Community Engagement

Honoring Excellence

OU honors outstanding alumni at silver anniversary event

A group of people holding awards

From left to right: Nihal W. Goonewardene, Amy Ring Cebelak, Robert J. Ray, Gary Brancaleone, James Ewing, Jayne Houdyshell and Anthony C. Boganey.


icon of a calendarJune 23, 2020

icon of a pencilBy Erin Sudrovech

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The 25th Annual Alumni Awards celebrated the groundbreaking work and community commitment of graduates of Oakland University. The event recognized alumni who have distinguished themselves as strong leaders in their respective fields and through service to their alma mater.

Rochester Hills Mayor and chair of the OU Alumni Association (OUAA) Board of Directors, Bryan Barnett, SBA ’98, spoke about the historical impact of alumni in the community and beyond. Also on hand was OU alumna Eva Aguirre Cooper, CAS ’82, Vice President of Community Partnerships with Univision, who emceed the event.

President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., recognized the achievements of this year’s honorees, including Gary Brancaleone, SBA ’82, who received the highest honor of the evening, the Distinguished Alumni Service Award.

This award recognizes Brancaleone’s extraordinary and longstanding commitment to Oakland University. He currently serves as a member of the OUAA Board of Directors and is the chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. He is also a founding member and immediate past president of the Golden Grizzlies Champions Club Board of Advisors. This is the second Distinguished Alumni Service Award for the Brancaleone family. In 2018, Brancaleone’s wife, Beth Benson, SBA ’81, received the distinction.

Tony Award-winning actress and alumna Jayne Houdyshell, ADA ’74, was selected as the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. Houdyshell graduated with honors from OU’s Academy of Dramatic Arts and has since been cast in 11 Broadway productions and has received four Tony nominations. Her first came in 2006 for her performance in Well, again in 2012 for Follies and most recently in 2017 for A Doll’s House, Part 2. In 2016, she starred as Deirdra in the Broadway production The Humans, winning a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. She has also been awarded two Obie’s, a Drama Desk Award, a Joseph Jefferson Award, a Barrymore Award and a Theatre World Award.

In addition to the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, President Pescovitz also recognized Houdyshell as a 2019 recipient of an honorary degree and led a short investiture ceremony where she presented Houdyshell with a Doctorate of Arts Honoris Causa.

Nihal W. Goonewardene, CAS ’72, and Anthony C. Boganey, MD, FACS, MBA, CAPT, MC USN, CAS ’88, were both recipients of the Alumni Community Service Award. Both men are committed to service to the campus and their communities. Goonewardene played an instrumental role in helping to rebuild the coast of Thailand after the tsunami of 2004. He is also supporting OU students through scholarships for the study of political science as well as study abroad opportunities. Boganey’s military service is exemplary. He has moved through the ranks of the Navy to become chief of surgical services, garnering several important accolades along the way. Boganey continues to serve the OU community at events in California, connecting with both students and alumni.

Additional 2019 awardees include:

  • Amy Ring Cebelak (CAS ’11) – Outstanding Young Alumni Award
  • Robert J. Ray, CFP (SBA ’05) – Spirit Award
  • James Ewing, Ph.D. (CAS ’92) – Odyssey Award
  • Ron Kevern – Honorary Alumni Award

At the conclusion of the program, guests were invited to attend a special casino-themed afterglow where they played games, networked and celebrated this year’s award recipients.

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