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Alumni Awards

2018 Alumni Award Recipients

Distinguished Alumnus of the Year: Bruce Lessey '68, M.D., Ph.D.

While a student at WFS, Bruce Lessey, M.D., Ph.D., described himself as an “actor, director, athlete, and sometimes a clown.” Today, he can add renowned Obstetrician/Gynecologist, clinical researcher, and professor to the list. Bruce’s work focuses on endometriosis, infertility, endometrial receptivity, endocrinology, implantation, and inflammation. He has published more than 200 research based articles and has been cited in more than 8,000 other articles. Bruce remembers being encouraged in everything he tried at WFS, and credits the School with teaching him many of the values that have led to his successful career.

Bruce received a B.A. in English from Franklin and Marshall College, a B.A. in Biology from the University of Delaware, a Masters and Ph.D. in Zoology from Colorado State University, and his M.D. from the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He published several research papers on breast cancer, endometriosis, and infertility. Bruce’s work advanced the discovery that certain molecule integrins can predict a woman’s chance of pregnancy, and he also co-founded the first test to diagnose endometriosis. He is currently an Attending Physician in the Greenville Health System, University Medical Group in Greenville, SC as well as a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine.  

Bruce reflects fondly on his time at WFS. He is proud to support the School because he believes WFS was very influential in creating the person he is today. As he prepares for his 50th reunion in October, he feels even more compelled to give back.  He learned how to think critically while also living respectfully of others and keeping an open mind. He built meaningful friendships and relationships, and has been married to his classmate, Barbara Chase Lessey ’68 for 44 years.  Bruce appreciated the support WFS offered him throughout his education and enjoyed the chance to discover who he was on his own time. He said, “Everyone has a right to make their way in life; WFS is a great place to learn the basics on how that is possible.”

Outstanding Service Alumna Award: Stephanie Hoopes '82, Ph.D.

Dr. Stephanie Hoopes is the National Director of the United Way ALICE Project, a think tank that developed new measures of financial hardship and provides research on families that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE). Stephanie explains that the values she learned at WFS helped guide her career.

Stephanie earned a B.A. from Wellesley College, an M.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Ph.D from the London School of Economics. She was a professor at Columbia University in New York and at the Universities of Sussex and Birmingham in the United Kingdom, before joining Rutgers University at the School of Public Affairs and Administration. The United Way ALICE Project started as a small volunteer project and over the last 10 years has grown into her full time job working with 18 state partners. The ALICE Project’s goal is to provide a more accurate portrayal of the number of families struggling financially, and to inform policy and promote positive change. The organization recently launched a national report and received significant media attention spanning all major television networks, many newspapers, and social media shares by Senator Cory Booker, Senator Bernie Sanders, Maria Shriver, and Anderson Cooper. In addition, her work was recognized with a resolution from the New Jersey Assembly in 2016.

Stephanie credits WFS with fostering her intellectual curiosity and says, “my favorite course ‘Peace, Justice, and Social Change’ gave me the grounding and the confidence to question the official definition of poverty and its moral connotations, and then develop an alternative which led to the creation of the ALICE Project.” She continued to explain the role WFS played in her career by saying, “...the recognition of the dignity in every person instilled in me at Friends, led to giving the statistical measures we developed a person’s name, a face.” Stephanie’s work highlights the need for systemic change in our community and throughout the U.S. Carrying on WFS service tradition, Stephanie volunteers as a member of the board of directors for the McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union and Woodlawn Trustees. She supports WFS because she values her experiences, as well as her daughter’s (who graduated in 2017), and wants to ensure the School will remain part of the Wilmington community.

Young Alumna of the Year: Sarah Lester '04, M.A.

Sarah Lester is a leader in the City of Wilmington, working to revitalize the West Side through empowering its residents and businesses. As the Director of Cornerstone West Community Development Corporation, she is responsible for overseeing the organization’s housing and community economic development programs. Being truly dedicated to her work, Sarah is also a resident of the Cool Springs neighborhood, insisting she must live in the community she is helping to strengthen. Sarah says WFS played a critical role in her career, teaching her to explore challenges in our society, and as she said, “...made me believe that I had the ability to influence change and to make a difference.”

After graduating from WFS, Sarah matriculated to Brown University and earned an A.B. in International Relations with a focus on the Global Environment. She remained in Rhode Island for several years, exploring the local agricultural economy and learning about the inequities in our food system. Sarah later returned to the Mid-Atlantic region to earn her Masters in Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania. She joined Cornerstone West after graduate school, and has since led several impactful projects in the City of Wilmington, including the re-striping of Union Street. Through Sarah’s efforts, Union Street has increased parking, added a bike lane, and changed the traffic pattern to two lanes, instead of three. These changes have positively affected residents, pedestrians, bikers, and businesses in the area, all of whom had a say in the process thanks to Sarah’s work.

Sarah’s desire to improve her community was fostered at WFS. She reflected on her education and remembers the School encouraging her to think critically about the problems facing our community, and giving her the confidence to take action.  Sarah believes WFS played a huge role in who she is today, and enjoys giving back to the School to help express her gratitude. She once served on the WFS Alumni Board and also spoke on last year’s Homecoming Alumni Panel. She’s impressed the School’s Quaker values have remained at its core and hopes WFS will continue to cultivate “intelligent, caring, innovative, and progressive young thinkers who are willing to and choose to invest their skills and ideas into the City of Wilmington in the future.”