2011 Alumni Award Winners defy obstacles, spread “grand brand of Tufts”
April 13, 2011
Jumbo enjoys his salad while listening to acceptance speeches at the 2011 Alumni Awards ceremony
Before reading the wrap-up, see if you can guess the answers to some 2011 Alumni Awards trivia!
Which alumnus lost his eyebrows in an unfortunate cooking accident the day before his TUSM interview?
Which alumnus has a major gas field named after him?
Which sportswriting alumnus fathered a child in 2004 and 2007—the last two times the Red Sox won the world series—and told Tufts alumni not to wait around for his family for the next win?
Which award recipient was credited with "charming the curmudgeons" through the years?
Which alumnus invented a wheelchair that is bringing the gift of mobility to the disabled around the world?
Which Emmy-award-winning alumna gave up a life in television to head an NGO in Africa?
Which alumnus said, "Tufts isn't a school on the verge of greatness; it is simply a great school"?
Which alumna just finished her 14th year of competitive women's crew?
Which alumnus was so thankful and enthusiastic to receive his award that he needed no microphone to be heard?
Which award recipient specially traveled to the event only hours after celebrating the bris of her first grandchild?
“This is a family night and Tufts is a family,” remarked David Rosenthal, M.D., M63, J87P, AG88P, in his acceptance speech at the 2011 Alumni Awards ceremony on April 9. Dr. Rosenthal—who is married to one Jumbo, Judy, J60, J87P, AG88P, and father to another, Laura, J87, AG88–received a Distinguished Service Award for his work in the medical field. “My wife and I had what you would call a Mass Ave. romance,” he recalled of their college days, “the both of us running up and down Massachusetts Avenue every day to see one another.” Post-Harvard, Dr. Rosenthal entered medical school under singed circumstances. “I was cooking hot dogs at Harvard Stadium in 1959,” he told the audience of more than 100 alumni and members of the Tufts community. “I went to work one day, tried to light the gas and it wouldn’t light. I tried again, and again it didn’t light. I tried again and boy, did it light! I lost my eyebrows—and my interview for Tufts’ medical school was the next day.” When he told the admissions staff his story, they replied that they were looking for someone to cook hotdogs on Harrison Avenue. But Dr. Rosenthal moved from the grill to the lab at TUSM and credits “the many mentors at Tufts University School of Medicine, world leaders in their field” for catapulting his outstanding career, which includes a past presidency of the American Cancer Society. “It’s for those mentors and for all Tufts families that I give back.”
Another award recipient who feels equally compelled to give is Bess Dopkeen, A04, winner of the Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award and director of the Washington, D.C., arm of the Tisch School of Citizenship and Public Service’s Connecting Alumni and Student Experience (CASE) alumni mentorship and seminar program. Dopkeen dedicated her award to the tireless CASE staff in D.C., and her mentor and fellowship director, Deb Jospin, A80, chair of the Tisch Board of Advocates. “Deb gave to us; we gave to the students; and now they’re giving to the community,” said Dopkeen, who is not only proud of the 28 fellowships that were handed out to Tufts students in 2011, but also of her Tufts heritage. Father, Jonathan Dopkeen, A72, brother, Cobin Dopkeen, A10, and cousin, Rebecca Hershow, A11, all join her as Jumbos. Dopkeen said that she was lucky to find her career jumpstart in an internship while a Tufts student and has since distinguished herself in the Department of Defense.
John Amoruso, A52, winner of the Distinguished Achievement Award for his industrious career in the gas and oil industry, admitted, “I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I came to Tufts, but I took Geology with Professor Nichols and found a true focus in his course. Charles Tufts always spoke of the ‘light on the Hill’—I found that light in my first Geology course and I’ve been following it ever since.” Amoruso has been president of five geological organizations, and his latest discovery was a major gas field, since named in his honor and estimated in 2007 to contain 2.4 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas. “I can’t find enough superlatives to describe how my career as a petroleum geologist has been. It’s been a grand ride, and it all started right here.”
Fellow Distinguished Achievement Award recipient Tony Massarotti, A89, agreed. “My professional career was spawned at Tufts,” said the co-host of the Felger and Massarotti afternoon drive talk show on 98.5 The Sports Hub (CBS). Massarotti began his 22-year sports-writing career as a freshman with the Tufts Daily and credited English Professor Michael Ullman for teaching him that he could love writing. “Who you are is also partly a product of your home,” Massarotti said of his wife, Natalie, and sisters Elena, J80, M84, and Norma, J82. Elena, who has used a wheelchair since the age of nine, received a 2006 Alumni Award for her work in the field of rheumatology. “She serves as a daily source of inspiration,” he said. “You learn to persevere when you grow up around someone like that.”
Amos Winter, Ph.D., E03, received the Young Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award for his role as founder and director of the MIT Mobility Lab, and as principal inventor of the Leveraged Freedom Chair (LFC), a wheelchair designed for rugged terrain in developing countries. Dr. Winter thanked the “many fantastic mentors at Tufts who provided guidance without constriction, and fostered creativity” along with his family, before providing an impromptu demonstration of the LFC. Dr. Winter, who lives in New Delhi, India, explained that the motivation to build the chair came from a summer spent talking to disability groups in Tanzania. They needed a fast, efficient devise for long distances on dirt roads—the LFC provides just that with only three wheels, “to always keep in contact with the ground,” and two levers to create 50 percent more motion force and travel 35 percent faster than a conventional wheelchair. Dr. Elena Massarotti compared the wheelchair, which costs a mere $100 to produce, to her own, estimated at more than $2,000. “He’s a wonderful person,” Dr. Massarotti said of Dr. Winter during the demonstration. “I can only imagine and understand what this chair does for children—it’s a gift of mobility, a gift of freedom.”
For the past seven years, Robin Smalley, J77, has been spreading a gift of freedom through knowledge in Africa. In 2004, Smalley lost a dear friend and classmate: Karen Besser, J78. The loss spurred Smalley, who had spent the majority of her career as an Emmy Award–winning television producer/director, to partner with Besser’s brother and start mothers2mothers (m2m), an NGO in Cape Town, South Africa, that helps to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. “Life is about jumping off a cliff and trusting yourself to land,” she said in her acceptance speech for the Active Citizenship and Public Service Award. “It took me 20 years to say, television is great, but there has to be something more. I fell in love with these women I found to be so brave, who were pregnant and living in cardboard shacks. I thought: this is it. We moved the whole family to Africa and worked out of the back of a car. Now we’re reaching 20 percent of the global population of women living with AIDS, giving hope for the future.” At the close of her heartfelt speech, Smalley thanked the friend whose loss began her journey, and whose memory is “guiding me through times of fear, change, and success.”
Former president of the TUAA, Mark Alpert, Esq., A70, A96P, A06P, A06P, credited his Distinguished Service Award to the successes of the Tufts community, specifically: the Tufts family and its extended family of friends, spouses, and children, including his wife, Jane, A96P, A06P, A06P, “who’s spent 42 years surrounded by three generations of Jumbos”; Tufts graduates who choose careers in public service; Tufts graduates who “cure the world” via programs like the Peace Corps and Teach for America; and the university’s support staff—from catering to police to grounds service to faculty to admissions. “It is because of these people,” said the Senior Counsel member for John Hancock Life Insurance, “that Tufts isn’t a small school on the verge of greatness—it is simply a great school.”
Distinguished Service Award recipient, Daniel Coleman, A73, accepted his award on behalf of all of his fellow alumni. “This is a stunning tribute you’ve given me today,” he said firmly, without aid of a microphone. “JFK said that you can judge an institution by its alumni, and [Tufts alumni] are serving people every day, every hour, while spreading the grand brand of Tufts.” Currently the co-managing principal of T&C Associates in Boston, Coleman has dedicated himself to aiding diversity in the community via his career for decades. As he humbly thanked alumni worldwide for all they have done for Tufts over the years, he also paid special attention to President Bacow and his wife, Adele, as well as Provost Jamshed Bharucha. “We have been blessed for the past ten years,” he said of the trio.
The TUAA agreed, presenting Adele Fleet Bacow with a surprise Special Distinguished Service Award. Awards Committee Chair, Carolyn Kroll, AG66, J92P, M99P, said, “Adele, in 2001 you joined the Tufts Community as our First Lady, and within a few months, you had won over our students, faculty, staff, and alumni with your warmth, intelligence, impeccable style, and grace. Ten years later, you are revered as a valued and respected part of the Tufts leadership team.” Kroll continued to laud the First Lady for her “art of engaging conversation with faculty superstars and captains of industry,” tirelessly working for the greater Tufts community, and “meeting parents and alumni all over the world with whom you have built friendships that will endure—because you are genuinely involved in what you do, and sincerely care about who you meet.”
The First Lady replied, “I didn’t think my heart could be any fuller after this morning, holding our first grandchild, Adam—but my heart is bursting. I look around at all of the tables at the Tufts family and my heart is bursting still. I am so humbled by your spectacular words—I hope Larry and I can become adopted alumni.”
President Bacow echoed her sentiment upon receiving his own Special Distinguished Service Award. “What a privilege it has been to have been a part of this,” he emotionally added. “The last ten years have been extraordinary. This is a university without pretense. Provost Jamshed Bharucha once said, ‘It is the authenticity of Tufts people that make this place so special.’ And each of these honorees represents everything that is so great about the culture of this place.” President Bacow commented on the many travel opportunities he and Adele have experienced and the many distinguished alumni they have met—Nobel Laureates, heads of the largest corporations in the world, distinguished academics and artists—and looked back on a statement Professor and former Provost Sol Gittleman said to him at the start of his Tufts tenure. “He said, ‘There are about 4,000 plus colleges and universities in the United States of all sorts of shapes, sizes, and flavors.’ I’ve thought about that statement for the past ten years. Many of them, if they did not exist…the world wouldn’t notice. Not with Tufts. This is a special place.”