Congratulations to the 2023 Wagner College Alumni Association award recipients. These six alumni are being recognized for their consistent service, leadership, and achievement.
- Linda McLarty ’68, John “Bunny” Barbes ’39 and Lila T. Barbes ’40 Wagner Alumni Laureate
- Lillian G. Burry ’57, Kevin Sheehy ’67 M’70 M’92 H’99 Alumni Leadership Medal
- James Hickey, Ph.D. ’94 M’97, Kevin Sheehy ’67 M’70 M’92 H’99 Alumni Leadership Medal
- Arno Rafael Minkkinen ’67, Distinguished Graduate of Wagner Award
- McKenzy Hupke ’22, Wagner Alumni Key Award
- Rev. Debra Q. Bennett ’80, Reverend Lyle Guttu Award
This year’s awards will be presented during the Grand Celebration of Wagner Weekend. The award presentations will be made during the Grand Celebration scheduled for Friday evening, Sept. 22, in the Union’s Main Dining Hall. Click here to register.
John “Bunny” Barbes ’39 and Lila T. Barbes ’40 Wagner Alumni Laureate
In Appreciation of Distinguished Service
Linda McLarty earned her bachelor's degree in English at Wagner College in 1968, and later her graduate degree in secondary education. With this experience, Linda taught ESL students for 25 years, including time teaching in Germany while traveling as an Air Force family. Linda married Doug McLarty, class of ’66, in 1968. Together they have two sons and six grandchildren.
During her time at Wagner, McLarty studied abroad for a year in Bregenz, Austria. She is grateful for Dr. Pinette and Dean Stern who helped find the perfect village to host the program. She recognized these professors as those who have had the biggest impact on her. “The curriculum of European travel and history, remarkable art history, and skiing put together a year never to be forgotten, “ McLarty said, “as well as friendly, helpful community hosts in the town.”
As a student, she also helped with a fundraising campaign in school where she helped to make connections with alumni. As an alumna now herself, she has organized an alumni reunion of those who were a part of the Bregenz program. She and her husband Doug have stayed in touch with other alumni for 50 years through their travels with the Air Force.
McLarty is proud to say that her degree from Wagner and teaching license from New York opened doors for her wherever she went.
In the 1990s, she was also a co-owner of First Look Tours, which was a company familiarizing medical, university, legal and industry recruits to the Miami Valley Ohio area before they accepted a job. When her husband Doug retired in the 2000s, the couple started their own PR firm together.
“I am honored to receive the Bunny and Lila Barbes Alumni Award,” McLarty said. “The family has always been generous to our campus with perfect foresight knowing how to help best.”
Kevin Sheehy ’67 M’70 M’92 H’99 Alumni Leadership Medal
For Consistent Leadership and Service
Lillian G. Burry graduated from Wagner College with a degree in History and Political Science. She was elected into the National History Fraternity and in 2005 was granted the Wagner College Fellow in Political Science. Burry’s most influential professor at Wagner was her history professor, Dr. Whelan.
Burry is married to Captain Donald Burry, retired from the Coast Guard. They have one daughter, Lenore, two grandchildren, and three great grandsons.
Burry began her public service as a councilwoman in Matawan Borough in Monmouth County, N.J. After moving to Colts Neck Township, she served as Committeewoman, Deputy Mayor and Mayor.
Elected to the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders in November 2005, she was reelected in 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2017; recently in 2020, she was overwhelmingly elected as County Commissioner (former Freeholder). She served as the first female Director in 2008 and again in 2010, 2014 and 2017. Her areas of responsibility include Parks, Libraries, the Sheriff's Office, County Clerk, Surrogate, and the Prosecutor, and she is the liaison to Veterans Affairs, the Board of Elections, Planning Board, Agricultural Board, Historic Preservation Commission, Consumer Affairs, and the Vocational Schools' & Brookdale Community College Board of School Estimate.
Burry was appointed to the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority serving as Vice Chair, and to the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority, where she chairs the Veterans Affairs Sub-Committee and serves on the Real Estate Sub-Committee. She was appointed by the Commissioner of the Interior to the Fort Hancock 21st Century Advisory Committee for the National Park Service.
Burry has received many awards including: Marine Corps League Distinguished Citizen; Sheriff's Officers Fraternal Order of Police Person of the Year; Monmouth County Historical Association's Person of the Year; Latino American Association's Outstanding Community Member, and Eastern Monmouth Chamber of Commerce Spinnaker Award for Public Service.
Additionally, Burry received the Outstanding Service to Agriculture Award, was Grand Marshal of the Open Space Pace Parade and received the first Count Basie Vanguard Award for lifetime devotion to the arts. In recent years, she has won numerous awards emphasizing her leadership and her being a woman of distinction, including, in 2015, the M. Claire French Award, recognizing her leadership in historical preservation, and, in 2017, the Silver Gull Award's Presidential Award. In addition, working in a collaborative effort with the Soldier On organization, she helped find homes for homeless veterans of Monmouth County. She also recently brought to fruition a joint effort by the Vocational Schools, National Park System and the Freeholders to reconstruct Buildings 23 and 56 on Fort Hancock for the Marine Academy of Science and Technology.
She has now been in business for more than 40 years as owner and broker of record of Colts Neck Realty.
Kevin Sheehy ’67 M’70 M’92 H’99 Alumni Leadership Medal
For Consistent Leadership and Service
James Hickey received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History in 1994 and his master’s in Secondary Education in 1997 from Wagner College. He then went on to earn his Ph.D. in educational leadership from Fordham University in 2003.
Hickey is a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, which he joined during his undergraduate years at Wagner. He remained active with the Wagner College TKE Chapter for 15 years serving as Chapter Advisor and brought recognition to Wagner when he was elected to TKE’s International Board of Directors where he served for 12 years concluding his tenure as Chair in 2021. He was also president of the Student Government Association from 1992 to 1994. Upon graduating from Wagner College, he volunteered to serve as the Class Agent for the Class of 1994, a role he held until 2013.
Active in the Wagner community for many years, Hickey served on the Wagner Alumni Association Board two separate times from 1994 to 2000 and then again from 2016 to 2019. He was on the College’s Endowment Challenge Campaign Committee in the early 2000s, was an Adjunct Professor in the Education Department for 15 years, and served on the Education Department NEW Committee (New Educator’s at Wagner) from 2009 to 2013, which honored him with their Distinguished Education Leader Award in 2016.
Hickey said Dr. Walter Kaelber was his most memorable professor and the one who had the most impact on him during his time at Wagner.
Known as a changemaker in education, he has held several different teaching and executive leadership positions at various schools over the years including Director of Development, Vice Principal, Principal, Dean of Academic Affairs, and currently serves as Head of School at Austin Preparatory School in Reading, Massachusetts, where he is in his eleventh year. In 2023, the school’s Board of Trustees created the Dr. James Hickey Leadership Award in his honor for his work in transforming Austin Prep.
Under his leadership, Austin Prep has seen capacity enrollment for years, growing innovation in academic offerings and student experiences outside the classroom, significant upgrades to its facilities and fields, and an increase in the number of teaching faculty. Earlier in his career in 2009, Hickey was named the New Jersey Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) for his work in transforming one of the largest public high schools in the nation. He was recognized for his work by the United States Secretary of Education and the New Jersey Commissioner of Education.
A Knight of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Hickey is married to Cindy Hickey and they have four teenage children.
Distinguished Graduate of Wagner Award
For bringing honor through your career and contributions to your community
Arno Rafael Minkkinen earned a B.F.A. in English from Wagner College in 1967 followed by an M.F.A. in photography from Rhode Island School of Design in 1974. He is married to Sandra Jean Hughes, also a Wagner English major (’68), and lives in Andover, Massachusetts, not far from their son Dan, his wife Lexi, and their four-year old daughter, Griffin.
Minkkinen joined Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity in 1965. He was also a contributor and later editor of Nimbus, the Wagner College literary magazine. Acting with the Chapel Players and Varsity Players, along with attending the Bregenz Study Abroad program in Austria, inspired his theatre and travel interests.
Working as a Madison Avenue copywriter on the Minolta camera account soon after graduation led to a five-decade commitment to art and photography. With over 100 solo exhibitions in galleries, festivals, and museums around the world—Beijing, Berlin, Bogota, Chicago, New York, Paris, Stockholm, Torino, and Zagreb to name a few, eight galleries representing his work worldwide, and ten monographs. The latest book, Minkkinen, a 330-page survey, took the German Photo Book prize in 2019. Minkkinen’s self-portraits in the landscape and urban settings encompass one of the
longest running, nonstop chronologies in the photographic history of the genre. He seeks to remind us in this age of climate change that we are but a part of the same nature we risk losing forever.
Between two stints of teaching in Finland (1974–76 and 1984–86), Minkkinen was an assistant professor at MIT's Creative Photography Lab. But it was at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Vevey’s École d’Arts Appliques in Switzerland where Minkkinen’s academic legacies were built. Currently Emeritus Professor at Lowell and Docent at Aalto University in Helsinki, Minkkinen continues to run an active workshop program around the world.
Recognition has come from America and abroad with knighthood from Finland in 1993, the Lucie Award for Achievement in Fine Art (photography’s Oscar) in 2013, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2015, the Pro Finlandia medal in 2017, Honored Educator, Society for Photographic Education in 2018, and now the Distinguished Graduate of Wagner Award in 2023.
When asked who comes to mind as a professor at Wagner with the greatest impact on him, he cited Dr. Thomas Kendris from the English department. “My four years at Wagner were seminal to my creative development and endeavors,” Minkkinen said.
Wagner Alumni Key Award
For your professional achievements and dedication
McKenzy Hupke graduated in 2022 with a bachelor’s in Arts Administration and a minor in Government and Politics. During her time at Wagner, she was an active sister in Tau Kappa Sigma, an orientation and community leader, and held many roles of leadership in the Vocal Synergy acapella group. McKenzy is also certified in American Sign language.
Hupke has expressed her gratitude to staff and students at Wagner for their unwavering support during her battle with cancer during her time as a student at Wagner.
“My first diagnosis in 2015, my mom had been told that likely I could graduate high school, but I would not live to graduate college,” Hupke said “I had made it the highest on my life bucket list to graduate and do it with grace and energy and involvement. With the help and support of those at Wagner, I was able to not only graduate college while having involvement, but I have also now continued, despite more and worsening medical undertakings, gone on to work a job I highly enjoy, while continuing to get involved in different ways in the community, taking on new and different tasks and involvements because people from Wagner have inspired me or supported me.”
Hupke has been a childhood and young adult cancer and disability advocate since 2015. She publicly speaks to raise awareness for multiple organizations, most prominently at an event in Times Square for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In 2021, she also received Survivor of the Year Award from the Frances Foundation. Her volunteer work also includes working at Camp Quality New Jersey, a camp run by volunteers for kids with cancer.
When asked to name a professor who had the biggest impact in her life, Hupke said she had a hard time picking just one. She named Cyril Ghosh and Steve Snow, who helped steer her interest in politics. Todd Price who taught her about all of her newly found art interests.
After graduation, Hupke has held multiple jobs including marketing and publicity intern at The Karpel Group and a Social Media and Administrative Intern at Cancer for College. Today, she is a library assistant at Ocean County Library.
Hupke is the daughter of Beth and David Hupke and the oldest sibling of Alexander, Logan, and Emerson.
Reverend Lyle Guttu Award
For spiritual contributions and serving the needs of the local and global communities
Rev. Debra Q. Bennett received her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Wagner in 1980. She then earned a master of divinity degree from Bexley Hall Episcopal Seminary. She is now pursuing a doctorate in ministry in Congregational Development from Bexley Seabury Seminary.
Bennett previously held the position of Deacon-In-Charge and Priest-In-Charge at St. Paul Episcopal Church. She then became the Priest-in-Charge and then Rector at Church of Our Saviour in Akron, Ohio, where she remains.
She uses her talent to speak at numerous conferences and conventions to further her and others' education. She has spoken at the Episcopal Parish Network - The Hopeful Journey: Exploring God's Path Forward 2022; Episcopal Preaching Foundation: Preaching Excellence Program, Ohio Clergy Conference 2022; and Vibrant Faith Formation 2016.
Her ministry practice also extends to her own learning development with events such as a silent retreat for three days in 2019 and practicing Ignatian Spiritual Exercises from 2021 to 2022. She also helps youth grow and has been the spiritual director of the Happening Youth Renewal Movement since 2013.
Some of Bennett’s most recent community service endeavors include the Holocaust Education Program and Ceremony benediction as well as Community Tribal Trauma Response: A Community Conversation. She also is a social activist and has been involved in vigils, rallies, and marches for many worthy causes including a recent Bishops Against Gun Violence Rally. She also has several published pieces of work.
Bennett has recognized Dr. Jack Boise, Dr. Robert Kaczerowski, and Dr. Phyllis Andors as the professors who have had the biggest impact on her life.