Neag Alumni Society Recognizes Outstanding Alumni

Neag alumni awardees
Top row, L-R, Rachel Buck, Dr. Diana Payne, Sidway McKay, Dr. Jean Wihbey and Dr. Heather Gibson; bottom row, L-R, W. Kurt Telford, Dean Tom DeFranco and Fran Mainella

The Neag School of Education Alumni Society and the faculty of the Neag School of Education recently held its 13th Annual Awards Dinner and recognized outstanding alumni.

“This evening was memorable as faculty and alumni gathered to formally recognize the achievements of some of our outstanding graduates,” said Dr. Tom DeFranco, dean of the Neag School of Education. “Our award recipients are educators who have made significant contributions across all levels of education. We know that you will agree with our outstanding selection of alumni to honor.”

The Distinguished Alumnus is Ms. Fran Mainella, B.S. ‘69, visiting scholar with Clemson University’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. Prior to that, she had a 40-year park and recreation career culminating as director of the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Parks Service.

The Outstanding Higher Education Professional is Dr. Jean A. Wihbey, Ph.D., ’02, provost with the Palm Beach State College, Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

The Outstanding School Administrator is Mr. W. Kurt Telford, B.S., ’79, principal with West Forsyth High School in Clemmons, NC.

The Outstanding School Educator is Ms. Rachel L. Buck, B.S. ’01, M.A. ’02, math teacher with the Connecticut IB Academy, East Hartford, CT.

The Outstanding Kinesiology Professional is Dr. Heather Gibson, M.A., ’89, Ph.D, ’94, associate professor in the Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management at the University of Florida and an associate director of the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute in Gainesville, FL.

The Outstanding Physical Therapy Professional is Ms. Sidway A. McKay, B.S. ’85, physical therapist with the Concentra Medical Centers in Denver, CO and lecturer/adjunct faculty member with the University of Colorado, School of Medicine’s Physical Therapy Program.

The Outstanding Professional is Dr. Diana L. Payne, Ph.D. ‘07, assistant professor and education coordinator with Connecticut Sea Grant, in Groton, CT.

For more information on the Neag School of Education or the Neag Alumni Society, visit To visit a photo album from the event, click here.