UMass Amherst Distinguished Alumni Awards to Be Presented at State House on April 3

AMHERST, Mass. – The UMass Amherst Alumni Association will honor three University of Massachusetts Amherst graduates, Congressman Richard Neal and a faculty member with this year’s Distinguished Alumni Awards on Wednesday, April 3 at 11:30 a.m. in the Great Hall of the State House.
Alumni Association board president Ron Grasso will present the awards, which are the association’s most prestigious recognition for alumni, faculty and friends. This year’s recipients have translated their UMass Amherst experience into distinguished achievement in their field of endeavor, bringing honor to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
This year’s recipients are:
  • Mel Yoken ’60, ’72 Ph.D., Distinguished Alumni Award: For over a half a century, Yoken has studied or taught French language and literature within the University of Massachusetts system. Chancellor professor emeritus of French language and literature at UMass Dartmouth, Yoken began his teaching career in 1961 and still meets and advises students on a regular basis.
  • Mary Deane Sorcinelli, ’78 Ed.D., Distinguished Alumni Service Award: Sorcinelli is associate provost for faculty development, director of the Center for Teaching and Faculty Development, and professor of educational policy, research and administration at UMass Amherst. The center supports the professional development of faculty across all career stages and disciplines.
  • U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, Distinguished Honorary Alumni Award: At-large whip for House Democrats and co-chairman of the New England Congressional Caucus, Neal was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988. He represents the First District of Massachusetts, which includes cities and towns in the western and central areas of the commonwealth. He is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures.
  • Michaela Pommells ’02, Distinguished Young Alumni Award: Pommells is a social justice strategist, organizer, educator and blogger. She develops curriculum and facilitates racial justice and anti-oppression training modules for youth and educators in K-12 schools and universities. She presents regularly at community lectures and interdisciplinary conferences on the historical contexts and present day impacts of institutional racism and translating the theory of racial justice into practice.
  • Fred Feldman, Distinguished Faculty Award: After 42 years of teaching philosophy at UMass Amherst, Feldman is still leading large introductory lecture classes. Some 21,000 students have taken courses with Feldman since 1969 when he joined the department of philosophy, with 28 of his dissertation students achieving successful careers teaching philosophy.