Alumnae Achievement Awards

The gold oak leaf pin presented to Alumnae Achievement Award winners

Wellesley’s highest honor is presented annually to graduates of distinction who, through their achievements, have brought honor to themselves and to the College. On Friday, Oct. 13, the Wellesley College Alumnae Association will present this year’s Alumnae Achievement Awards to the following recipients:

Elyse Cherry ’75

Elyse Cherry is chief executive officer of Boston Community Capital, a nonprofit community-development institution that focuses on building healthy communities where low-income people live and work. Founded in 1984, BCC has invested more than $1 billion in underserved communities—loans and investments that have financed more than 15,300 units of affordable housing, supported child-care facilities for more than 9,800 children, created 4,440 living-wage jobs, provided fixed-rate mortgages to more than 500 families facing foreclosures, and much more. Cherry is an attorney and a former partner at the law firm of Hale and Dorr, where her practice focused on commercial real-estate finance and development. The Financial Times named her one of the Top 100 OUTstanding LGBTQ Executives in the world.

Kwan Kew Lai ’74

Kwan Kew Lai, M.D. and D.M.D., is an infectious disease specialist who has volunteered her medical services all over the world. In 2004, after the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, she spent three weeks in India, caring for survivors. She soon left her position as professor of medicine and infectious disease at UMass Medical and carved out a half-time position as a clinician, dedicating the other half of her time to humanitarian work. Since 2005, she has volunteered as a mentor in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Vietnam, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, and Nigeria, and has done earthquake relief in Haiti and Nepal, and drought and famine relief in Kenya and on the border of Somalia. She has also worked with refugees of the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan and most recently has treated Ebola patients in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Lai, who is originally from Malaysia, has blogged extensively about her experiences.

Lorraine O’Grady ’55

Lorraine O’Grady is an artist and critic whose installations, performances, and texts address issues of diaspora, hybridity, and black female subjectivity. In 2007, Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, her landmark 1980 performance, was made an entry point to the touring exhibit “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution.” Since then, O’Grady’s career has expanded exponentially—with inclusions in such significant group shows as the Whitney Biennial (2010); the Paris Triennale (2012); “This Will have Been: Art Love and Politics in the 1980s” (MCA Chicago, 2012); “Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art” (CAM Houston, 2012); and “En Mas’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean” (CAC New Orleans, 2015). Born in Boston to West Indian parents, O’Grady came to art late, after studying in the fiction program of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and having several careers: as an intelligence analyst, a literary and commercial translator, and a rock critic.

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