By Zenebou Sylla ‘22
The annual Emerson Recognition and Achievement (ERA) Awards last week recognized student and campus leaders, community impact, and kindness in the mold of a much-loved professor and friend who the College lost earlier this month.
The event, held virtually due to the pandemic, was co-hosted by Monica Keipp ’23 and Mercer Whitfield ’23, who were also recipients of this year’s ERA Award of Distinction for their work with #ESOCWeekofAction, a movement to hold the College accountable for creating a campus where every student can feel welcome and safe, regardless of race or background.
For the first time, the ERA Awards presented the Robert Colby Kindness Award, established in 2020 and named in honor of Performing Arts Professor Bob Colby, who died April 5 following a battle with cancer. The award goes to “a person or persons who spread unconditional, unwavering, and selfless kindness.”
Both Whitfield and Keipp shared some words to remember Colby and his impact on the Emerson community.
“He was there to listen and he truly cared about what his students had to say,” Whitfield said.
“Kindness doesn’t ask for anything in return, but from the bottom of our hearts, thank you, Robert. Your many achievements and acts of kindness will always be treasured and remembered by those who knew you,” said Keipp.
The Kindness Award was presented to Maureen Hurley, director of student transitions and family programs, who organizes events for student families, and administers the department’s Facebook page, addressing parent concerns and maintaining a respectful and informative forum. Hurley’s kindness has impacted many.
“One family in particular detailed in a heartfelt narrative how Maureen has supported their entire family in the wake of a significant loss in their family—in an authentic way that went well beyond her job description,” according to the Spirit of Emerson Committee, which confers the Robert Colby Kindness Award and the Spirit of Emerson Award.
The annual Spirit of Emerson Award, which celebrates individuals or groups who have exemplified the “Spirit of Emerson College,” defined as “electric, innovative energy in thought and creation,” went to Melody Hsu, a graduate student in the Media Design program; and Naomi Jones ’21, Creative Writing major, class president, president of EBONI, resident assistant, and student ambassador.
Hsu created “The Roots that Ground Us Set Us Free,” a public art piece for the Boston Chinatown community that can be seen outside the Wang YMCA, and her media pieces speak to issues including xenophobia and humanizing local government. She also serves as a resource for international students.
“During the pandemic, Melody, a dedicated member of international student organizations, became a comforter and advocate for her fellow international students as they faced travel challenges and concerns about how they would continue their studies at Emerson,” the committee wrote.
Jones works to engage EBONI alumni in networking opportunities, and is a public speaker, poet, and activist on behalf of social justice issues, particularly during last year’s Black Lives Matter protests.
“As one nominator put it,” the committee wrote, “’she is constantly fighting for social justice and equity on campus.’”
President Lee Pelton, in his last appearance at the ERA Awards before departing Emerson in June to lead the Boston Foundation, presented the Spirit of Emerson Award, as well as the first few awards of the evening, such as the Isabel Sanford Award, which went to Ademir Monteiro.
“It’s an honor to recognize the recipients of this year’s Spirit of Emerson Award… During a challenging year, it is no surprise that Emersonians have found ways to preserve and excel. Tonight, it is my privilege to recognize two students who have embodied the spirit of Emerson in very profound ways,” Pelton said.
Visual and Media Arts Professor Tom Cooper, founder of the Spirit of Emerson Committee and originator of the Spirit of Emerson and Robert Colby Kindness awards, was recognized for his contributions to the Emerson community, and got his own namesake award: The Tom Cooper Lion Pride Award, which went to Harper McKenzie. Cooper is retiring this year after teaching at the College for 38 years.
This year’s ERA Awards introduced the Innovative Programming Spotlight Award, dedicated to an organization that has pushed the boundaries to create new forms of programming and engagement for the Emerson community. The inaugural award went to Hillel.
ERA Award List
Isabel Sanford Award: Ademir Monteiro
Spirit of Emerson Award: Naomi Jones and Melody Hsu
Robert Colby Kindness Award: Maureen Hurley
Jennifer Stowers Quintal Visionary Award: Naomi Jones
HRE Outstanding Rising Resident Assistant: Brianna Young
HRE Outstanding Returning Resident Assistant: Sabrina Sexauer
Orientation Leader of the Year: Anthony Rodriguez
Fraternity and Sorority Life Member of the Year: Haley MacMillan
Innovative Programming Spotlight Award: Hillel
Student Spotlight Award: Clarisa Carrillo
Student Leader of the Year: Regina Trevethan
Advisor of the Year: Sofia Vargas
Organization of the Year: Asian Students in Alliance (ASIA)
Special Recognition: Tom Cooper
Tom Cooper Lion Pride Award: Harper McKenzie
Emersonian of the Year: Max Boone
ERA Award of Distinction: #ESOCWeekofAction (Sonali Anand, jehan ayesha, Max Boone, Emily Cardona, Maxx Carr, Jalyn Cox, Niki Hester, Evonne Johnson, Monica Keipp, Lia Kim, Gabriella Leonel, Sydney Logan, Eryn McCallum, AZ Nowell, Shruti Rajkumar, and Mercer Whitfield)
Purple Key Society Awards: Allison Valton, Amanda Benavente, Angel Salcedo, Arasha Lalani, Arianna Cruz, Brandon Smith, Brigit O’Malley, Charlie Hickman, Charlotte Palmucci, Claire Layden, Daniel Reilly, Edyn Jensen, Elizabeth Bradford, Elizabeth Pine, Emily Cristobal, Gabriel Shapera, Gabriella Leonel, Geena Gangi, Gwen Plotner, Hannah Flaherty, Harper McKenzie, Isabel Indresano, Isabella Guerro, Jalyn Cox, James Boone, James Curry, Jessica Cunha, Kelly Sou, Kyle Eber, Kyle Goold, Madison Brooks, Madison Lynch, Maya McClain, Maya O’Day, Meredith Stisser, Micaela Tringale, Michael Rocco, Mitchel Johnson, Molli DeRosa, Naomi Jones, Paige Ervin, Quinn Chao, Rachel Westra, Rana Saifi, Rhegan Graham, Simona Riccardi, Sydney Logan