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Alumni Association Names 2024 Award Honorees

The Purchase College Alumni Association is proud to announce the recipients of the 2024 Alumni Awards. 

Nine honorees will be recognized on Friday evening, April 26, during the Alumni Weekend Night of Reunions celebration that will be held at the Neuberger Museum of Art. Three of the six award categories will be presented for the first time:

Golden Brick Honorary Alumni Award

Recognizes an individual who did not graduate from Purchase but whose exemplary accomplishments, service and commitment has benefited the Alumni Association, College alumni (undergraduate or graduate), or helped empower students to become alumni.

Photo of distinguished professor emerita of biology Lee Ehrman at the whiteboard Lee Ehrman

Distinguished Professor Emerita of Biology
(Retired 2020)

An eminent American geneticist and educator, Lee Ehrman was the first professor appointed to teach at Purchase College in 1970. Professor Ehrman received her bachelor’s degree from Queens College, City University of New York (1956), and holds an MS and PhD in genetics from Columbia University. While at Columbia, she studied with and worked in the lab of Theodosius Dobzhansky, the pioneering geneticist and evolutionary biologist.

Professor Ehrman received a SUNY Chancellor‘s Award for Excellence in Teaching (1976); an honorary Doctor of Science by the City University of New York (1989); and in 1995, became the first woman and the first biologist to receive a distinguished professor rank by SUNY.

One of her first students, Bertha Inocencio Green ’74, became her lab technician and has remained with her for the last 49 years. Both of Professor Ehrman’s daughters and sons-in-law attended Purchase, and she’s the first professor whose grandson has graduated from Purchase.

Professor Ehrman is the author of several books, as well as hundreds of scholarly papers and critical reviews published in important scientific journals. In 2019, she published her magnum opus in Behavior Genetics online and in print, which has been retained in the journal’s editorial office.

Photos of alumni Peter Schwab

Professor Emeritus of Political Science
(Retired 2020)

One of the first 15 faculty hired by the College, Peter Schwab was the founding member of the political science department, where he served several terms as chair and taught courses in international politics and U.S. policy abroad. He received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award in Recognition of Exemplary Research and Scholarship (2005) and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (2014-2015).

A New York City native, Professor Schwab earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Fairleigh Dickinson University and an MA/PhD in political science from The New School for Social Research. He would also join the first Peace Corps group headed to Liberia. In 1967, Professor Schwab received a Fulbright Hays Award to conduct research in Ghana, Senegal, Kenya and Ethiopia; he wrote his PhD on the latter’s politics. Over the years, he also did research in Gambia, Israel and Cuba.

Professor Schwab has written, co-written, or edited 14 books. A book he co-wrote with Adamantia Pollis, Human Rights: Cultural and Ideological Perspectives (1979), was one of three selected by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1986 for distribution to its information centers as a “primary reference work” on human rights. He’s also written dozens of articles and book reviews and held many leadership roles, including president of the Purchase Chapter of United University Professions union; and director of Purchase’s study abroad program in Burgos, Spain, for several summers.

Coming Soon! Renneth Sorhaindo

Associate Professor Emeritus of Language and Culture (Spanish)

Renneth Sorhaindo was among the early members of the College faculty and played an instrumental role in the development of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). During his tenure as EOP director, he founded the Merit Access Program (MAP), which provides the opportunity for a college education to students who do not qualify for EOP but show a passion for higher learning. Both programs have graduated many alumni who had been leaders of the campus community and are now making their mark in their chosen industries.

Professor Sorhaindo was nominated by PCAA President Stephanie Blum who said, “He retired shortly after I began at Purchase. He was always so supportive of his students and encouraged students to work as hard as possible.”

Professor Sorhaindo received a bachelor’s degree from Iona College; an MA from Hunter College; an MSc from Lehman College, and PhD from Pennsylvania State University. While at Purchase College, he received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service in recognition of his work with EOP/MAP students.

#ProofofPurchase Alumni Achievement Award

Recognizes an individual who graduated more than ten years ago (e.g., Class of 2012 or earlier) and who embodies the traditions and values of Purchase College through their character, professional achievement, and/or civic humanitarian service.

Photos of alumni Kristopher Graves ’04

An artist and publisher based in New York and California, Kris creates work that deals with societal and cultural issues. In 2020, his unforgettable photograph of the Black Lives Matters protests in Richmond, Va., was featured by National Geographic on the cover of its Year in Pictures issue. In addition to his own work, Kris uses his success to help other artists advance their careers and follow their passion. Check his website for more.

Young Alumni Award

Recognizes a graduate from the last ten years (Class of 2013 or later), who has illustrated distinctive achievement in a career or social/civic involvement.

Photos of alumni Amanda Poise Santiago ’21
(Theatre and Performance)

Born and raised in New York City, Amanda is a multi-disciplinary artist who’s received national recognition for her documentary photo series War in High Heels, which captures NYC’s burlesque scene through personalized stories. Amanda is also dedicated to empowering others through the arts, serving as a teaching artist with Broadway for Arts Education and Girl Be Heard.

Outstanding Commitment to the Arts Award

Recognizes a graduate(s) for contributions, commitment and advocacy in the Arts.

Photos of Purchase College Alumna Karen Sillas '85 and her husband Ivan Menchell '85 Karen Sillas ’85 (Drama Studies) and
Ivan Menchell ’83 (Drama Studies)

This Purchase alumni couple have been offering inspiration, support, and an opportunity to network to seniors in the Purchase Acting Conservatory.

While at Purchase, Karen was cast as the lead in a play that went off-Broadway, then became a feature film that was celebrated at Sundance. That success launched her into starring in her own TV series, Under Suspicion. Over the years, Karen has worked closely with another notable alumni, Hal Hartley, on his films. For more, check out her IMBd and Mandy’s Voice, a recent short film in which she co-starred.

Ivan is a Fulbright fellow whose genre-spanning work includes writing over 90 TV series episodes, several feature films and numerous Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. For the latest on Ivan’s current projects, visit his Instagram.

Outstanding Commitment to the
Liberal Arts and Sciences Award

Recognizes a graduate for contributions, commitment and advocacy in the Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences.

Photos of alumni

Heather Ostman ’92

Since receiving her PhD in English from Fordham University in 2004, Heather has served as professor of English at SUNY Westchester Community College, where she is also director of the Humanities Institute. Professor Ostman is the author or editor of nine books of literary criticism – most recently, Kate Chopin and the City: The New Orleans Stories (2024) – as well as the novel The Second Chance Home for Girls (2021). She has authored numerous peer-reviewed scholarly articles and short stories; is the recipient of several major awards, including a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant and a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Scholarly and Creative Activities. Heather’s work also extends into her own community, where she serves on local boards and has long coached youth soccer.

Resiliency Award

Recognizes a graduate who has shown considerable personal strength and used the education and skills acquired at Purchase to overcome adversity. This award aims to celebrate their achievement in “overcoming the impossible” and offering hope and inspiration to others.

Photos of alumni Colton Nguyen ’18 (History)

(previously known as Colton Gibbons)

Colton is an award-winning human rights activist and business psychologist who earned his PhD in Business Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and his Masters in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University. His entrepreneurial mindset has led to his vast portfolio of leading initiatives ranging from health equity, digital citizenship in e-sports, and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. It was during his undergraduate studies (and time as a teaching assistant) at Purchase that Colton found inspiration to pursue any avenue he wished. He transitioned during that period and credits Purchase with encouraging self-expression and “offering you support in your life, both academically and personally.” Check his website for more.

Purchase alumni who would like to join the celebration of these award recipients are invited to RSVP for the Night of Reunions event; the Golden Brick awards will be presented during the “Purchase Perspectives” keynote panel on Saturday morning, April 27 at 11am.  

See the full schedule of Alumni Weekend activities

RSVP for Alumni Weekend