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Recipients of the 2019 Alumni Award of Distinction Share Life Lessons at ASM

COURTESY OF JESSIE WALLNER


Four alumni were given the Alumni Award of Distinction (AAD) at All-School Meeting (ASM) last Friday, October 25. The recipients included former White House Photographer Samantha Appleton ’93, international affairs expert and journalist Sarah Chayes ’80, structural engineer Guy Nordenson ’73, and 2018 Nobel Laureate William Nordhaus ’59, P’85, ’87, ’91. Singer and performer Kevin Olusola ’06 also received the AAD but was not on campus for the presentation ceremony.

Beginning in 2012, the Andover Alumni Council has given the AAD to graduates of Andover or Abbot Academy to acknowledge outstanding alumni in their respective professional fields. Michael Schmertzler ’70, Chair of the Andover AAD Committee, explained that the AAD allows the Andover community, recipients, and the current student body alike to recognize the extent and impact of alumni actions.

Schmertzler said, “The original reason [this award] was conceived was actually for [the students]. It’s to show what can happen. It’s to give [students] an extraordinary opportunity to interact with these people outside of the classroom and a chance to hear their stories so [they] can recognize [their] own experiences’ commonality with [those of the alumni].”

Appleton explained that her experiences at Andover helped to shape her worldview and were “crucial” in informing her future professional and personal decisions. In particular, she mentioned a pilot interdisciplinary course that has allowed her to be a successful photojournalist today.

In addition, Appleton noted how Andover’s current institutional policies continue to affect her, and emphasized her personal goal to diversify the profession of journalism and photojournalism.

“At Andover, I was told a lot of really accomplished people walked the same steps we walked. It’s true, but it started as a pretty narrow place. I’m proud of Andover because at some point this institution made a transition to remembering the future,” said Appleton.

Appleton continued, “The future is the right side of history. When I first started covering war, I was one out of a tiny group of female conflict photojournalists. Even a smaller group were of color. So, the future today now is to foster a new generation of photojournalists. This is my new commitment, but the pathways were formed when I first stepped onto this now beautiful, diverse campus years ago.”

Andover taught Nordhaus the values of knowledge and morality. When daily religious services were in place at Andover, Nordhaus was influenced by one of Andover’s Cochran Chapel reverends.

In his talk, Nordhaus said, “I learned the moral structure of the universe in [the Cochran Chapel]… For two of the years I was here, [compulsory chapel] was a horrible experience. For one of the years, we had one of the most extraordinary people of the time as a Chapel reverend. He was a fabulous worldly individual at Andover where he confronted cliques and taught about larger global issues..What he told us was that ‘you need to have knowledge and morality.’ He said that ‘knowledge without morality is sterile. Morality without knowledge is useless. What you need to do is put things together.’”

Ananya Madduri ’23 felt inspired by the alumni and their respective careers. According to Madduri, Nordhaus’s emphasis on his time at Andover encouraged Madduri to focus more on hers.

“I really enjoyed listening to Mr. Nordhaus’s speech because he had a lot of humor in his speech. It was a really well articulated presentation and that got me thinking about what I want to do at my time here at Andover,” said Madduri.

Madduri continued, “I thought it was so interesting that people just like us started out as little [Juniors] and they all did great things in life. It shows that if you put your mind to it and you follow what you truly love, then you can achieve anything and that sets a really good tone for the next…generations of Andover’s classes to really reach for their limits.”

By giving anecdotes about Midas and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Chayes, foreign correspondent and international affairs expert, explored corruption and emphasized core values over money.

Chayes said, “So that brings us to the general education that we get at Andover. It’s about money that gets you a place like Andover. It’s about money which some of us, unfortunately, see as objective in leaving a place like Andover. It’s about the struggles with money that many of us have to contend with in order to be at a place like Andover. And in thinking about money, it took me right back to some of the aspects of the type of general education that you all are getting, that maybe you wonder what core value it has.”

Charles Yoon ’20 noted how the alumni returning provided him with unlikely and interesting perspectives, especially on their diverse careers and individual times at Andover.

“Some of the people really brought interesting anecdotes and came from such different parts of the world that hearing their stories itself was a very interesting thing. I think that one that was particularly resonating was a guy who graduated a long time ago, almost 60 years ago, and he was talking about how [Andover] was different in his time and how it’s changed and seeing that change and listening to him talk about all these different things was really cool. It seemed like we were peeking into the history of our school, especially when he talked about how there were no girls at the time on campus and how they had mandatory chapel. I thought that was all really interesting,” said Yoon.

Nordenson, an architect and engineer, also reflected on his time at Andover, especially with everything that was going on during that time period.

“It has been fifty years this fall since I came to Andover in 1969. It was about eight months after Richard Nixon was sworn in as president and one month after Woodstock. And on the 25 of July, Neil Armstrong had walked on the moon… It was a time of harsh change… Andover was the only [prep school] that gave me a full scholarship, so I went, though I was fearful of the size. Through my stay here I generally felt out of place though I did make some friends who I have kept to this day,” said Nordenson.