William and Mary 2011 Alumni Medallion Award Winners

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Truly generous people don’t require thanks or recognition (not that it’s not completely appreciated!). They give because it’s one of the things that defines them and their beliefs. Generosity/giving comes in many forms. On occasion, it becomes obvious to many people how special a particular person is and we get together in groups to recognize and honor a lifetime’s worth of achievements. Yesterday was just such a day for five incredible people.

For many of us, our memories and affiliation with our university lasts a lifetime. I know roughly a dozen graduates of the College of William and Mary and can say unequivocally that each of those will be grateful for their experience and education at W&M throughout their lives. Yesterday, the W&M Alumni Association presented five exceptional people with the Medallion Award for 2011.

Each of these people built a career and a life on the foundation that they received at W&M. We have the privilege of calling one of them, Bob Mooney, our life-long friend. We had the additional privilege of hearing about the extraordinary accomplishments of the other four recipients and sharing their stories with their proud families and friends.

The ceremony began with the very talented W&M choir (undergrads who got up on a rainy Saturday morning to entertain and amaze us). They also closed the ceremony with an incredible rendition of Oh Shenandoah followed by the W&M Alma Mater.


After some introductory remarks from the Vice President and President of the Alumni Association (both excellent speakers), each of the five recipients was introduced by another alumni via a video presentation. I will link each of the recipient’s names to the W&M page which houses those videos so that you can see some (and I stress that’s it’s only some) of the accomplishments that each of these people has achieved.

After each video presentation, the recipient of the Medallion Award gave a speech at the podium. It should surprise no one that all of them gave inspirational (and extremely humorous and self-deprecating) talks. It was obvious why each of these people has been able to move mountains by inspiring others to work with them. None of them are lone cowboys. Here is a video of part of each speech, put together by the W&M Alumni Association (I haven’t as yet found videos of each person’s full speech):

W&M Alumni Medallion Award winners for 2011

The first three recipients were:

Sue Hanna Gerdelman, Marilyn Ward Midyette and Rene A. Henry. Please click on each link and watch the tribute videos.

During the Rene Henry video, when they catalog his accomplishments, they show a clip from a video he created to teach the art of shooting a basketball (it starts at the 1:43 mark). The audience erupted in laughter when the video panned out to show that Rene was instructing none other than Jerry West. I got to chat with Rene after the awards and he told me that he’s still in touch with all three men from that instructional video, Jerry West, Hot Rod Hundley and Pat Riley!


Next up was our own Bob Mooney. Above, I said that each video only addresses some of each person’s accomplishments. Given our long friendship with Bob, I know that to be a fact. When you’ve dedicated your life to helping others, it’s not possible to chronicle that in a 4-minute video (though Jim Ukrop certainly made a valiant effort). I could add things that didn’t make it in, like his spear-heading the building of the Maggie Walker Governor’s School in Richmond. But, inevitably, I too would fail in listing everything.


Instead, I’d like to call out one of the things that Bob discussed in his speech (you can watch it for yourself in the embedded YouTube video above). First, Bob reminded everyone of the W&M tag line (many speakers repeated it yesterday):

Students come here wanting to change the world, and leave with the tools to do it!

That’s great, but it’s a tag line after all. Bob gives the more achievable message (in my opinion) and one we should all live by. He continues:

Some of the students here today will actually change the world. But all of us, all of the students and us here today can change someone’s world! So, whether you carry out your calling in changing the world or someone’s world, you will always find success in your work and significance in your life.

Please, I beg of you, read that paragraph 100 times, then go out and live it. It doesn’t get any simpler or more powerful than that. Strive to change someone’s world (not your own). The rewards are immeasurable and along the way, you might just end up changing the world as well. Bob certainly has.

Last, but certainly not least, was the youngest honoree, Michael K. Powell. I think that having a legacy to follow makes it more difficult to leave your mark on the world. Michael Powell has overcome that hurdle (I don’t think he can even see the hurdle in his rear view mirror). His proud parents (General Colin Powell and his wife Alma) were in attendance.


Michael gave an extraordinary speech (the snippet in the above video is good, but in no way does justice to the entire speech). Lois and I were honored to have an opportunity to each shake his hand and tell him how moved we were by it.

I am certain that spending quality time with any of the award winners would be rewarding in so many ways. Lois and I consider ourselves very fortunate to be 100% sure of that in the case of Bob Mooney. There were many people in the audience who feel exactly the same way about the person they came to see.


After the ceremony, there was a wonderful reception in the Alumni House. The food (quiches the size of quarters!) was unbelievably delicious.


The Mooney party all headed over to W&M Mason Business School afterward. Bob was instrumental in getting that building built. He’s also the CFO of the Business School. In the center of the main hall is a statue of Pierre L’Enfant, the architect who laid out Washington, DC. The sculptor is Gordon Kray, also a W&M Alumni. Lois captured Bob and Gordon together at the reception shortly before we got to see the statue first hand.