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Annual Alumni Awards Ceremony and Toast to the December Class of 2020

by Katie Gortz on 12/18/2020

SLU-Madrid graduates and their families, alumni, staff, faculty and friends “zoomed in” from across the globe to honor distinguished alumni and raise a glass to our newest graduates at the Annual Alumni Awards Ceremony and Toast to the December Class of 2020. As the last day of final exams and remote coursework came to a close, the ceremony brought together the extended SLU-Madrid community to celebrate the completion of a challenging yet rewarding semester. 

Paloma Gómez de Salazar, counselor and campus minister, served as master of ceremonies, who introduced Paul Vita, Ph.D, SLU-Madrid director and academic dean, as well as SLU President Fred Pestello, Ph.D., and Interim Provost Michael Lewis, Ph.D., who connected from St. Louis to congratulate the honorees and join the toast to the Class of 2020.

Cristina Ponce de León, who completed her SLU-Madrid degree in art history this semester, addressed her classmates, and marketing Professor Gonzalo Moreno, Ph.D, who was nominated by the graduates as faculty speaker, offered humorous and heartfelt reflections. 

Special Awards and Recognition

Vita recognized the students who earned distinction for their cumulative GPA:

Cum Laude (3.5 or higher)

Carmen Rodríguez Parra
Salma Saouri

Magna Cum Laude (3.7 or higher)

Cristina Ponce de León Meneses

Summa Cum Laude (3.9 or higher)

Kiersti Watt

New Student Government Association Leaders (SGA)

President: Daniel Harris
Vice President: Maycie Rosado
Treasurer: Leo Borders
Public Relations Officer: David Harris
Communications Officer: Kylie Jabjiniak

Exceptional Service to SLU-Madrid and to SLU-Madrid’s SGA

Madrid administrative leadership decided to offer this special award to the student who played a critical role in ensuring that the SGA continued to have a voice at the table and represent students in spite of the challenges presented by COVID-19.

Rayan Anwar El Grabli

Exceptional Service to SLU-Madrid’s Faculty

Academic leaders suggested offering this special recognition to two faculty members who took the lead in championing the challenges of teaching during the time of COVID. They have also been appointed fellows of the University’s Reinert Center for Transformational Teaching and Learning.

Hamish Binns
Katherine Smith

Annual Distinguished Alumni Awards

Every year, the Saint Louis University - Madrid Alumni Association honors outstanding graduates who are leaders in both their professional lives and communities. Katherine Espinosa (Class of ’13), alumni association representative, announced the honorees and invited them to share a few words. 

Vicky Albornoz, Ph.D. (Spanish) was selected for the Alumni Faculty Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the education, growth and careers of others.

Sarah Trainor Graves ’12 received the Emerging Leader Award in recognition of the meaningful work she does on behalf of African Americans and other marginalized populations in attaining social and economic equality.  

Lisa Pietropola '09 (M.A. in Spanish), received the Professional Achievement Award in recognition of her outstanding innovation as an educator. Highlights include a bilingual literacy outreach project within the United States and abroad.  

Juan Sitges Breiter '95 was selected as recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his work in the areas of dependency, disability, and the promotion of health and social welfare.

Dr. Vicky Albornoz

Vicky Albornoz, Ph.D., was nominated by the Alumni Association to receive the second annual Alumni Faculty Award. This award recognizes outstanding teaching faculty who have gone above and beyond to further the education, personal growth and careers of SLU-Madrid students. 

Toasting the Class of 2020

Assistant Dean Jaime Ortiz then went on to recognize each member of the December Class of 2020 individually before Vita brought the celebration to a close with a toast to the Class of 2020:

“You earned your degrees at SLU-Madrid. You completed them during the year 2020. These two facts mean that you have a profound understanding of how the world is interconnected, how individual and community actions have a global impact. Many joys await you: many challenges do too. Please know that the faculty and staff of SLU-Madrid will do our best to support you as you pursue your careers—heartened that you will be the kind of leaders who epitomize the University’s mission—that is, to care passionately about social justice and to make the world a better place. Here is to the future success, health and happiness of SLU-Madrid’s Class of 2020!”