University of Dayton 2021 Alumni Awards
The University of Dayton has a long tradition of honoring its talented and committed alumni around the globe. Alumni are actively creating change in their communities and inspiring the students who are following in their footsteps. Congratulations to this year’s honorees.
To see past recipients of the Alumni Awards or submit your nomination for the 2022 honorees, visit bit.ly/UDAlumniAwards2021.
When Tsu T. Soong arrived at the University of Dayton in the early 1950s, he didn’t know a soul.
He traveled from Taiwan and spoke little English, so each night he spent hours translating his textbooks from English into Chinese in his dorm room.
While his home of Taiwan is known for being hit hard by typhoons, Soong’s years of engineering expertise have been focused on another type of disaster — earthquakes. He is one of the foremost authorities on developing techniques to protect structures against severe weather and natural catastrophes.
After two years at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Soong spent 46 years at the State University of New York at Buffalo, the last six years as a distinguished professor in engineering structural dynamics.
He has earned awards and global recognition for his smart bracing and smart dampening systems, designed to handle skyscraper and long-span bridge vibrations during an earthquake or strong wind. He has developed and installed these systems in structures in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
In 1986, Soong was one of five principal investigators to establish the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research in Buffalo, funded by the National Science Foundation and the State of New York.
Since retiring in 2009, he enjoys keeping up with his international circle of colleagues and former students. One thing, he said, he always tells his students is to find their passion, no matter what it is.
“Find the work that you love,” he said. “If it’s fieldwork, research, teaching, working in the industry; you can only excel if you do something you love.”
For nearly 30 years, Wendy Humphrey Doolittle has been giving struggling individuals and families hope as the chief executive officer of McKinley Hall, a substance abuse treatment facility in Springfield, Ohio.
McKinley Hall’s mission focuses on adding supplemental services, like housing, transportation, employment and mental health services, that aid in long-term recovery.
“If you don’t have a place to lay your head at night, or your belly’s not full, you can’t focus on treatment,” Doolittle said.
Doolittle began her career at McKinley during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic in the early 1990s.
“We had lots of men coming in, but we didn’t have women coming in because they were terrified that they would lose custody of their children,” she said.
This drove Doolittle to establish a gender-specific program for women at McKinley. They shifted treatment times to accommodate school drop-off schedules and allocated rooms specifically for children to stay with their mothers.
Doolittle said she is proud of the facility’s success rate. She has earned honors for her work, including Social Worker of the Year for Ohio Region VII. She also serves on UD’s School of Education and Health Sciences Advisory Council.
“For so many years, [substance abuse] was viewed as a moral issue, but what science has shown us over the years is this is a brain-based disease,” she said. “I want to work with people to get mentally, physically and spiritually healthy to be able to live their
Jeffrey J. Jones is not your typical big-business CEO. Throughout his executive career as the first president of Uber, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Target, and a leader with both Coca-Cola Co. and Gap, Jones has had one focus — putting people first.
In his current role as CEO of H&R Block, he said he is striving to help people achieve their goals, whether that be customers, associates or shareholders.
It’s a mentality he’s had since earning his degree at UD.
“Clearly, my time at UD has always had me be community minded,” he said. “As a professional, I’ve worked in different places and had a chance to see when that [people] dynamic is present, how positive it can be. And when it’s missing, how negative it can be.”
It was this mindset that led him to resign from Uber after just seven months, citing that his beliefs and leadership style were inconsistent with what he saw at Uber.
“I’m incredibly proud of the purpose-based decisions I’ve made in my life,” he said. “And I’m incredibly proud of the progress H&R Block is making in its transformation.”
Under Jones’ leadership, H&R Block has started initiatives to help support its communities and its commitment to
diversity, equity and inclusion. Jones shared his thoughts about leadership
with current students during a webinar hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences last year.
“When there’s an opportunity for the company to use its platform to provide help and inspire confidence in our communities, it’s a decision we lean into, and we don’t take it lightly,” he said.
During his senior year of high school in Brooklyn, New York, John “Jack” Meagher said he was “this close” to signing up to be a Marianist brother but chose to attend UD instead.
Meagher graduated in 1963 as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. He earned a law degree from the University of Cincinnati before serving in Vietnam.
He said he credits his mother, Ethel, for instilling faith in him at an early age. But, he admitted he began to question that faith after returning from Vietnam.
“It was only with the help of others, especially Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese monk, that I regained a belief in Christian ideals that influence my everyday life today, including professionally,” Meagher said.
When Meagher returned to Dayton, he worked as a trial lawyer, then a Dayton Municipal Court judge and finally a Montgomery County Common Pleas Court judge for 20 years. The system was an honor to work in, he said, because he felt he was administering justice with compassion.
Meagher continues work to help Vietnam veterans share their voices and heal their wounds. He also works with Project RENEW in Vietnam to clear unexploded ordnance. His generosity to the University of Dayton Human Rights Center helped launch the Vietnam Legacies Project, which explores the war’s lasting
He encourages the next generation to learn from the past. “You need to be self-motivated to learn about Vietnam, so it doesn’t happen again,” he said. “We need to take responsibility for the harm we did and continue to ask our government to acknowledge it and make amends.”
As a child growing up in Cleveland, William M. Tweed didn’t think attending college was possible. His mother had a fifth-grade education, and his father didn’t finish high school.
But, with the help of a high school counselor, he studied mechanical engineering at the University of Dayton. He said he found incredible generosity in the UD community, especially among his fraternity brothers in Alpha Phi Alpha. This included work from the mother of a fraternity member, which helped Tweed pay his tuition bill.
After UD, Tweed had a 47-year career as an engineer and owner of General Pump Co., a water utility engineering company in Southern California. When Tweed retired and sold it in 2017, he began to think about giving back.
He spoke with President Eric F. Spina and soon realized the two shared the same vision for a more diverse campus. Through a financial commitment from the Tweeds, the Flyer Promise Scholars Program was born — serving to remove financial barriers for high-achieving underrepresented students.
“I’ve found that the more you help others, the more that they help you,” he said. His wife, Jan, a former retail executive, said she enjoys meeting the scholars and seeing their leadership on campus.
“Meeting these kids — they are all so focused and confident,” she said. “Every single one of them is amazing, ready to tackle the world.”
The program began in 2017 with
founding support of the Tweeds and graduated its first class of 40 students in