Jan. 16, 2009
For 75 years, the William and Mary Alumni Association has been recognizing their outstanding alumni for their professional accomplishments, leadership, dedication to the community and commitment to their alma mater. In 1934, W&M president John Stewart Bryan presented 25 alumni with medallions for their good deeds and service -- which has come to represent the highest award the Alumni Association can bestow on a graduate. This year, we shall continue the tradition by celebrating the contributions of five recipients in a Feb. 6, 2009 ceremony at the Sadler Center, to which the public is invited.
The honorees for 2009 are Sarah Kemp Brady '64, Lynn Melzer Dillon '75, Henry H. George '65, Harrison R. Tyler '49 and Sunshine Trumbo Williams '44.
When Sarah Kemp Brady '64 graduated from the College and began her teaching career, there was no way she could know how dramatically her life would change, and that she would have such a significant impact on this country's legislation. "You never know the twists and turns life will bring," she says. Brady grew up in Alexandria, Va. After she graduated, she taught for four years and in 1968 she went to work as the assistant to the campaign director for the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee until 1970. That same year she met James "Jim" Brady and went to work on Capitol Hill, and then went on to work for the Republican National Committee. Sarah and Jim married in 1973. On March 30, 1981, during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, Jim Brady was shot. She decided to become active in the gun control movement and contacted an organization called Handgun Control Inc., becoming chairwoman of the lobbying arm in 1989 and then chairwoman of the education and research arm, the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, in 1991. Through working with this organization and lobbying her friends and contacts in Washington, D.C., Brady was able to get the Brady Law enacted. When it first passed in the House in 1991, she described it as "one of the biggest thrills of my life."
There are not too many jobs that would allow you the opportunity to ride a tank at a defense company site or attend the launch of a satellite at Cape Canaveral. Understanding the customer base was part of the business for former banker Lynn Melzer Dillon '75. She was drawn to the College for its liberal arts curriculum, national reputation, Orchesis dance program and location. After graduation, the history major began her career in the banking industry, which culminated into her supervision of the 22-state Eastern states corporate banking division for First National Chicago Bank of Chicago (now JP Morgan). In 1999, after nearly 10 years of commuting among D.C., Chicago and New York and having to live in a separate city from her husband, she decided to take a new path to focus on volunteer work and financial consulting. Her passion for the College brought her back in 1997 to serve on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, becoming president from 2001 until 2003. "It's such a joy to help others," she says, "especially when you can see so tangibly how it changes lives."
Henry George '65 learned to love William and Mary from his father. Brooks George '32 was an influential member of numerous College boards and committees and was never shy about bringing his two sons along with him to Williamsburg. Following some time in the Army and a master's degree from the University of Virginia, George returned to his native Richmond, Va., to work in the city's banking industry. George went on to form Investment Management of Virginia, an independent firm where he is a managing director. His wife, Nancy, named an honorary alumna in 2003, joins him for their sometimes twice-weekly trips to Williamsburg. As a past president of the William and Mary Alumni Association, George was a familiar presence in and around the Alumni House during his terms, from 2001 until 2007. "Like anything else, the more you put into something, the more you get out of it," he says. "I try to participate in every way I can."
From his historic estate on the banks of the James River, Harrison Tyler '49 is mere miles -- if not steps -- away from the places and events that have shaped his storied family. His father, Lyon Gardiner Tyler LL.D. 1919, was president of William and Mary during the tumultuous period from the reopening in 1888 to 1919. Harrison's grandfather was John Tyler 1807, the 10th President of the United States. And the president's father, John Tyler 1765, was governor of Virginia from 1808 to 1811. Harrison Tyler came to Williamsburg after growing up in Charles City County, Va., and attending a private school in Richmond. At William and Mary, Tyler became engrossed in chemistry. "The first atomic bomb had exploded the previous year, and [chemistry professor Dr. William Guy] was talking about splitting the atom and all the things that came out of it," he says. "It was like a world lit up." After pursuing a master's in chemistry at Virginia Tech, he began his career with Virginia-Carolina Chemical. His first assignment put him in contact with his future wife Payne, whom he married in 1957 they and had three children. Tyler founded his own company in 1967, which became ChemTreat, which grew into a huge success, allowing him to contribute to the College's history department, and the creation of the Tyler Family Garden.
In 1941, when Sunshine "Sunny" Trumbo Williams '44 entered the College of William and Mary, there were not very many career options for women to pursue in what was still very much a man's world. But Williams found a way to put her degree to good use: first as a teacher, then as a volunteer and what one friend called a "silent partner" in her husband's business. Upon graduating with a degree in fine arts, Sunny became chair of the art department at Maury High School in her hometown of Norfolk. Shortly afterward, she met her future husband, who worked in the shipping industry for over 50 years. She helped found the docent program at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, was head docent at the Myers House in Norfolk, and served 19 years on the Norfolk Arts Commission. She also helped found the Norfolk Sister City program, was active in the Junior League and the Norfolk YWCA, and sat on the vestry as president of the Women of Good Shepherd's Church. Williams served two terms on the Alumni Association Board of Directors from 1992 to 1998. In addition, she served on the executive board of the President's House committee, served on the parent's steering committee for eight years, and chaired one parents' weekend. She also chaired her class reunion five times and has never missed a Homecoming since graduation. Williams feels very strongly about maintaining connections with alumni of every age. That's why you will often hear her say: "I think the Alumni House is the heart of the College."
For a complete listing of all of the Medallion winners' professional, civic and College involvement, please visit the Alumni Magazine Winter 2008 issue.
The honorees will process during Charter Day exercises on Feb. 7 in front of classmates, family, friends, faculty and the College community and be recognized for their professional accomplishments, leadership, dedication to the community, and commitment to their alma mater.