Ronald Hughes, Irwin Reese, and Tom Welty (top to bottom)

Ronald Hughes, Irwin Reese, and Tom Welty (top to bottom) will receive Distinguished Alumni Awards from The College of Wooster on June 9.


Wooster to Honor Distinguished Alumni Award Winners

Ceremony to take place on June 9 in Gault Recital Hall of Scheide Music Center

June 1, 2012 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — The College of Wooster will honor three highly successful graduates at the annual Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony during Alumni Weekend (June 7-10). Ronald Hughes, Irwin Reese, and Tom Welty will be recognized on Saturday morning (June 9) at 10:15 a.m. in Gault Rectal Hall of Scheide Music Center (525 E. University St.). For those who cannot attend the ceremony, it will be streamed live that morning.

Hughes, founder and director of the North American Resource Center for Child Welfare in Columbus, has dedicated his life to improving child welfare education, policy, and practice. Having spent 42 years in the profession, he has come to be regarded as one of the most significant reformers in the country and in some parts of the world. The Center, which is an umbrella organization that houses the Institute for Human Services, the Center for Child Welfare Policy, the Family Trust Clinic, and TRAINet, addresses the interrelated and intersecting fields of policy, training, and practice that shape the delicate balance between parents’ civil rights and their children’s personal safety.

A double major in philosophy and political science and a 1970 Wooster graduate, Hughes earned a master’s degree in social administration and a Ph.D. in psychology, he has led reform on many fronts, and co-authored a four-volume text, The Field Guide to Child Welfare, which for the first time identified and addressed complex universal core competencies needed by child protection professionals. The text, which has also been published in French and Russian, is used in many higher education institutions in the U.S. offering a social work degree with a child welfare specialization. It is also a primary source of guidance for child welfare reform in Eastern European countries of the former Soviet Union.

In addition, Hughes developed measurement tools for educators and human service agencies nationwide to identify and evaluate students’ professional education and training needs. He also spearheaded an effort that resulted in tuition reimbursement from the federal government for Ohio social work graduates educated in child welfare practice. In 2009, he was appointed to serve as a delegate to the child protection working group of the Obama-Medvedev Bilateral Presidential Commission to collaborate with Russian professionals to improve the welfare of children and the systems to protect them.

Reese enjoyed a very successful career with the Metropolitan Opera, highlighted by his portrayal of the marriage registrar in “Madame Butterfly.” The son of a Baptist minister and a church organist, Reese, who graduated from Wooster in 1975, recalls growing up in Cleveland and gathering around the piano to sing hymns and show tunes. But it wasn’t until he attended a Metropolitan Opera performance that he knew opera was his calling. “I left the theater saying, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” he said.

The path that brought him to Wooster and then took him to New York began when he was 17 years old, with an audition on campus with Wooster Professor of Music Karl Trump to attend the Meadow Brook Summer School of Music, where Trump also taught. Reese remembers that the audition included a voice lesson — the first of many to come from Trump. “At first I thought I wanted to go to a big school, but my high school choral teacher said, ‘Oh, no! If you go to Wooster, you’ll have many opportunities to perform all the time.’ And I did!”

At Wooster, Reese’s musical experiences were richly varied, from his first performance in an opera — Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” — to singing Gershwin and other ragtime tunes with Professor of Music Brian Dykstra. Reese sang in three Wooster choruses, performed in theatre productions, and gave three recitals. “At Wooster, I received very caring, individual attention,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience.”

Reese learned and performed diverse styles and languages at the Metropolitan Opera, and played a principal role in the opening night and worldwide radio broadcast of Strauss’s "Der Rosenkavalier." “It was a very special experience,” he said. “It made me reflect on how I got to this point — an African American male walking onto the stage of the Metropolitan Opera and singing to audiences all over the world.”

Welty, an epidemiologist who is also certified in family practice and public health, has been interested in people with health vulnerabilities since he graduated from Wooster in 1965. The summer before he went to medical school, he lived with eight other Wooster students in a high rise public housing project in Chicago, taking advantage of a Wooster-affiliated program to teach disadvantaged inner city Chicago youth.

Welty chose to work for the Indian Health Service, teaming with his physician wife (Edie) to work with Native Americans in New Mexico and South Dakota. He retired in 1997, but continues to work on a landmark study of cardiovascular disease that began in 1988. The Strong Heart Study, which initially included 4,500 Native Americans, has yielded critical information about chronic disease status and risk factors.

Since 1998, the Welty team has volunteered with the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Service (CBCHS) in Cameroon, West Africa, with dual goals of controlling tuberculosis and treating and preventing AIDS. The AIDs Care and Prevention Program includes prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child, AIDS treatment, family care for AIDS orphans, a women’s health program, and one of Africa’s first HIV partner notification programs.

Welty says he has been grateful throughout his career for the discussion of ethical dilemmas that was part of his Wooster education, but never more so than in his work with AIDS, when tough decisions are required about which populations should receive limited medicine and resources. Earlier this year, he negotiated a critical, three-party telephone transaction with a Canadian manufacturer who had agreed to donate 4,000 small plastic bottles; with a Cameroon pharmacy that will fill the bottles with a hygienic hand-washing solution; and with White Cross officials, who will train Cameroon health workers about the importance of hand-washing. In addition, they developed the Cameroon Health and Education Fund.