BC to Honor Alumni Achievers

BC to Honor Alumni Achievers

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

When Robert Alence graduated from Boston College in 1951, he looked forward to launching what would be a successful career in business and to a marriage that would eventually bring seven children.

Among the Boston College graduates to be honored at the Sept. 27 Alumni Achievement Awards ceremony are (clockwise from upper left): Robert Alence, '51 (Religion), Margot Morrell, NC '74 (Arts and Humanities) and Ileta Sumner, Law '90 (Law).
The Brooklyn native and World War II veteran never imagined that he would also spend 25 years as a Roman Catholic deacon, including eight years as a chaplain in one of Massachusetts' toughest prisons.

Fifty years after receiving his diploma, that diaconate service has earned Alence the Boston College Alumni Association's Award of Excellence in Religion. The prize will be presented during the annual Alumni Achievement Awards ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. in Robsham Theater.

The association also will present its highest honor, the William V. McKenney Award, to University Trustee John Connors '63, chairman and CEO of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos Inc. Connors is a co-chair of Boston College's "Ever To Excel" campaign and a benefactor for numerous charitable organizations.

Vincent Ponzo '95, who has been active in a number of the University's alumni activities, will receive the Young Alumni Award of Excellence. A former senior analyst with Fidelity Investments, Ponzo is currently studying for an MBA degree at Columbia University.

In addition to Alence, seven alumni will be honored for their excellence in various professions, including arts and humanities, commerce, education, health, public service, science and law.

Alence said he became interested in the diaconate back in the early 1970s when he read a small notice in the weekly bulletin prior to a Sunday Mass at his former home parish of St. Paul's in Wellesley.

"I just followed God's dictates," he said. "It just popped out at me, like it was quadruple the size of the rest of the text."

Alence said he pondered the subject during the ensuing service, and on the way home his wife urged him to attend the informational meeting that had been advertised.

Nearly four years later, in 1976, he was ordained into the permanent diaconate and the former construction company president and management consultant began a new career of charitable and administrative work in the Church.

In 1986, Alence accepted a chaplain's position at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Bridgewater, working with some of the prison system's most challenging inmates, all of whom were serving terms of 25 years to life behind bars.

"These men were totally lost," he said. "They were not able to trust or to love." He said he gradually enticed a group of prisoners to attend chapel services where he watched them slowly develop traits of self-worth and dignity. "When they realized that they could be trusted and loved by other people, they started to realize that they could be loved by God."

Alence left his prison ministry in 1995 and now serves as a deacon at the Corpus Christi Church in Sandwich on Cape Cod. But, he added, "I still stay in contact with many of those prisoners at Bridgewater. I write to 20 or 30 of them each year. In their own way, they were instrumental in forming my own spiritual life."

Also receiving Alumni Excellence Awards are:

Margot Morrell, NC'74 (Arts and Humanities) - co-author of Shackleton's Way; Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer.

Mary Steele Guilfoile, '76 (Commerce) - chief administrative officer and executive vice president of the investment bank subsidiary of J.P. Morgan Chase.

Anthony S. Bryk, '70 (Education) - Marshall Field Professor of urban education at the University of Chicago.

Elizabeth Poster, '81 (Health) - Dean and professor at the University of Texas-Arlington School of Nursing.

R. Nicholas Burns, '78 (Public Service) - recently appointed United States ambassador to the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; currently serving as US Ambassador to Greece.

Paul Nadeau, '75 (Science) - geological advisor for Statoil in Stavenger, Norway, working with petroleum exploration and production.

Ileta Sumner, Law '90 (Law) - general counsel for the Battered Women's Shelter in San Antonio, Tex., where she provides bilingual representation and counsel to victims of domestic violence.


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