Neag Alumni Society Recognizes Outstanding Alumni

2012 Neag Alumni Awardees
2012 Neag School Alumni Awardees, pictured L-R, top row: Dr. Anthony R. Artino, Dr. Thomas P. Hebert, Dean Thomas C. DeFranco, Dr. Avron Abraham, Dr. Les Sternberg and Dr. Carol Garber. (bottom row, L-R) Kimberly Ruiz, Claudia Norman, Dr. Marcia Gentry, Mary Duffy Zupkus and Dr. Mary P. Conway.

On the “Rate My Professors” website, where students across the US rate and comment on their professors – both good and bad – Dr. Thomas Hébert has three 5.0 ratings on a 5.0 scale for overall quality, helpfulness and clarity. While his rating on easiness is a 1.5 out of 5.0, he would probably be okay with that, since he is an outstanding educator and strives for excellence. Although the website does not provide scientific data or compare to the academic research that’s conducted by Neag School students, alumni and faculty, it does provide a glimpse to what Hébert represents to excellence in education.

As the Neag School of Education’s Outstanding Alumnus of the Year, Hébert has a long history of excellence, and his students at the University of Georgia, where he’s currently a professor of educational psychology, agree: “He is so passionate about gifted students and his work and definitely relays that to his class. He’s a great professor and it does require work, but it’s worth it.”

Another student thinks he’s a “wonderful professor, passionate about the subject. Incredibly useful if you are/will be a teacher. Definitely assignment-rigorous, but he does everything he can to help you.”

His students recognize his expertise, but he’s also a nationally recognized leader in gifted education. Hébert teaches graduate courses in gifted and creative education, as well as qualitative research methods. His research focuses on social and emotional development of gifted students, underachievement in high-ability students, culturally diverse gifted students and problems faced by gifted young men.

Hébert has more than a decade of classroom experience working with K-12 gifted students and almost 20 years in higher education training graduate students and educators.

Neag’s own Dr. Joseph Renzulli, who has known Hébert for all of those 20 years, provided the nomination along with the introduction during the awards ceremony.

“He was an outstanding teacher in a gifted program in Connecticut and in the Department of Defense Schools, is a national expert in gifted education and the social/emotional needs of gifted and talented children,” said Dr. Renzulli in the nomination. “Tom is an outstanding teacher, has exceled in research, and has served in many capacities for the (National Association for Gifted Children), including being a member of the Board of Directors.”

Dr. Renzulli recalled, “From the time he graduated from our doctoral program, he has focused on the identification and development of programs for the gifted and the social and emotional needs of gifted students, gifted males, and culturally diverse students.

“This is clear from the extensive number of publications and invitations to contribute chapters on these topics in books edited by leading scholars in the field,” he continued.

Dr. Renzulli mentioned how Dr. Hébert is a fine teacher, having won multiple teaching accolades and awards including, most recently, the Ira Aaron Award for Teaching Excellence and Collegiality at the University of Georgia.

The key word Dr. Renzulli highlighted is “collegiality.”

“Tom has a keen ability to collaborate with a variety of individuals at his university and in the field at large. His personal skills, his thoughtful and sensitive way of working with colleagues and his graduate students, and his all around ‘nice guy’ demeanor have made him a pleasure to work with over the years,” continued Dr. Renzulli.

“I would unequivocally rank him as one of the top two or three doctoral graduates from our program at the University of Connecticut and a major influence among the current generation of leaders in the field.”

Coming from Renzulli, the national gifted and talented guru, that’s a tremendous compliment.

“This evening was memorable as faculty and alumni gathered to formally recognize the achievements of some of our outstanding graduates,” said Dr. Thomas 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.”

Other honorees during the Awards Dinner included the following:

The Outstanding Higher Education Professional is Dr. Marcia Gentry, Sixth Year Diploma in Special Education ’92, Ph.D ’96, professor of educational studies and executive director of the Gifted Education Resource Institute at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN.

The Outstanding School Administrator is Claudia Norman, Sixth Year Diploma in Educational Administration ’98, co-principal of Lewin G. Joel Elementary School in Clinton, CT.

The Outstanding School Educator is Kimberly Ruiz, BS ’99, MA ’00, fourth grade teacher at Dorothy C. Goodwin Elementary School in Mansfield, CT.

The Outstanding Kinesiology Professional is Dr. Avron Abraham, MA ’82, Ph.D ’90, director of the Center for Academic Success and University Studies and associate professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at the University of Delaware in Newark, DE.

The Outstanding Physical Therapy Professional is Mary Duffy Zupkus, PT ’73, president and clinical director of Physical Therapy Associates of Concord, in Concord MA.

The Outstanding Professional is Dr. Les Sternberg, ’68 BA, ’70 MA, ’73 Ph.D, special advisor to the provost of the University of South Carolina (USC), and previously served as dean of the College of Education at USC in Columbia, SC.

The Outstanding Young Professional is Dr. Anthony R. Artino, Jr., ’08 Ph.D, associate professor with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and commander in the Medical Service Corps of the US Navy, both in Bethesda, MD.

The Outstanding School Superintendent is Dr. Mary P. Conway,  Sixth Year Diploma in Educational Administration ’95, Ed.D. ’05, superintendent of schools in Vernon, CT.

The Alumni Distinguished Research Award was given to two individuals:

  • Dr. Marcia Gentry, Sixth Year Diploma in Special Education ’92, Ph.D ’96, professor of educational studies and executive director of the Gifted Education Resource Institute at Purdue University
  • Dr. Carol Garber, BS ’75, MA ’83, Ph.D ’96 is associate professor of movement sciences and education at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York, N.Y. She serves as vice president of the American College of Sports Medicine.

For more information on the Neag School of Education or the Neag Alumni Society, visit