A Look Back at the Alumnus of the Year Award
With the recent announcement of the 2017 Alumnus of the Year, we took a look back at the interesting history of the award—and how the recipients are giving back to the communities around them.
History of the Award
Milton Hershey School’s Alumnus of the Year Award began in 1954. Throughout school history, individuals are honored with the award for three significant reasons:
- They have demonstrated humanitarianism and exemplary service to others.
- They have achieved distinguished service in their careers.
- They have demonstrated high standards of achievement—both personally and professionally.
Various MHS staff members and representatives from the MHS Alumni Association form a committee each year and review Alumnus of the Year nominations.
The Alumnus of the Year serves as a role model for MHS students and an example of what it means to reach success. Many alumnus have used their designation as an opportunity to help students apply to college, interview for jobs, or succeed their senior year. The individuals who have received this award exemplify the outstanding achievements of the school’s graduates and represent the characteristics of an MHS Spartan.
63 Award Winners Impacting History
A total of 63 MHS graduates have received the honor of Alumnus of the Year, and each of them have impacted the history of the school. Take a look back at five successful Alumnus of the Year who have made their mark on the MHS community and the world at large:
- Arthur R. Whiteman ’27—In 1954, Whiteman received the first-ever Alumnus of the Year award. While he was a student in the 1920s, he was personally selected by Milton Hershey to work as an apprentice clerk in the Hershey Trust Company. In 1939, he became the first alumnus to serve on the Board of Managers. Whiteman’s legacy continues to live on through the new Arthur R. Whitman ’27 Center on the school’s Legacy Campus.
- Dr. Mary Pentel ’86—In 2009, Dr. Pentel was the first female to earn the honor of Alumnus of the Year. She is the owner of Southside Dermatology in Florida and is passionate about teaching children about skin cancer and sun protection.
- Captain Kimberly Elenberg ’88—Captain Elenberg received the 2012 Alumnus of the Year Award for her work in a wide range of fields. A doctor of nursing practice, an informaticist, public health administrator, educator, and a leader of national prevention strategies, Elenberg works with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Office of the Chief Medical Officer as the deputy director for population health, medical management, and patient-centered medical home. She frequently speaks at MHS Career Days and mentors young students. She says “MHS helped me learned to believe in myself.”
- Jason Wolfe ’87—In 2014, Wolfe was named Alumnus of the Year. Having suffered a severe accident and recovering from spinal fusion, Wolfe taught himself computer programming and used his new skill to create the first online coupon site in 1995 when the commercial Internet was in its infancy. Since then, he has continued to build, sell and re-build companies, and volunteers his time to advise young chief executives.
- J. Anthony Graves ’87—Dr. Graves was recognized as the 2015 Alumnus of the Year for his contribution to pediatric cancer research. Graves currently has his own research laboratory at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where he focuses on studying mitochondrial physiology in pediatric cancers.
2017 Alumnus of the Year
Col. Eric Welsh ‘84 has been named the 2017 Alumnus of the Year—he is the 63rd graduate to receive this honor. Welsh was recognized for his global humanitarian efforts, 28-year military career and selfless service to homeless veterans.
“I believe Milton Hershey School saved my life,” said Welsh. “The school faculty and senior leaders taught me everything necessary to be successful in life and I always will endeavor to be worthy of their investment in me.”
He enrolled at MHS when he was 9 years old, and after graduation, Welsh attended Kent State University in Ohio. He majored in political science while earning the designation of distinguished military graduate.
He spent 28 years with the U.S. Army and served in several high-level, active-duty leadership roles all over the globe, as well as a key advisory position at the Pentagon. A decorated soldier, Welsh’s military awards include three Bronze Stars, one with valor, a Purple Heart and Legion of Merit, among other honors.
After retiring from the military, Welsh began his career as global operations director for Coca-Cola’s EKOCENTERTM project. Through EKOCENTER, a modular community market, Welsh has helped thousands of people in Africa and Asia gain access to basic goods and services. He’s also the founder of Almost Home Foundation, Inc.
Milt Memories History Blog
MHS Department of School History works hard to preserve the Hersheys’ values and students’ cherished memories through articles, photos, interviews and artifacts. Follow along with our monthly blog series focused entirely on the fascinating school history and inspiring work of our founders.