The Earlham College Alumni Council was pleased to honor Ron Berry `95, Sunu P. Chandy `94 and Sara Gelser `94 with Earlham's 2016 Outstanding Alumni Award, and John Iverson with the Distinguished Service Award. The ceremony took place on Saturday, October 15, 2016, during Homecoming and Reunion Weekend 2016.
Outstanding Alumni Award
Ron Berry `95
Theatrical visionary Ron Berry `95 brings artists and audiences together to explore issues, ideas and new possibilities. Toward this goal, Berry founded and serves as artistic director of Fusebox Austin, an award-winning multidisciplinary arts organization best known for its annual festival, which attracts more than 30,000 attendees. The festival features artists working across all disciplines in more than 20 locations in Austin.
After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a major in theater, Berry moved with friends to Austin and converted an old warehouse into a performance space and a gallery/exhibition space. Fusebox grew from this initial endeavor as an attempt to promote the cross-pollinating of ideas. Over the past 12 years, Fusebox has also worked closely with community members to identify creative solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing Austin, resulting in new initiatives for community health, affordable housing and urban planning.
In a recent interview, Berry described his experience at Earlham as, “a bit like going to school in a John Cougar Mellencamp video, only with more crunchy college kids.” He credits his Earlham semester in London as being a transformational one, exposing him to a wide variety of performances and developing a perspective that helps him curate Fusebox.
Sunu P. Chandy `94
By combining her interests and training, Sunu P. Chandy `94 has been a passionate and dynamic civil rights attorney since her law school graduation. In July 2016, Sunu began as the deputy director for civil rights for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In this role, Sunu spearheads the civil rights work at this agency and will be focused on OCR’s ongoing priorities, including implementation of Section 1557, and will lead OCR’s work on Administration priorities that involve civil rights.
Before that, she served as a federal policy consultant with Ms. Foundation and also as general counsel for the Washington D.C. Office of Human Rights. From 1999-2014, she served with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), litigating civil rights employment matters through its New York District Office. On behalf of the U.S. government she litigated federal cases against private employers engaged in systematic discrimination based on race, sex (including sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and gender identity), national origin, age and religion. She litigated several high profile cases that brought significant policy changes during her EEOC tenure.
Before EEOC she served as a labor lawyer representing workers in arbitrations as well as unions in court matters. After completing a double major in women’s studies and in peace and global studies at Earlham, Chandy received her law degree from Northeastern University School of Law in 1998 and in 2013 went on to complete her MFA in poetry from Queens College, City University of New York. Her creative work has been published in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Asian American Literary Review, and This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation. Chandy also served on several boards of directors during her 15 years in New York City including the Audre Lorde Project and the South Asian Women’s Creative Collection. Chandy was born in Richmond, Indiana when her parents, Mary and P.V. Chandy, arrived from Kerala, India to be students at Earlham School of Religion.
Sara Gelser `94
State Sen. Sara Gelser `94 has served in the Oregon Legislature since 2005, first in the House and now in the Senate. In 2010 Gelser was appointed to the National Council on Disability by President Barack Obama. In 2011 she was named a German Marshall Memorial Fellow.
Prior to legislative service, Gelser served on the Corvallis School Board and worked for the Oregon Department of Human Services. Gelser's work has focused on education, human services and social justice. Legislative accomplishments include strengthening Oregon’s rape statute, eliminating Oregon’s zero tolerance school discipline policies, limiting the use of seclusion and restraint in public schools, prohibiting the use conversion therapy with LGBTQ youth, strengthening abuse protections for seniors and people with disabilities, and establishing the nation’s first LGBTQ Veterans' Coordinator.
In 2007 Gelser spearheaded Karly’s Law which improved child abuse investigations and is now being replicated in jurisdictions across the country. Gelser is currently leading a transformation of Oregon’s child welfare program to ensure all services and policies are driven by the voice, experience and well being of children and youth.
Gelser, just 16 when she enrolled at Earlham, majored in history. While at Earlham she also met her husband, Peter Gelser `94. They have four children, including a member of Earlham’s Class of 2020.
Distinguished Service Award
Even in retirement John Iverson, a herpetologist whose large-scale turtle and iguana research was decades ahead of its time, continues to share his knowledge, passion and expertise, especially with Earlham students. Iverson, who retired from full-time teaching in the biology department and directing the Joseph Moore Museum in 2011, is a frequent guest lecturer in biology, teaches courses in Trail Building and Invasive Species Control, and still involves students in his 37-year research projects on the population biology of turtles in Nebraska and northern Indiana and iguanas in the Bahamas.
In 1972, he began amassing records for each of the world’s turtle species. In 1986 he published his Checklist with Distribution Maps of the Turtles of the World, which was revised in 1992, and subsequently made available online. He has also published over 250 papers, 47 of them coauthored with 36 different Earlham students.
Iverson received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 1977 and came to Earlham in 1978. Earlham, he says, allowed him to continue his long-term studies, involving talented Earlham students. His wealth of turtle knowledge and willingness to share this knowledge makes him well known in global turtle conservation circles. In fact, two turtles, the Fujian pond turtle Mauremys iversoni and the Yucatan slider Trachemys venusta iversoni, were named in his honor.