Walsh Honors Outstanding Alumni for 2016


School News

Walsh University honored its 2016 Outstanding Alumni during the annual Awards Dinner on Friday, October 21. The ceremony included the presentation of the Outstanding Achievement Award, Distinguished Service Award and Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award recognizes alumni for their significant professional achievements or exemplary community service and their loyalty and commitment to Walsh.  This year’s recipient was J. Nate Cooks ’88.

Catherine Shew '79 was honored with the Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her exemplary service to the Alumni Association.

The Lifetime Achievement Award honoring those who have dedicated countless hours to Walsh’s students and alumni was awarded to Br. Jerome Lessard '66.

Nate Cooks completed his bachelor’s degree in Management from Walsh University in 1988.  As a student, he played basketball and was an active member of the Black Student Union, a group he is still involved with today. In 1998, Nate returned to Walsh and earned a master’s in Counseling and Human Development.

As an admissions counselor for Stark State College, Nate represents the college during high school visits, college and career fairs, at businesses, social service agencies, medical facilities and community functions. Nate also currently serves as a board member with Aultman Hospital and the Stark County Minority Health Coalition. He sits on the Ira Turpin Scholarship Committee, is a member of Eastern Ohio Basketball Officials Association and a member of the Veterans Support Team. He is a proud inductee of the Canton Negros Athletic Hall of Fame, Stark County NAACP Hall of Fame, and Stark County Amateur Basketball Hall of Fame. Nate has also been awarded the Pathfinder Award for Humanitarianism by Canton City Schools.

In addition to serving his local community, Nate serves his alma mater as a loyal supporter to the annual fund, a member of the Walsh Cultural Inclusion Committee, and on the Walsh University Board of Directors. He was recognized at the inaugural Black Alumni Appreciation Dinner at Walsh in February and served as the BSU Speaker in 2015. Also, Nate is currently spearheading an effort on campus to endow a scholarship for minority students.

Nate demonstrates excellence in his profession and his community service, and he also deeply values his family. He and his high school sweetheart, Andrea, are celebrating 36 years of marriage.  They have 3 children and 5 grandchildren, with one on the way.

In 1979, Catherine Shew graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts from Walsh with majors in finance, accounting and management.  She later continued her education at Case Western Reserve University, earning a Master of Science degree in Positive Organization Development and Change and certificates in Emotional Intelligence, Appreciative Inquiry and Executive Coaching.  Cathy spent many years at FirstEnergy in a variety of positions before retiring as the Director of Business Development.  Currently, Cathy is a certified executive coach and business advisor who is passionate about positive leadership, coaching and strategy.  Walsh students, staff, and community members have benefitted from her mentorship.

While building a successful career, Cathy also immersed herself in servant leadership, a quality that characterizes the Walsh graduate.  She has volunteered her time and talent for organizations such as Leadership Akron, Summit Housing Development Corporation, Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges, and many more. Cathy has been recognized for her devotion to the community in many ways, including being a past recipient of the YWCA Women of Professional Excellence Award and the OFIC Akron Area Volunteer of the Year Award.

While serving her community and distinguishing herself professionally, Cathy has also found time to serve her alma mater.  She is a member of the Walsh University Alumni Association Board of Trustees and a mentor for the DeVille School of Business Mentoring Program.  Cathy attends campus events, sits on committees, and contributes whenever called. 

Cathy and her husband, Scott, reside in Granger Township and are the proud parents of Chelsea, a mechanical engineering graduate of the University of Dayton and member of the 2014 Orr Entrepreneurial Fellowship Class in Indianapolis.

Br. Jerome Lessard was born in Waterville, Maine, where he attended St. Joseph’s School, staffed by the Brothers of Christian Instruction. Deeply impressed by his teachers, he decided to enter the Brothers’ LaMennais Prep School in Alfred, Maine. He went on to join the order at the age of 18. In 1966, Br. Jerry graduated from then Walsh College where he studied mathematics. He spent eight years teaching math and religion in various Brothers’ high schools across five different states and continued his studies, completing a master’s degree in Sacred Science at St. Bonaventure University, a master’s degree in Pastoral Theology from St. Louis University, and additional courses in Counseling, Theology and Clinical Pastoral Education.

Br. Jerry has served as the Formation Director, Vocation Director, and Provincial Superior at the Brothers of Christian Instruction, American Province headquarters, in Alfred, Maine, and as Province Councillor, Assistant Province Superior, Editor of the Province Newsletter, and Religious Superior at the LaMennais Residence, His duties required much, including a great deal of travel, nationally and internationally, to places like East Africa, Haiti, Italy, and France. 

Over the years, Br. Jerry has had a tremendous impact on Walsh University through his various roles and commitments. He has served as a Theology Instructor, a member of the Walsh Board of Directors, and as the Director of Academic Advising for the Walsh University IDEAL program, now known as the School for Professional Studies (SPS). His leadership inspired Walsh adjunct professor and MBA alumna Valerie Giarrana '09 to spearhead the first endowed scholarship for students in the SPS program in Br. Jerry’s name.