Albion College Announces Six 2021 Alumni Award Recipients

March 18, 2021

From nonprofit organizations in Southern California to a world-class research team in Maryland, Albion College’s 2021 Distinguished and Young Alumni Award winners span the country as they work to make the world a better place. These six awardees will be recognized during the 2021 Homecoming celebration, October 22-23.

Director of Alumni and Student Connections Amy Everhart Perry, ’08, notes that the Homecoming event will feature recognition of 2020 winners as well, including Distinguished Alumni and Young Alumni awardees, and the inaugural Black Alumni Chapter Dr. James L. Curtis Alumni Leadership Award. “We look forward to gathering for a grand celebration of the 2020 and 2021 Alumni Award recipients,” she said. “Homecoming 2021 will be a celebration of Britons that represent a variety of class years, professions, experiences and regions.”

The 2021 Alumni Award winners:

Distinguished Alumni Award

Kent Beittel, '69Kent Beittel, ’69

Founder and Director Emeritus, Open Shelter
Columbus, Ohio
Posthumous award

In 1983, Beittel founded the Open Shelter—a nonprofit advocacy center and day-services shelter for homeless and marginally housed people in Columbus, Ohio. Beittel served as the first director of Open Shelter for over 30 years. To date, Open Shelter has worked with more than 40,000 individuals and developed innovative ways to address the complex needs of their clients. In particular, Beittel worked with financial institutions to set up banking and savings access for homeless people, a program that has since been adopted by communities across the country. Beittel and his late wife, Mary, received the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless, and in 2020 Beittel was named a Distinguished Alumnus by the Upper Arlington (OH) Alumni Association.

Matt Heinz, '99Matt Heinz, ’99

Supervisor, District 2, Pima County Board of Supervisors
Tucson, Arizona

Heinz is a practicing physician and a newly elected member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. He previously served two terms in the Arizona State House, where he was caucus whip and gathered bipartisan support for several bills to improve healthcare access for seniors and veterans. President Barack Obama appointed Heinz to serve as director of provider outreach in the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Heinz spent two years in Washington, D.C., assisting the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and helping to coordinate the federal response to the Ebola virus. During that time, he returned to Arizona several weekends a month to treat patients. Similarly, these days Heinz continues to work the night shift at his hospital while serving on the Board of Supervisors.

Caryn Ryan, '79Caryn Ryan, ’79

Founder and Managing Member, Missionwell LLC
Pasadena, California

Through Missionwell LLC, Ryan applies her business-world expertise to the service of Southern California religious and nonprofit organizations, providing top-tier human resource and financial advice and services. Her executive background includes service as chief financial officer for World Vision International, overseeing microfinance and financial operations in more than 80 countries helped by a development fund of more than $2 billion. In a 20-year stint with Amoco/BP, Ryan held CFO and vice president/finance positions, working in Houston, Chicago, London and Moscow. She currently holds leadership positions on the board of directors for Union Rescue Mission, dedicated to eliminating homelessness in Los Angeles, and ECCU, a credit union serving Christian ministries across the United States. She has also served on the boards of her local church and for Oasis USA, which focuses on poverty alleviation and human trafficking.

Richard Youle, '74Richard Youle, ’74

Section Chief, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, Maryland

Youle received the $3 million 2021 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences from the Breakthrough Foundation, co-founded by Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. Youle’s research elucidated a genetically linked cellular mechanism that clears damaged mitochondria and thereby protects against Parkinson’s Disease. In a career spent entirely at the NIH, Youle has also investigated the immunology of bone marrow transplantation, therapies for brain tumors and mechanisms involved in programmed cell death.

Young Alumni Award

Shea Gardner, '12Shea Krajewski Gardner, ’12

Co-founder and Vice President, Maroon Village
Chicago, Illinois

With her husband, Gardner founded Maroon Village, a unique nonprofit organization designed to help student-athletes who are often navigating extreme and challenging circumstances, focusing on endurance and connectedness as important variables for success on and off the playing field. In addition, as a yoga instructor Gardner works with trauma survivors, both in person and via a YouTube channel. Her background includes more than 18 years of supporting nonprofit youth programming and instruction. Gardner also does program and instructor assessment for After School Matters, a nonprofit dedicated to young people throughout the Chicagoland area. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, in 2020 Gardner and Maroon Village provided successful in-person internships to two Albion College students.

Rhiki Swinton, '16Rhiki Swinton, ’16

Center Manager, Kalamazoo College Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership
Battle Creek, Michigan

In her role with the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College, Swinton directs the day-to-day building operations and is the content producer and primary moderator for Radical Futures Now, the Arcus Center’s podcast. Swinton also develops curriculum and works with groups addressing antiracism, compassionate accountability and mass incarceration issues. Her personal passion for empowering Black women led Swinton to create a YouTube channel where she shares poetry as a form of literary activism. As a graduate student at Central Michigan University, Swinton organized and developed CMU’s first ever Women of Color Conference and was a member of CMU’s Black Graduate Student Association. After graduating from Albion College, Swinton worked in admissions as a regional counselor and played a central role in increasing the diversity of the student population, including strengthening the College’s relationship with Chicago Noble Network students.

Albion College’s Distinguished Alumni Awards and Young Alumni Awards honor alumni who have demonstrated excellence in career achievements and contributions to community and humanity through their business, profession or life’s work. The College’s Curtis Alumni Leadership Award recognizes Black alumni who have made significant contributions of time and effort to Albion College and its students. For more information, visit