Since 1978 the Laurel School Alumnae Association has honored women who dreamed big dreams, dared to follow those dreams and in doing so broke barriers, became mentors, assumed leadership roles in their field or community and connected to the larger world.
These are the remarkable women role models on whom the Alumnae Association has bestowed its highest honor as Distinguished Alumna of the year.
The recipient, an alumna who has celebrated her 20th reunion, is honored at Alumnae Weekend each May. And, beginning in 2008, we also honor young alumnae in their 20th reunion year or younger with the Young Alumna of Distinction Award.
The 2014 Distinguished Alumna
Mary French Conway ’46, Community Leader
A lifetime of community service began at Laurel when Mary volunteered weekly at the Women’s Hospital on E. 105 St. A graduate of Vassar College, Mary balanced raising four children with husband Bill and volunteering for numerous community organizations, including Beech Brook, the Alzheimer's Association, The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Women's Council, The Junior League of Cleveland and The Garden Club of Cleveland. She has been honored as an "Outstanding Fundraising Volunteer" by both the Mayor of Cleveland and the Association of Fundraising Professionals Cleveland. In addition to serving as a Stephen’s Minister at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Mary remains deeply committed to Laurel School and to The Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging (BRIA), which she served as Board President and where she chaired a first-ever capital campaign by BRIA to raise over $5 million to build Kethley House, a 184-bed skilled nursing facility. During nearly four decades as a Laurel Trustee/Trustee Emerita, including a three-year term as President, Mary has chaired a Head’s search committee, served on the steering committees of several capital campaigns and established an endowment to support faculty excellence at Laurel School. As one of her nominators noted, "Laurel School has always given its graduates the tools to make a difference in their communities.... Vision, compassion and commitment characterize her leadership—at Laurel and in the Cleveland community."
The 2014 Young Alumna of Distinction
Lt. Katherine Wirtz ’05, Reactor Mechanical Division Officer, USS Theodore Roosevelt
Perhaps it is fitting that Kat Wirtz, four-year letter athlete in cross country and track at Laurel, would run the road less taken for Laurel alumnae. At the US Naval Academy, she was captain of the women’s cross country team, was selected for leadership positions within the Brigade of Midshipmen and majored in mechanical engineering, graduating within the top 9% of her class. She went on to graduate with distinction from the Surface Warfare Officer School and from the Nuclear Power and Prototype Schools, an exceptional achievement in a community dominated by men. As one of her supporters wrote, "She is an outstanding representative for what a Laurel girl and alumna should be. Her deployment to West Africa on a humanitarian mission (to restore peace on the coast) exemplifies the U.S. Navy’s slogan, 'A global force for good.' Her duties on the USS Theodore Roosevelt include overseeing the largest nuclear division on the entire carrier and supervising 80 sailors under her command. A confident proven leader, Lt. Kat Wirtz leads by example."
2014 Distinguished Alumna Committee
Ellen Ambus Feuer ’74, Chair
Nancy Wykoff Sharp ’43
Kay Weidenthal Boyd ’50
Wendy Shaw ’69
Tina Stefanski ‘87
Chaundra King Monday ’95
Gwen Gillespie Hermann ’00