Alumni hear Clarkie’s story of perseverance, service ‒ and challenging the status quo
Reunion Dinner speaker Courtney Thomas ’17 eyes public policy career
May 24, 2017
Clark University President David Angel opened the May 19 Reunion Dinner noting that while returning alumni are often curious about what’s new at the University, it’s also important to recognize “the continuity of the mission and values of Clark.”
Speaking to alumni gathered in Tilton Hall, including members of the Class of 1967 celebrating their 50th reunion, President Angel said the University has done much “to follow the same paths that marked the University when you were students here.”
He reported the launch of Clark’s comprehensive campaign, which has already raised $100 million toward its $125 million goal for student scholarships, programs and facilities.
“Nothing is more important to Clark University than the compassion, dedication and talent manifest in the students who make up Clark today,” he said.
President Angel introduced the night’s student speaker, Courtney Thomas’17, a political science major, member of Phi Beta Kappa and president of the Black Student Union. The Freeport, N.Y., native has interned at several nonprofit organizations both here and abroad, and has conducted independent research on LGBT politics in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
Thomas described her experience as a first-generation American and the daughter of Jamaican parents who instilled in her the importance of obtaining a top-notch education. She recalled a summer internship that didn’t pan out as planned, but which proved a defining learning moment early in her Clark career. The experience led her to apply for and receive Clark’s Harrington Public Affairs Fellowship, allowing her to live and do research in the Worcester area, with guidance of Srini Sitaraman, associate professor of political science.
Clark is that rare place where the administration gives credence to students’ ideas and positions, Thomas said. The University “helped me think beyond the box and question the world around me,” she said. “I learned how to be an effective leader, challenge the status quo and persevere at all costs.”
Catherine M. Dunham ’67, M.A. ’70, Ed.D. ’81, earned the Distinguished Alumni Award. Dunham is vice president for resident services and community improvement at the Preservation of Affordable Housing, a multi-state nonprofit owner and developer of affordable housing in Boston. She also was founder and president of The Access Project, a research and advocacy organization that worked to improve health care for people without adequate health insurance, and was chief of health and human services policy adviser to Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis. She served as president of the Clark University Alumni Association from 1974 to 1976, and she served on the Clark University Board of Trustees from 2009 to 2015. In her time on the board, she was leader on issues of access, diversity and affordability. Dunham was unable to attend the dinner because she was in Detroit for her grandson’s christening. The award was accepted on her behalf by Jack Foley, vice president for government and community relations at Clark.
Garrett Abrahamson ’07, M.B.A. ’08, received the Young Alumni Award. A senior consultant focused on health care payment reform at the Public Consulting Group, Abrahamson has a long history of service to Clark dating back to his undergraduate days when he served on the Student Council and the Student Alumni Relations Committee. Since graduating, he has served as class agent, member of the Last Decade (GOLD) Council and as member of the Alumni Association Executive Board. He also is a member of the Jonas Clark Fellows, Clark’s leadership giving society. Abrahamson calculated that he’s spent nearly half his life affiliated with Clark University, a connection that is deep and enduring. While other people may say they attended a particular college, a Clark graduate says, “I am a Clarkie,” he told the audience. “It continues to define who you are, not where you went.”