Meet the 2020 Alumni Award winners, whose range of experience and impact speaks directly to the power of a Rollins education.
To look at the lives and careers of the 2020 Rollins Alumni Award winners is to see what it means to be a Rollins graduate: a lifelong pursuit of knowledge, a commitment to philanthropy, engaged scholarship, and global leadership.
“At Rollins I learned to be a world citizen, to be sure I remained curious and creative,” says Anthony DiResta ’77, who is recognized this year for his exceptional leadership to Rollins and service to his community.
Curiosity and creativity are defining characteristics of all the 2020 Alumni Award recipients, who were nominated by faculty, staff, alumni, and community members for both their professional accomplishments and their legacies that go beyond their own achievements. In everything from advising on international law to mentoring Rollins students, the following alumni have made extraordinary contributions to society through their meaningful lives and productive careers.
Fred Rogers Global Citizenship Award
A new award this year honoring beloved alumnus, Fred Rogers ’51 ’74H, recognizes prominent alumni who exemplify the Rollins mission of global citizenship and responsible leadership through their extraordinary achievements and impact on society
It’s hard to think of anyone who could exemplify the Rollins values of global citizenship and responsible leadership better than Jon Darrah ’64, whose passion for facilitating aid efforts through young Americans and the populations they served led him to hold the highest nonpolitical appointment in the Peace Corps.
“I saw my role as a chance to help young people think through what they could take from their experience and where they could go with it,” says Darrah, who spent more than 40 years in leadership positions in the Peace Corps. “That was a source of enormous satisfaction. Mostly it was a function of getting comfortable with the language and culture.”
When reflecting on his time at Rollins, Darrah says the most important lesson he learned as a student was how to communicate clearly and directly. It served him well time and time again as the Peace Corps’ country director in places all over the world—from the Solomon Islands to the Czech Republic—and helped him, as he said, “help young people sing their song.”
Alumni Service Award
Recognizes alumni who provide exceptional leadership to the College and their community through volunteerism and service activities
“My career path was not linear at all,” says Anthony DiResta ’77. “Surprises, twists, and turns occurred frequently, and I learned that to flourish in life, one must learn to be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances.”
A nationally recognized leader in consumer protection law, DiResta offers the kind of invaluable advice students are hungry for—and he gives it generously. He’s a frequent mentor to Rollins pre-law students, serves as a member of the Benefactors’ Circle of the Fiat Lux Society, and holds a seat on the Rollins Alumni Board, among numerous other volunteer positions. His prosperous career is a living model of his best advice for the students he mentors: “Never give up. Quest for excellence in everything you do. And always remember: You can never not lead.”
Distinguished Alumni Award
Recognizes alumni who have demonstrated outstanding success and achieved remarkable distinction through their professional accomplishments
George H. Fisher ’65 was a first-year student at Rollins when he met a professor who would change his life. Dr. Herbert Hellwege taught chemistry and offered Fisher a rare opportunity to serve as a lab assistant and tutor—an experience that sparked his life’s work. Fisher would go on to conduct original research alongside another chemistry professor at Rollins, Donald Carroll, which involved synthesizing organic compounds as potential cancer treatments.
“This was a most rewarding experience, for at that time undergraduate research was uncommon,” recalls Fisher.
Nearly 50 years later, Fisher estimates he’s taught organic chemistry to thousands of students as a faculty member at Barry University—and involved many of them in undergraduate research. It’s an endeavor of which he’s especially proud, knowing well how easily an opportunity like that can set one’s purpose in motion.
Recent Alumni Achievement Award
Recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of alumni who graduated within the past 10 years
Seeing the big picture is nothing short of a job requirement for Jorge Aguilar ’10. As legal officer to the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation, Aguilar works with governments and private sector partners around the world, advising on international trade law, regulation, and policy. Fortunately, Aguilar learned how to take a broad view of the world early in his academic career at Rollins. He reached a personal turning point in his third year as an international relations major when he traveled to Guatemala on a field study related to post-conflict peacebuilding and reconstruction.
“It was the first time I had the opportunity to talk to the people who lived through the issues I studied,” he says. And it was just one example of how his experience at Rollins helped set him on his globally focused career path. “One of the best lessons I took from my professors,” he says, “was to always look beyond where you are. The world is a lot bigger and more complex than Central Florida.”
Photo by Scott Cook
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