Students Honored for Serving College and Community
Seven Vassar students were honored for their service to the College and the community in ceremonies in the Jade Parlor May 2. Four sophomores—Karun Krishnamurthy, Olivia Kane, Acacia McDonough, and Elena Henderson-Downey—were named recipients of the 2022 Wendy Rae Breslau Award. Three others—Hailey Brigger ’24, Nywel Cheaye ’22, and Katie Canavan ’24—were recognized as winners of this year’s Frances Aaron Hess ’53 Award.
As she congratulated the recipients of the Wendy Rae Breslau awards, President Elizabeth H. Bradley noted that when the current sophomore class arrived on the Vassar campus, they faced significant roadblocks in engaging in community service due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Their efforts to build community have been at a time when we have been challenged to maintain that cohesion,” Bradley said. “We thank them for their work.”
Wendy Rae Breslau was a student at Vassar when she was killed in an automobile accident. The award was established by her parents to reflect and memorialize Wendy’s active engagement in the community. While at Vassar, she tutored students in the Poughkeepsie City School District and was active in community organizations in her hometown, Bradley said. Recipients receive a $500 award.
Krishnamurthy, a psychological science major from Mumbai, India, created a coed soccer club on the campus and is active in the Vassar Outing Club, which organizes hikes and other outdoor activities off-campus. “Thank you, Karun, for using sports and the outdoors to bring Vassar people together,” Bradley said.
Kane, a Science, Technology, and Society major from Englewood, NJ, was recognized for her work with Vassar Matriculate as a mentor to first-gen students and serving as an intern for Womenspeak, an organization created by a Vassar alumna. She is also a member of the women’s squash team and the Vassar Mediterranean Club.
McDonough, a psychological science major from Tarrytown, NY, is a student fellow and house team member at Strong House, sings with the a capella group Vastards, is tech director for WVKR, and is a model and photographer for Contrast, the student fashion and entertainment magazine.
Henderson-Downey, a political science major from Hackensack, NJ, has been active in the Vassar Student Association and the Black Students’ Union and volunteers in Vassar’s after-school tutoring program in the Poughkeepsie City School District.
The Frances Aaron Hess ’53 Award is presented to students who have made significant contributions to the community beyond the Vassar campus. It includes a contribution of $750 to an organization of the recipient’s choosing.
Brigger, a biochemistry major from San Diego, CA, is a volunteer at the Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital. She will direct her contribution to the hospital.
Cheaye, a Science, Technology, and Society major from New Castle, DE, is a volunteer at the Mediation Center of Dutchess County. Her donation will be made to the Victoria Project in Northern California, whose mission is to provide holistic and accessible maternity care.
Canavan, a physics and mathematics double major from Montgomery, NY, has been working as a mentor to high school science students in Westchester County, NY. Two of her students recently won awards at the Westchester Science and Engineering Fair. Her donation will be directed to the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of her mother.
Recipients of the awards were chosen by the Hess/Breslau Committee. Members are: Chair John Bradley, Executive Director of Vassar Education Collaboration; Danushi Fernando, Director of the LGBTQ+ Center; Jean Hinkley, Assistant Director of Community-Engaged Learning, Luis Inoa, Dean of Student Living and Wellness, and Willa Vincitore ’92, Senior Director of Alumni Engagement.