The SPHHS Celebrates Its History
Nearly 150 members of the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences community turned out on Saturday, October 16, 2010 to celebrate the school’s history and to inspire direction for its future. The alumni reunion event, which included an awards ceremony honoring significant contributors to the success of the SPHHS, was held in conjunction with the university’s homecoming weekend.
SPHHS alumni and friends joined current faculty, students and staff in the Campus Center Reading Room and Student Lounge to commemorate over 70 years of education, innovation, research and practice. A hot breakfast brought the group together prior to the awards ceremony and afforded the attendees a chance to catch up with one another.
George Cernada, a professor emeritus in the SPHHS who returned for the event, remarked how delighted he was to see so many graduates of his program at the reunion. One of those alumni, Mitchell Pysznik, '92 MPH and the current Coordinator of Student Health at Holyoke Community College, added, “It was great to be reunited with former classmates, faculty and advisors, as well as meeting Dean Marjorie Aelion and several other members of the SPHHS community that day. I really appreciated the breakfast that had been arranged for us, along with the opportunity to socialize.”
At the awards ceremony, the SPHHS honored five notable individuals for their contributions to the school. First among the awardees was Dean Emeritus William A. Darity, Sr., founding dean in 1973 of the School of Health Sciences. As Dean Aelion remarked in her introduction, Darity first joined the staff at UMass Amherst in 1963 and helped to transform the Department of Public Health from three full-time faculty members into the SPHHS as we now know it.
(For more information on Dr. Darity’s distinguished career, click here.)
“It was a great pleasure to see Dean Bill Darity receive such a long-deserved award for guiding the school,” added Cernada.
In addition to Dr. Darity, several other notable figures received awards for their contributions to the school. The awardees included Priscilla Clarkson, Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology and Dean of Commonwealth Honors College; Harry Seymour, Professor Emeritus and former Chair of Communication Disorders; David Hosmer, Professor Emeritus of Biostatistics; and Peter Pellett, Professor Emeritus and former Head of Nutrition. Each of these individuals contributed greatly to the success of the school through their research, community and global outreach efforts, and through their tireless support of, and dedication to, their students and fellow faculty.
Patty Freedson, Chair of the Department of Kinesiology, lauded Priscilla Clarkson for her roles as a researcher, teacher, mentor and administrator. Jane Baran, Chair of the Department of Communication Disorders, introduced Harry Seymour. Her speech highlighted Seymour’s multi-faceted career that included numerous publications describing and identifying language disorders among African-American children, mentoring a notable group of PhD students (many of whom were in attendance), receiving multi-millions of dollars in grant funding and being awarded numerous honors in his field. Ed Stanek, Chair of the Department of Public Health, spoke glowingly about his friend, mentor and colleague David Hosmer, who served in the SPHHS faculty for 30 years, and who, along with co-author and former SPHHS faculty member Stanley Lemeshow, developed and wrote Applied Logistic Regression, a groundbreaking text still widely used in biostatistical research. The final awardee was introduced by Nancy Cohen, Head of the Department of Nutrition, who extolled Peter Pellett’s long and illustrious career in the field of nutrition. Pellett published approximately 200 journal articles, book chapters, and reports; served as former Editor-in-Chief of the Ecology of Food and Nutrition, an international journal, and Associate Editor of the United Nations University Food and Nutrition Bulletin; and worked on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization, UNICEF and USAID.
For Clarkson, the honor was a special one. “I was so pleased to be recognized. To have had the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to my department and school was a privilege. The accomplishments of which I am most proud are those of my students.”
“It was great to know that others within the school viewed my work so favorably,” Seymour commented. He echoed Clarkson’s sentiments in noting his proudest accomplishment as being “the number of PhD students I’ve helped to matriculate and graduate.”
In addition to paying recognition to these outstanding members of the SPHHS community, the school paid honor to the memory of the late Corinne Johnson '80, a UMass Amherst alumna known for her spirit of volunteerism and leadership. Joseph Gould, her friend and co-worker at General Electric Company in Lynn, MA, was on hand to pay tribute to Ms. Johnson and to honor the first recipients of the Corinne A. Johnson Memorial Scholarship. Those winners, Eden Ketema, a junior undergraduate Public Health Sciences major, and Nidhin Joseph, an MPH candidate in Environmental Health Sciences, served as excellent representatives of Ms. Johnson’s legacy.
Bookending the awards celebration were a series of undergraduate and graduate student highlights. Eleven undergraduates, including representatives from each of the four departmental student organizations, opened the awards ceremony and spoke briefly of their educational and service experiences at UMass Amherst. Fifteen graduate representatives concluded the ceremony, highlighting their own educational, research and outreach opportunities. Together, these students represented the diverse backgrounds and interests found within the student body in the SPHHS and gave a great sense of the current state and future directions of the school.
Many alumni expressed how much they appreciated the chance to see what the current students were doing. As Pysznik noted, “I made several contacts that day, meeting several second-year graduate students to discuss the possibility of collaborating on health education projects at Holyoke Community College.”
Attendees concluded the morning festivities by retreating to individual departmental events. Lab tours, poster presentations and informal get-togethers were held in Arnold House, the Totman Building, and the Communication Disorders building, while the Department of Nutrition hosted guest speaker Joan Buchbinder, sports nutritionist for the Boston Celtics, who provided a lively and informative lecture for her audience.
All involved considered the day a rousing success. Pysznik summed up the day’s events with this fond recollection: “For me, the icing on the cake was walking across campus from Arnold House through the Southwest residential area, where I lived as an undergraduate student, on my way to the alumni cookout and the UMass football game. Thanks for a great day.”
To see more photos from the event, please click here.