Traditionally, the first week of June is Lesley’s season to celebrate Alumni Weekend, welcoming graduates and reunion classes back to the Cambridge campus to reminisce and reconnect with old friends.
While restrictions on travel and gatherings forced a change of plans this year, a festive group of Lesley alumni gathered virtually on Sunday, June 6 to celebrate milestone reunions, share memories with classmates and faculty members, and honor 2021 Alumni Award recipients.
President Janet L. Steinmayer welcomed alumni and shared reflections on all that the Lesley community has accomplished during the past year, observing that Lesley’s motto of extolling persistence has never been more apt. She acknowledged the myriad obstacles faced by the university during the pandemic and the countless ways that Lesley students, faculty, and staff rose to the challenge. She described Lesley’s plans for a safe return to campus this fall, new initiatives like the Center for Human Arts Innovation that will help the university become more innovative, and work already underway to create more pathways to Lesley for students of diverse backgrounds. The five 2021 Alumni Award winners were introduced by members of the Alumni Award Committee, led by committee chair Shana Goldwyn ’00 and ’01. “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 morning,” she said.
Award recipients included:
- The Myrtle Peirce Aulenback Alumni Achievement Award 2021 presented to Maia Monteagudo (Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences, 2017)
- The Margaret A. McKenna Alumni Community Service Award 2021 presented to Deborah Kneeland Keegan (Graduate School of Education, 1982)
- The Sally K. Lenhardt Alumni Professional Leadership Award 2021 presented to Karen Favazza Spencer (Enrolled through the Lesley Center for the Adult Learner, 1993)
- The Recent Alumni Award 2021 presented to Tia Luker-Putra (Graduate School of Education, 2018)
- The Joseph Moore Award for Dedication to the Profession 2021 presented to Jacquelynne Boivin (Graduate School of Education PhD program, 2019)
Recipients spoke movingly about how their experiences at Lesley shaped their work and lives. Keegan described how then-president Margaret McKenna’s exhortation “if there’s a need, do something about it” inspired her to leave her position with the Department of Education to open a nonprofit afterschool program.
“I’m doing is the best I can as a teacher to instill in my students passion and empathy for each other and the planet, just like so many other teachers,” said Luker-Putra, an educator who earned her Lesley degree while teaching science and engineering in Shanghai, China. “I really I could not have done it without the journey I had at Lesley.”
The event concluded with a series of Zoom breakout rooms in which alumni gathered for conversation with Alumni Award winners and faculty guests including Neal Klein, Mary Mindess, Louise Pascale, and Maureen Yoder. Alumni shared stories and fond memories with each other and their favorite professors, recalling influential classes and Lesley experiences.
In addition to Sunday’s gathering, several reunion classes organized virtual class get-togethers, including the Class of 1976, whose Zoom cocktail reunion call was hosted by alumna and Lesley faculty member Karen Frostig, who shared their reflections on Lesley’s lasting impact.
“Our experiences at Lesley allowed each of us to believe we could create a meaningful life, we could live a meaningful life, and that we could bring meaning and a sense of purpose into our work,” said Frostig.