Distinguished alumni boast broad range of talent
This year the Wisconsin Alumni Association has chosen individuals with wide-ranging talents to receive its highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Recipients are Broadway actor André De Shields, international activist Conchita Poncini-Jimenez, inventor Richard Schoofs and professor emeritus William Young.
WAA will present the awards Friday, May 11, at 5:45 p.m. in the Memorial Union Theater as part of its annual Alumni Weekend celebration.
“This is the most prestigious award that the Wisconsin Alumni Association offers,” says Paula Bonner, WAA’s executive director. Here are biographies of the honorees:
André De Shields (’70) is an actor, director and educator whose professional stage career began even before he received his bachelor’s degree. From the 1969 Chicago production of “Hair” to star turns in such Broadway shows as “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and “The Wiz,” De Shields has earned critical acclaim as well as applause. During the 1970s, the New York Amsterdam News named him “the king of cabaret,” and since then he has won numerous awards, including an Emmy Award and a Tony nomination.
De Shields was instrumental in creating UW–Madison’s Lorraine Hansberry Visiting Professorship, which honors the pioneering author of the play “Raisin in the Sun.” In 1998, he appeared at the Union Theater as narrator in both Igor Stravinsky’s “L’Histoire du Soldat” and the world premiere of Wynton Marsalis’s “A Fiddler’s Tale.”
“He is a powerful presence on stage and in person,” says Michael Goldberg, director of the Wisconsin Union Theater, “because he never shortchanges the audience or the listener or the person he’s talking with.”
Conchita Poncini-Jimenez (M.S.’64) has devoted her professional life to improving working conditions for women around the world. She is currently the president of the UN-affiliated Non-Governmental Organizations Committee on the Status of Women.
A native of the Philippines, Poncini-Jimenez came to UW–Madison on a Fulbright grant. Shortly after graduation, she joined the International Labour Organization, where she strove to remove discriminatory clauses from ILO regulations and tried to change the focus of policies from merely protecting women to securing gender equality in the workplace. She continued to work on gender issues in human resources policies when she later became executive officer of the ILO’s Labour Law and Labour Relations Branch.
In 1994, Poncini-Jimenez joined the Geneva, Switzerland-based NGO Committee on the Status of Women and lobbied to improve women’s working conditions. A breast cancer survivor since 1997, she has remained active in pursuing this goal, which has helped her overcome the challenge of illness.
Richard Schoofs (’53) has sponsored The Schoofs Prize for Creativity, a College of Engineering contest that offers undergraduates up to $10,000 for the year’s best invention. “His generosity has helped our students realize that following a dream of invention and entrepreneurship is a viable career choice,” says engineering dean Paul Peercy.
Schoofs is the chairman of Schoofs, Inc., a Moraga, Calif. company that markets, distributes and develops applications for a variety of chemical products. Schoofs holds 15 patents, and it’s his interest in invention that spurred him to create the entrepreneurship contest in 1995. Schoofs is known for encouraging contestants and helping them market their inventions.
In addition to his contributions to the entrepreneurship contest, Schoofs has also served UW–Madison as a member of the UW Foundation board of directors, the Bascom Hill Society, and the College of Engineering’s Industrial Liaison Council and its VISION 2000 committee.
William H. Young (Ph.D.’41), professor emeritus of political science, has devoted more than half a century to serving Wisconsin. His teaching, administrative work, international connections and philanthropy have enabled UW–Madison to more fully realize The Wisconsin Idea.
From 1947-83, Young was a professor of political science, and he chaired the department from 1952-59. In addition, he has advised two governors on policy matters and he served as budget director.
However, perhaps Young’s most far-reaching contribution was as the founding chair of the Center for Development, a university program that trains international students in public administration. During the 15 years that Young chaired the center, it educated more than 300 officials from 50 foreign countries.
Though Young retired in 1983, he continues to assist UW–Madison through philanthropic work on the board for the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation, which has contributed $20 million to the university.
He has also served as a goodwill ambassador for the university, maintaining ties to alumni in the Far East.