During a Leadership Recognition Dinner, six alumni from across the country were honored for their extraordinary achievements and the impact they are making while leading lives of consequence—CJ McCollum ’13, Dr. Sherrie Blevins Green ’84, Hetal Jani ’05, Sanjay Shah ’89G, Martin D. Baron ’76 ’76G, and Joe Sterrett ’76 ’78G ’03P ’05P ’07P ’09P.
President Joseph J. Helble ’82 presented the awards, which recognize exceptional achievements among alumni in categories that uplift people, programs and industry, on Oct. 16.
McCollum, an NBA player for the Portland Trail Blazers, received the Young Alumni Award, which is given to an alumnus who graduated within the past 15 years and achieved extraordinary success in leadership.
He has been philanthropically involved in youth development and education. He opened two CJ McCollum Dream Centers, aimed at providing a safe and inspiring place for underserved youth to learn, explore, create and grow.
“Lehigh accepted me and helped me develop into a more well-rounded player, and a more well-rounded person,” McCollum said. “I think Lehigh taught me discipline.”
McCollum was unable to attend, but his mother, Kathy Andrews, accepted his award.
“Lehigh’s impact on CJ is immeasurable, and our family is forever grateful to this community for accepting CJ and helping him become the man that he is today,” Andrews said.
Green, a retired program manager with the National Science Foundation (NSF), received the Dr. Costel Denson ’56 Award, which is given to an individual who demonstrated leadership in increasing diversity in the workplace and educational institutions.
Green worked tirelessly during her career to increase diversity of program awardees and review panels and to broaden participation of those underrepresented in STEM.
“As a freshman, looking directly across from the Alumni Memorial Building to Packard, I said to myself, ‘Lehigh is a microcosm of the real world. If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere,’” Green said. “From that moment, my metamorphosis commenced, a professional in training where I began to think critically and strategically like a scientist.”
Jani, founder and executive director of SPEAKHIRE, a nonprofit that empowers and enables immigrant youth to become future workforce leaders, received the Public Service Award, which is given to an individual who made extraordinary contributions in the public sector or nonprofit and civic arena.
She was honored at the 2019 L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth Awards, which honors women who volunteer their time to serve their communities.
“Lehigh gave me a broader worldview and opened my eyes to what existed outside of New York City where I grew up. I’m really grateful for that because young people need to know how to navigate more spaces than what we grow up in,” Jani said.
Shah, the founder, chief executive officer and chief architect of the technology company Vistex Inc., received the Outstanding Entrepreneur Award, which is given to the alumnus who demonstrated high achievement in managing an enterprise.
Vistex Inc. helps businesses take control of their mission-critical processes.
Shah was awarded the prestigious EY Entrepreneur of the Year Midwest 2019 Award in the technology category.
“I think entrepreneurialism is about vision and execution,” Shah said. “Maybe vision comes from passion, but execution comes from a good solid business education. Lehigh was my gateway to the American Dream.”
Baron, the former executive editor of The Washington Post, received the Excellence in Industry Award, which is given to an alumnus who demonstrated high achievement in managing a for-profit organization.
He was the top editor of three newsrooms that won a total of 17 Pulitzer Prizes and recently retired from The Washington Post. Under Baron’s leadership at The Boston Globe, the paper won a Pulitzer for Public Service for its investigation into a pattern of concealing clergy sex abuse in the Catholic church, later portrayed in the Academy Award-winning movie “Spotlight.”
“I learned two things at Lehigh, from the professor's commitment to the First Amendment and understanding what the First Amendment really entails, and the fundamental values of fairness, honesty and accuracy,” Baron said. “Those have been the two pillars of my career as well.”
Sterrett, the Murray H. Goodman Dean of Athletics and director of athletics at Lehigh, received the Lifetime Commitment Award, which is given to an alumnus who demonstrated lifelong leadership and service to Lehigh.
Sterrett has been a part of Lehigh for nearly 50 years (counting his undergraduate years)—46 years of service, 33 of them as director of athletics, and 16 as dean. Under his direction, the athletics department expanded a structured leadership program for student-athletes and established the Student-Athlete Council and Faculty Athletics Council to foster understanding of the challenges of the Lehigh student-athlete.
Sterrett said Lehigh has become a huge part of his life and is like another family to him.
“I’m proud to be a part of the Lehigh community because I really believe in the mission to impact the lives of people who are at a stage of their life where they’re incredibly susceptible to learning and growth,” he said. “It’s not just book learning; it’s learning about life.”
In honor of Soaring Together, the ongoing celebration of 50 years of undergraduate coeducation at Lehigh that highlights the impact and contributions of Lehigh women, the evening started off with a panel discussion of alumnae leaders.
The panel featured moderator Renee Washington ’16G, an ESPN analyst and reporter; Sandra Denton ’83, vice president of channels and partnerships for Pipefy; Cathy Engelbert ’86 ’23P, commissioner of the WNBA; and Jackie Krasas ’87, deputy provost for faculty affairs.
Helble also inducted new members to Leadership Plaza in recognition of their donating more than $1 million to the university. Inductees included Julie ’20P ’21P and Jordan Hitch ’88 ’20P ’21P, Hyo S. Lee ’76G ’80G, and Hannah and James D. Miller ’64 ’67G ’87P ’90P. Their names have been engraved on the stone benches of Leadership Plaza outside of the Alumni Memorial Building.
Story by Andrew Isaacson '22.