Alumni Honored

“Ithaca provided an environment of opportunities for me that I was able to dig into, participate and learn,” said Tom Everett ’66, MS ’69, one of two alumni recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award this year—and the college’s only alumnus to have earned the Harvard Medal.

It’s a sentiment that all of the 2019 Alumni Awards recipients share. “It’s just amazing how Ithaca still has such a tremendous impact on my life,” said Daniel Haack ’10, winner of this year’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

“I meet a lot of people whose college educations or college experiences were not as transformative or as impactful long term,” Haack explained. “And it really seems to be consistent among Ithaca alumni that it really was that life-changing experience that you hope college will be.

Meet the alumni award winners who have built on their years at Ithaca to do something amazing.

Anne McClure Furry ’55, MUSB ’56 | Lifetime Achievement Award

If you’ve ever flown into the Tompkins County Airport, shopped at the Pyramid Mall (now the Shops at Ithaca Mall), or driven north on Route 13, then you’ve seen firsthand some of the impact Anne McClure Furry ’55, MUSB ’56, has had on the area.

As one of the cofounders of the Village of Lansing in 1974, Furry has quite literally shaped Tompkins County over the years.

“In 1972, the southern end of the town of Lansing where I live was a rural farming area,” she said. When the state constructed a divided highway—Route 13—through the area, Furry and other citizens saw the potential for problems. “The town had no land use planning or zoning regulations,” she explained. 

Their Village Study Group first attempted to propose land use planning guidelines to the Lansing Town Board and, when that failed, they went through the contentious process of forming a village.

“I was a major player in the formation of the village,” Furry said—and it was a project she undertook while working full time and raising three children.

After the Village of Lansing’s formation, Furry became a trustee and then served as deputy mayor and mayor. Furry credits her college days for setting her on that path. “Ithaca College began my lifelong commitment to the Ithaca community,” she said.

Furry put her Ithaca degrees to use first as a private music teacher and then for the Ithaca City School District, where she spent more than two decades as a teacher and district coordinator for the music staff. “I was able to develop a solid vocal and instrumental music curriculum, K-12, consisting of 10 schools,” she said. “My staff had the opportunity to collaborate with the Ithaca Opera Company in student-written and [student]-produced operas in the classroom, which won the National Education Arts Award.”

When Furry retired, Ithaca College invited her back as a lecturer and asked her to observe and mentor students preparing to teach. In 2005, she established the Anne McClure Furry ’55 Endowment Fund for the Promotion and Support of Pedagogical Training in Classroom Music Education.

Her professional and community efforts have earned Furry honors including the Women Making History Award and inclusion in Who’s Who of American Women. But she said she didn’t set out to be a pioneer.

“I did not consider that it was less common for women to be professionals and community leaders,” she said. “I saw the need for good planning in both my teaching profession and my community, so I became involved. I spoke my mind and tried to work for the good of the whole.”

Tom Everett ’66, MS ’69 | Lifetime Achievement Award

Shortly after retiring from Harvard University, Tom Everett ’66, MS ’69, received a phone call from the university, letting him know that he was to receive the Harvard Medal, awarded to recognize extraordinary service.

“I was shocked that someone thought to nominate me,” he said. “I saw myself as kind of being under the radar.”

“Harvard’s Music Man,” as the university president referred to Everett during the 2016 medal ceremony, had a big impact over his 42-year career as the university’s director of bands. He founded Harvard’s jazz program and groups including its jazz band and wind ensemble, as well as advised the student-run marching band. Conducting those groups brought Everett to every major event, from commencements and convocations to football games.

And in his spare time, the bass trombonist performed: “I was fortunate enough to play with the Bolshoi Ballet, the Boston Opera, the Boston Ballet, and the Boston Pops Orchestra,” he said. “And if I didn’t have rehearsal in the evening, I had an opportunity to play with the bands of Ray Charles, Tommy Dorsey, and Dizzy Gillespie.”

Everett credits his high school band director and his private trumpet teacher, both Ithaca College alumni, as inspiration for applying to the college as a music education major. “Without ever visiting Ithaca, I had decided that’s where I would like to go to college,” he said.

Everett had three experiences at Ithaca that changed the course of his career. The first was hearing a recording by bass trombonist George Roberts. “I so identified with [the sound],” he said. “The next day I started looking for a bass trombone.” The second was joining a classmate’s jazz band. And possibly the most significant influence was the creative depth of professor of music Warren Benson.

“One of my most passionate crusades…has been to increase the awareness of the contributions of jazz artists, composers, and arrangers,” he said. Another was to “help promote the bass trombone as an instrument that people know.”

When Everett first discovered the bass trombone, he said there was little by way of literature written specifically for the instrument—a gap he set out to fill, in part, by commissioning composers. Over his career, he premiered more than 30 solo works written for the bass trombone. In 1972 he founded the International Trombone Association to foster communications among trombonists.

Harvard had come calling soon after Everett wrapped up his master’s degree at Ithaca and had taken a teaching job in Batavia, New York. An Ithaca connection— Frank Battisti ’53, MS ’64—had briefly held the university director of bands position and recommended Everett as his replacement.

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime,” he said—and that’s exactly what he made of it.

Kimberly Zeoli ’89 | Volunteer Service Award

“One of the things that I am passionate about is helping the students and trying to get more of our alumni back to campus to do the same,” said Kimberly Zeoli89.

Zeoli, a senior partner in the Risk and Financial Advisory practice at Deloitte & Touche, visits campus at least twice a year to speak on panels and in classes. She mentors students and young alumni on and off-campus to help them navigate the professional world and is active with groups and events in Ithaca and the Boston area, including the IC School of Business Advisory Council (BAC), Ithaca Today, Admitted Students Program, Network Nights, Meet the Firms, and the IC Women’s Network. Last fall, she was elected to IC’s Board of Trustees.

Working with IC’s president, the alumni relations office, and others, Zeoli is planning the first-ever Ithaca sponsored event on Nantucket in June this year to reach out to hundreds of alumni who live or vacation in the Massachusetts, Cape Cod, and islands region. President Collado will be there to share news from IC, specifically about the college’s new strategic plan, Ithaca Forever.

Zeoli said her father was an accountant for General Electric in Utica, New York, and she used to go to work with him as she was growing up. Applying to Ithaca College as an accounting major felt like the right fit.

“Ithaca felt like home as soon as I arrived on campus for my first visit,” she said. “There was an immediate kind of connection to the community and the beauty of the area.”

Zeoli aspired to earn a job with one of the world’s biggest accounting and consulting firms, become a certified public accountant, and work up to partner.

“In the fall of my senior year, I accepted a job offer from Coopers & Lybrand, to join them in their Syracuse office, right after college,” she said. She passed her CPA exam shortly after and worked her way up the ranks, first in audit and then in the health care advisory practice.

Zeoli made the move to Boston—and Deloitte—in 2000, joining the firm as a senior manager. She was admitted to the partnership in 2004 and now works with several of Deloitte’s consulting clients in the health care/health tech industry that are headquartered in the U.S., Germany, and the Netherlands. In addition, she is a leader in Deloitte’s New England practice for their industry programs and health care sector.

In 2015, the newly hired School of Business dean, Sean Reid, invited Zeoli to join his Business Advisory Council, composed of alumni and local community leaders. Spurred by her involvement on the BAC, Zeoli began finding other ways to connect with the college.

“They would invite me to either come speak to larger student groups or be part of a [Professions Week] panel,” said Zeoli. Working with Reid and other faculty, she schedules one-on-one meetings with students to answer questions, review résumés, or do mock interviews; she visits classes to talk about her own journey or career opportunities in the “big four” accounting firms; and she gives guest lectures on specialties including forensic accounting.

Balancing work, family and her commitments to Ithaca can take some effort, Zeoli said. “What I’ve learned over the years is that it’s important to plan ahead and schedule time for Ithaca into my calendar,” she said. “I overall feel I get so much more back from the Ithaca College community than I can give.”

Daniel Haack ’10 | Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Daniel Haack ’10, who grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, didn’t know a lot of people working in media.

“When it was time to start looking for colleges, I just kept looking for the best schools in the country for media. Ithaca always came up at the top of that list,” he said. “It just felt like there were so many exciting opportunities offered at campus and that alumni were doing really cool and exciting things, as well.”

When Haack was offered a full-ride scholarship as a Park scholar, that sealed the deal. Opportunities abounded for the integrated marketing communications major. Haack won a fellowship with the International Radio and Television Society, which set him up with internships at Walt Disney Studios and Viacom’s Logo TV channel, and he earned an award from the Park School’s Center for Independent Media, which enabled him to work with the Center for Media and Democracy.

He interned at Channel Four in London during a semester abroad and later traveled to Qatar as part of a group working with Park School professor Kati Lustyik on a paper about children’s media around the world.

“Children’s media, in many ways, is just a lot more fun and fascinating and fantastical,” Haack said. “There’s a tendency for more interesting world building and really kind of pushing the boundaries.”

After graduation, he started a career in advertising—but when an opportunity with educational media franchise StoryBots came up, he said it felt like a more natural fit. As StoryBots’ head of marketing and digital product, he said his job involved “taking these characters that people— and especially kids—really love, and figuring out ways to expand the StoryBots story.” That includes elements like the brand’s music collection, its books with Random House, and its interactive apps. He won a Daytime Emmy in 2017 as part of the team behind Netflix’s Ask the StoryBots. Haack left the StoryBots team in November to take on a new role as a creative executive, developing engaging and enriching kids’ programming for YouTube.

One of Haack’s proudest achievements is the publication of the award-winning children’s books he’s authored. Prince & Knight and Maiden & Princess are modern fairy tales with LGBTQ heroes. “Kids really need to see themselves and see their families represented in the media that they watch or read,” he said. “So, it was really important for me to be able to show that LGBTQ people and themes can be represented in children’s media in a kid-friendly and universal way.”

And Haack is just getting started. He recently received his master’s degree in technology, innovation, and education from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and is working on a sequel to Prince & Knight. 

Stew Leonard Jr. ’77 | Professional Achievement Award

In his 32 years as president and CEO of grocery chain Stew Leonard’s, Stew Leonard Jr. ’77 has seen the business expand to seven food stores and 10 individually owned and operated wine stores in three states. The “Disneyland of dairy stores,” as The New York Times dubbed the company, is known for its curated selection of fresh foods and homemade goods, its emphasis on customer service, and its in-store entertainment, including animatronic displays, live music, and petting zoos. The food chain does roughly $500 million in business, Leonard said, and appeared on Fortune’s “100 best companies to work for” for 10 consecutive years.

“Obviously I’m pretty proud of Stew Leonard’s today,” he said.

But it’s a story that might have played out very differently, were it not for a fateful conversation Leonard had on a flight across Asia in 1977. Leonard had just graduated from IC with a degree in accounting and had a job lined up with what was then called Price Waterhouse. As a graduation gift, his father—Stew Leonard Sr., who founded Stew Leonard’s— had bought him a ticket on Pan American World Airways Flight 002. The round-the-world flight started in New York City and made stops in London, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Beirut, Delhi, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Honolulu, and San Francisco. Passengers could disembark and resume their trip at will.

“It changed my life,” he said. “I really didn’t understand how the rest of the world lived. And it was just a big eye-opener to me with the different customs and different cultures, different foods.”

On the leg to Delhi, Leonard had a conversation with a stranger from India that sent his career in a different direction.

“He talked me out of going to work for Price Waterhouse… He said, ‘No, no, no, you should work for your family. Put all your energy into your family’s business and help your father.’ I basically got off the plane and said, ‘Hey, Dad, I think I changed my mind. Would you still want me to come and work for you?’”

The answer, of course, was “yes.”

Leonard also devotes his energy to giving back. He and his wife, Kim, established the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation in honor of their son, who accidentally drowned in a pool at 21 months old. The nonprofit’s primary aim is to teach children about water safety, which it does by subsidizing swimming lessons through local groups like the YMCA and through safety-focused children’s books and apps.

Leonard credits his time at Ithaca for setting him up for professional success.

“I think my Ithaca education, not only academically but also socially and athletically and just emotionally, was solid as could be,” Leonard said. 

Frederick Laub ’71 | Edgar “Dusty” BredbennerJr. ’50 Distinguished Alumni Award

If Frederick Laub ’71 had his druthers, you might not be reading this. “I usually give very anonymously and very quietly,” he said.

Laub started the Beverly Baker ’54 School of Music Travel Ensemble Fund, which provides support for ensembles to represent the college at competitions and events around the country and abroad. And he has continued the Laub Family Scholarship—established by his late father, David J. Laub, who served on the Ithaca College Board of Trustees from 1965 to 1982—which benefits an upperclassman in the School of Music. Over the years, he has served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, worked as an alumni admissions volunteer, and given to the IC Annual Fund, but his focus has been on scholarships.

“I want to be able to help people help themselves,” he said.

His love for the college began with an act of rebellion. “I did not tell my parents that I had applied to Ithaca,” Laub said. His family wanted him to attend Yale as his father and other male relatives had. “I wanted co-ed, and I wanted small, and I wanted to work,” he said. Attending Ithaca “was my first time that I was on my own to make my own decisions, and I just enjoyed everything about it.”

With a bachelor’s degree in economics from Ithaca and an MBA from Cornell, Laub left for New York City to work with Saks Fifth Avenue. The company sent him to Boston as the second in command of the Saks Fifth Avenue store at the Prudential Center, in charge of operations.

Moving to Boston led Laub to a new hobby: interior design. “I bought the worst house in a nice neighborhood outside of Boston, fixed it up, and then had a party for the neighbors,” he said. “They said, ‘If you can do what you did with this house, what can you do with ours?’ And so I did that on a part-time basis.”

But the winters proved difficult, so Laub took a job with Burdines in Miami and moved to Florida. Several career hops later, he decided to go full time with interior design. These days, Laub’s company, Utmost Interiors, works with a wide range of clients, projects, and budgets. One of his favorite challenges is working with young homeowners who don’t have a lot of discretionary income, giving him an opportunity to “take a $5,000 look and create basically the same thing with $500.”

“It’s great fun,” he said. “Every job is different. Every client is different. Your home should reflect you, not me. I help you get what you want.”

Evan Robbins ’87 | Humanitarian Alumni Award

Evan Robbins ’87 was reading The New York Times one morning in 2006 when a front-page article about a six-year-old trafficked child in Ghana caught his attention. “He worked 16-hour days on these fishing boats, eating one meal a day—life-threatening work,” said Robbins. “My younger daughter was six at the time, so the story really bothered me.”

The social studies teacher talked about the story with his classes at Metuchen High School in New Jersey. “We decided to do a project based on it,” he said, and the class hosted a fundraising walk to raise money against trafficking. Subsequent classes opted to continue the project.

In 2010, Robbins went on a rescue mission to Ghana with the International Organization for Migration. “After an 11-hour flight and a 14-hour drive, we came to this place called Kete Krachi,” he said. “We were able to rescue five children.” After that trip, Robbins came up with the idea to broker a deal to build a school in exchange for the release of 19 trafficked children. The school was built the next year.

The experience convinced Robbins to form his own nonprofit so that he wasn’t solely relying on other organizations to effect change. In 2011, Breaking the Chain Through Education was born. It brought Robbins, who was a marketing major at Ithaca College, full circle. A semester abroad in London had prompted him to travel after graduation. “I saved up money, and then I went backpacking on my own for nine months,” traversing Southeast Asia and Australia, he said.

“I didn’t think my marketing degree would really pay off much. But, it turned out that it’s been very helpful,” he said. “Running a charity is a business.”

Fast-forward to 2019, and Breaking the Chain has an office in Ghana, a staff of six, and 99 children in its care. According to Robbins, Breaking the Chain is unique in taking a long-term view on rehabilitating rescued children.

“I wanted to continue caring for them until they were independent and able to care for themselves,” he said. The nonprofit pays for their schooling and vocational training. As Breaking the Chain’s site puts it: “By empowering our students with the education and tools they need to be successful, we hope they will mature into self-sufficient adults who will help combat child trafficking.”

Operating the nonprofit requires daily contact with his staff in Ghana. “I kind of say I have two full-time jobs,” he explained. “I basically raise the funds here to provide all the care there. There’s so many more children who need our help than we’re able to service at this point,” he said. “And the only thing that prevents us from helping more of these kids is raising additional funds to do it.”

Sheila Katz ’05 | Humanitarian Alumni Award

Throughout her career, Sheila Katz05 has worked to advocate social change, leading programs that—among other aims—prevent sexual assault on college campuses, inspire dialogue about diversity, promote equality for women in the workplace, and encourage young people to vote.

Katz spent more than a decade at Jewish campus life organization Hillel International, working her way up to become its youngest-ever vice president. Most recently, the National Council of Jewish Women, a social justice group, tapped her to serve as its CEO.

It’s a path that started with a literal path, one that Katz developed after visiting Ithaca College as a prospective student. “My mother is in a wheelchair. She has multiple sclerosis,” Katz explained—and there wasn’t a way for her to easily take the campus tour. So one of the first things Katz did as an incoming student was work with the Office of Admission to design an accessible tour route for visitors who might find it tough to navigate the campus’s hills and stairs.

“That was my first moment of activism at Ithaca,” said Katz. She went on to be active in Hillel and residential life, earning her a Campus Life Award that recognizes seniors who have made outstanding contributions to the college community. Upon graduation, Katz went into the Teach for America program, which led her to a Hillel job at the University of North Carolina. At Hillel, Katz cofounded Ask Big Questions, an initiative that engages college students in reflective conversations to foster civil discourse and inclusivity. “The basic premise is to reteach college students how to have conversations with people different from themselves,” she said.

More than 100 campuses now use the program, which has been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and The New York Times. Since the program’s inception, more than 300,000 students have participated.

Another Hillel project the politics major is proud of is MitzVote, a play on the 613 Jewish obligations known as mitzvot. MitzVote, she said, pitches the idea of voting as the 614th important duty—a fun one. During the 2018 election, the program registered more than 20,000 first-time voters and held more than 100 poll parties to encourage turnout. “As people were coming out of the voting booth, we’d pick them up on chairs like they were at a bar mitzvah,” she said.

Katz has also been an outspoken advocate on preventing sexual assault, working to raise awareness with the Obama-Biden White House initiative It’s On Us. “We wanted to make sure…that anybody who had a story of sexual assault is being met with love, with kindness, and with a firm belief that they were telling the truth,” she said.

Nominate a friend or classmate for an alumni award. Visit The deadline for nominations is January 31, 2021.