September 29, 2016

Four to Receive 2016 Alumni Award of Distinction

The annual award honors alumni for making “significant positive impact on their communities, society, or the world”
by Phillips Academy

September 29, 2016 —The Alumni Council of Phillips Academy has selected four individuals to receive the 2016 Andover Alumni Award of Distinction. First presented in 2012, the annual award honors individual members of the alumni body for making “significant positive impact on their communities, society, or the world.” The honorees will receive the awards on Wednesday, Nov. 2, during All School Meeting.

The 2016 recipients are:

Constance Brinckerhoff, Class of 1959

Constance Brinckerhoff is regarded as a leader in the study of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Her research has been recognized by many and has earned her prestigious awards, such as MERIT Award from National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health.

After graduating from Abbot Academy, Brinckerhoff earned a B.A. in biology from Smith College and a M.A. and Ph.D. from SUNY Buffalo in microbiology and immunology. She began her career studying autoimmune diseases as a graduate student. After completing her Ph.D., she moved with her husband to southern Vermont and the spent the next few years teaching at Windham College, working part-time in a clinical lab at the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, and raising their three children. In 1972, she decided to do a postdoctoral fellowship at Dartmouth Medical School with Martin Lubin, MD, PhD. In 1976, she began working with MMPS when a leading rheumatologist, Edward Harris, MD, recruited her to work in his lab to do research on connective tissue diseases. Brinckerhoff quickly became one of the thought and action leaders in the lab and helped the team make important discoveries about how metalloproteinases are synthesized and how they degrade joints as rheumatoid arthritis progresses.

Brinckerhoff is currently the Nathan Smith Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry and Associate Dean of for Science Education at Dartmouth Medical School. In addition, she is the principal investigator at Dartmouth’s Brinckerhoff Laboratory focused on MMPs in joint destruction in arthritis and in tumor invasion and metastasis. Brinckerhoff is the executive editor of the Journal of Cellular Physiology, received the Smith College Medal for “distinction and research,” in addition to being named an American College of Rheumatology Master, one of the organization’s highest honors.

Soiya Gecaga, Class of 1992

Soiya Gecaga is the Founder and Executive Director of “We the Change” Foundation, an organization that inspires people to “be the change” they want to see in the world. The foundation’s key area of focus is the development and creation of a center of excellence to provide education and care to children in the underserved communities of Kenya.

Gecaga was born in Kenya. She earned a BA in Modern History from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She has worked in London as a solicitor specializing in charity and corporate law. She has also worked for The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva, Nyumbani (an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS in Kenya), and Mother Teresa’s home for the destitute and dying in Calcutta.

Her grandfather was Jomo Kenyatta, the first President of Kenya after independence and considered the founding father of the Kenyan nation, and her grandmother, whom she is named after, who educated herself and made history as the first Kenyan nominated MP in the Legislative Assembly in 1958.

Thomas J. Hudner Jr., Class of 1943

Capt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr. is a retired officer of the United States Navy and a former naval aviator. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in trying to save the life of his wingman, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War. In addition, Hudner has received numerous military decorations including the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal.

Born in Fall River, Mass., Hudner attended the United States Naval Academy after graduating from Andover. On December 4, 1950, Hudner and Brown were patroling near the Chosin Reservoir when Brown's Corsair was struck by ground fire. Hudner intentionally crash-landed his own aircraft on a snowy mountain to help Brown. Brown died of his injuries and Hudner was forced to evacuate.

Following the incident, Hudner held positions aboard several U.S. Navy ships and with a number of aviation units, including a brief stint as Executive Officer of the USS Kitty Hawk during a tour in the Vietnam War. He retired from active duty in 1973. Since then he has worked for various veterans organizations throughout the United States.

In May 2012, the Secretary of the Navy announced that an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer will be named USS Thomas Hudner.

David G. Nathan, Class of 1947

David G. Nathan, the Robert A. Stranahan Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, is recognized internationally for his scientific and clinical contributions to the field of hematology. His work with thalassemia, a condition in which the body fails to make hemoglobin properly, has led to new techniques to treat and prevent the disease. He also initiated a bone marrow transplantation program for the treatment of inherited disorders of the blood, pioneering approaches to the transplantation management of various immune and blood deficiencies.

His long career began in internal medicine and hematology at Boston’s Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, which has since merged with other institutions to become the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. As chief of hematology at Children’s Hospital, also in Boston, he collaborated with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to create a combined hematology and oncology division. In 1985 he became physician-in-chief and chair of the department of medicine at Children’s Hospital, and later he was named president of Dana-Farber. He held the position until 2001.

He is the author of more than 270 scientific papers. Among his many honors, Nathan was awarded the National Medal of Science and the John Howland Medal, the American Pediatric Society’s highest honor. He has been a visiting professor at teaching hospitals in several foreign countries, and he recently received an honorary degree from the University of Athens for his work on the prevention of thalassemia.

The previous recipients of the Alumni Award of Distinction are:


Julia Altagracia Alvarez ‘67 Maro Chermayeff ‘80 Tracy Kidder ‘63 Marvin Minsky ‘45


Clemency Chase Coggins ’51 John T. Darnton ’60 Susan Goodwillie Stedman ’59


Hafsat O. Abiola ’92 George Church ’72 Frank P. Stella ’54


George H.W. Bush ’42 Wendy Ewald ’69 William S. Knowles ’35 Stacy A. Schiff ’78 Peter M. Sellars ‘75

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