Smith medalists honored on Rally Day


Katherine Hazen ‘18 Associate Editor

Last week, Smith honored the achievements of five alumnae with the Smith Medal, a tradition acknowledging alumnae who illustrate the values of a liberal arts education through their lives and work. Students and alumnae nominate candidates for the award.

“After nominations, a committee made up of representatives of the trustees, the faculty and the alumnae recommends candidates for the award to the board of trustees,” said Director of Media Relations Stacey Schmeidel.  Over 200 alumnae have been honored with the Smith Medal since its founding in 1962.   

This year’s medalists included eminent winemaker/winery owner Helen Sebring Keplinger ’94, cardiac pulmonologist and surgeon Vickie Shannon ’79, feminist activist and icon Gloria Steinem ’56, economist Laura D’Andrea Tyson ’69 and broadcast news executive Ellen Weiss ’81.

Steinem — one of Smith’s most famous alumni — grew to prominence as a leader of the feminist movement of the 1960s. As an author, editor and founder of Ms. Magazine, Steinem’s voice has and continues to reach generations of women. Steinem was instrumental in the founding of several groups focused on women in politics and the media, including National Women’s Political Caucus, Ms. Foundation for Women, Women’s Action Alliance, Choice USA, the Women’s Media Center and GreenStone Media.       

Tyson, the first woman to chair the White House Council of Economic Advisors, began her career as an assistant professor of economics at Princeton, moving to and spending much of her career at University of California, Berkeley. After her tenure in the Clinton Administration, she became the first woman to lead a business school as dean of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, after which she became the first woman to lead London Business School. Tyson is also the co-author of the Global Gender Gap Report.

As one of the first two African American women to become a full professor at the renowned University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Shannon has broken racial and gender barriers throughout her career as a board-certified pulmonary and critical care specialist. She helped start a pulmonary rehabilitation program for patients weakened by cancer to improve their muscle strength and lung functions. Shannon also has dedicated herself to inspire women to consider and mentoring those careers in STEM.

Four-time recipient of the Peabody Award, Weiss began working at National Public Radio after graduating from Smith, eventually leading the station’s national desk and serving as executive producer of “All Things Considered.” After leading as vice president for news at NPR, Weiss became executive editor at the prestigious nonprofit investigative news organization, Center for Public Integrity. Weiss has held the position of vice president and Washington bureau chief of the E.W. Scripps Company since 2013.

Keplinger has risen to fame with her socially responsible entrepreneurship in the winemaking world. After graduating from Smith with a degree in biology, Keplinger started as a medical researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital. She changed course and pursued a master’s in enology from University of California, Davis, working at wineries in Australia and Spain. After founding her artisanal winery Keplinger in Napa Valley, Calif., she received praise from many critics and was even named Winemaker of the Year by Food & Wine magazine. She has partnered with and raised funds for good causes throughout her career, including Wine for the World, in which U.S. and European winemakers help vintners in developing countries.