The Distinguished Alumni Awards honor Arts & Sciences graduates who exemplify the ideals of a liberal arts education, and in so doing bring honor to Washington University through their lives, work, and service.
Each year, Arts & Sciences recognizes a few extraordinary alumni for significant achievements in three different categories: the Distinguished Alumni Awards, the Early Career Achievement Award, and the Dean’s Medal. The annual Distinguished Alumni Awards dinner is hosted by Dean Barbara Schaal and the National Council.
The Distinguished Alumni Awards honor graduates of the College of Arts & Sciences, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and University College who exemplify the ideals embodied by Washington University through their lives, work, and service.
The Early Career Achievement Award recognizes alumni of the College of Arts & Sciences 45 years of age or younger.
The Dean’s Medal honors a friend whose dedication and support have been exceptional and whose leadership, advice, and inspiration have served to place Arts & Sciences at the heart of one of the world’s premier universities.
During our awards ceremony, the honorees share personal stories of their educational experience and the impact it had on their lives and accomplishments.
For any questions or to submit a nomination form, please contact Assistant Director of Development Michelle Gelven at 314-935-6699.
2017 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
Joanne Kohn, AB ’55
Throughout her life, Joanne Kohn has served in leadership roles for the Repertory Theatre, Opera Theatre St. Louis, Grand Center, Inc., Dance St. Louis and Sheldon Concert Hall, among others. She helped create Missouri Citizens for the Arts and chaired the Missouri Arts Council, and she has served nationally for several institutions including the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. She has testified before Congress on behalf of the National Endowment for the Arts, and helped preserve the Ruth and Russell Kraus House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. She has received numerous awards and honors for her lifelong work. At WashU, Joanne served as an adviser to Edison Theatre and is a member of the Women’s Society board. She and her husband support multiple schools and programs, including Arts & Sciences, Athletics, Law, Libraries, and Edison Theatre.
Dr. Geoffrey Ling is an authority on traumatic brain injury (TBI), and he is professor of neurology at both Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, a neuro critical care physician at Johns Hopkins, and acting vice chairman of research for the Inova Fairfax Hospital Department of Clinical Neurosciences. He is co-founder of On Demand Pharmaceuticals and a partner in the biotech consulting firm SunQ LLC. He served as a colonel in the U.S. Army and was deployed as an intensive care physician numerous times. He serves on the National Institutes of Health– National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences’ Advisory Council, the National Football League Health Foundation Board, the Facebook B8 Board, and many others. Geoffrey has supported Washington University annually since 1981.
Joe Madison is a groundbreaking radio personality and civil rights activist. Known as “The Black Eagle,” Joe can be heard weekday mornings on SiriusXM’s Urban View. In 2015, Joe set a Guinness World Record for the longest on-air broadcast, 52 hours, which raised more than $200,000 for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Joe has also brought international attention to the struggles of the Sudanese people. As part of these efforts, he delivered survival kits to refugees and freed Sudanese people being held as slaves. A Fellow of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society, Joe has generously supported scholarships, athletics, and the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at Washington University. He has interviewed students for admission to Washington University for over 20 years.
Mike and Tana Powell have been actively engaged since their daughter, Landis, AB ’16, enrolled at Washington University. They served as chairs of the Parents Fund and the Parents Council. Mike was elected to the university’s Board of Trustees and is a member of the board’s Research–Graduate Affairs and Educational Policy committees. He is managing general partner of a venture capital group, Sofinnova Ventures, where he has built dozens of biotech companies that have created life-saving drugs. A fine artist, Tana creates beauty through painting, photography, graphic design and illustration work. In 2015, Mike and Tana expressed their intention to establish four professorships in chemistry for WashU, and they hoped to inspire other donors to create additional professorships in chemistry through the Powell Family Professorship Challenge.
Ron Saks served as chief executive officer of LMI Aerospace, Inc. for 30 years, and under his tenure, LMI grew from $5 million in annual revenue to more than $400 million. In 2005, Ron and his wife, Sharalyn, established the Saks Philanthropic Fund and the Ronald S. Saks Charitable Foundation Trust, which support a range of educational organizations, including STEM programs at Washington University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL), Teach for America, and the Saint Louis Art Museum. Ron has supported University College for more than 40 years, and he is a Patron of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society. He is an active member of the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy.
Dr. Rochelle Sims currently practices anesthesiology at Albany Stratton Veterans Medical Center, where, in addition to working with patients, she is also an assistant professor responsible for training dental and emergency room residents in airway management. Rochelle is also a successful real estate investor and has started a company to rehabilitate and resell residential properties. In 2014, Rochelle started the Dr. Rochelle Sims Annual Scholarship in Arts & Sciences, and she has committed her estate to establishing an endowed fund for need-based scholarships for students intending to pursue a medical degree after they complete their undergraduate education in Arts & Sciences. Rochelle has shared her experiences with WashU students, especially young African-American women from under-resourced backgrounds who are interested in medical careers.
Joe Wayland is currently executive vice president, general counsel, and secretary of Chubb, the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurer. Notably, he served as lead trial and appellate counsel in a decade-long litigation resulting in a landmark decision, finding that the New York City public school system failed to provide a constitutionally adequate education. He has received numerous honors for his pro bono activities, and he is a trustee and treasurer of Uncommon Schools NYC. At WashU, Joe is a trustee, a member of the Arts & Sciences National Council and the Leading Together Campaign Committee, and a member of the New York Regional Campaign Committee. A Life Benefactor of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society, he has been a donor since 1982.
All Arts & Sciences graduates are eligible for the Distinguished Alumni Awards, including alumni of University College, and are selected by an alumni committee on the basis of their professional achievement, service to Washington University, and/or service to society.