Alumni and Faculty Honored at Outstanding Alumni Awards Celebration

On Friday, October 1, the Walsh University Alumni Association hosted its annual Outstanding Alumni Awards dinner during the university’s homecoming weekend.

The 2021 honorees were Brandon Weems, Sr. Director of Player Personnel, Cleveland Cavaliers; Scott Haws, Director of Project Management, Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group; Dr. Jennifer Ross, Director of Diversity and Strategic Initiatives, Akron Urban League; Jennifer Kessel, CEO, Aultman Orrville Hospital; Ged Tarpey, Managing Director, Global Media & Entertainment, Twitter; and Dr. John Trapani, Retired, Walsh University.

Brandon Weems ’08 received the Young Alumni Leadership Award.  This award was established in 2017 to recognize alumni who are 35 years old or younger who have experienced exemplary professional achievement, focus on service to the community, and uphold a relationship with Walsh University through engagement and/or philanthropy. 

As Senior Director of Player Personnel, Weems oversees the Cleveland Cavs amateur scouting efforts in addition to his own college scouting duties, international scouting, as well as pro player personnel responsibilities.  He also assists in managing the entire NBA draft process for the team.  Weems previously served two seasons at NCAA Div. I Oakland University in Michigan as an assistant men’s basketball coach from 2013-2015.  Prior to Oakland, Weems was a staff assistant at Drexel in 2012-2013.  Before that, Weems spent three seasons at Kentucky on John Calipari’s staff and was part of the 2012 NCAA National Championship. 

As a collegiate player, Weems was a four-year letter winner at Walsh University from 2004-08.  He garnered All-American honors in 2008 and led the Walsh Cavaliers to a NAIA National Championship in 2005. Weems was named MOC/AMC Player of the Year during his senior season. He tallied 1,160 points and 649 assists and left ranking in the top five in Walsh's record book in both categories. Weems is a native of Akron, Ohio and played his high school basketball at St. Vincent-St. Mary.  He graduated Walsh University with a business management degree and completed his master’s at the University of Kentucky in two years.

For more than 30 years, the Outstanding Achievement Award has recognized alumni for their significant professional achievements or exemplary community service, and for their loyalty and commitment to Walsh University.

Scott Haws ’06 was presented with an Outstanding Achievement Award.  A lifelong resident of Stark County, Haws works for Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group as Director of Project Management and has served as Plain Township Trustee since 2010.  Haws is an avid volunteer with a passion and desire to serve and to make a positive impact in the lives of others.  Haws is on the board of the North Canton YMCA where he chairs the Facilities Committee, Executive Board Vice President of Serving Area Military and Veterans – SAM Center, Board Member Operations Flags of Freedom.

Haws is past President and current Vice President of The Stark County Township Association where he has been an active member since 2009, was an inaugural Township Board Member and founder to The Stark County Land Reutilization Corporation (Land Bank), is a member of the Stark County Regional Planning Commission, the Ohio Township Association, CLOUT (Coalition of Large Ohio Urban Townships), Executive Committee member to the Stark County Council of Governments (SCOG) and Plain Township Tax Incentive Review Council board representative. He graduated from Kent State University in 1999 with a degree in finance, and he completed his MBA at Walsh University in 2006.

Dr. Jennifer Ross ’00 was also recognized with an Outstanding Achievement Award. Dr. Ross is the Director of Diversity and Strategic Initiatives at the Akron Urban League. Prior to this role, she was a senior research fellow at Columbia Law School at Columbia University where she directed the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies (CISPS) under the tutelage of Kimberlè Crenshaw and Luke Harris. During this time, her research focused on Black girls, the school to prison pipeline, and leadership development. She has conducted research on Black girls, Black women leadership, teacher leadership, school turnaround, professional development and coaching and mentoring in urban school districts.  

Dr. Ross spent 19 years as a dedicated educator in the state of Ohio. She worked as a transformation specialist and an educational consultant for the Ohio Department of Education where she wrote and developed policy that supported equity, cultural competency, teacher induction, school turnaround, and closing achievement gaps among students. She has developed and conducted professional development and trainings for classroom teachers, building principals, and district leaders. Dr. Ross was a teacher and leader for 13 years in urban school districts in Ohio. She is currently serving as Vice President for the Stark County NAACP and co-chairing the cotillion committee as a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Incorporated to revive the Cotillion Debutante Ball for Black young ladies in Stark County.

The Distinguished Service Award was given to Jennifer Kessel ’99 ’04, a Canton, Ohio resident and graduate of the Walsh University DeVille School of Business where she earned both a bachelor’s degree in finance and MBA.  The Distinguished Service Award was established in 1994 to recognize alumni who have provided exemplary service to the Alumni Association. 

Kessel joined Aultman Health Foundation in 2002 as a human resources analyst and has held leadership positions in Strategic Planning and Corporate Operations, Human Resources, and Marketing & Corporate Communications. She transitioned to the Aultman Orrville Hospital leadership team in 2013 and has served as CEO since June 2018.  Kessel is a member of the Walsh University President’s Advisory Board, Austin-Bailey Foundation Board of Trustees, Ohio Hospital Association Small & Rural Hospital Committee and American College of Healthcare Executives. She has previously served on the Board of Directors for the Orrville Area Chamber of Commerce, ArtsinStark and the Stark County Minority Health Coalition. Her current community involvement includes serving on the American Heart Association Wayne County Heart Walk Executive Leadership Team, participating in community panel discussions and presentations, and volunteering for the American Cancer Society Strides Against Breast Cancer, United Way, ArtsinStark, and Girl Scouts of North East Ohio.

The Professional Achievement Award was presented to Ged Tarpey ’03.  This award was established in 2017 to recognize alumni who have experienced significant achievement in a profession or career achievement. 

Ged Tarpey is based in Los Angeles and serves as the Managing Director of Global Media and Entertainment at Twitter. In his nine years at the social media company, he has worked closely with all of the major movie studios, TV networks and steaming platforms on innovative ways to market a movie or TV show on Twitter.  His team also leads Twitter's sales efforts with the music, sports, news and publishing industries.  In his role at Twitter, he has also had the opportunity to interview some of the biggest names in Hollywood like Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Mark Hamill.

Prior to Twitter, Tarpey spent six years at Microsoft where he was the Global Account Director focused on working with movie studios, and before joining the advertising world, his first career was as a professional footballer in his native England for Manchester City.  Tarpey graduated in 2003 with a degree in marketing from Walsh University.

The Walsh University Alumni Association presented the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award to John G. Trapani, Jr., Ph.D., a beloved professor and colleague. Established in 2004, the Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes a lifetime of service to Walsh University and its alumni.  These individuals through their vision, attitude and work demonstrate a commitment to the graduates of Walsh University that has spanned a career.

Dr. Trapani (Boston College, 1968; St. John’s University, 1984) is an emeritus-professor of philosophy at Walsh University.  During his 44 years at the university, he served as Chair of both the Philosophy Department and the Humanities Division.  He was twice voted “Outstanding Educator of the Year,” (1990 and 1995).  In 1976, he founded the annual Walsh University Philosophy-Theology Symposium, and he remained its director until his retirement in 2018 when it was renamed “The John Trapani Great Ideas Symposium.” 

Dr. Trapani is the author of 2 books and over 25 published essays and book chapters, most of which concern the philosophy of the eminent French, Catholic, Thomist philosopher, Jacques Maritain.  In addition, he has presented over 60 talks, lectures, and papers at professional conferences, churches, and civic organizations, and he was an invited speaker at Franciscan University, Loras College, Wheeling Jesuit University, The University of Akron, Rockhurst University, and James Madison University.  Twice, he served as President of the American Maritain Association, from 2000 - 2001, and again from 2006 – 2012.  He is the first recipient of the “Anthony O. Simon Distinguished Service Award,” given by the American Maritain Association for outstanding service to the AMA.  His major book, Poetry, Beauty, and Contemplation: The Complete Aesthetics of Jacques Maritain was published by Catholic University of America Press in 2011.

In addition, Dr. Trapani is a professional musician; as a trumpet-player, he performed the Star-Spangled Banner at the very first Walsh University football game in 1995.  In 1977, he founded the Walsh College Jazz Ensemble.  This band eventually became the 17-piece John Trapani Big Band.  For 20 years, this big band performed an annual Glenn Miller Tribute Show (from 1981 – 2000) and, for 25 years, an annual Big Band Christmas Show (from 1989 – 2013).