Yale Medal honors dedicated alumni

Most undergraduates think of their college career as only being four years long. But there are some Yalies whose involvement with the University doesn’t end after graduation, opting instead to devote a large part of their life to giving back to Yale.

The annual Yale Medal, considered the most prestigious award given by the Association of Yale Alumni, is given to the alumni who have demonstrated extraordinary dedication and support to Yale University through outstanding volunteer service.

On Sept. 1, the AYA announced J. Kirk Casselman ’68, Rowan Claypool ’80, Maureen Doran NUR ’71, Paul Joskow GRD ’72 and Nicholas Spinelli ’41 MED ’44 as the five winners of this year’s Yale Medals.

The reactions of the award recipients ranged from completely surprised to deeply appreciative of Yale’s acknowledgment for the work they had done.

“I was ecstatic, I didn’t expect it,” Casselman said. “Everything I did for Yale was for fun because Yale was such a great place.”

All of the winners emphasized it was their love and gratitude for Yale that had inspired them to remain devoted to the University after graduating.

Casselman has worked extensively with Yale’s admissions committee and went on to found the Adopt-A-School Program, where alumni become affiliated with various local schools and help guide the admissions process. He said students often need help learning more about the schools they are applying to.

“I was lucky to stumble upon Yale,” Casselman said.

Claypool initiated Bulldogs in the Bluegrass, a summer program that gives Yale students opportunities for internships, nonprofit work and a community-immersion experience in Louisville, Ky. Claypool said the program, which has since spread to Cleveland and San Francisco, works on three levels: it helps Yale students find work over the summer, gives back to the local community and lets students learn in a non-university setting.

“It completes elements of an education that are not learned in the classroom or on campus,” he said.

Doran, who won the Yale School of Nursing’s medal in 2002, has volunteered her time and effort to Yale through her work at the School of Nursing and as a member of the Association of Yale Alumni for 14 years, including a term as chair.

“The biggest problem of the committee is whittling the number down to five people,” Doran said.

When she was part of the committee, Doran said she was amazed by the quality of candidates and by how passionately devoted alumni are to Yale. Doran said “to be among such rarefied company is a great honor.”

Joskow served as the president of the University Council for 12 years, and had various roles on the honorary degree selection committee and the alumni fellow nominating committee for the Yale Corporation.

Spinelli was an alumni leader for both his class of 1941 and the Yale Medical School, and more recently he volunteered as the director of the Yale School of Medicine’s Office of Alumni Affairs.

The five award winners are selected by a committee made up of the Alumni Board of Governors from a group of candidates, who are nominated by other alumni. There have been 252 winners since the award’s inauguration in 1952.

The five recipients will be celebrated and officially awarded the medal at a dinner Nov. 17.

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