Announcing Our 2015 Alumni Award Winners

The Mandel School Alumni Association is thrilled to honor and celebrate the following recipients of the 2015 Alumni Awards at Reunion on October 10, 2015:

2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award: Karachepone Ninan George, MSSA 1959

This award is the highest honor bestowed by the Alumni Association and is being given to Professor George for his extraordinary professional success and achievements, including his passion for uplifting the rural poor, his instrumental role in raising the level of social work education in India, and his commitment to social welfare administration at the local, national, and international levels. A professor at the Madras School of Social Work in Chennai, India, and its former director for nearly 50 years, Professor George helped Madras School achieve an international reputation as a premier social work institution and to become one of the top social work schools in India. He was instrumental in founding many associations of professional social workers, including the Indian Council of Social Welfare (and currently holds its office of president), the SWISS India Trust (which funds many national-level nonprofit organizations in India and where he is currently a Managing Trustee), the Institute of Sustainable Development (a training and research organization that he chairs), and many more. He served as the Vice President of the International Association of Social Work Educators from 1986 to 1990 and was the founding secretary of the of the Asia Regional Association of Social Work Educators. Professor George is unable to attend Reunion, but his son and granddaughter will be there to accept the award on his behalf.

2015 Professional Achievement Award: H Bernard Smith, MSSA 1954

The Alumni Association selected Bernard Smith for this prestigious award to recognize his solid commitment to social change and stellar leadership throughout his illustrious career to improve policy and programs for the mentally ill in Cuyahoga County and throughout the nation. He was instrumental in working with Ohio legislators and community to create the Community Mental Health Service Act. As the first Executive Director of the Cuyahoga County Community Mental Health Board, he pioneered the opening of four Community Mental Health Centers and worked to find funding for many other agencies. In 1979, he became the first national director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) in Washington, D.C., and has published two books about the history of community mental health.

2015 Nonprofit Leadership Award: Danny R. Williams, JD, MNO 2004

In honor of a career dedicated to leading and serving others, the Alumni Association selected Danny Williams, who has been Executive Director of The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland since 2006, for its highest nonprofit award. Before becoming a nonprofit leader in 1995 when he took the helm of the Cuyahoga County office of the American Cancer Society, Mr. Williams had a successful legal career, serving as Cleveland’s Law Director and a Cuyahoga County Administrator. He has consistently borrowed on his notions of justice to assist the underserved and promote quality of life for all.

2015 Early Career Award: Maya M. Simek, MSSA 2007

For her solid commitment to social change in conjunction with excellent leadership skills and effective advocacy, Ms. Simek is being honored by the Alumni Association. Dedicated to cultivating equality and social justice, she is Director of Programming at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, where she has helped to bring over $700,000 in grant funding to the agency. She also holds a law degree, to utilize the combination of social work and the law as a platform to effect change. Prior to joining the LGBT Community Center, she founded a legal clinic at Nueva Luz Urban Resource Center. She also works at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law’s Community Advocacy Clinic.

Also at Reunion, the following Dean’s Award will also be presented:

Maria Thompson photo edited2015 Louis Stokes Community Service Leadership Award: Maria J. Thompson, MSSA 2005, Louis Stokes Fellow. This inaugural award is being presented by Dean Grover “Cleve” Gilmore to an alumna who embodies the socially-minded characteristics of the late beloved and honorable Congressman Louis Stokes and emulates his spirit in the community. Maria Thompson was selected for her leadership in community engagement, Mandel School volunteerism, and social justice advocacy. In addition to actively volunteering and serving on a wide variety of boards, she is the Community Reinvestment Act Officer and Manager of Community Development Services at Third Federal Bank. She previously held other bank management positions, including as Senior Advisor in the Community Affairs Office at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.