Leon Lederman Assembly Review

The 2023 Alumni Awards and Tribute to Dr. Leon Lederman celebrated IMSA's biggest champion and students who have made a difference | Source: Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

On Friday, October 20, 2023, the 2023 Alumni Awards and Tribute to Leon Lederman was held in the main gym during an extended midday. The program included an opening, Tribute to Leon Lederman, musical tribute, 2023 Alumni Awards, Titan Award, Distinguished Leadership Award, musical celebration, alumni recession, and closing.

History of the Assembly

In an interview with Ms. Tami Armstrong, IMSA’s Chief Public Affairs & Development Officer, she shared that the Alumni Awards program has been in place since 2006 to recognize IMSA alumni who greatly contribute to their fields. After the passing of IMSA’s Founding Father, Dr. Leon Lederman, in October of 2018, the Alumni Awards were paired with a tribute to create this assembly. These alumni are seen to have greatly exhibited Dr. Lederman’s vision for IMSA, and each year, the Board of Trustees nominates select individuals to receive one of three awards:

Alumni Titan Award:

This annual award honors enthusiastic IMSA champions who advance the institution’s mission through time and talent.

Alumni Distinguished Leadership Award:

This annual award honors those alumni who have made incredible leadership contributions in their professional fields consistent with IMSA’s mission. It may also be awarded to those who show extraordinary courage and selflessness in challenging times.

Alumni Trailblazer Award:

This award, bestowed when merited, honors individuals who exemplify IMSA’s philosophy statement that alumni will “create new intellectual worlds, cure a dreaded human ailment or in some other way significantly influence life on our planet.” These awardees will have improved the way many humans live or work.

Opening, Tribute to Leon Lederman and a Musical Performance

Co-Hosts Katherine Mayer (’23) and Winston Mattson (’23) opened the assembly and introduced the speakers for the day.

A video was then played that spoke of Dr. Leon Lederman’s life, particularly his vision for IMSA. Dr. Angela Rowley, IMSA’s Principal and Chief Academic Officer, and Dr. Erin Roche (’89), Board of Trustees Chair, described Dr. Lederman’s legacy, accolades, and honors. His outstanding achievements in particle physics and his worldwide reputation and influence allowed IMSA alumni to become doctors, scientists, engineers, and so much more. The awards later granted proved that individuals had done amazing things because of his vision.

A beautiful tribute called “Celebrated Minuet” by Luigi Boccherini and arranged by Charles Woodhouse was performed by the IMSA Chamber Strings Octet, which transitioned into the 2023 Alumni Awards.

2023 Alumni Awards

Dr. Evan Glazer, IMSA president, along with Co-Hosts Katherine Mayer and Winston Mattson, transitioned into the 2023 Alumni Awards program and introduced each awardee.

2023 Titan Award

In the 2023 Alumni Awards, Dr. Angel Alvarez (’98) was awarded the Titan Award. Dr. Alvarez is Director of the Stem Cell Core and a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology at Northwestern University. With much experience in stem cell biology, imaging, gene delivery, and biotechnology, his research has led to intellectual property in stem cell technology and cancer. In addition, he has served as a mentor to scholars, including several IMSA SIR students.

In his speech at the assembly, he talked about his personal and very unique experience at IMSA. He shared an inspiring message of perseverance in the darkest of times. The memo was clear: people will tell you that you can’t do it, but they are wrong.

Dr. Angel Alvarez (’98)| Source: Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

2023 Distinguished Leadership Award

Elizabeth “Spike” Malecha’s (’90) words followed Dr. Alvarez’s motivating speech. Elizabeth Malecha is an incredibly accomplished military officer dedicated to leadership and service to our country. Among her many achievements, one of the most impressive is that she became the first female graduate of TOPGUN in 2001. After leaving active duty, she now holds the rank of Captain and serves in support of the Navy’s Sixth Fleet home-ported in Naples, Italy.

In her speech, she spoke of her extensive experience in the military after IMSA. She urged students to appreciate and take advantage of the opportunities IMSA provides and how many of these opportunities prepared her for the future and her role in the military.

Elizabeth “Spike” Malecha (’90) | Source: Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

The Alumni Trailblazer Award was not awarded this year.

Musical Celebration, Alumni Recession, and Closing

The IMSA Chamber Orchestra performed an impressive piece, “Hungarian Dance No. 5” by Johannes Brahms and arranged by Clark McAlister, which transitioned into another round of applause for this year’s outstanding awardees before the assembly’s closing.

IMSA is looking forward to another inspiring assembly in 2024 in honor of even more individuals with incredible achievements that advance this institution.

In the words of Dr. Lederman in 1985:

“If we do what we know and feel is right, it is bound to happen that among our graduates there will be numbered scientists, engineers, and those who go on to earn degrees in law and letters. There are likely to be those few who create new intellectual worlds, cure a dreaded human ailment or in some other way significantly influence life on our planet. Our philosophy will be to treat our charges as if each one is capable of this extraordinary achievement.”

About the Author

Michelle Fanjoy
Hey! I am a sophomore at IMSA ('26) and I live in 1503. I enjoy playing tennis and the flute. I also love watching Formula 1, but most importantly, I love writing! I am looking forward to working as a staff writer for The Acronym this year.

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