On Saturday, June 5, Emerson College will honor four distinguished alumni during the school’s Alumni Weekend festivities (June 4–6). This year’s recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award are being recognized for excelling in performing arts, journalism, marketing, and communication disorders. They will return to the campus, located in the heart of Boston’s Theatre District, to accept their individual awards among approximately 600 fellow Emerson alumni.
The Distinguished Alumni Award recipients for 2010 are Judyann Johnson Elder ’67, actor; Michael Mendenhall ’84, CMO, Hewlett Packard; and Clyde Terry ’74, CEO, Granite State Independent Living. Journalist Brendan McCarthy ’04 will receive the Young Alumni Achievement Award on June 4.
Each year, the Alumni Association Board of Directors and the Emerson College community nominate individuals who best represent and share Emerson's commitment to diversity and innovation. Barbara Rutberg, director of alumni relations at Emerson College, remarks on the significance of the award: “It’s our highest honor bestowed upon alums—recognizing those who have shown exemplary professional achievements in their fields and also share a long-standing commitment and service to Emerson College—its students, programs, and initiatives.”
Biographical information on this year’s awards recipients
Judyann Johnson Elder ’67, actor
Elder graduated from Emerson College as the first recipient of the Carol Burnett Award in the Performing Arts. She began her professional career in New York off-Broadway as a founding member and resident actor with the Tony Award winning Negro Ensemble Company. She originated roles in the premier productions of The Song of the Lusitanian Bogey, Daddy Goodness, Kongi's Harvest, God is a Guess What, and Ceremonies in Dark Old Men. She later made her Broadway debut at the Ambassador Theatre as Coretta King opposite Billy Dee Williams in I Have a Dream. A television veteran with innumerable credits, her favorites include her stint on Murphy Brown as Candice Bergen's obstetrician; her recurring role as Gina's mother on the hit series Martin; her series regular as Harriet Winslow for the final season of Family Matters; and her guest turn as Terri Hatcher's psychiatrist on Desperate Housewives. A breast cancer survivor and former legislative ambassador for the American Cancer Society, her dramatic role as a woman confronted with breast cancer on the showER remains one of her most personally enduring. With feature films spanning the years from A Woman Called Moses with Cecily Tyson to Forget Paris opposite Billy Crystal and, most recently, Seven Pounds opposite Will Smith, she continues to embrace the many challenges of a career in the arts. Among her directorial credits: The Book of the Crazy African, The Meeting, Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, The Member of the Wedding, How's Your Love Life? and A Private Act. She is an alumna of the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women where she produced and directed the short film, Behind God's Back, based on an Alice Walker short story and starring Beau Bridges. The mother of three children, Ms. Elder is the recipient of a Screenwriting Fellowship with Walt Disney Studios and was honored in 2005 with an NAACP Trailblazer Award.
Michael Mendenhall ’84, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Hewlett- Packard
Michael Mendenhall directs all aspects of corporate marketing operations for HP globally. His organization oversees brand strategy, internal and external communications, digital strategy, global citizenship, integrated design, customer intelligence, services and operations, and hp.com.
Prior to joining HP, Mendenhall spent 17 years at the Walt Disney Company, culminating in his position as executive vice president in charge of all marketing and communications for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, a $10 billion business spanning North America, Europe, and Asia. Mendenhall has overseen work that has won a number of prestigious awards, including an Emmy and the 2000 and 2001 Silver Lion’s Best Corporate Campaign Award at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France. He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Marketing and Branding and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. He also serves on the boards of the Churchill Club, Brandweek’s Editorial Advisory Board, and the Advertising Council. In 2008, he was awarded one of BtoB Magazine’s top marketers of the year and was No. 22 on Advertising Age’s Power Players list. Most recently, he was recognized as an Internationalist of the Year by The Internationalist Magazine for his efforts in redefining cross-border marketing campaigns.
Clyde Terry ’74, CEO of Granite State Independent Living (GSIL)
Terry has spent the better part of his working life helping increase disabled people’s independence. Since 2002, he has served as CEO of GSIL, a nonprofit organization located in New Hampshire that promotes life with independence for people with disabilities and those experiencing the natural process of aging through advocacy, information, education, and support. Under his leadership, GSIL has grown to 16 programs in 8 offices across the state. More than 50 percent of his staff has disabilities. Terry also knows firsthand what it’s like to have a disability—he was born with a rare case of childhood glaucoma, which has caused his vision to deteriorate over time. GSIL has been recognized numerous times, including in 2007, when it was named Nonprofit of the Year by Business New Hampshire magazine; won The Corporate Fund Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management in 2009; and was selected this year by radio station WOKQ in Dover, NH, as a nonprofit of the year.
Brendan McCarthy ’04, journalist
As a staff writer at The Times-Picayune, Brendan McCarthy has covered violence, the police department, and New Orleans’ criminal justice system. His eight-part series, “Homicide 37,” was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in local reporting. The series chronicled the investigation into an all-too-routine murder of a New Orleans teenager. McCarthy was also named the winner of the 2009 Mike Berger Award, a national prize conferred by Columbia University for in-depth, human-interest reporting. Before working at The Times-Picayune, McCarthy was a metro reporting resident at the Chicago Tribune.