2013 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards

Left to right: Jim Quinlan – GWAA vice president for awards, Tara Jeanne O’Toole, Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, Victoria Clarke, President Steven Knapp, Dr. Ariel Hollinshead, Junaid Shams, Steven Frenkil – GWAA President.

On Thursday, Sept. 26, GW’s Alumni Weekend 2013 officially kicked off with the 77th Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards ceremony.

Established in 1937 by the George Washington Alumni Association (GWAA), the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards are presented annually to alumni who have obtained notable success in their chosen profession, thereby bringing honor to themselves and their alma mater. The Alumni Achievement Award is the highest form of recognition given by the university, and the GWAA, to a GW/MVC graduate on an annual basis.

In 2007, the GWAA implemented the Recent Alumni Achievement Award. This award honors alumni who have graduated in the last ten years and have attained notable achievements in their field of endeavor.

This year, the university was proud to honor five alumni with this prestigious recognition–it was the first year that all of the non-recent award recepients were female.

“Our alumni are GW’s main contribution to the world,” GW President Steven Knapp said during the ceremony.

The evening’s first recipient was Victoria Clarke, CCAS BA ’82, who was nominated by fellow alumna and GW’s vice president for external relations, Lorraine Voles, CCAS BA ’81.

Clarke, who is senior vice president for global corporate affairs for leading multinational software company, SAP, is recognized in the private and public sectors as an effective expert on communications in the age of transparency. She has served in three Administrations, most recently as assistant secretary of defense. She serves on the Senior Advisory Committee of Harvard’s Institute of Politics and the Board of Trustees of the Potomac School.

“GW is an exceptional place,” Clarke said during the awards. “You’re not just a student at GW. You’re a member of the DC community, the national community, and the global community.”

The other awardees echoed Clarke’s sentiments.

“I’m honored to be an alumna of this university,” said Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, GWSB MBA ’87.  Schwab-Pomerantz, a senior vice president at Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. and president of Charles Schwab Foundation, says her mission is to help people achieve lifelong financial well-being.

In addition, Schwab-Pomerantz serves as director and chairman of the board of Schwab Charitable, one of the country’s largest donor-advised funds, which has facilitated billions of dollars in grants since its inception in 1999. She speaks and writes extensively on personal finance issues, and her latest book, The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances after Fifty, will be published by Crown Business in spring 2014.

Among this year’s recipients was a treasured GW professor emerita, the Department of Medicine’s Dr. Ariel Hollinshead, CCAS MA ’55, CCAS PHD ’57. In a recent article Dr. Hollinshead was described by her colleagues as the “Mother of Immunotherapy.”  At GW, she taught classes in pharmacology, virology, immunology and oncology, and in 1964 established the Laboratory for Virus and Cancer Research.

Dr. Hollinshead discovered and developed purified, specific active tumor-associated antigens (TAA). With T. Stewart, she was the first to do clinical tests of TAA vaccines in lung cancer patients. Using monoclonal antibodies, she prepared epitopes for a reverse enzyme immunoassay to predict the success of their immunotherapy. She has produced over 275 published scientific papers detailing her work and discoveries. A complete set of five volumes of her work are separately housed in the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and in three universities.

“Dr Hollinshead’s name will be forever noted when the history of the cancer vaccine is written,” president of GW’s Medical Faculty Associates Dr. Alan Wasserman, SMHS RESD ’79, said during Hollinshead’s introcution. Hollinshead remarked that she was thrilled to be recognized by her alma mater.

When she took to the stage, awardee Tara Jeanne O’Toole, MED MD ’81, said: “I’m honored to be recognized among the dazzling diaspora of GW alumni.”

O’Toole is among that diaspora for her many contributions to matters of homeland security and defense. Most recently, she served as under secretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security. She was a founding co-editor-in-chief of the journal Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science and previously served as Chair of the Board of the Federation of American Scientists. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The final award of the evening was the recent alumni achievement award, given to Junaid Shams, SPHHS BS ’08, who was recognized for his enterpreuenrial successes.

Shams is the co-founder of GSM Nation and is in-charge of the company’s financial planning, business innovation and growth strategies. GSM Nation was founded in 2010 with a vision to promote and encourage the U.S wireless industry to shift away from roping customers into restrictive, overpriced contracts. Today, GSM Nation provides retail and wholesale service to one of the largest selection of smart-phones in the market, recently reaching sales of over $100 million.

“I am where I am today because of this university,” Shams said, before the evening concluded.

Congratulations to these five dynamic alumni on their awards, and their significant contributions to the world and the global GW community.  To learn more about the recepients, read their bios: Clarke, Hollinshead, O’Toole, Schwab-Pomerantz and Shams

For more information about the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards, visit:

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