About the Alumni Association Awardees
Alumni Community Service Award 2012
Leon Cronce ’71 graduated with a degree in Sociology and certificate to teach the deaf and hearing impaired in the first graduating class of Deaf Education at WMC. He went on to obtain his M.Ed. at Trenton State College, now the College of New Jersey. He spent his career with the Hunterdon Developmental Center in Clinton, N.J., where he started as a teacher of the deaf and hearing impaired, was promoted to program coordinator, to director of professional services and for the 12 years prior to his 2003 retirement served as the assistant CEO. At WMC he participated in the Preachers (Delta Pi Alpha) fraternity and wrestling and lacrosse. These organizations paved way for life-long commitment to community service. An active volunteer firefighter with the Clinton Fire Department for almost 15 years, he also served as president for five years and currently is an exempt member. He is currently a member and past President of the Milford Lions Club, which provides scholarships to many community high school seniors and support to those less fortunate. He served on the Administrative Council as president for the Allerton Methodist Church and is currently the vice chair for the New Jersey Foster Grandparent Foundation, providing senior citizens with opportunities to work with the developmentally disabled. Cronce has served for the past six years as the president of the North Hunterdon High School Athletic Hall of Fame Committee and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010 as a three-sport athlete. He still volunteers at football games and, known as “the voice of the Lions,” as the announcer at the high school’s home wrestling matches. He has coached pre-high school athletes in wrestling, football, and baseball.
W. Brad Distad ’04, a Theatre major at McDaniel, has applied his degree in many ways. While teaching in Hagerstown, Md., Distad often acted at the Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theatre in the evenings. When Distad moved to China to teach English for two years, he organized English clubs on two campuses. He wrote, directed and acted in two plays and performed for his students there. In addition he offered guitar concerts and spent his summers speaking in various venues about the work to be done in China. Distad is now in his third year as an area director for Young Life in Yuba City, Calif. A large part of his work in youth ministry includes public speaking, leading music on the guitar, creating videos, acting in plays, facilitating games and sharing the gospel with crowds of teenagers. Distad is looking forward to February 2013 when he will finally get to realize his dream of being on the program team at Young Life’s Woodleaf Camp. His team will be responsible for presenting the gospel to hundreds of teenagers through acting, songs, videos and games.
Florence Mehl Wootten ’58, who graduated summa cum laude with departmental honors in English, was a high school English teacher in New York and Delaware and taught part-time at the University of Connecticut, Salisbury State and Wor-Wic Community College before becoming a realtor. During both careers, Wootten volunteered with dozens of organizations, including the Heart Association, League of Women Voters of Wicomico County, Brownies and Girl Scouts, Parent Teacher associations, Wicomico Council for the Arts, Chamber of Commerce and Toastmasters, in which she was twice selected best speaker and was a regional finalist in the most humorous speech contest. She is a co-founder of the Wicomico League of Women Voters and held several offices in that organization. Twice PTA president of North Salisbury Elementary School, she ran the Great Books Program, which turned into a gifted and talented program and led to the creation of the position of director of volunteers. Wooten has served on the college’s long-range planning committee and as alumni visitor to the Board of Trustees and a class columnist for The Hill magazine. She has published about 50 articles and a novel, “Those Who Can, Teach,” about teaching.
Alumni College Service Award 2012
Monika Van der Berg McCormick ’73, for her service as class chairperson 1977 and 1980; as a class agent during 1992-93; and consistent involvement organizing class reunions every five years since 1978. After earning her bachelor’s in Music, McCormick completed a master’s degree at the University of Maryland and has taught music in the State of Maryland for 26 years, with 22 years in Frederick County schools and Performing Arts Department Chair at Urbana High School since 1997.
She also served as choir director and organist for St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Frederick for 28 years and holds a professional membership in the Maryland Music Educator’s Association and serves on the board of the Maryland Choral Educators Association.
Husband Bill McCormick graduated from WMC in 1973.
Alumni Professional Achievement Award 2012
Colonel Sandra Brant Alvey ’87, who majored in Biology on a four-year ROTC scholarship and earned a master’s degree in Medical Entomology at Georgia Southern University, has pursued two career paths as a soldier-scientist. First she serves as a commissioned officer for the U.S. Army Reserves, currently as brigade commander in the USAR and secondly, she is a civilian intelligence analyst with Defense Intelligence Agency. She has a specialized technical understanding of diseases borne and spread by insects and has authored research and policies in both civilian and military publications.
Her work has led to the adoption of integrated pest management—including introducing birdhouses for mosquito-eating Purple Martins—now applied worldwide, with one of the newest programs activated at schools and youth centers at Camp Zama, Japan, where Col. Alvey served for two years as Deputy Commander of US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine Pacific.
Col. Alvey became interested in the study of insects through the influence of another reserve-scientist: her professor at GSU. The Coast Guard Reserve officer assigned her a graduate research project in entomology, said Alvey.
For a consecutive four years, she was chair of the Department of Defense Armed Forces Pest Management Board (AFPMB) who granted her a service award in 2010; and is the recipient of three Army Commendation Medals.
Since last year, she is the commander of the 196th Medical Support Unit (MSU), part of the 7th Civil Support Command, Europe’s only Army Reserve, headquartered in Kaiserslautern, Germany.
Col. Alvey resides in the Washington, D.C. area and also completed a master’s degree in Strategic Studies at the U.S. Air Force War College. For her military duties, as the new commander of the 196th MSU, she travels to Germany once a month for two years.
Col. Alvey stresses the importance of preparedness for medical contingency missions.
On accepting her new assignment, Col. Alvey elaborated on the possible humanitarian challenges that a unit such as the 196th MSU could face in the future, using recent developments in the Middle East and North Korea to show how volatile the political atmosphere of the world can be.
Husband Alan Alvey (retired Captain, U.S. Army) graduated from WMC in 1985.
Dr. Richard F. Leighton ’51 is clinical director of Medicine at Mercer University of Medicine at Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, Ga.
Cardiology has been his passion for more than 60 years after his father suffered from coronary disease and had a series of heart attacks while Richard was in medical school at the University of Maryland. After graduating from Maryland in 1955, he joined the U.S. Navy and became a flight surgeon.
He completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in cardiology at the Ohio State University where he subsequently was a faculty member and directed the cardiac catheterization laboratories. In 1974 he was appointed Professor of Medicine and the first Chief of Cardiology at the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo where he is credited with building the coronary care unit from the ground floor. In 1990, he became vice president for academic affairs and dean of college, a position he held through 1996.
In 1997, he left the Medical College of Ohio for Savannah where he chairs the Institutional Review Boards at Memorial Health University Medical Center and is a clinical professor of medicine at Mercer University School of Medicine, teaching second- and third-year medical students.
Dr. Leighton is a fellow and past Governor for Ohio of the American College of Cardiology, an emeritus fellow of several councils of the American Heart Association, an emeritus member of the Association of University Cardiologists and a member of the Societie Francaise de Cardiologie. He has been selected for Best Doctors in American three times; and in 2007 and 2008 named in America’s Top Cardiologists. He holds an honorary degree from the Medical College of Ohio; and is a recipient of the Honor Award and Gold Key from the Medical Alumni Association of the University of Maryland.
Dr. Leighton is the author or coauthor of 85 articles and eight book chapters in the field of cardiovascular medicine.
Dr. Lisa Taneyhill ’95 earned a dual degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry and served as a research intern at the Molecular Aspects of Drug Design Laboratory at the National Cancer Institute-Frederick Cancer Research at Ft. Detrick, Md., during her undergraduate studies here. Her work resulted in three peer-reviewed publications and launched her into a career in research and teaching. Currently, she is an assistant professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park. Since 2007, she has successfully competed for grants totaling over $1.3 million including funding from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. In 2011 she was named the outstanding faculty educator in the University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
She earned both a master’s and Ph.D. degree in molecular biology from Princeton University where she collaborated with Dr. Arnold Levine, published four peer-reviewed research articles, and received several awards including NJ Commission on Cancer Research Award for Scientific Excellence.
From Princeton, Dr. Taneyhill moved to California Institute of Technology where she completed two postdoctoral fellowships, the second with Dr. Marianne Bronner-Fraser, a leading developmental expert in the field of neural crest biology. Taneyhill’s research on chick embryos lead to a seminal discovery of one of the molecular mechanisms by which neural crest cells move to pattern the embryo. A NIH Service Award, the meritorious NIH Pathway to Independence Award, and the Elsevier Scholars Program Women in Science Award funded her research there.
Dr. Taneyhill credits her educational experience on the “Hill” for instilling her love of research and included undergraduates in the operation of her lab. She writes, “[that] the importance of giving students the opportunity to work in the lab is opening their eyes to how fun and exciting scientific research can be.”