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Maxwell Alumni Awards of Excellence 2023

Awards of Excellence Honoree: Maxwell Has Been ‘a Guiding Hand’ in Public Service Career

May 9, 2023

Standing before an audience of fellow Maxwell School alumni gathered in Washington, D.C., for the second annual Maxwell Awards of Excellence, CNN anchor Boris Sanchez ’09 shared the motivation behind his work as a journalist.

Sanchez emigrated from Cuba as a small child, along with his family, after his grandfather was sentenced to two decades in prison for his strong beliefs about democracy. The same authoritarian dictatorship denied Sanchez’s mother’s dream of becoming a writer or news reporter—instead, her son said, she was sent to work in a tin can factory.

Alumni Awards of Excellence group photo
CNN anchor and Maxwell School alumnus Boris Sanchez ’09 B.A. (IR) is shown on the left with (from left to right), Bernard Rostker ’66 M.A. (Econ)/’70 Ph.D. (Econ); Deniece Laurent-Mantey ’09 B.A. (IR); Juan Carlos Izaguirre ’06 M.P.A./’07 M.A. (IR);  Sean Callahan ’98 J.D./M.P.A; and Dean David M. Van Slyke.

“While their dreams were deferred, I was fortunate to pursue an education and career specializing in what they were not allowed to do, and that is, speak truth to power,” said Sanchez, co-anchor of the recently launched show “CNN News Central,” who earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Maxwell and broadcast journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Sanchez emceed the awards event, held on April 27 in the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)—home to Maxwell’s Washington programs. The event recognizes graduates and friends of Maxwell for their professional accomplishments and public service. This year’s honorees included Bernard Rostker ’66 M.A. (Econ)/’70 Ph.D. (Econ); Sean Callahan ’98 J.D./M.P.A.; Deniece Laurent-Mantey ’09 B.A. (IR); and Juan Carlos Izaguirre ’06 M.P.A./’07 M.A. (IR).

Rostker received the Spirit of Public Service Award which honors individuals whose contributions have brought widespread impact and reflect the ideals of the Maxwell School. During a 55-year career holding senior positions in government and research, he pursued solutions to some of the most contentious issues in the U.S. military. He oversaw the re-establishment of Selective Service registration, co-authored two key reports supporting gay individuals serving openly in the military, and he accepted the challenge of the mysterious Gulf War illness through roles including assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs, undersecretary of the Army, and undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

“Someone recently asked me if I had a grand plan for my career, and I immediately said I did not,” Rostker told the audience. “As I thought about it more, however, there seemed to have been a guiding hand that pushed me forward along a path of public service in support of our men and women in the armed services.”

Rostker said Maxwell was “an important part of this invisible hand.” He spoke of the quality education he received in economics and shared how his thesis—the subject for which had not been his top choice—brought his interests into focus. He also talked about important connections he made with professors like the late Alan K. “Scotty” Campbell and Jesse Burkhead, as well as classmates including Donna Shalala ’70 M.S.Sc./’70 Ph.D. (SSc)/’87 Hon., former U.S. secretary of health and human services, and John P. White '64 M.A. (Econ)/'69 Ph.D. (Econ), deputy secretary of defense in the Clinton administration.

Rostker said White was especially instrumental in shaping his career. While serving as vice president of the global policy think tank, the RAND Corp. in the early 1970s, White encouraged Rostker’s involvement. He began as a research economist and today serves as a senior fellow.

Callahan, mission director for Afghanistan at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), received the Maxwell 1924 Award. Named for the school’s founding year, it was created to honor distinguished, sustained professional or civic leadership and achievement. A 22-year veteran of USAID, Callahan currently oversees the organization’s multi-sector response to the crisis in Afghanistan following the U.S. withdrawal in 2021. He works from Qatar to manage a staff of over 100 that is spread out over 21 countries in 10 time zones.

Callahan credited Maxwell for introducing him to his wife, fellow alum Kristin Dadey ’94 B.A. (IR/PSc)/’98 J.D./M.P.A. He also praised faculty and staff for their dedication to students and alumni and said the skills he gained at Maxwell “have helped time and time again throughout my career, especially now in my current position.”

“Afghanistan remains the largest humanitarian crisis and development challenge globally,” added Callahan. “Two thirds of its population will need humanitarian assistance this year, just to survive.”

Boris Sanchez and David VanSlyke
In his opening remarks, emcee Boris Sanchez shared that his family emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba after his grandfather was imprisoned for his strong beliefs about democracy.

Laurent-Mantey received the Maxwell Compass Award, created to recognize an early-career alumnus for professional and community accomplishments and impact. She is a foreign affairs and national security leader with over 10 years of experience at the U.S. Department of State and White House National Security Council.

As director for Africa at the White House National Security Council, Laurent-Mantey handled the southern Africa and trade and investment portfolio as well as the implementation of the second U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The latter, convened by President Biden in December 2022, entailed the coordination of nearly 20 government agencies.

Born to immigrant parents from Ghana and raised in a family “full of love but sometimes short of opportunities,” she told the audience, “I certainly didn’t see myself as a future leader in international relations.” However, she said, “I was exposed to new ideas and to different people at the Maxwell School and that ignited my passion for international relations.”

Izaguirre received the Advocate Award, named for its inaugural recipient, the late Charles V. Willie, a scholar, policy advisor, teacher and activist. The award is given to those who reflect Maxwell’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in their professional and volunteer pursuits.

“I am deeply honored and almost in disbelief to have received this award in recognition of contributions to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility,” said Izaguirre, who has advanced the award’s ideals in his 15-year career at Consultative Group to Assist the Poor and the World Bank. He is a long-time volunteer leader of GLOBE, the bank’s LGBT+ employee resource group, which works to increase awareness, strengthen sense of community, and improve workplace environment and policies.

He added, “This means quite a lot to me—much more than you can imagine—because it’s not only about work on financial inclusion and consumer protection, but also about advocacy on LGBT+ issues.”

Growing up in Peru, Izaguirre said he was exposed to car bombs and constant water and electricity cuts.  He told fellow alumni and friends that he is grateful to have fulfilled his childhood dream of working in international economics, and, on a more personal level, live openly as a gay man.

“This Charles V. Willie Advocate Award reinvigorates my commitment to diversity and inclusion,” he said, “and I hope it also encourages every one of you to take a step forward to make the world a better, kinder, more diverse, equitable and inclusive place.”

By Jessica Youngman

Published in the Spring 2023 issue of the Maxwell Perspective

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