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Outstanding Alumni Award

Purpose of Award

The award serves to recognize and reward one of our outstanding Penn State Political Science alumni for their success and influence as a leader.

Eligibility for Award

Eligible candidates should have a record of significant career achievements and be outstanding role models for current Liberal Arts students. Any person may be nominated who is a graduate of the College of the Liberal Arts and majored in Political Science, International Politics, or another degree administered by the Political Science department. Current members of the University faculty or staff are not eligible.

Nature of the Award

The title Outstanding Political Science Alumna/Alumnus shall be conferred upon the recipient by the Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. The Outstanding Political Science Alumna/Alumnus will be invited to campus to receive their award at the Department of Political Science Alumni-Student Banquet and to meet students, faculty, and alumni. So that recipients may be appropriately recognized and to enable us to inform others about their accomplishments, awards will be presented to recipients who are able to attend the ceremony. Recipients who are not able to attend the ceremony in the year nominated, will be invited to participate in a subsequent year.

Selection Process

Nominations will be solicited from the faculty, staff and from the Political Science Board of Alumni Visitors. Nominators will be responsible for preparing a nomination dossier for their candidate(s), to include a résumé and a letter detailing why this person is being nominated.

The Directors of Development and Alumni Relations, in conjunction with the Chair of the Board and the head of the political science department, will narrow the nomination list to no more than five candidates. The Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts will then make the final selection.


2016/17: Richard Tobin

Rich Tobin has worked as a consultant to the World Bank, UNICEF, the UN Development Program, the UN Population Fund, the US Agency for International Development, the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Arab Administrative Development Organization, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, since retiring from the World Bank. He is currently serving as deputy team leader for an evaluation of two climate change projects in China. After receiving his PhD, from Northwestern University, Rich taught courses on public and environmental policy at State University of New York at Buffalo. After moving to the Washington metro area in the early 90s his career has focused on international development. From 1996–2005 he was Managing Director of the American Institutes for Research. From 2005–2008 he was Lead Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist for the World Bank.

2015/16: Maryann Hunter

Maryann Hunter is the deputy director of the Division of Bank Supervision and Regulation at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Ms. Hunter has responsibility for the Federal Reserve’s program for supervision and risk management and oversees the supervision of U.S. banking organizations and foreign banking organizations operating in the U.S. Ms. Hunter joined the Board in 2006 as an adviser and was later promoted to deputy director in the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs. She was named deputy director in the Division of Bank Supervision and Regulation in August 2010. Prior to joining the Board of Governors staff, Ms. Hunter held a number of high-level positions at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. She started her career at the Federal Reserve as an examiner in 1981 and was promoted to senior vice president and officer in charge of Supervision in 2000. She also served as senior vice president and branch manager in charge of bank operations at the Denver Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Ms. Hunter has a B.A. from Penn State (’79 Political Science) and an M.P.P. from the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy. She is also a graduate of the Colorado Graduate School of Banking.

2014/15: Jennifer Mies Lowe

Jennifer Mies Lowe is Vice President of The Boeing Company and directs the company's National Strategy and Engagement Organization. She integrates the business needs of the company with their public policy initiatives and community engagement. Her organization is made up of public policy strategy, third party outreach, market analysis, state and local government operations, global corporate citizenship, and Boeing’s political action committee. She also manages all grassroots advocacy for the company.

Jennifer has extensive management, legislative, and political experience including several U.S. Senate campaigns, a presidential campaign, and a national political convention.

Prior to joining The Boeing Company, Jennifer served as chief of staff to U.S. Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN), served in Senate Leadership as Staff Director for Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), Office of the President ProTempore, and worked as Director of the U.S.-China Interparliamentary Group that advised Members of Congress on U.S. China policy and legislation.  Along with Senators Stevens and Inouye, she negotiated the agreement with the Chinese government to form the first official dialogue mechanism between the U.S. Senate and the National People’s Congress.

Jennifer sits on the boards of America’s Promise and the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL). She resides in Arlington, VA with her husband and three children.


2013/14: Gretchen Birkle

Gretchen Birkle is Regional Director for Africa at The International Republican Institute, where she is responsible for developing and managing programs in transitioning African countries. The programs focus on elections and support to issue-based political parties and civil society organizations, and a regional governance program in sub-Saharan Africa that strengthens linkages between elected officials and citizens. In addition, Gretchen served as a board of director representative to the Millennium Challenge Corporation from 2007 to 2010.

Gretchen began her career as a legislative assistant on foreign affairs and defense appropriations to the late U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter. From 2004 through 2006, Gretchen served as Senior Coordinator at the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. In 2006, she led the Women’s Democracy Network, the first global initiative for the IRI, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that promotes democracy worldwide. Starting in 2010, she directed IRI’s Afghanistan office and later was appointed Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division.

For Penn State, Gretchen is a mentor to Liberal Arts students and has established a fund to support undergraduate or graduate students who have made contributions to democratic deliberation.

2012/13: Kelly Ayotte

Kelly Ayotte was the first woman to serve as New Hampshire’s Attorney General. Appointed to that position in 2004 by a Republican governor, she was twice reappointed by a Democrat governor. In her first bid for public office, she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 with 60 percent of the vote.  In the Senate, Kelly serves on the Armed Services, Budget, Commerce, and Small Business Committees. She is the Ranking Member - top Republican - on the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support.

As Attorney General, Kelly worked with law enforcement officials statewide to protect New Hampshire citizens - helping to distinguish the state as the safest state in the nation. For successfully leading efforts to secure the first capital murder convictions in the state in over 60 years, the Union Leader newspaper named Ayotte "Citizen of the Year" in 2008. She also has been recognized by Business NH Magazine as one of the ten most powerful leaders in New Hampshire, and New Hampshire Magazine listed her as one of the state's remarkable women. Before Kelly's five years as Attorney General, she held positions as the Deputy Attorney General and the Chief of the Homicide Unit.

Kelly graduated in Political Science with honors in 1990 from The Pennsylvania State University and completed her legal education at Villanova University School of Law.

After completing her legal education, Kelly returned to New Hampshire and served for one year as a law clerk to state Supreme Court Associate Justice Sherman Horton.

Kelly lives in Nashua, New Hampshire with her husband, Joe, and their two children.

2011/12: Annette O’Donnell-Butner

Annette O’Donnell-Butner joined Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts and Company (KKR) in February 2009 and serves as Principal and Chief Compliance Officer for KKR Asset Management, the global public markets platform for the company. Previously, Ms. O’Donnell-Butner served as a Senior Vice President and Deputy Director of Compliance for the Private Investment Management division of Lehman Brothers. Prior to that, she was a Vice President of JP Morgan where she was responsible for estate/generational planning strategies and techniques for affluent clients in Private Wealth Management. 

Ms. O’Donnell-Butner holds a B.A. in Political Science from Pennsylvania State University (1991) and a Juris Doctor from Oklahoma City University School of Law (1994).

Annette currently serves as the Co-Chairperson for the Membership Development Committee of Claremont Country Club, and is a member of the Orinda Community Center Auxiliary and an associate member of St. Luke’s Junior Auxiliary.   Since her graduation from Penn State, she has been actively involved with the Penn State Alumni Association, Admissions Volunteer Program and Lion P.A.W.S.  Most recently, she has become involved with the Paterno Fellows Program as both a supporter and student mentor.

Ms. O’Donnell-Butner lives in Orinda, California with her husband, Chris, and their two children, Christopher and Anderson.

2010/11: Steve Kelmar

Steve Kelmar is responsible for Aetna’s government, regulatory, and policy teams. He and his team work to ensure that Aetna’s business strategy is supported before governments at the international, federal, and state level. Prior to Aetna, Mr. Kelmar was head of Global Public Affairs and Policy for Merck and Co., and also served in that capacity for Novartis AG, in Basel, Switzerland. In these roles, he was responsible for setting and driving the public affairs and policy strategies globally for these companies. Before joining Novartis he served as Senior Vice President, External Relations for Medtronic Inc., for nine years. Mr. Kelmar spent 14 years in public service in several executive positions. In 1990, he was appointed by President Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be an Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

During his public service career, Mr. Kelmar was Chief of Staff to two members of the U.S. Congress and also worked in several legislative capacities for members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Mr. Kelmar received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Penn State. He and his wife, Patricia, have three children.

2009/10: Peter Barnes

Since September 2007, Peter Barnes has served as FOX Business Network’s senior Washington correspondent. Until 2004, he served as the Washington bureau chief and correspondent for television group Hearst-Argyle. He has also worked at numerous business programming outlets, including TechTV from 2001 to 2003, where he was the Washington bureau chief for the satellite channel which specialized in technology coverage.

Barnes served as an anchor and Washington correspondent for CNBC from 1993 to 1998. In 1996, he anchored Capitol Gains, an election year weekday morning show on business, economics, and politics. Peter began his career in journalism with the Wall Street Journal after graduating from the Wharton School with an MBA.

In addition to his career as a successful journalist, Barnes runs and writes for the publishing company VSP books together with his wife, Cheryl. VSP – which stands for Very Special Places – began as a publisher of children’s books about vacation sites. The first VSP book was "Nat, Nat, the Nantucket Cat," which has sold thousands of copies over 15 years. A second series of educational books about Washington featuring mouse characters prompted a deal with Scholastic Press. Altogether, Scholastic has sold a half-million paperback versions, while VSP has sold a million hardcovers altogether.

2008/09: Michael J. O’Connor

Michael has devoted his career to defending the less fortunate and often the poor. He has represented prisoners on death row both as a public defender and as a private lawyer. This avocation started early with Michael. During law school, he was a legal intern assisting in death penalty cases, and then an intern for the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq. There he did research and field work in Israeli-occupied West Bank, work that resulted in the publication of Plowshares and Swords by Beacon Press in 1992.

As a student at Penn State, Michael graduated Summa Cum Laude, was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and was an Evan Pugh Scholar which meant that he was in the top 0.5% of his graduating class. He had two majors: prelaw and history. As a student at Yale Law School, he was the student director for the Green Haven Prison Project and the Jerome N. Frank Prison Legal Services.

Michael became one of the most respected capital defenders, representing death-row prisoners in all stages of appeals and post-conviction proceedings in Alabama, California, and Arizona. His focus expanded to the needs of indigent defendants in federal criminal trials while working in San Diego and later in Arizona and Minnesota.

Since 1998, Michael has transitioned to full-time teaching. He began at the Arizona State University College of Law, then the National University of Ireland at Galway, and then University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota as a founding faculty member. Today he teaches constitutional law, civil rights litigation, and criminal law at the Phoenix School of Law.

Michael continues to publish articles and books including Time Out of Mind: Our Collective Amnesia about the History of the Privileges or Immunities Clause, and, with his wife, Celia Rumann, Going, Going, Gone: Sealing the Fate of the Fourth Amendment.

2007/08: J. Scott Hommer

J. Scott Hommer is an attorney and a partner with the Virginia-based firm, Venable, LLP, where he focuses on business counseling with an emphasis on technology companies and startup businesses. He represents clients on issues such as negotiating contracts, acquisitions, protecting intellectual property rights, and litigating successfully. He also counsels clients who do business with the Federal, state and local governments. He is committed to developing relationships with his clients that go beyond the usual role of legal advisor. He works closely with his clients on a pro-active basis, developing strategic plans and managing legal issues that may arise, and more importantly, identifying potential problems before they develop.

Outside of the office, Scott has an exceptional record of community service. He serves on the Executive Committee and the Senior Advisory Board of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and as general counsel of its foundation. He is a member, participant and graduate of the “Leadership Fairfax” program, is as member of the Professional Services Council, and the National Contract Management Association. He has been the Chairman of Special Olympics of Fairfax County, and a President of the Volunteer Center of Fairfax County.

Scott’s commitment to service also extends to state government. He was appointed to the Virginia Legislature’s Advisory Committee on Virginia’s Critical Infrastructure, to its Advisory Committee on Intellectual Property and to its Advisory Committee on Integrated Government.

Penn State, too, has been the beneficiary of Scott’s service. He was the legal counsel to the Metro Washington Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association. He earned his JD from Georgetown Law Center.

2006/07: Alan E. Kerry

Alan E. Kerry has more than 30 years' experience in the development, marketing and management of various types of commercial real estate, including office, hotel, retail, residential and mixed-use projects.

From 1973 to 1985, Mr. Kerry held positions with ALCOA Properties, Inc. and Watt Industries, Inc. in Los Angeles, California. While with these companies, he was actively involved with the development, marketing and management of various commercial properties amounting to approximately 3,500,000 square feet of office space, a 750,000 square foot regional shopping center, 1,000 hotel rooms and various residential and resort land development projects.

In 1985 Mr. Kerry joined American Trading Real Estate Properties, Inc. (ATREPO) in its Los Angeles office as Vice President of Western Region Operations. In 1989 he was promoted to Senior Vice President, overseeing the operations and marketing of ATREPO's portfolio at the company's headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1993 he was elected President of American Trading Real Estate Properties, Inc.  In 1999 ATREPO was re-formed into Lord Baltimore Capital Corporation with its Real Estate Division, Lord Baltimore Properties.

Throughout his career Mr. Kerry has worked with various business and non­profit organizations, including the Boy Scouts, Junior Achievement, Rotary International, Chicago Title Advisory Board, Downtown Partnership, Ruxton Country School Board of Trustees, Genesis Jobs, Hillendale Country Club Board of Governors, Oldfields School Board of Trustees, and People’s Homesteading Group of Baltimore. In these organizations Mr. Kerry has held numerous leadership positions including Vice President of Hillendale Country Club for 3 years, Chair of Genesis Jobs for 4 years, Chair of Ruxton Country School Board of Trustees for 4 years, and Chair of Oldfields School Board of Trustees for 6 years. Mr. Kerry is a graduate of the 1995 Leadership Program of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

He is married to Teri Ann Kerry, has three children, Michael (also a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University), Lannin and Christopher. Mr. Kerry and his family have also endowed a scholarship at the Pennsylvania State University, College of Liberal Arts, in memory of his mother and father. Alan and Teri live in Phoenix, Maryland, a northern suburb of Baltimore. Alan E. Kerry is currently the President of "Lord Baltimore Properties".

2005/06: Thomas R. Dye

Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Florida State University, and President, Lincoln Center for Public Service.

Thomas R. Dye has been described as one of America’s most provocative educators. He is the author of numerous books and articles on American government and public policy. He authored more than thirty years ago The Irony of Democracy: An Uncommon Introduction to American Politics, which has sold tens of thousands of copies and is now in its 13th edition. Two other books, Understanding Public Policy, and Politics in States and Communities, are both in their 11th editions, and his popular textbook, Politics in America, is in its sixth edition. Professor Dye’s research focuses on the role of big campaign contributors, think tanks, interest groups, and the media in policy formation in Washington.

The recipient of the Harold Lasswell Award for career contributions to the study of public policy, and the Donald C. Stone Award for career contributions to the study of federalism, he served as a visiting scholar at Bar-Elan University in Israel, and at the Brookings Institute in Washington D.C. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Georgia, among other institutions. Professor Dye has served as President of the Southern Political Science Association, President of the Policy Studies Organization, and Secretary of the American Political Science Association.  His pro bono work as president of the Lincoln Center for Public Service focuses on promoting civic and educational service to the citizens of Florida and the United States. He is a frequent consultant to state, local, and federal government agencies, private foundations, and policy-planning organizations.

2004/05: Linda Menghetti

Vice President of the Emergency Committee for American Trade (ECAT), an organization of leading U.S. companies that promote economic growth through expansionary trade and investment policies. She assumed that position in December 2000. She advises companies and works with Administration officials, Members of Congress, and foreign officials in support of key trade and investment legislation and policies, including Trade Promotion Authority, the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement and investment protections.

Prior to assuming that position, Ms. Menghetti was Chief Minority Trade Counsel (September-December 2000) and Minority Trade Counsel (September 1996-September 2000) for the Senate Finance Committee.  She advised the Committee on international trade issues, including trade legislation, the activities of the World Trade Organization and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, ongoing and prospective trade negotiations, implementation of the Uruguay Round and the NAFTA, bilateral trade issues and disputes, and labor and environmental issues related to trade.  She worked actively on the passage of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, the Trade and Development Act of 2000, the FSC Repeal and Extraterritorial Income Act of 2000, renewal of the trade adjustment assistance and Generalized System of Preferences programs, as well as several other tariff bills.

Prior to joining the Finance Committee staff, Ms. Menghetti was Legislative Assistant to New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley (1995-96), advising him on international trade, foreign policy and immigration issues, including Uruguay Round and NAFTA implementation, ongoing trade negotiations, U.S.-East Asian and U.S.-Russian relations, NATO expansion and international development strategies.

Before joining Senator Bradley's staff, Ms. Menghetti worked as a lawyer in private practice at the law firms of Dewey Ballantine (1992-1995) and McKenna & Cuneo (1990-1992).  In her law practice, she focused on international trade law and policy, including antidumping and countervailing duty litigation at the administrative and appellate level, and customs and export issues.

Ms. Menghetti received her law degree from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley (1990) where she was editor-in-chief of the International Tax & Business Lawyer. She received her B.A. with honors from Penn State (B.A., Political Science, Phi Beta Kappa) in 1984. Between 1985 and 1988, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, West Africa. Ms. Menghetti is also the recipient of an International Affairs Fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations (1995-96).

2003/04: Barry Robinson

Senior Counsel for Corporate Affairs for the Recording Industry Association of America Inc., the nonprofit trade association representing the United States sound recording industry. Previously, he served as Senior Counsel for International Investment and Trade in the US Department of Commerce in Washington, DC. In 1987 he received the Department of Commerce's Silver Medal Award in recognition of his work on the United States-Canada Free-Trade Agreement.

A 1967 graduate of Penn State's College of the Liberal Arts, Mr. Robinson received his law degree from New York University in 1970. While attending Penn State, Mr. Robinson was active in the chess club and indoor track. He later served as an elected member of the Penn State Alumni Council (1984-1989), chaired its marketing committee, and is a former member of its executive board. He also served as a board member of the Penn State Club of Greater Washington (1983-92) and is active in the recruitment of high school students from the greater Washington, DC area. He is the Vice President of the African American Alumni Interest Group and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Mr. Robinson served as a captain in the Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps and as a member of the Defense Department Task Force to Investigate Discrimination in the Administration of Military Justice in 1974. He is a director of the Washington Foreign Law Society and a member of the Legal Section Committee of the American Society of Association Executives.

He was the recipient of the College of the Liberal Arts Alumni Society's Service to Penn State Award in 1996.
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