Jackie Cannon ’20
Chief News Editor
The College of the Holy Cross presented five alumni with the prestigious Sanctae Crucis Award on Friday, September 21. Augustine J. Caffrey, Ph.D. ’73, Hon. Richard J. Leon, J.D. ’71, Mary Beth Sheridan ’83, Barbara Tylenda, Ph.D., ABPP ’79, and Arthur E. Weyman, M.D. ’62 were honored for their achievements in fields varying from medicine to law to journalism.
Recipients were presented with awards in one of two categories: Distinguished Professional Achievement or Outstanding Community Service. According to Frank Vellaccio, senior vice president emeritus, “The primary goal of the Sanctae Crucis Awards is to honor outstanding alumni and in so doing recognize and celebrate the distinctive mission of Holy Cross,” as published on the awards website.
Before the awards dinner, the alumni spoke in a panel discussion, during which they reflected on the impact of their Holy Cross education in their lives. Moderated by Professor Denise Schaeffer of the Political Science Department, the panel allowed students, faculty, and staff to hear about the profound influence that a Holy Cross education had for these distinguished alumni.
The group spoke of experiences that many current students could also relate to: finding a sense of mission while studying abroad, nearly failing the pre-med program, and finding lifelong friends.
Dr. Caffrey, a physicist who developed a device to learn of the contents of artillery shells without risking potential exposure to dangerous chemicals, has studied nuclear nonproliferation and sought scientific innovation at the Idaho National Laboratory, as well as serving as a consultant to multiple Energy Development Panels. During the panel discussion, Caffrey reflected on his time working with a campus student radio station, and the value of teamwork that he learned there.
As a senior United States District Judge for the District of Columbia, Judge Leon has served on such high-profile cases as the constitutional rights of Guantanamo detainees and the AT&T/Time Warner merger. One of only 14 Holy Cross graduates to serve on a federal bench, Leon stressed the importance of the “Spirit of Holy Cross,” as well as the constant “intellectual restlessness” that pushed him to pursue excellence while on campus.
Judge Leon also emphasized the need for students to continue to take risks, as he has observed students becoming less experimental over the years. He cited his own experience at the College, during which he began on the pre-dental track but eventually found himself going in an entirely different direction.
Deputy Foreign Editor of the Washington Post since 2001, Mary Beth Sheridan has reported from nearly 50 countries and worked in a team of journalist that were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for their work on 9/11. She has covered such diverse and controversial issues as immigration, homeland security, and the Islamic State. Sheridan explained that a liberal arts education allowed her to “learn how to learn,” while studying abroad in England would eventually inspire her life’s work as a journalist.
Dr. Tylenda has served as a pioneer in the diagnosis and treatment of children with both intellectual or developmental disabilities with co-existing mental health disorders. Like Judge Leon, Dr. Tylenda explained the importance of taking risks and being “open to the possibilities of new experiences.” Her career was shaped by an assignment to work with children with developmental disabilities, which she initially had little interest in as a career.
The final award recipient, Dr. Weyman, is a renowned researcher in the field of echocardiography at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. During the panel discussion, he injected comical stories of his time on the hill, including dropping out of the pre-med program but being forced to return by his father, as well as missing the first section is his MCAT exam and deciding to randomly fill in the responses.
When asked about the importance of mentorship and the advice he had given his mentees in the past, Dr. Weyman shared that he often advised,“If you want to be successful, you have to be in the right place at the right time, but you have to know you’re there.” Additionally, Weyman suggested that students find their passion so that their work will be fun, not work.
Following the panel discussion, members of the audience were able to ask questions of the recipients. In a response to one such question, Sheridan summed up a key yet simple element to her success which echoed the statements of the other panelists throughout the discussion: “Give yourself permission to take risks.”
Photo by Hui Li. Professor Schaeffer moderates a panel discussion with the 2018 Sanctae Crucis Award Recipients.