About the Distinguished Alumna Award
The Distinguished Alumna Award was established in 1991 to honor alumnae whose contributions at the highest level in their fields reflect the spirit of excellence and the ethic of service for which a University of Virginia education stands. Recipients of the Alumna Award join a select group of advocates, public servants, journalists, athletes, researchers, and innovators who have received this honor over the past 25 years.
The Selection Process
Early in the fall semester, we ask that each dean of a school at UVA nominate an alumna who is deserving of this important recognition and who exemplifies the values that graduates of her School are bringing to their work across the U.S. and around the world. From the deans’ nominations, our selection committee chooses the alumna who has best demonstrated excellence, leadership, and an extraordinary commitment to her field, and who has used her talents as a positive force for change. The award is presented during the subsequent calendar year.
2020 Distinguished Alumna
In 2020, we honored two Distinguished Alumnae to mark two significant anniversaries for women at UVA: the 100th anniversary of the Board of Visitors’ 1920 resolution to allow some women to seek degrees in the graduate and professional schools, and 50 years since the transition to full coeducation across Grounds. As CEO of Roanoke-based Carilion Clinic, Nancy Howell Agee, who earned her B.S.N. from the School of Nursing in 1979, is among the 13% of U.S. hospital CEOs who are women. As co-founder and partner at WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism, Marion Weiss, who graduated from the School of Architecture, also in 1979, crafts vital public spaces that embrace infrastructure as well as nature in their designs, earning her equally rare prominence in her field.
Past Recipients of the Distinguished Alumna Award
Recipients of the Distinguished Alumna Award, along with their title at the time of their award, include:
1991 Linda A. Fairstein (Law ’72), Deputy Chief, Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit of New York City
1992 Vivian W. Pinn, M.D. (Med ’67), Director, National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women’s Health
1993 Katherine A. Couric (Col ’79), Anchor, NBC “Today Show”
1994 Professor Kathryn C. Thornton (Grad ’79), NASA Astronaut
1995 Hanan Mikhail Ashrawi (Grad ’82), Peace Activist and Scholar
1996 RADM Mariann Stratton, USN (Nur ’81), Rear Admiral (retired), Nurse Corps, U.S. Navy
1997 Valerie B. Ackerman (Col ’81), President, Women’s National Basketball Association
1998 Elaine Ruth Jones (Law ’70), Director, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
1999 Rebecca Rimel (Nur ’73), President and CEO, Pew Charitable Trusts
2001 Hallam Hurt, M.D. (Med ’71), Chair, Neonatology, Albert Einstein Medical Center
2003 Lawton W. Fitt (Darden ’79), British Royal Academy of the Arts
2004 Janet A. Napolitano (Law ’83), Governor of Arizona
2005 Denise G. Sherer, PhD, RN, FAAN (Nur ’70), Director, US Division of Nursing, Health Resources & Service Admin.
2006 Dawn M. Staley (Col ’92), Olympic Basketball Gold Medalist
2007 Jill S. Tietjen (Engr ’76), President and CEO, Technically Speaking, Inc.
2008 Christine Painley Gustafson (Col ’82), Senior Vice President, UBS Financial
2009 Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (Educ ’76), Congresswoman, WV 2nd Congressional District
2010 Cheryl D. Mills (Col ’87), Counselor & Chief of Staff, U.S. Department of State
2011 Alexandra Arriaga (Col ’87), Human Rights Advocate
2012 Kimberly Dozier (Grad ‘93), Journalist
2013 Jacqueline Novogratz (Col ’87), Founder and CEO, Acumen Fund
2016 Elizabeth Garrett (Law ’88), President, Cornell University
2017 Carolyn Miles (MBA ’88), President, CEO, Save the Children
2018 Sharon Wood (Engr '82), Dean, Cockrell School of Engineering, University of Texas at Austin
2019 Sherita Hill Golden, M.D. (Med '94), Hugh P. McCormick Family Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism and Executive Vice-Chair of the Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University