Teacher Tracie Benally ’19 faces a steady stream of challenges in her daily effort to educate her students, especially as the pandemic ravages the Navajo reservation she calls home. Still, she has big dreams for her students and a vision for a better, more culturally responsive public education system.
Read Smith’s plans for the spring 2021 semester.
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Meet the 2019 Smith College Medalists
Four extraordinary alumnae will receive the Smith College Medal at Rally Day, in recognition of their contributions to their communities and the world.
This year’s medalists, announced at a faculty meeting Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, are:
- Congresswoman Nicola “Niki” Sauvage Tsongas ’68
- University chancellor Phoebe A. Haddon ’72
- Television and film producer Lydia Tenaglia-Collins ’88
- Conductor Carolyn Kuan ’99
The Smith Medal was established in 1962 to recognize alumnae who exemplify in their lives and work “the true purpose” of a liberal arts education. More than 200 outstanding alumnae have received the award in recognition of their professional achievements and outstanding service.
This year’s honorees will receive their medals at a ceremony on Rally Day, Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 1:30 p.m. in John M. Greene Hall. Classes are canceled for the occasion, which marks the first time seniors publicly wear their gowns—along with inventive hats—in keeping with the day’s spirit of Smith pride.
About the 2019 Smith Medalists
Nicola “Niki” Sauvage Tsongas ’68, Congresswoman
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in a 2007 special election, becoming the first woman in 25 years to represent Massachusetts in Congress. Elected from Massachusetts’ Third District—which includes portions of Essex, Middlesex and Worcester counties—she holds the same seat that was held three decades earlier by her late husband, former Congressman, Senator and presidential candidate Paul Tsongas. As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, Tsongas has championed the fight to combat and prevent sexual assault in the military; authored legislation that provides cutting-edge resources to service members; worked to support veterans transitioning to civilian life; and led the push for modernized body armor. In 2017, she was elected by her peers to serve as the Ranking Member of the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, and she serves as a senior member of the Natural Resources Committee. Committed to supporting small businesses and encouraging the growth of the manufacturing and technology companies that have become a trademark of her region, Tsongas also has made accessibility a hallmark of her Congressional office.
Phoebe A. Haddon ’72, university chancellor
A nationally noted leader in issues related to access and equity, Phoebe A. Haddon became chancellor of Rutgers University–Camden in 2014, assuming direct responsibility for the daily administration of a campus with nearly 7,000 students and 1,300 employees. Under her leadership, the university has widened affordable access through its Bridging the Gap program, which provides full or significant tuition coverage for New Jersey’s working families. She also has expanded the institution’s nationally recognized civic engagement program. In 2014, Haddon was an invited speaker at the annual meeting of the American Law Institute, and in October 2014, she was among the “Women of Distinction” honored by Philadelphia Business Journal. In 2015, she received the Trailblazer Award from the New Jersey Women Lawyers Association. She is a recipient of the 2019 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of American Law Schools Section on Women in Legal Education. A member of the American Bar Association’s Commission on the Future of Legal Services, she serves on the boards of the Cooper University Health System, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Camden Health & Athletic Association, and HERS (Higher Education Resource Services). Additionally, Haddon is a Class C director and deputy board chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Board of Directors.
Lydia Tenaglia-Collins ’88, television and film producer
In 2003, Tenaglia-Collins co-founded Zero Point Zero Production with producing partner Chris Collins. Together they created and executive produced the Peabody and Emmy award-winning series Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown for CNN. They have since grown ZPZ to a 150+-person company producing hundreds of episodes of television across numerous series, including the Emmy Award-winning Mind of A Chef, Emmy-nominated The Hunt with John Walsh, and the award-winning Meateater with Steven Rinella. Along with Chris Collins, Tenaglia-Collins oversees all creative development for ZPZ; she has executive produced content for Netflix, CNN, Discovery Networks and PBS and for brands such as MasterCard, Breville, Sonos and Yeti. In 2016, Tenaglia-Collins directed the feature documentary Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was picked up for theatrical distribution by The Orchard. In 2017, Tenaglia-Collins produced the feature documentary Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, which also premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was picked up for theatrical distribution by NEON Super LTD. Tenaglia-Collins was nominated and elected in 2017 to serve as VP of Television for the Producers Guild of America.
Carolyn Kuan ’99, conductor
Recognized as a conductor of extraordinary versatility, Carolyn Kuan has been music director of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra since 2011 and has enjoyed successful associations with top-tier orchestras, opera companies, ballet companies and festivals worldwide. She has performed with the symphonies of Baltimore, San Francisco and Seattle, among others, and with the New York City Ballet, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Santa Fe Opera, Washington National Opera and at the Glimmerglass Festival. International engagements have included performances with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Residentie Orkest, Royal Danish Ballet, Singapore, Toronto and the West Australian Symphony. While maintaining a solid connection with traditional repertoire, Kuan also has cultivated expertise in Asian and contemporary music. She was the first woman to be awarded the Herbert von Karajan Conducting Fellowship, resulting in her residency at the 2004 Salzburg Festival. Winner of the first Taki Concordia Fellowship. She also has received awards from NEPR, the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame and the Susan W. Rose Fund. Kuan graduated cum laude from Smith College, received a Master of Music degree from the University of Illinois, and a Performance Diploma from the Peabody Conservatory.