Washington University celebrates annual Founders Day

Famed author Walter Isaacson to deliver keynote; distinguished alumni and faculty to receive awards

On Saturday, Nov. 7, alumni and friends of Washington University in St. Louis will join the campus community for Founders Day, the annual commemoration of the university’s 1853 founding.

Highlighting this year’s banquet, to be held at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel, is celebrated writer and biographer Walter Isaacson. The event also will honor the recipients of the university’s Distinguished Alumni Awards and Distinguished Faculty Awards. In addition, three individuals will receive the Robert S. Brookings Award.

Walter Isaacson


Isaacson is president and chief executive officer of the international nondenominational think tank The Aspen Institute, but he is best known as the popular biographer of such greats as Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and, most recently, Steve Jobs.

In 2011, the authorized biography of Jobs climbed to the No. 1 spot on Amazon’s bestseller list. It also made Time magazine’s “Best Books of the Year” and was named The Christian Science Monitor’s “Best Book of 2011” in the nonfiction category.

In the book, “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution,” published last year, Isaacson profiles many of the pioneers responsible for moving us toward today’s technological world. His writing is vivid. In an Oct. 2, 2014, review in The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Brendan Koerner praised Isaacson: “Few authors are more adept at translating technical jargon into graceful prose, or at illustrating how hubris and greed can cause geniuses to lose their way,” Koerner wrote.

A Renaissance man of the media world, Isaacson served as editor of Time magazine, after nearly 20 years as a reporter and editor; and served as chairman and chief executive officer of cable news network CNN. A graduate of Harvard University and a Rhodes Scholar, he began his journalism career at The Sunday Times of London. He also did a stint for the New Orleans Times-Picayune/States-Item.

Isaacson currently serves as vice chair of Partners for a New Beginning, an organization that fosters ties between the U.S. and the Muslim world. Other social service includes serving as chair of the Broadcasting Board of Governors as well as Teach for America. In 2005, he was tapped to serve as vice chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the body responsible for overseeing rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Distinguished Faculty Awards

The Distinguished Faculty Awards recognize outstanding commitment to the intellectual and personal development of students. Recipients this year are:

Timothy J. Ley, MD (MD ’78), the Lewis T. and Rosalind B. Apple Chair in Oncology and professor of medicine and of genetics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis;

Todd Milbourn, PhD, the Hubert C. and Dorothy R. Moog Professor of Finance and senior associate dean of faculty and research at Olin Business School;

Kimberly Jade Norwood, JD, professor of law in the School of Law; and

William Peck, MD, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor of Medicine and director, Center for Health Policy in the School of Medicine.

Distinguished Alumni Awards

The Distinguished Alumni Awards recognize outstanding professional achievement, public service, exceptional service to Washington University, or all three. Recipients this year are:

Edward P. deZevallos (MBA ’67);

Curley M. Dossman Jr. (JD ’76), president, Georgia-Pacific Foundation;

Thomas Feichtinger (BS ’86), director, Maryville Technologies;

W. E. Moerner, PhD (BS, AB, BS ’75), the Harry S. Mosher Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University;

Richard Ritholz (BSBA ’84), senior portfolio manager at Elliott Management Corp.; and

Bernarda “Bernie” Lo Wong (MSW ’68), president and chief executive officer of the Chinese American Service League.

Robert S. Brookings Awards

Presented by the Board of Trustees, the Robert S. Brookings Award honors individuals for their extraordinary dedication and generosity to Washington University. Recipients this year are:

James and Elizabeth McDonnell; and

Joyce Wood (BSBA ’76, MBA ’77).

For more information about the history and commemoration of Founders Day, visit here.