Alumni Awards brings back fond memories for attendees

Alumni awards event brings nostalgia for former students

The ceremony brought back graduates to celebrate their accomplishments.
Published: October 3, 2022
Syracuse Class of '85 alum Robb Armstrong stands at a podium in front of a darkened auditorium, with an orange screen behind him that says
Class of '85 alum Robb Armstrong was one of the alumni honored with the George Arents Award.

Excitement. Legacy. Orange. As alumni from across the country gathered, those three words filled the space as they waited for the ceremony.

The Syracuse University Alumni Awards were held on Friday night, honoring SU alumni who have achieved great things after their graduation. Seven alumni were awarded for accomplishments in multiple industries, such as aviation, illustration and education.

The night began with a cocktail hour for the attendees. While the honorees had a private reception downstairs, the National Veterans Resource Center was packed with supportive friends and delicious food.

For many alumni in attendance, coming back to campus brought feelings of nostalgia and fond memories.

“It’s hard to believe,” said Shannon Fitzgerald, class of 1999. “In some ways, it feels like I was here yesterday, and in other ways, I feel like it was a lifetime ago.”

Alumni celebrating their 30th, 40th and even 50th reunions milled about the room and sipped on signature cocktails like the Orange Excellence. As the sun set over campus, attendees couldn’t help but stop and stare at the iconic Syracuse sunset.

Tara Draper, a law school alumna, came back to campus after 25 years to support Joanna Geraghty, one of the night’s honorees. The pair met at SU and stayed friends ever since.

“[Joanna]’s the exact same person I remember 25 years ago,” Draper said. “She hasn’t changed a bit.”

Of the seven honorees celebrated at the ceremony, four were awarded the George Arents Award for excellence in their respective industries. Three other alumni were recognized for their achievements as recent alumni, veterans and those who graduated more than 50 years ago.

Dean Mark Lodato, who awarded Stacy Mindich with the Arents Award, felt an overwhelming sense of pride at his first in-person awards night as dean of the Newhouse School.

“It’s emblematic of what is so special about Syracuse and our alumni, so it’s going to be a special night,” Lodato said.

After cocktail hour, attendees gathered inside the auditorium as The Mandarins acapella group opened the ceremony. Don McPherson, class of 1987 and former Arents Award recipient, hosted the event sporting stylish red sneakers, followed by greetings from Chancellor Kent Syverud.

Jamal Salmon, class of 2012, was awarded the Generation Orange Award, which honors an accomplished alumnus who graduated in the last 10 years. Salmon is the senior vice president of global data analytics at Paramount Pictures, and he also worked at companies like ESPN, Google and Netflix.

The Military/Veteran Award was given to Melvin Stith, a Vietnam War veteran and former dean of the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. During his speech, Stith spoke about the telegram of his SU acceptance that was sent to him while on duty in Cambodia that changed his life forever.

Dr. Carole A. Leland was awarded the Melvin A. Eggers Senior Alumni Award, honoring alumni who graduated over 50 years ago. She graduated from SU in 1956 and went on to educate others across the globe with an emphasis on women’s rights. While Dr. Leland could not attend the event, she left the audience with a video message about her love for SU.

The George Arents Awards were awarded to Robb Armstrong ’85, Joanna Geraghty ’97, Stacey Mindich ’86 and Robert J. Miron ‘59. Each honoree cited how their experiences helped them throughout their careers, saying that they will always be “forever orange.”