2016 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients Announced

William A. Lee
William A. Lee
Irma McClaurin
Irma McClaurin
Patricia McQuilkin
Patricia McQuilkin
Jeff Pluta
Jeff Pluta
Kenji Summers
Kenji Summers
Kathleen R. Lugosch
Kathleen R. Lugosch

The UMass Amherst Alumni Association has announced the 2016 recipients of its most prestigious recognition for alumni, faculty and friends: the Distinguished Alumni Awards.

The awards will be presented at noon on Monday, April 4 in the Great Hall at the Massachusetts State House in Boston.        

William A. Lee '77: Distinguished Alumni Award

Lee is executive vice president of research at Gilead Sciences, a research-based biopharmaceutical company that discovers, develops and commercializes innovative medicines in areas of unmet medical need. Over the past 25 years, he has been responsible for the expansion of the company’s research and preclinical activities across a range of therapeutic areas including HIV, liver diseases, hematology and oncology, inflammation and respiratory diseases and cardiovascular conditions. His contributions to the discovery and advancement of new drugs have helped to change the course of many chronic diseases and brought new medicines to patients around the world.

Irma McClaurin ’76 MFA, ’89 MA, ’93 PhD: Distinguished Alumni Award

McClaurin is the chief diversity officer for Teach For America, a nonprofit organization working to strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence. She is also an activist anthropologist, writer, poet and educator. Passion and a deep commitment to social justice inform her actions as she provides insight and leadership on issues of inequality, diversity and inclusiveness.

Patricia McQuilkin MD ’85: Distinguished Alumni Service Award

McQuilkin is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She is nationally known for her work in pediatric global health and was instrumental in jumpstarting critically needed healthcare programs in hospitals throughout Liberia during the Ebola epidemic that began in 2013.

Jeff Pluta ’08, ’09 MEd: Distinguished Alumni Service Award

Pluta is the founder and executive director of Amped for Education, an international nonprofit that creates learning opportunities for students in developing countries. Pluta and his team have founded a high school along with educational centers in rural Nicaragua that currently serve over 250 students daily. In 2016, the inaugural class will graduate from the high school in a community where the majority of adults have not completed the sixth grade.

Kenji Summers ’08: Distinguished Young Alumni Award

Summers is the founder of Passport Life, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering under-resourced high school and college students to own a passport and overcome obstacles to traveling the world. Through his organization, he works to unlock the potential and change the trajectories of American youth.

Kathleen R. Lugosch FAIA: Distinguished Faculty Award

Lugosch is the founding director of the Master of Architecture program at UMass Amherst, the first accredited architecture degree at a public university in New England. She has distinguished herself as a visionary thinker in architectural education and has developed a nationally acclaimed interdisciplinary curriculum that empowers students from a wide array of intellectual, socio-economic and international backgrounds to excel professionally.

Each year the Alumni Association makes the Distinguished Alumni Awards to people who have translated their UMass Amherst experience into notable achievements in the business, public or community service realms, bringing honor to UMass Amherst and to their field of endeavor.

The program begins at 11:30 a.m. with registration and networking. Luncheon and awards are at noon. UMass Amherst students will provide music.

Read more about the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients here.