Committed to Change and Improvement: Albion’s 2022 Alumni Award Recipients
February 25, 2022
“Problem solvers” is an appropriate term to describe Albion College’s 2022 Alumni Award honorees as a group. From cancer to homelessness, and from environmental pollution to serving patients, students and clients, these Britons continue to benefit their communities and find success by taking action.
This year’s awardees include three for the Distinguished Alumni Award, two for the Young Alumni Award, and the third recipient of the James L. Curtis Alumni Leadership Award.
An in-person celebration is scheduled for Friday, April 22, in the College’s Upper Baldwin ballroom; a 5:30 p.m. reception will be followed by a 6:15 p.m. dinner and program.
The 2022 Alumni Award Recipients
Distinguished Alumni Award
Eric Allen, ’95
Attorney, Law Office of Eric J. Allen, Ltd.
A class at Albion opened Eric Allen to the career he has pursued for the past 20 years. A criminal defense attorney specializing in post-conviction and appellate law, Allen’s work focuses on the difficult and thankless task of ensuring justice for incarcerated individuals. While his solo law practice is based in Ohio, Allen has worked on death row cases in North Carolina, Texas, Alabama and Illinois. His busy docket always includes pro bono service, and he has worked with the Knights of Columbus and other civic organizations to improve the lives of children in the Columbus area. At Albion, Eric was a member of the Black Student Alliance, Asian Awareness Group, Union Board and the intramural basketball program.
Lisa Gezon, ’88
Professor of Anthropology, University of West Georgia
Lisa Gezon has taught anthropology at the University of West Georgia since 1996. Her research has ranged from the impact of tourism and drug policies in Madagascar, to healthcare accessibility in Guatemala, and the benefits of cycling and pedestrian trails in the U.S. This work has been supported by the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation and a U.S. Department of Education Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Fellowship. She has won awards for mentoring, teaching and scholarship from the University of West Georgia. At Albion, Gezon was active with Amnesty International, the Commission on the Status of Women and Albion Peace Alliance.
Brenda Green O’Connell, ’99
Community Development Administrator, Lake County, Illinois
In 2019, Brenda O’Connell was instrumental in effectively ending homelessness among military veterans in Lake County. Her innovative plan, in collaboration with the Lake County Coalition for the Homeless, coordinated the efforts of nonprofits, medical facilities and government agencies to make the county of 650,000 residents one of only 11 communities nationwide to be recognized by the federal government and the Built for Zero campaign. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, O’Connell has overseen the distribution of more than $30 million in food, homeless sheltering and rental assistance in Lake County. O’Connell was recently appointed by the governor of Illinois to serve on a statewide advisory council on homelessness. At Albion, O’Connell was a member of Delta Gamma and several music ensembles. She was one of the first student employees at the Kellogg Center and served as a resident assistant in the International House.
Dr. James L. Curtis Alumni Leadership Award
Dr. Michael Jackson, ’85
Physician/founder, Regenerative Medicine of Iowa
Des Moines, Iowa
Michael Jackson’s expertise in rehabilitation medicine comes from an extensive background with athletes and manufacturing professionals and their varied needs and concerns. Jackson has worked with collegiate athletic programs, including at the University of Toledo, Niagara University and Michigan State University, and has served as an on-site physician for the NCAA basketball and hockey championships. He has directed medical programs for automotive supply manufacturers in New York and Michigan, including service as Delphi’s global medicine program director. With a desire to return to private practice he founded an occupational medicine clinic in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Prior to founding his current venture, Regenerative Medicine of Iowa, Dr. Jackson was a principal of Regenexx Des Moines, where he specialized in interventional orthopedics. Michael was a member of Albion’s football team as a student and continues to support the Black Student Alliance.
Young Alumni Award
Rachel Leads, ’12
Doctoral student, University of North Texas
As a graduate student studying microplastics contamination and toxicity in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor, Rachel Leads published five peer-reviewed articles and won five awards at national and international conferences. Now a doctoral student and research assistant at the University of North Texas, Leads’ work continues to advance the field of environmental toxicology. Her novel approach to studying the effect of crude oil and UV radiation on one of Texas’ largest commercial fish species has resulted in award-winning conference presentations and publications in peer-reviewed journals. Her interest in public education and STEM programs has led her to projects with the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, Belle Isle Aquarium, Dallas Environmental Education Initiative, and teaching initiatives in South Korea and Belize. At Albion, Leads held leadership roles with Kappa Alpha Theta and Student Senate and was a member of several academic honoraries.
Brandan Walters, ’12
Product Manager, Bio-Rad Laboratories
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Brandan Walters’ role as a product manager involves the development of technology used in understanding and treating metastatic cancer. The technology he and his team are working on focuses on the isolation of rare circulating tumor cells which are shed from a tumor and spread throughout a body via the circulatory and lymphatic systems. His work involves collaborations with clinical and academic institutions, both domestically and globally. Recently, Walters and his team initiated a collaborative study between universities in Germany, France and Greece to better understand the use of this technology to process liquid biopsies and characterize cancer, monitor the disease, and begin assessing its potential use as guidance for treatment. At Albion, Walters was a chemistry tutor, a member of Union Board, participated in the Sleight Leadership program, and served as a tour guide and tour guide coordinator.