NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Alumni Association held its annual alumni award ceremony on campus on Saturday, Oct. 20.
This year's award recipients are Stephen Valley, class of 1988; Donna Denelli-Hess, 1975; Sally Webster Douglas, 1974; and Rachel Dayton Churchill, 2006.
The event recognizes the achievements of past graduates of the college by presenting the Distinguished Alumni, Humanitarian, Outstanding Service to MCLA, and the first-ever Young Alumnus awards.
Valley is this year's Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. He graduated from North Adams State College with a bachelor of arts degree in English/communications in 1988.
Valley is a sergeant major with the Army Reserve and a foreign media analyst/senior communicator at Central Command in Tampa, Fla. In March 2011, he was stationed in Japan during the earthquake and tsunami and handled public affairs and media relations calls in the aftermath of the disaster, including setting up media embed opportunities and preparing situation reports.
The 26-year military member is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, for which he earned a bronze star medal and was awarded the Combat Action Badge. Valley also is a former All-American VFW post commander and a member of the Executive Board of Association of the United States Army's Suncoast Chapter. He is also a sustaining member of the United Service Organization and the Wounded Warrior Project.
Denelli-Hess, of Williamstown, is the recipient of the Alumni Association's Humanitarian Award. She graduated from North Adams State College in 1975 with a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy.
Along with MCLA psychology professor Deborah Foss, Denelli-Hess has volunteered at the Nyumbani Children's Home in Kenya for HIV-positive children since 2004. For the past eight years, she has invested her time and energy providing educational and medical support to children living with HIV and AIDS in Kenya. She took a year's leave of absence from her position as director of health education at Williams College in 2007 to start the adoption process for one of Nyumbani's residents, a boy named Ben.
Denelli-Hess and Foss received a humanitarian service award in 2006 from the Children of God Relief Fund Inc. and Nyumbani U.S. Board of Directors to recognize their volunteer work with the Nyumbani Children's Home. In 2009, they were presented the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition Peacemaker Award for their continued efforts at Nyumbani.
Douglas, an MCLA Foundation Board member since 2000, will receive the Alumni Association's Award for Outstanding Service to the College. Throughout her 12-year tenure on the board, Douglas has been dedicated to the success and growth of the MCLA campus and community as a whole. She serves as the MCLA Foundation Board's treasurer and sits on the foundation’s Endowment and Trust Committee, which oversees the management of the MCLA endowment. Douglas was instrumental in guiding the creation of an Audit Committee and has also served on the Nominations and Bylaw Review committees.
Churchill is the MCLA Alumni Association's first Young Alumnus Award recipient. She graduated from MCLA summa cum laude in 2006 with a bachelor of arts degree in history and minors in physics, political science and English.
As a student at MCLA, she was the recipient of Academic Leadership, Moore Trust, Paul Tsongas and Academic Achievement scholarships, and the Ames Samuel Pierce History Award. She went on to complete her juris doctorate at Suffolk Law School and became a member of the Boston Bar Association in 2009. Churchill is employed as an attorney at McCarter & English, LLP Partnership in Boston. She also serves on the board of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Alumni Association.
MCLA is honored to count this year's Alumni Award recipients among the ranks of its many distinguished alumni making a difference in the world every day.
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