The LAS Alumni Humanitarian Award is given to LAS alumni who, through outstanding leadership or service, demonstrate the values derived from a liberal arts and sciences education by significantly improving or enhancing the lives of others.
BS, ’72, physiology
As co-chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Cedar-Sinai Medical in Los Angeles, Joel Geiderman played an essential role in the development of emergency medicine. Geiderman is also medical director of the Beverly Hills Fire Department, and he has also been extremely active in the area of Holocaust education. Watch a video interview of Geiderman.
PhD, ’76, communication
As distinguished professor emeritus of communication arts and sciences at Penn State University, Michael Hecht is a highly influential scholar of the ways that culture and identity are connected to health decisions. Much of his work, however, has taken place off campus, where he has built a model that is proven effective to prevent substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors, opioid overdose deaths, and cancer. His success includes a “proven effective” model he developed for keepin’ it R.E.A.L. (kiR). Watch a video interview of Hecht.
BS, ’84, biology
From volunteering at a clinic for homeless youth to opening a free school-based health center, to staffing a rest stop on the MS Bike Ride when she was no longer able to ride due to her MS, Alison Kirby has always thought about how her talents and skills could help others. In 2009, Kirby created The Health Center at Lincoln, a full-service, mostly volunteer-run health clinic located adjacent to the school that provides free services to students. Read more about Alison Kirby.
Marie Trzupek Lynch
BA, ’94, history
Marie Trzupek Lynch devotes her life to improving people’s economic mobility as the founding president and CEO of Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, which is built on an innovative, demand-driven model focused on job placements. Since Skills began in 2012, the program has grown from a staff of 10 to 45 in Chicago. It's gone from placing 539 people in jobs the first year to placing more than 1,200 per year, most of them low-income. Read more about Marie Trzupek Lynch.
Rebecca Snyders Darr
BS, ’90, psychology
Rebecca Snyders Darr directs WINGS, the largest network of domestic abuse shelters in Illinois. Since Darr began as executive director in 1999, the organization has expanded its staff from eight people to 80, and it has grown its assets from $600,000 to $22 million. Most importantly, WINGS has helped thousands of abuse victims. Read more about Rebecca Snyders Darr.
BA, '89, speech communication
Nancy Greenwalt serves as executive director for Promise Healthcare, which assures access to medical services for thousands of men, women, and children. Greenwalt manages health and dental clinics for the organization and also helps raise money for operations. Prior to this work she worked for Community Shares of Illinois, which linked employers and employees to charities. Read more about Nancy Greenwalt.
BS, ’80, biology
Tom Cycyota is president and CEO of AlloSource, one of the largest tissue banks in the country. It uses human tissue from generous donors to create about 250,000 transplantable allografts (human-to-human transplants) each year. Read more about Tom Cycyota.
Kenneth M. Slaw
BS, ’79, psychology
Kenneth M. Slaw’s world turned upside-down when his son was diagnosed with a disorder that afflicts only about 300 people in the world. But Slaw and his wife took action, creating a foundation that funded groundbreaking research and found treatment solutions for families such as theirs. He also became active with the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Read more about Kenneth M. Slaw.
BS, ’71, physiology
Gary Slutkin, a physiology graduate, became an expert in controlling disease epidemics in San Francisco and Somalia before coming back to Chicago, where he realized you could use similar strategies to control the epidemic of violence. His program, CureViolence, is spreading across the world and is the subject of an acclaimed documentary. Read more about Gary Slutkin.
A. Mark Neuman
BS, ’85, economics
A. Mark Neuman is committed to “creating good” for poor women in Africa. Thanks to his efforts, women farmers in Burkina Faso doubled their income in one year. This alumnus has also played a major role in expanding African exports to the United States in the apparel industry, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in Africa. Read more about A. Mark Neuman.
BS, ’78, biology
Susan Nagele is a Maryknoll medical missionary in Africa, where she cares for thousands of the world's poorest citizens, often in the midst of civil war. She has rebuilt bombed medical outposts and, at one point, was the only doctor for more than 30,000 refugees. Read more about Susan Nagele.
AB, ’71, AM, ’79, French
Molly Melching created TOSTAN, a nonprofit organization that teaches an 18-month long basic education program in Africa, which has educated thousands of Senegalese women and children to read and perform basic math. An outcome of TOSTAN was that lessons of hygiene prompted villagers to question and later challenge the practice of female genital mutilation. Read more about Molly Melching.
Ruth Ann Baker Quinn
BS, ’52, speech therapy
Ruth Ann Baker Quinn was instrumental in setting the direction for a $105 million campaign for the Symphony Center in Chicago.
Paul J. Hletko
BS, ’68, zoology
Paul J. Hletkoa pediatrician, serves a community where 65 percent of the population is indigent and the closest hospital is 70 miles away. He is only pediatrician within a 50-mile radius. He is also a leading advocate of seatbelt and car-seat legislation, who was instrumental in the enactment of mandatory automobile child-restraint use laws. These accomplishments earned him awards from American Academy of Pediatrics and Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine.