Alumni Honors

At Reunion Weekend, June 3–5, 2011, the National Alumni Association recognized significant achievements and contributions by members of the Wagner community. Read the award winners' bios here.

John “Johnny K” Knudson '57

The John “Bunny” Barbes '39 and Lila T. Barbes '40 Wagner Alumni Laureate

For long and distinguished service to Wagner College

John “Johnny K” Knudson '57 has dedicated his entire professional life to Wagner College, especially through its athletic programs. In his roles as coach, trainer, and administrator, he became a confidant, advisor, and lifelong friend to countless Wagner students and alumni, with immeasurable impact over his 50 plus years of committed service to the College.

During his 32 years of professional work at Wagner, Knudson served as athletic trainer, physical education professor, assistant athletic director, NIT basketball tournament representative, intramural director, freshman baseball coach, assistant track coach, and head of maintenance for athletic facilities. He also traveled the world as athletic trainer for the NIT All-Star teams. After his retirement, he continued his service as a Wagner volunteer. He is a member of the Sal Alberti Golf Classic, chair of the Athletic Hall of Fame, and a member of all of Wagner's athletic support clubs. In the words of Brian Morris '65, “John Knudson remains a Wagner ambassador for excellence and accomplishment. Few others among the Wagner family have maintained this level of dedication and are so genuinely recognized by generations of Wagner students.”

Knudson's teaching and service have extended beyond Wagner. A volunteer for the American Red Cross for 52 years, he taught safety programs, CPR, swimming, sailing, and more all around Staten Island and beyond. He was a member of Curtis High School's alumni board. And he is a longtime member of the American Canoe Association; “I still have two canoes,” he adds.

Knudson is a veteran, having served in the U.S. Coast Guard, 1945–46 and 1951–54. He also earned a master's in education at Rutgers. Knudson's family is filled with Wagner alumni, including his wife, Edith '73, daughter Lenore '86, and sisters Eleanor '45 and Edith '50. He also has two sons, John and Kenneth, who are teachers on Staten Island.

Laura Graham '95

Distinguished Graduate of Wagner

For bringing honor to Wagner College through unique career contributions to their community, state, or the nation

In the 16 years since her Wagner graduation, Laura Graham '95 has developed a resume with a breathtaking litany of accomplishments, as she has worked tirelessly behind the scenes in support of President Bill Clinton both in the White House and beyond.

A native Staten Islander, Graham came to Wagner College through a softball scholarship. She majored in political science and was very active in the history and political science clubs and the College Democrats. She was also a founding sister of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority, and was inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa honor society.

Her mentor, Wagner political science professor Jeffrey Kraus, encouraged her to apply for a White House internship. She loved her experience in the president's scheduling office so much that after graduation, she volunteered on the White House staff until she was hired full time. She was promoted to the level of special assistant to the president two years later, and in 2000, she became the youngest deputy assistant to the president in the Clinton Administration. Organizing the president's travel allowed her to visit more than 50 countries representing the U.S. government and President Clinton.

When Clinton left office in 2001, she was one of a select group of staffers who helped him build his foundation from the ground up. Now, she is Clinton's chief of staff and chief operating officer of the Clinton Foundation, an organization of 1,400 employees in more than 40 countries. She managed Clinton's work on the recovery efforts after the Southeast Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the Haiti earthquake. She remains a central figure in the ongoing rebuilding of Haiti, and is co-chair of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

Despite a more than full professional schedule, Graham makes time to return to Grymes Hill and speak with Wagner students, several of whom have interned at the Clinton Foundation. Moreover, she is a foster mother to Matthew and Wendy, and adoptive mother to two children from Haiti, Jeff and Natasha. Graham is a member of the Adoptive Parents Committee, a board member of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and a member of the Staten Island Foster Parents Association.

Carl R. Fischer '64

Distinguished Graduate of Wagner

For bringing honor to Wagner College through unique career contributions to their community, state, or the nation

Carl R. Fischer '64, a Staten Island native who now lives in West Point, Virginia, came to Wagner College in 1960 fresh out of the Navy, where he had served for three years in the Hospital Corps. After being awarded his bachelor's degree in nursing in 1964 — the first male graduate since Wagner's nursing program was founded in 1943 — Fischer went on to earn his MSN from the University at Buffalo and his MPH in hospital administration from Yale.

Fischer spent his career as a hospital administrator at four institutions: Yale-New Haven Hospital, the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals.

He never shied away from challenges.

“Cincinnati, Arkansas and MCV were all operating in the red when I arrived,” Fischer said. “I made them all profitable.”

Prior to his retirement as CEO in 2000, Fischer was instrumental in moving the $500 million MCV Hospitals out of the Virginia Commonwealth University system into the management of a private authority, thereby preventing the hospitals' collapse. In 2007, VCU awarded Fischer its Presidential Medallion at its annual commencement exercise.

Carl Fischer has a deep interest in state and local history, archeology, and historic preservation. He currently serves in leadership positions for a number of organizations: the King William County (Virginia) Historical Association, whose museum he spearheaded in 2007; the King William County Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board; the St. John's Restoration Association, which sponsors the reconstruction and restoration of a historic church building in West Point, Virginia; the Fairfield Foundation in neighboring Gloucester County, Virginia, dedicated to local archeology and historic preservation; and the Archeological Society of Virginia, from which he earned his archeology certification in 2007.

Carl is married to Lynn Ekstrand Fischer '65. They have four daughters and seven grandchildren.

Dr. Maureen L. Robinson '67 H'03

The Dr. Kevin Sheehy '67 M'70 M'92 H'99 Alumni Leadership Medal

For consistent leadership and service to the Wagner College National Alumni Association

Maureen L. Robinson, of Bernardsville, New Jersey, graduated from Wagner College in 1967 with an English degree. She earned her master's degree in secondary education at Richmond College (now part of the College of Staten Island) and spent her career teaching English at Curtis High School in St. George, Staten Island.

Robinson has been a stalwart supporter of her alma mater — and no wonder: A former Seahawk cheerleader, two of her older brothers (Arthur '65 and Stephen '64) graduated before her at Wagner. She served for many years as a member of the National Alumni Association Board of Directors, for part of that time as first vice president, and has been involved in multiple activities — Friends of the Library, Friends of the Theater, the Heritage Society and College Night in New Jersey, to name just a few.

Robinson served on Wagner College's Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2010 and was vice chair for two years. She was the board's liaison to the National Alumni Association and served on the trustees' Academic Affairs Committee and Advancement Committee. When the time came to find a successor to President Norman R. Smith, Robinson served on the presidential search committee.

In 2001, knowing the challenges young college professors face at the beginning of their careers, Maureen Robinson and her husband of 19 years, Derish Wolff, created the Robinson Faculty Fellowship program to provide stipends supporting the research activities of junior faculty members at Wagner College.

A master gardener by avocation, Robinson has logged hundreds of hours in service as a member and leader of multiple community organizations. Despite these many other interests, Wagner College continues to hold a strong place in Maureen Robinson's heart.

“I am still getting great joy from my associations with Wagner, and I love to encourage other alumni to become involved,” she says. “The fun is contagious!”

Lorraine McNeill-Popper '78

Wagner Alumni Fellow in Marketing

For distinguished careers in defined aspects of the College's academic program

After 30 years in advertising, Lorraine McNeill-Popper's thumbprint is everywhere: on Pepsi commercials with artists ranging from Michael Jackson to Wyclef Jean; on Life cereal's beloved “Mikey” campaign; on Spanish commercials for Gardasil, Merck's vaccine against human papillomavirus; on innovative anti-drug PSAs. Most recently, she founded Attention! Agency, for which she serves as chief creative office.

Raised in Queens in a Lutheran family, McNeill-Popper came to Wagner to prepare for medical school, but a theology class changed her direction. Majoring in theology, she participated in choir, was president of the music honors sorority Alpha Tau Mu, and reveled in Songfest. During her college years, the “I Found It!” advertising campaign by Campus Crusade for Christ opened her eyes to the connections between religion and advertising. Both are about “people's pursuit to believe in something, put their faith in something and believe in it,” she says.

After graduation, she got her start in the advertising world as a copywriter for BBDO, where she helped launch “The Pepsi Generation” and Pepsi's music platform. Over the course of her career at several top advertising agencies, she promoted well-known brands ranging from AT&T to Lincoln Mercury. Another of her specialties is healthcare, with clients including AstraZeneca, Glaxo, Colgate, and Pfizer. Her efforts to reach diverse populations have garnered major awards for multicultural advertising from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the Phame Award, the highest award in pharmaceutical advertising. She also created an awareness campaign for the U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Command.

In 2007, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America approached McNeill-Popper to create the first anti-drug campaign targeted at urban youth. She led a volunteer team that developed award-winning public service announcements using young people's voices and authentic scenarios. She continues her volunteer work with the Partnership through the Parents Advisory Board, which she founded, and the Creative Review Committee.

McNeill-Popper also generously gives her time and expertise to her alma mater by mentoring Wagner students, speaking on campus, and serving on the Wagner Magazine advisory board. In addition, she teaches advertising and communications at the Pratt Institute.

Carmine C. Carullo '71 M'74

Wagner Alumni Fellow in Business

For distinguished careers in defined aspects of the College's academic program

Since graduating from Wagner with a bachelor's in economics (1971) and a master's in finance (1974), Carmine C. Carullo '71 M'74 has built a nearly 40-year career with ExxonMobil Corporation, in which he has combined his business expertise with civic engagement locally and worldwide.

A Staten Island native, Carullo attended Wagner on a baseball scholarship. A member of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, he also volunteered at St. Michael's orphanage, mentoring teenage boys. His wife, Linda Truett Carullo '73, was a Wagner education major.

Carullo's ExxonMobil career has taken him from New York, where he worked in accounting and finance; to Singapore and Indonesia, where he and Linda lived for five years while he served as controller; to Virginia, where he has worked in various controller and finance positions, as coordinator of government reporting, and as assistant secretary for shareholder relations.

Now, as planning manager of medicine and occupational health worldwide, he is charged with the well-being of 80,000 employees in 50 countries. He travels extensively to visit the company's more than 100 medical clinics. He is also involved in community health initiatives such as malaria control, HIV/AIDS prevention, clean water delivery, medical waste disposal, and medical donations. He has also worked on hospital projects in Papua New Guinea and Nigeria.

Carullo is a dedicated supporter of civic organizations in his home community as well, especially Food for Others, of which he was a board member and treasurer, 2003–2010. It is the largest distributor of free food directly to people in need in Northern Virginia. He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus since 1989, finance leader for the Emergency Oil Spill Response Team, and treasurer of Felicity Cove Association Inc.

Carmine and Linda have two children, Marc Lee and Matthew Jon Carullo, and one daughter-in-law, Carrie Clayton. Avid supporters of Wagner College, they have been members of the Inner Circle since 2008.

Alonzo “Lonnie” Brandon Jr. '72

Certificate of Appreciation

For individuals who have become active in the work of the National Alumni Association

Alonzo “Lonnie” Brandon Jr. '72, of East Orange, New Jersey, was honored for his leadership and guidance in last year's commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the student takeover of Cunard Hall, a milestone in the history of Wagner College.

In 1970, Lonnie Brandon was president of Black Concern, an organization of African-American students at Wagner. Deeply concerned by the small numbers of students and faculty of color and the limited coverage of African-American issues in the curriculum, Brandon helped lead a sit-in demonstration on campus. The demonstration, which underscored key issues of diversity the College had yet to address, resulted in the suspension of 27 students, including Brandon. He returned the following semester, and completed his degree in 1972.

For more than 30 years after graduating from Wagner, Lonnie Brandon worked for the Montclair Township Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, retiring as director in 2004. Like many other African-American alumni, Brandon had next to nothing to do with his alma mater throughout those years.

As the 40th anniversary of the Cunard occupation approached, however, Brandon's thoughts returned to Grymes Hill. He came to believe that a frank re-evaluation of the events of 1970, and the progress that had been made at Wagner in the intervening decades, could open a new chapter in the history of the College. It was Lonnie Brandon's single-minded devotion to this idea that resulted, last April, in the inspirational “Seeds of Change” panel presentation and the reunion of many African-American alumni from that period — many of whom had not set foot on campus in 40 years.

“I strongly believe that there are many talented alums who have not been connected to the College who have much to offer,” Brandon said. “The challenge of channeling this untapped reservoir of talent is appealing to me. There is still work to be done, and I know that there are willing and able 'workers' who just need a little encouragement to put the wheels into motion.”

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Unger

The Reverend Lyle Guttu Award

For contributions to Wagner and the local and global communities in a spiritual way

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Unger, chaplain to Wagner College's Jewish community and a colleague of the late Rev. Lyle Guttu, is this year's recipient of the award named for our beloved, long-serving Lutheran chaplain.

Abe Unger is a clergyman and much, much more.

Unger earned his bachelor's degree in music from the Manhattan School of Music and worked for some years as a TV and film actor. He founded the nonprofit Mosaic Colony, which operated a summer film production program for youth in lower Manhattan.

After his rabbinical studies, Unger became so intrigued by the firefighters he encountered while working on 9/11 recovery that he chose to lead a nondenominational Jewish congregation on Staten Island, known for the many firefighters who call it home. He was then recruited to become chaplain to Wagner College's Jewish student community and has served for several years as adviser to the College's Hillel Foundation.

After Unger earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University, he joined the faculty of Wagner College's Department of Government and Politics, where his research focused on the intersection between globalization and urban studies.

As the director of Wagner College's City Studies program, Unger has advised all three local economic development corporations on Staten Island and serves on the Downtown Staten Island Council.

As a rabbi and community organizer, he has helped create the Office of Jewish Community Affairs on Staten Island, serving the religious and cultural needs of a diverse Jewish population.

And as a man of faith, he was founding co-chair of the Faith and Public Policy Roundtable of New York City, a clergy organization drawing its members from the various Jewish communities as well as both Catholic and Protestant Christian communions to address social matters of conscience.

“Those who know Rabbi Unger refer to him as 'charismatic,'” said a recent profile in the New York Jewish Week newspaper.

To which we say, “Amen.”

Andrew Bailey '06

Wagner Alumni Key

For graduates of the last decade who have made extraordinary achievements in their personal and professional endeavors

Taken by the Oakland Athletics in the sixth round of the 2006 Major League Baseball draft, pitcher Andrew Bailey '06 has proven just how far a solid work ethic and good personal character, combined with a little luck, can take a Wagner alumnus. Bailey is now a two-time MLB All-Star and the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year.

A native of Haddon Heights, New Jersey, Bailey pitched for Paul VI High School in Haddonfield before coming to Wagner College, where he joined the Seahawks' starting lineup right away. His junior year was cut short by an injury that required major surgery. Bailey diligently worked on his recovery and returned to the Seahawks to complete his college baseball career and his degree in business administration, even though he was tapped by the Milwaukee Brewers organization in 2005 MLB draft. Bailey graduated as one of the top pitchers in Seahawk history, setting a school record of 237 strikeouts.

Bailey was gradually moving up the ranks in the minor leagues, when he hit a rough patch while pitching for the Athletics' AA affiliate in Midland, Texas. His coaches decided to try him out in the bullpen, and it was as a relief pitcher that Bailey hit his stride. He was invited to try out for the major league team in 2009 and made the cut. Beginning May 8, 2009, he amassed 26 saves for the Oakland A's — the last 21 consecutively — en route to be named AL Rookie of the Year. Wagner recognized his accomplishments by retiring his Seahawk number, 17. Bailey is only the fourth Seahawk to be honored in this way.

True to Wagner's lessons of civic engagement, Bailey has partnered with A's teammate Craig Breslow in the Strike 3 Foundation, which raises funds and awareness to combat childhood cancers. His positive example and dedication to Wagner make him an excellent ambassador for the College.