2021 Commencement Information
The 2011 Poet Award recipients include distinguished scholars, business executives, entrepreneurs, artists, and community leaders. The Awards will be presented on Friday, October 21, at 6:30 p.m. at Wardman House.
Each year, Whittier College is proud to recognize select members of the alumni body as Poet Awardees in four categories: Outstanding Young Alumnus/a, Alumna/us Achievement, Community Impact, and Service to the College. This year the College will also award the status of "Honorary Alumnus/a" to a member of our extended Poet community. Candidates in all categories are nominated by peers and colleagues, and all submissions are reviewed, then voted upon, by a special committee of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, headed this year by Vincent J. Fraumeni '69.
Matthew J. Espe MBA '84 — CEO & President, Armstrong World Industries, Inc.
Having led businesses in Europe, Asia, and North America, and with 30 years of experience in sales, marketing, distribution and management of global manufacturing businesses, Matthew J. Espe currently serves as president and CEO for Armstrong World Industries, Inc.
Prior to this position, he served as CEO and Chairman with Ricoh Americas Corporation, a subsidiary of Ricoh Company Ltd.; as CEO and Chairman for IKON Office Solutions, Inc., a $4 billion office equipment distributor and services provider with 24,000 employees acquired by Ricoh in 2008; and as President and CEO of GE Lighting. For GE, he managed multiple functional areas, including sales, marketing, distribution and manufacturing as well as management within several business units.
Espe is a member of the board of Unisys Corporation, and an active volunteer and member of the board of United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania. He holds a BA from the University of Idaho, and an MBA from Whittier College.
Dr. James N. Galloway '66* — Alumnus Achievement
Biogeochemist & Educator; Lead Author, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; 2008 Tyler Prize-winner for Environmental Achievement; Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science; Fellow, American Geophysical Union
James N. Galloway is the Sidman P. Poole Professor of Environmental Sciences and Associate Dean for the Sciences at the University of Virginia. His research on biogeochemistry includes the natural and anthropogenic controls on chemical cycles at the watershed, regional and global scales. His current research focuses on beneficial and detrimental effects of reactive nitrogen as it cascades between the atmosphere, terrestrial ecosystems, and freshwater and marine ecosystems.
Following completion of his doctoral program--and two years as a professional potter--he accepted an appointment with Gene Likens at Cornell University. In 1976, he moved to the University of Virginia's environmental science department, serving as chair for five years. He has been on the Board of Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences since 1983 and served as board president for seven years. He was the founding chair of the International Nitrogen Initiative, was a member of the USA EPA Science Advisory Board, and joined the Board of the Marine Biological Laboratory in 2010. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2002, and is currently a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, established by the United Nations Environmental Program and the World Meteorological Organization.
In 2008 Galloway was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and was awarded, with Harold Mooney, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. In 2011, he was selected as the Distinguished Guest Lecturer to the Environmental Chemistry Group of the Royal Society of Chemistry in London.
Galloway holds a B.A. in chemistry and biology from Whittier College, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, San Diego.
OUTSTANDING YOUNG ALUMNI
Marleena Coulston Barber '03 — Vocal Performer, Choir Director, & Advocate
Legally blind from birth due to Albinism, Marleena has been active in promoting positive disability awareness through music and teaching. In addition to directing Braille Institute's Johnny Mercer Children's Choir in Los Angeles for the past six years, she has performed throughout Southern California and across the country as a solo artist.
In 2008, she performed for a congressional breakfast on Capitol Hill as part of National Arts Advocacy Day, along with guest speaker and Grammy award-winner John Legend and acclaimed folk singer Peter Yarrow. Inspired to create her own one-woman cabaret show, â€œThank You for the Music,â€ Coulston-Barber's show tells the story of her life growing up as a visually impaired individual and how music played a vital role in the journey to believing in herself. The show debut at the Shannon Center for the Performing Arts, and has served as a motivational piece for disability related conferences and events throughout the country—most recently featured at the 2010 International VSA Festival in Washington, D.C., produced by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Combining her passion for the arts and disability advocacy, Coulston-Barber currently serves as Board President for VSA California, the state organization on arts and disability. Here, she hopes to help provide arts opportunities to underserved populations with the belief that everyone, of all abilities, should have access to enjoy and participate in the arts.
A music major at Whittier, she has returned to her alma mater to perform at events such as the President's Inaugural Gala, John Greenleaf Whittier's Birthday Celebration, and the Shannon Center's 20 Anniversary Celebration.
Sunil Hiranandani '05 — Entrepreneur; International Manager & Associate Vice President, HSBC
Sunil Hiranandani is an International Manager with HSBC, one of the world's largest financial services organizations. He was recruited directly from Los Angeles into their Headquarters in London, and is part of a very elite group of highly versatile managers that have the ability to be placed in any part of the HSBC's operations (spanning 80 countries) at very short notice and per his employer's discretion. In his short tenor of 5.5 years with HSBC, Sunil has worked in various capacities in different parts of the world; London, UK (Multicultural Strategy) , Mumbai, India (Mid-Market Enterprises) and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he served as corporate banker to multinational companies and petrochemical joint ventures and was responsible for a lending portfolio of over USD $350m.
Most recently, Hiranandani was 're-imported' back to the U.S. to serve as Associate Vice President, Wholesale Credit Risk, and assist with HSBC's risk management and regulatory reporting efforts at their U.S. headquarters in New York City.
Arturo Porzecanski '71 — Distinguished Economist-in-Residence, American University; Founder & Expert, Systemic Capillary Leak Syndrome (SCLS) Community
Arturo Porzecanski spent nearly 30 years working as an international economist with various large banks in New York City, but in 2005 he quit life on Wall Street to become a full-time professor of international economics. Soon after taking up residence in Washington, D.C., he was afflicted by an exceedingly rare and frequently fatal illness (SCLS) which left him partially disabled and brought him repeatedly to the brink of death. In 2008, he founded what became an Internet-based support group of patients, relatives and doctors that has since raised awareness, and spread life-saving knowledge, about this illness around the world. That same year, his passionate but informed advocacy efforts persuaded the National Institutes of Health to launch a first biomedical research project on SCLS, which continues to date. In 2010, he was invited to lecture on SCLS at a medical conference sponsored by the Mayo Clinic. His personal struggle and leadership have been the subject of a profile piece published by The Washington Post.
Ray Mellado '73 — Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Great Minds in STEM™
Ray Mellado is the founder, Chairman of the Board & CEO of Great Minds in STEM, an organization whose mission is to educate, motivate and enable more under-served students to achieve careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); to develop and leverage Hispanic STEM talent to play a leadership role; to engage families, educators and employers to support under-served students in STEM careers; to inspire our nation through recognition of the achievements of Hispanics and other role models in STEM; and to lead collaboration and cooperation within the STEM community.
Mellado entered the private sector after a distinguished 21-year marketing/sales executive career with the Xerox Corporation. Throughout his career, Mellado has taken an active leadership role in the Hispanic Community. In 1977, while a notable member of the Xerox marketing team, Mellado was a founding member of the Hispanic Association for Professional Advancement (HAPA), one of the first Hispanic Employee Associations in Corporate America.
Currently, he serves on the Executive Advisory Council for the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology at California State University, Los Angeles; the National Academy of Engineering's Action Forum on Diversity, a group chartered to work with the Academy to increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities in engineering; and the U.S. Navy's Diversity Senior Advisory Group, reporting to the Chief of Naval Operations. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Association of Naval Service Officers, an organization dedicated to Hispanic officer recruitment and retention, and on the Board of the Foundation for the Advancement of Science Education.
In 2009 he received the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal for outstanding contributions to NASA's mission in honoring and documenting the success of outstanding Hispanic American professionals. Of particular note, this honor has been awarded to less than one percent of the contractor workforce.
Mellado was born and raised in Los Angeles, where he attended Cathedral High School, East Los Angeles College, and Whittier College.
SERVICE TO THE COLLEGE
Richard I. Gilchrist '68 — President, Investment Properties Group, Irvine Company; Past Chairman, Whittier College Board of Trustees
Rick Gilchrist is president of the Investment Properties Group for the Irvine Company and guides all aspects of the Irvine Company's office, retail, resort and apartment properties in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego and the Silicon Valley, including development, marketing and management. Previously, he served as president and co-chief executive of Maguire Properties Inc. in Los Angeles. At Maguire, he oversaw significant growth in the company's portfolio, both through acquisitions and development, and spearheaded the company's successful initial public offering in 2003. Before joining Maguire, Mr. Gilchrist served as president and chief executive of Commonwealth Atlantic Properties, where he managed the planning and entitlement of one of the East Coast's largest and most complex mixed-used projects, an 11 million-square-foot development called Potomac Yard.
Leaving the post in 2011, Gilchrist served as the Whittier College Board Chair for eight years, during which time a number of critical capital projects were completed, including construction of the the new Campus Center, the Wardman Library renovation and expansion, and several improvements to the residence halls, classroom buildings, and athletic facilities. Under his tenure, several new academic programs launched, including the College's innovative Centers of Distinction; several faculty endowed chairs and co-curricular student fellowships were established; the student population increased in both size and academic profile; and the annual fund grew to a historic high in both percentage of participation and overall dollar amount.
Luz Maria Galbreath — Director of the Martin Ortiz Programs, Cultural Center at Whittier College
Luz Maria Galbreath joined the Whittier College Cultural Center in 2004, and has served as director of the Ortiz Programs (formerly the Center for Mexican-American Affairs) and assistant director of the Cultural Center since 2006. Among her numerous duties, Galbreath oversees and produces various annual cultural and educational events, including signature program Tardeada, Hispanic Heritage Month, Dia de Los Muertos, Brindis Navideno, and the Latino Graduates Celebration. In addition, she serves as advisor to a number of student organizations and associations such as Amigos Unidos (formerly Hispanic Student Association) and MEChA, and is the primary College liaison to Alianza de Los Amigos, the Latino alumni association.
Under Galbreath's direction, the Ortiz Programs have been lauded by Excelencia! in Education, a national organization conceived to highlight institutional practices that increase Latino students enrolling in and completing post-secondary degrees. With Galbreath's mentorship, a team of Whittier students was invited in 2007 to compete in the first nationally televised Hispanic heritage quiz show, in which Whittier took 2nd place overall. She has been instrumental in the development of a Spanish-language parent orientation program at the College, and serves on the Board of Directors for local advocacy group HOT (Hispanic Outreach Taskforce).
Galbreath earned her bachelor's degree in foreign language education and linguistics from the Autonomous University of Guadalajara (UAG) in Mexico, and a master's degree in Spanish literature and linguistics from California State University, Fullerton. As an undergraduate, she was selected to participate in an exchange program with the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette, where she led Spanish conversation classes and learned about Cajun culture. Galbreath also taught Spanish intensive courses to American and Japanese students enrolled at the UAG medical school. In 2007, she was selected as a E. (Kika) de la Garza Fellow in Education, sponsored through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.