Chatham University

2013 Alumnae Award Recipients

Distinguished Alumna Award

The Distinguished alumna award is given annually to an alumna whose achievements represent the fulfillment of Chatham's mission of excellence in the liberal arts education of women. Recipients have made inspiring contributions to their particular fields, volunteer organizations, or society in general. The final selection each year is made by a committee of the Alumnae Association Board.

The Honorable Mary Jo Wills ’73

The Honorable Mary Jo Wills '73

Mary Jo Wills, former Ambassador to Mauritius and the Seychelles, is a career diplomat with more than 30 years of experience in international affairs. Mary Jo has a bachelor’s degree in history from Chatham, a master’s degree in business administration from Virginia Tech, and a master’s degree in national security strategy from the National War College. In the course of her career, Mary Jo served as Deputy Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Italy and in the Economic Bureau of the Department of State. Earlier in her career she was Desk Officer for Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia. Mary Jo is the recipient of the Department of State’s Superior Honor Award and has been twice awarded the Department of State’s Meritorious Honor Award.

How did your experience at Chatham College for Women shape you into the successful woman you are today?

“My experience at Chatham altered my way of thinking about myself and my place in the world. I came to Chatham with of a love of learning and am grateful for having been in an environment that was nurturing and supportive. I learned to think, write, and express myself with discipline and purpose. This gave me the foundation to pursue any goal that I chose knowing that I had acquired the skills to succeed and the confidence to use them. Confidence leads to courage, which enabled me to explore new opportunities like learning to speak several languages, leave my country, navigate different cultures, and be open to new perspectives. I succeeded in my career of public service because Chatham succeeded in its purpose to provide a life affirming education.”

 

William Trimble Beatty Award

The William Trimble Beatty Award, established in 2002, is chosen annually and presented to an individual who has served Chatham as an outstanding volunteer.

Jane Grisell Murphy, PhD '68

Jane Grisell Murphy, PhD '68

(Cornerstone Award for Education)

Jane Grisell Murphy graduated from Chatham College with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and went on to earn a master’s degree at Emory University. She pursued a health and mental health research career until entering the University of Pennsylvania where she received her Ph.D. Jane remained at Penn, where she was a Senior Fellow at the Wharton School’s Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics and Director of Research in the Emergency Services Department at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a Research Assistant Professor in the University’s Department of Medicine.

Following research careers at both New York Medical College and Beth Israel Hospital, Jane served as managing editor and biostatistician with Zola and Associates where she worked with pharmaceutical companies to develop communication materials. Jane is very engaged with Chatham, having served on the Board of Trustees since 2005 and as a member of the Campaign Steering Committee.

How did your experience at Chatham College for Women shape you into the successful woman you are today?

“Simply put, Chatham changed my life. I developed the academic skills needed to transition to a successful graduate school experience and then into a career in health services research and medical communications. In particular, I learned to think critically and to write clearly. Chatham also gave me my first experience with the wider world. My life has been much enriched by an appreciation of the literature, art, music, and theater of our own and other cultures, an appreciation which began in the Western Civ course freshman year.”

 

Cornerstone Award Recipients

Established in 1997, the Cornerstone Awards are presented each year at Reunion to identify and recognize the achievements of alumnae in a variety of fields. As a subset of the Cornerstones, the Young Alumna Cornerstone Award has been given out since 2001. Read on to meet this year's award recipients.

Barbara Heffer '68

Lois Michaels '53

Leslie Beres-Sochka '83

Olabukunola Williams '03

 

Barbara Heffer '68

Barbara Heffer '68

(Cornerstone Award for Education)

Barbara Heffer graduated from Chatham with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and went on to earn a master’s degree in special education from Columbia University Teachers College. She has served as an educator in independent and public schools, as a private tutor working in language arts, math, and organizational skills, and as a facilitator of the Schools Attuned Program, a Professional Development and Service Program for educators. An active volunteer in teaching and literacy initiatives, Barbara has also served on the board of The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and the Westchester Committee for the Children’s Hospital. Additionally, Barbara is a former trustee at Chatham University.

How did your experience at Chatham College for Women shape you into the successful woman you are today?

“I didn't know it then but know it now...upon reflection I would say that Chatham afforded me the opportunity to navigate my way through four years of exploring academic challenges, collaborating with classmates and professors, developing interpersonal skills and communicating with women who brought intelligence, passion and fun into the classroom.  All this in an effort to try to figure out what came next...and what came next was a career in teaching followed by parenthood and meaningful volunteer activities. It would seem that my experiences at Chatham provided the foundation for a life filled with positive outcomes.”

 

Lois Michaels '53

Lois Michaels '53

(Cornerstone Award for Public Health)

Lois Michaels is a dual graduate of Chatham, with bachelors degrees in history and political science. Additionally, she holds a master’s degree in medical and hospital administration from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Lois’ career has included positions as a health planner, teacher, and research associate until she retired as the founding executive director and president of the Health Education Center associated with Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania.

She has served as a board member of Presbyterian Hospital, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Negro Emergency Educational Drive (N.E.E.D.), and the School for the Blind. Lois has been honored with the Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and the Lifetime Achievement in Health Award from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation. She has also been recognized by the National Council of Negro Women.

How did your experience at Chatham College for Women shape you into the successful woman you are today?

“Chatham's influence is immeasurable. Dormitory living shaped me into a more tolerant and less judgmental person. College life centered around caring adults, a liberal arts curriculum and teacher certification. Being a "PCW girl" attracted a Pitt medical student, my husband of sixty years. Credit is due to HD and B (Human Development and Behavior) a required course team taught by outstanding women, a biologist and a psychologist. They enabled me, with humor, to balance career, marriage and parenting while emphasizing the value of a skill set that relied on being able to clearly speak and write English. A European and an Asian professor opened my eyes to a broader world view.”

 

Leslie Beres-Sochka '83

Leslie Beres-Sochka '83

(Cornerstone Award for Science)

Leslie Beres-Sochka earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Chatham and holds a master’s degree in biostatistics from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, where she was a Pre-Doctoral Research Fellow with the University’s Psychiatric Epidemiology Program.

She has worked for the New Jersey Department of Health since 1990 and is currently is the Program Manager for the Early Identification and Monitoring Program. Under Leslie’s direction, the New Jersey Birth Defects Registry received the 2005 State Leadership Award from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network and the 2005 Franklin Award from the March of Dimes. Leslie is an active volunteer at Chatham, and has served as a Class Agent, Vice-President of the Alumni Association Board and as a member of the Annual Fund Leadership Committee.

How did your experience at Chatham College for Women shape you into the successful woman you are today?

“Chatham was a transformational experience which helped me find my ‘voice’ in the classroom and through leadership opportunities.  It was great to be a smart woman.  The professors were awesome.  Through the internships and independent studies in which I participated, I gained experiences that would later drive my career choices.  The tutorial prepared me for my eventual professional career.  Through the tutorial, aside from what I learned about my research topic, I learned that it was possible to take an idea/hypothesis, and with a lot of determination and hard work, not to mention support from our faculty, and wind up with a completed project.”

 

Olabukunola Williams '03

Olabukunola Williams '03

(Young Alumna Cornerstone Award)

Olabukunola Williams (Buky) earned her bachelor’s degree in global policy studies at Chatham and a master’s degree in international peace studies from the University for Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica. She serves as the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program Manager at the Enough Project, a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. She builds relationships between students in the US and their Darfuri peers in refugee camps. Prior to this, she was the Program Associate at the Pittsburgh Chapter of Citizens for Global Solutions.

Buky is of Nigerian and Sierra Leonean heritage and grew up in Nigeria. Her interests include international law, refugees, education and human rights with a special interest in women’s rights and Africa.

How did your experience at Chatham College for Women shape you into the successful woman you are today?

“My experience at Chatham gave me the strong foundation I needed to figure out my place in the world. It provided me with the safe yet challenging space I needed to find my voice. And while there I discovered the power of community and that I am because we are.”