at UAlbany to advocate for the promotion and protection of health and human rights for all. Read more about the Alaeis.

• Distinguished Alumni Award – Thomas Thundat, Ph.D. ’87. A world leader in the study of molecules and nanoscale structures at interfaces, Thundat is a pioneer in the area of nanomechanical sensors for chemical and biological detection. Professor and Canada Excellence Research Chair in Oil Sands Molecular Engineering at the University of Alberta, he is a Fellow at the National Institute of Nanotechnology. Read more about Thundat.

• Bertha E. Brimmer Medal – Simeen G. Tabatabai, B.A. ’99, M.S. ’03. A fifth grade reading teacher in the North Colonie School District, Tabatabai began teaching in Nigeria and later in the Middle East. She is a leading member of the North Colonie District Globalization Task Force, and a member of a research project funded by the Longview Foundation for Education in World Affairs and International Understanding at UAlbany. Read more about Tabatabai.

• Excellence in Alumni Service Award – Roberta “Bobbi” Vogt, B.S. ’86, M.S. ’88. A team manager in KeyBank’s technology area, Vogt has partnered with UAlbany since 2008 on projects to promote technology education, support women in technology, and help UAlbany students prepare for jobs after graduation. She is devoted to changing the climate for women in the workplace who are involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Read more about Vogt.

• Excellence in Alumni Service Award – Wendy Suzanne Hale, B.S. ’05. With Ernst & Young (EY) since 2005, Hale founded EY’s UAlbany mentor program, helping interns and staff hires transition to professional life by pairing them with alumni for their first year of employment. Her support has helped students enter the competitive workforce and has greatly increased the number of students receiving internships and jobs at EY and other Big Four firms. Read more about Hale.

• Excellence in Arts and Letters Award – Ann C. Mataraso, M.F.A. ’02. Mataraso earned an M.F.A. in 2002 at age 70 from UAlbany. In addition to painting and drawing, Mataraso’s work in fiber arts has included carding and dying wool, hooking rugs, lacemaking, weaving and beading. A founder of the Hudson-Mohawk Weaving Guild, Mataraso has taught at the Arts Center of the Capital Region and UAlbany.  Read more about Mataraso.

• Excellence in Business Award – Joan Rosenbaum Solotar, B.S. ’86. Solotar is senior managing director and head of External Relations & Strategy for Blackstone asset management firm. She is responsible for managing Blackstone’s relationship with its public investors, industry analysts and the general investment community. Solotar has a particular interest in improving education opportunities in underserved neighborhoods. She chairs the board of trustees of both the East Harlem Tutorial Program and the East Harlem Scholars Academy. Read more about Solotar.

• Excellence in Business Award – Bill Wise, B.S. ’94. Wise is the founder of Mediaocean, considered a “billion dollar threat to Google.” After starting his career as a CPA with Arthur Andersen, Wise quickly made the leap into advertising working with Doubleclick, MaxOnline, and  He served as president of media for Right Media which was acquired by Yahoo and after a merger with Yahoo, became their senior vice president/general manager for ad platforms and global exchange. Read more about Wise.

• Excellence in Community Service Award – Robert W. Lazar, M.S. ’77. Lazar is emeritus director of the New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC), which he led for two decades. He is chairman of the NYBDC Charitable Foundation, director of St. Peter’s Hospital Foundation and vice president of Living Resources Foundation. He earned his master’s from UAlbany and served on the board of the UAlbany Foundation and the School of Business’ Advisory Board and M.B.A. Advisory Board. Read more about Lazar.

• Excellence in Education Award – Karen A. Erickson, M.S. ’88. Dr. Erickson is director of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She began her career as a special education teacher and has worked to change the way educators view and practice literacy in persons with complex communication needs. She currently oversees a multi-year and multi-institutional project to create and implement an alternative assessment for the Common Core State Standards for students with significant intellectual disabilities. Read more about Erickson.

• Excellence in Education Award – Peter James Shea, M.S. ’93, Ph.D. ’98. Dr. Shea is an associate professor at UAlbany with joint appointments in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice and the Department of Informatics. He has been widely influential in the theory and practice of online learning. Shea was one of the authors of the Community Inquiry survey, used worldwide, which makes it possible to compare online courses across programs and institutions. Shea’s research has attracted more than $2 million in external funding from organizations such as the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education. Read more about Shea.

• Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award – Louis A. DeSorbo, B.S. ’78, M.S. ’80. DeSorbo leads the Worldwide Environmental Regulatory and Compliance System (WERCS), which offers global solutions in multilingual Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) authoring, management and distribution software and services, retailer compliance, green chemistry and sustainability solutions. He developed the MSDS system, a software tool that enables a company to stay in compliance with chemical hazardous communications regulations and be able to export its products, while on a 10-year contract with the former GE Silicones in Waterford, N.Y. Read more about DeSorbo.

• Outstanding Young Alumni Award – Christina L. Hansen, M.P.H. ’09. Hansen is a program examiner in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). OMB, which reports directly to the President, prepares the President’s budget and oversees agency programs, policies and procedures to ensure they comply with the administration’s priorities. Hansen oversees approximately $11 billion in federal funding, all in the area of healthcare. She started at OMB in fall 2009 at the height of the development of the Affordable Care Act. Read more about Hansen.

• Excellence in Science & Technology Award – Gregg Rothermel, M.S. ’86. Dr. Rothermel is an internationally recognized researcher and leader in the software engineering community. As professor and Jensen Chair of Software Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Rothermel is noted for his pioneering contributions to developing and empirically evaluating regression testing methods, the testing performed after program changes are made. Rothermel has received more than $16 million in grants from the National Science Foundation and other funding agencies to support his research and education activities.  Read more about Rothermel.

RSS Link For more news, subscribe to UAlbany's RSS headline feeds

About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than
120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.