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Emerson College Announces 2021 Distinguished Alumni Honorees for Achievements in Communication and the Arts

Inductees include Lisa Gregorian ’83, MA ’86, William Ludel ’70, Charles Stewart ’86, Merri Sugarman ’84, and Courtney Overton, MS ’13

On Saturday, May 8, Emerson College honored alumni with its Distinguished Alumni Award and Young Alumni Achievement Award in a virtual celebration during its first annual Emerson Week, a college-wide, fully online, multi-day event for all Emersonians, formerly alumni weekend. The careers of this year’s distinguished alumni award recipients span decades in the arts and communications fields, from television, theatre and Broadway to journalism and speech communication.

The Distinguished Alumni Award recipientsinclude Lisa Gregorian ’83, MA ’86,  president and chief marketing officer of the Warner Bros. Television Group through December 2020; William Ludel ’70, award-winning television and theater director and playwright best known as a co-director of the soap opera General Hospital for over 25 years; Charles Stewart ’86, award-winning executive producer, producer, and writer in Los Angeles who served as executive producer at NBC Los Angeles and helped launch the National Geographic channel; Merri Sugarman ’84, well-known casting director for network television shows and series, Broadway and Off-Broadway, and a theatre teacher and coach for several universities and colleges including Emerson; and Young Alumni Award Recipient Courtney Overton, MS ’13, owner and founder of Speech of Cake, Inc., a private practice in Alexandria, Virginia, that specializes in treating speech sound disorders, dyslexia, and dysgraphia.

Each year, Emerson College honors alumni and celebrates those who not only excel in their fields, but also share a commitment to students, programs, and initiatives.

Photos available upon request.

Biographical Information about honorees:

Lisa Gregorian ’83, MA ’86, served as president and chief marketing officer of the Warner Bros. Television Group through December 2020. In the role, she built a best-in-class organization that oversaw the Studio’s global TV marketing unit, including creative services, distribution marketing, social, brand integrations, and publicity. Her team was responsible for working with television networks and stations worldwide to maximize and fully exploit the promotional marketing and publicity opportunities for all of the Studio’s television properties—including network, first-run, off-network, cable, digital and animated—produced and distributed by Warner Bros. Television Group’s various production and distribution business units. She and her marketing team also worked cross-divisionally with DC, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Warner Bros. Consumer Products, and The CW Television Network, as well as WarnerMedia and AT&T. Gregorian also serves on the Emerson College Board of Advisors.

William Ludel ’70 has had a nearly 50-year career as a television and theater director and playwright. As one of the directors of the soap opera General Hospital for over 25 years, he’s received three Directors Guild of America Awards and nine Daytime Emmy Awards. His theater work has taken him across the country, including shows at WPA Theatre in New York, Long Wharf Theater, The O’Neill Theatre Center, Yale Rep, Williamstown Theatre, Hartford Stage, Pittsburgh Public, Milwaukee Rep, Antaeus Theatre, South Coast Rep, and ACT Seattle. His play A Death in the House Next Door to Kathleen Turner’s House on Long Island was produced by the Alliance Theater in Atlanta. Red and Scooter was a finalist for the National Repertory Theater Foundation Play Award. His scripts for The Oscillating Marbleman and Dr. Arthur Goldman’s Birthday Party were performed at the Yale Cabaret Hollywood. He has also been a mentor to aspiring film and television directors from the University of Southern California. Prior to attending Emerson, he was the recipient of the 1968 Dewey Prize from the University of Rochester. Following his graduation from Emerson, he attended the Yale School of Drama.

Charles Stewart ’86 is an award-winning executive producer, producer, and writer who has created, developed, executed, and supervised everything from live and taped TV news programs to documentaries, talk, digital, and entertainment shows on a local and national level. He worked as an executive producer on multiple newscasts for KCBS/KCAL Los Angeles and also served as an executive producer at NBC Los Angeles. In other roles, Stewart provided live coverage of some of the biggest stories in America and has also worked on national shows such as JFK: Inside the Evidence, Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, Hot Ticket, and the launch of the National Geographic channel. He is a winner of multiple Los Angeles–area Emmy, Golden Mike, and Associated Press awards. He began his television career during his junior year at Emerson. While taking on a full load of classes and working as a doorman and waiter at Ryles jazz club in Cambridge, he met a photographer from WNEV-TV Channel 7 (now WHDH). He asked if there were open positions at the station and was given a phone number to call for an internship. He applied and gained a position on the weekend assignment desk. It’s all history after that.

Merri Sugarman ’84 started her career as an actress in national Broadway tours. After moving to Los Angeles, she worked on such shows as NewsRadio and The Larry Sanders Show. She then moved to Dreamworks Studios as the casting executive in charge of TV pilots and series. She also held the position of director of casting for dramas and movies at ABC Television before returning to the East Coast to teach and coach actors. She is currently a senior casting director at Tara Rubin Casting, where she casts Broadway and Off-Broadway, national touring, and international productions, including Jersey Boys, The Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock, and Dear Evan Hansen. Sugarman also casts for regional theaters, web series, and TV and film projects. She is an alumni officer of the professional sorority Kappa Gamma Chi at Emerson, where she earned a BFA in Musical Theater. She has been a Tony Voter for the past four years, is an adjudicator for the Roger Rees Awards, and is a member of Casting Society of America. She teaches, coaches, and advises for theater programs at a number of colleges and universities, including Emerson.

Courtney Overton, MS ’13: Young Alumni Award Recipient

Courtney Overton, MS ’13, CCC-SLP, is the owner and founder of Speech of Cake, Inc., a private practice in Alexandria, Virginia, that specializes in treating speech sound disorders, dyslexia, and dysgraphia. In 2020, she co-founded a microschool to help children learn in the middle of a pandemic. St. Clair Learning Center is an innovative educational environment for elementary-age students in Alexandria, Virginia. Overton is also the project manager of a federally funded grant at the University of Maryland, in which she and a team of consultants are researching the linguistic structures of African American English dialect in preschool-aged children in College Park, Maryland. She is also a doctoral student in literacy, culture, and language education at Indiana University with a minor in educational leadership. She has a master’s degree in speech-language pathology from Emerson and obtained a bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology, minor in linguistics, and certificate in American Sign Language at the University of Pittsburgh.

About Emerson College

Based in Boston, Massachusetts, opposite the historic Boston Common and in the heart of the city’s Theatre District, Emerson College educates individuals who will solve problems and change the world through engaged leadership in communication and the arts, a mission informed by liberal learning. The College has 3,700 undergraduates and 1,400 graduate students from across the United States and 50 countries. Supported by state-of-the-art facilities and a renowned faculty, students participate in more than 90 student organizations and performance groups.

Emerson is known for its experiential learning programs in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, the Netherlands, London, China, and the Czech Republic as well as its new Global Portals. The College has an active network of 51,000 alumni who hold leadership positions in communication and the arts. For more information, visit emerson.edu.

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