The University of Pennsylvania will honor seven distinguished alumni at the 2021 Alumni Award of Merit Gala on Friday, Nov. 5.
Alumni arts administrator Stephen Goff will receive the 2021 Creative Spirit Award for his life-long commitment to and excellence in the arts. Goff earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture at the College of Arts and Sciences in 1962 and served as managing director at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (now Penn LiveArts) for more than 22 years.
During his tenure at the Center he launched its acclaimed dance program; partnered with professional groups such as the Philadelphia Drama Guild and the American Music Theater Festival; and presented companies including Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival at Lincoln Center and the New Vic Theatre of London, England. In 1985, he and Catherine S. “Kaki” Marshall, Class of 1945, founded the Philadelphia International Children’s Festival, which earns continual acclaim for providing memorable experiences for children and families. As an alum he has supported the Penn Band, the Mask and Wig Club Scholarship, and the Penn Museum.
Beyond Penn, his impact on the cultural landscape extends to serving as a member on the boards of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the Performing Arts League of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Theatre Caravan. Additionally, he served in important roles including as a panelist for Pennsylvania’s and New Jersey’s Councils on the Arts and for the Pew Charitable Trusts’ 1993 Philadelphia Repertory Development Initiative.
Sharing the spotlight with Goff will be Judith Bollinger, Ghislain Gouraige, Mike Kowalski, Clemson Smith Muniz, and John Vosmek, who will all receive the Alumni Award of Merit, along with Ashley Zampini Ritter, who will accept the Young Alumni Award, and Al Filreis, who will accept the Faculty Award of Merit.
Judith Bollinger earned her MBA from Wharton in 1981 and launched a career in international finance at Janus, Credit Suisse FirstBoston, Goldman Sachs, in New York and in London, and ABG Securities, where as CEO, she executed the firm’s merger with Sundal Collier and went on to serve as Chair of ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA. Today, she is the CEO of Judico Capital, Pte. Ltd. An emeritus trustee, Bollinger’s leadership also extends to service on the Penn Libraries’ Board, Wharton’s Board of Advisors, and Wharton’s Executive Board for Asia. Her philanthropic support includes establishing the Bollinger Fellowship in Library Innovation, leadership support for the renovation of the Biotech Commons, and to endow the H. Carton Rogers III Vice Provost and Director of Libraries position as well as financial aid to doctoral candidates at Wharton and the University, establishing a COVID-19 fellowship for MBA students, and generous funding for innovative student projects through the President’s Engagement Prize.
Ghislain Gouraige is 1980 alumnus of the College and earned induction into the Onyx Senior Honor Society. After earning a law degree, he embarked on a successful career in finance, including positions at Bank of America, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Citigroup before launching his own wealth management fund at UBS. He joined the Parent Leadership Committee in 2006 and again in 2018. His leadership has also extended to the Penn Libraries Board, James Brister Society (JBS), and Penn Museum Board. His involvement with JBS helped the Society reaffirm its priorities, energize and expand its membership base, and encourage alumni of color to find leadership roles across the University. Active in the Miami community, he has not only found ways to connect alumni he also advocated for spreading Penn knowledge, linking the Museum’s Learning Programs with distance learning capabilities developed at Florida schools.
Mike Kowalski is a member of the Wharton Class of 1974 and earned an M.B.A. from Harvard. He retired in 2015, from a lengthy career at Tiffany & Co. where he rose to the position of C.E.O. and Chairman of the Board. An emeritus trustee, his leadership to Penn includes the development of M.B.A. courses that bridged the Wharton programs in marketing and legal studies, and guest lecturer in Wharton’s marketing courses. He also served 15 years as a member of the Penn Museum’s Board of Advisors where he facilitated the creation of the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials. During his service as chair of the Penn Museum’s Board of Advisors he provided leadership and counsel throughout the renovation of three wings of the building, the opening of new galleries across the Museum’s entire Main Level, and the reimagining of the Museum’s public spaces to become more welcoming and accessible.
Clemson Smith Muñiz, Class of 1979, is a pioneer in sports radio broadcasting—a calling that began at Penn, where he was the Latino sports co-editor of the Daily Pennsylvanian, played wide receiver on the sprint football team, and was a broadcaster at WXPN-AM. Smith Muñiz is the longest-tenured New York Jets radio commentator and the voice of the New York Knicks, Army Football, and the Major League Baseball Network “en español.” He is also the executive editor of La Vida Baseball. His company, Smith Muñiz Productions, helps bring Spanish-language sports broadcasts to audiences around the world on major networks. He served as a former committee chair and longtime member of the James Brister Society and created an endowed scholarship committing ongoing financial support to female undergraduates. He is a also a founding member and former President of the Association of Latino Alumni and a supporter of the Center for Hispanic Excellence: La Casa Latina.
John Vosmek graduated Class of 1961 and was a member of the Sphinx Senior Society, the Houston Hall Board, Mask and Wig, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE). Following his graduation from Penn, he earned a master’s degree in architecture and a second bachelor’s degree from Yale. He practices architecture in Portland, Oregon, and together with Edward D. Blum, Class of 1974, founded the Penn Club of Portland. He went on to serve as its President of Penn Club of Portland or 17 years, hosting an annual Ben’s Birthday Bash and Summer Lawn Party to welcome newly admitted students. His leadership also includes serving as an interviewer for the local Penn Alumni Interview Program and membership on the Regional Clubs Advisory Board and the Penn Alumni Council, as well as the Mask and Wig Alumni Board and the SAE Alumni Group.
Ashley Zampini Ritter earned her bachelor’s (2007) master’s (2008), and doctoral degree (2018) in the School of Nursing and began her studies at Penn Nursing as part of the Estelle M. Sands and George H. Sands Nursing Scholars program. Her career in research and practice as a nurse practitioner has focused on the delivery of health care to older adults and as a postdoctoral fellow in the National Clinician Scholars Program. Zampini Ritter serves on the Penn Nursing Alumni Board where she initially served as a student representative and serving as Vice President from 2013 to 2015 and as President from 2015 to 2018. She is also active in the Virtual Interview Program, increasing the number of Penn Nursing alumni interviewing prospective students. During the COVID-19 pandemic she has also been active in an effort started by Penn nurses and others on social media to provide accessible, evidence-based information about the virus on social media—a project garnering 40,000 followers.
This year’s Faculty Award of Merit goes to Al Filreis, the Kelly Family Professor of English in the School of Arts & Sciences, director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, and faculty director of the Kelly Writers House. Among his innovations are the initiation with Charles Bernstein, of PennSound, a visionary undertaking to create and collect recordings of poets reading their work, and the creation of the Coursera course, Modern and Contemporary Poetry with global reach. His awards include the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award and the Ira H. Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching at Penn, the inaugural Coursera Outstanding Educator Award, and the 2000 Carnegie Foundation Pennsylvania Professor of the Year award. He was also named one of the Top Ten Tech Innovators in Higher Education by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2013.