2022 Alumni Award winners (from left to right) Anna Pless Peel, ’09, Roberto Mighty, MFA ’11, Theresa Melito-Conners, PhD ’19, President Janet L. Steinmayer and Luisa Florez ’10. Not pictured: Sean Rose, LCAL ’12, who was unable to attend.
From college counseling and self-care to law, nonprofit administration and documentary film, Lesley’s annual Alumni Awards showcased the varied careers of graduates being recognized for their achievements, resilience, and community spirit.
Award recipients were honored at a celebratory outdoor dinner on South Campus during alumni reunion. Members of the Alumni Award Committee, led by Chair Shana Goldwyn ’00, ’01, introduced the winners.
“As a committee, we believe the recipients we have selected truly embody the Lesley spirit of excellence, pride and motivation, and I am proud to honor them this evening,” she said.
Anna Pless Peel ’09 received the Myrtle Pierce Aulenback Alumni Achievement Award, honoring her volunteer service to Lesley University. Peel earned her bachelor’s degree in Counseling & Psychology with a minor in Fine Art and went on to receive her master’s in School Counseling from Mercer College in 2014 and a certificate in college counseling from Teacher’s College in 2017. Through her work as a college counselor, Peel has shown her commitment to supporting traditionally underrepresented populations and first-generation college students, applying principles of racial justice and equity to her current work as the director of counseling at The New School in Atlanta. A steadfast supporter of Lesley, Peel has served as a longtime alumni ambassador and has attended high school and college fairs on Lesley’s behalf.
The Sally K. Lenhardt Professional Leadership Award was presented to Theresa Melito-Conners, who earned her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from our Graduate School of Education in 2019. Melito-Conners’s dissertation on self-care and renewal practices for educators inspired her to launch her own business, Dr. MC’s Self-Care Cabaret, where she provides workshops and professional development for schools and organizations that focus on resilience, stress management and more. Melito-Conners is also the special education administrator for Melrose Public Schools.
“Being recognized with an alumni award and having the opportunity to share new projects I am working on with attendees is something I will cherish for years,” she says. “I will be forever grateful to Lesley University for fueling my entrepreneurial spirit, which inspired me to launch my business.”
The Joseph Moore Award was awarded to alumnus Roberto Mighty ’11 who, after years of working in television and film, came to Lesley’s low-residency MFA program to increase his visual vocabulary and develop the artistry of his filmmaking. Focusing on topics ranging from American history to the natural world, Mighty’s body of work includes two documentary series for PBS, several films, multimedia installations and exhibitions. He was selected to create a documentary on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King’s days in Boston and was commissioned to produce a series of five films for the “Favorite Poem Project” with U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, now housed in the Library of Congress. He won Best Documentary Short Film at the Roxbury International Film Festival in 2020 for his film, “Charles Coe, Man of Letters."
Alumna Luisa Florez ’10 received the Margaret A. McKenna Alumni Community Service Award. A graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Global Studies: Politics, Culture & Society, Florez earned her J.D. from New York Law School in 2016 and worked as a prosecutor in the Hudson County Prosecutor’s office in the Gangs and Narcotics Unit.
“I am very grateful to the Alumni Council for their recognition and I look forward to continuing to serve my community,” says Florez.
The Recent Alumni Award was given to Sean Rose ’12, who was unable to attend the dinner. A Lesley Center for the Adult Learner alumnus, Rose earned his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts with a minor in Nonprofit Management. He is the CEO of Thrive Support and Advocacy, an organization supporting students with developmental disabilities and their families.
Rose founded his own nonprofit called Gap Year, an opportunity for young men who struggle with anxiety, depression and learning disabilities, and created a program focusing on empowering women through community service. He has served as the District 1 City Councilor for Worcester, Massachusetts since 2018, the first person of color to be elected to the council.
Despite their diverse programs, backgrounds and achievements, there were common threads among the award recipients.
“Reading the short bios of this year’s honorees,” President Janet L. Steinmayer noted in her remarks, “I was struck by how Lesley prepared them to work in a wide range of settings and fields and by how what they have in common is a deep commitment to making a positive impact through whatever career path they’ve chosen.”