Six Win Alumni Seal Awards

The Occidental College Alumni Association honored a leading figure in the war against terrorism, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, the leader of a global humanitarian NGO, and a major Los Angeles entrepreneur June 4 with its top honor, the 2011 Alumni Seal Award.

 

Also honored at a gala ceremony mounted as part of the College's annual Alumni Weekend was Alumnus of the Year Jack Samuelson '46 H'97, and Professor of Theater Emeritus Alan Freeman '66 M'67, who was presented with the Honorary Faculty Emeritus Award.

Established in 1965 by the Alumni Association Board of Governors, the Alumni Seal Awards pay tribute each year to Occidental alumni who, through concern for their profession, community, and College, have distinguished themselves and thereby brought honor to Occidental.

Winner of the Alumni Seal Award for Professional Achievement was Richard Falkenrath '91, who has played a major role in shaping the United States' response to international terrorism. Recruited from the Harvard faculty in 2001 as an expert in terrorism preparedness, Falkenrath held several leadership positions in the White House, including as a member of the National Security Council. After 9/11, he was named special assistant to the president and senior director for policy and plans within the Office of Homeland Security. He was the principal author of the National Strategy for Homeland Security and played an important role in the startup of the new department. He subsequently spent four years as the New York City Police Department's Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism.

A former staffer for the Occidental Weekly, Andrea Elliott '96 was presented with the Erica J. Murray '01 Young Alumni Award for her work as a reporter with theNew York Times. Elliott won the Pulitzer Prize for her 2006 series "An Imam in America," which chronicled the life of an immigrant Muslim leader in Brooklyn. Other stories, which have garnered recognition from the Overseas Press Club, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, and the Society of Professional Journalists have included an examination of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, a series on the lives of Muslims in the military, and an investigation into the radicalization of more than 20 Somali-Americans from Minneapolis.

Kay Hiramine '86 was presented with the Alumni Seal Award for Service to the Community for his role in founding the Humanitarian International Services Group (HISG). HISG has operated in more than 80 countries; transported more than $40 million in aid; helped train 3,000-plus disaster responders in 18 nations; created sustainable development models that have produced jobs in a number of countries; and started a Social Investment Fund to create jobs for the poor in the developing world. "From the Oxy perspective, perhaps the most impressive aspect of your career is the answer it provides to the question, ‘So, what can you do with a degree in religious studies?'" quipped presenter Steve Green '87, president of the Board of Governors.

Entrepreneur and vice-chair of the Occidental College Board of Trustees Fred Hameetman '61 was the recipient of the Alumni Seal Award for Service to the College. A graduate of Occidental's rigorous 3/2 degree program with Caltech, Hameetman is chairman of the American Group in Los Angeles, overseeing the management of a real estate portfolio worth more than $300 million. He and wife Joyce have been generous donors to Occidental, supporting scholarships, endowed professorships, the Glee Club, Athletics, and the Hameetman Science Center, since 2003 home to the College's geology, physics, and environmental science programs.

A successful builder who has played a major role in shaping the Occidental campus over the past 50 years, Jack Samuelson '46 was honored with the Alumnus of the Year Award. The Jack and Sally Samuelson Alumni Center, currently under construction at the main entrance to campus, is the latest in a long series of projects built by the long-time (now emeritus) Occidental trustee, from Herrick Chapel and the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center to Samuelson Pavilion. "Much of the Occidental campus is a monument to Jack's industry, foresight, and generosity," Green said in presenting the award.

Having retired last year after teaching theater at Occidental for 41 years, Theater Professor Alan Freeman was presented with the Honorary Faculty Emeritus Award. Freeman played a key role in establishing and expanding Occidental's theater department while accumulating numerous honors for his own acting, directing, and writing. He has taught courses in acting, directing, playwriting, narrative filmmaking, and musical theater, while directing more than 65 plays, musicals and operas, and acting in more than 60 plays and films. As producing artistic director of the popular Occidental Theater Festival from 1970 to 1999, Freeman produced, supervised, or directed everything from Sondheim to Ibsen.