Spring 2020 Issue

Exemplary Alumni

Douglas N. Morton ’62 Alumni Service Awards

By Claire De Lisle
Photos By Alfred Herczeg

Named after alumnus Doug Morton for his distinguished volunteer leadership at the university, these awards are given annually to recognize individuals for their exceptional service to the Alumni Association and the university through their efforts to connect and engage alumni. The Staff Service Award recognizes a staff or faculty member who represents the university with distinction and demonstrates outstanding service and support to the Alumni Association.

In this issue, we profile two of the five Alumni Service Award winners and the Staff Service Award recipient. Read the profiles of previously featured winners.

Jessica F. Chilin-Hernández ’12
Young Alumni Service Award

Jessica Chilin-Hernandez

When Chilin-Hernández graduated from William & Mary in 2012, she had a vision for engaging LatinX alumni and students with each other and with William & Mary on campus and worldwide. That vision has become a reality through her leadership of the LatinX affinity group, which hosts events and provides opportunities for alumni who identify as LatinX, Latino, Latina, Hispanic, Chicano, Latin-American and Afro-LatinX to strengthen their community at William & Mary. She has established partnerships with student organizations and supports student and alumni initiatives with her time, talent and treasure, serving as a mentor, a donor and an advocate for scholarships. She was a class reporter for the W&M Alumni Magazine for several years and serves as a class ambassador and a member of the Admission Volunteer Network, using the power of peer-to-peer outreach to connect alumni and prospective students to the university she loves. Through all her efforts, she ensures all feel included and that their voices are heard.

“Diversity is excellence, and in order to nurture and support diversity, we need to have strong networks that go beyond the on-campus community — to ensure that our students, the moment they become alumni, not only excel but thrive wherever they take their William & Mary degree,” says Chilin-Hernández.

Benjamin M. DeMaria ’05
Alumni Service Award

Ben DeMaria

As immediate past president of the D.C. Metro alumni chapter, DeMaria’s enthusiasm, creativity and dedication shone through in the breadth of events he spearheaded. From the annual Evening at the Embassy, to William & Mary Night at Nationals Park, to book clubs in local restaurants, to a Harry Potter-themed tour of an historic apothecary, DeMaria made sure all alumni could find a way to be engaged. In his 14 years since graduation, he’s attended more than 110 Alumni Association events, going out of his way to make others feel included and welcome. He also serves as a class ambassador and a For the Bold campaign committee member, providing support for future generations of students and alumni and encouraging others to do the same. He put in the hard work to make the chapter run smoothly and created strong bonds with alumni that will last a lifetime.

“I love seeing how much our volunteer work helps all our alumni professionally and personally. I get a real sense of gratification from people who say ‘I got my job because of one of your events,’ ‘I reconnected with someone from my freshman hall’ or even ‘I met my partner at a W&M event.’ The Alumni Association has a huge positive impact on people’s lives, and I am proud to help make that happen,” says DeMaria.

Sara Bon-Harper
Staff Service Award

Sara Bon-Harper

Bon-Harper is the executive director of James Monroe’s Highland in Albemarle County, Virginia. Highland was the home of James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States, and is now part of William & Mary.

Bon-Harper’s scholarship and vision are opening doors to research opportunities and fulfilling the possibilities presented by this significant historic site. As an archaeologist, Bon-Harper’s research was instrumental in uncovering the original site of Monroe’s house, broadening awareness of this important William & Mary alumnus and increasing the understanding of Highland. She is dedicated to furthering relationships with the descendants of Highland’s enslaved men and women. Under her leadership, this fall W&M received a $1 million grant from the Mellon Foundation for community-led research into the legacies of slavery.

Bon-Harper has been an enthusiastic partner to the Charlottesville-Highlands alumni chapter, helping host their signature Yule Log event each year. She also worked with members of the chapter to restore and maintain eight miles of walking trails at Highland, which are now open to the public. In September 2019, she helped to assemble an alumni weekend in Charlottesville around the W&M-UVA football game, including a behind-the-scenes tour of Highland.

“My work at Highland gives me the opportunity to explore the past while looking toward the future,” says Bon-Harper. “We are embarking on work that’s embedded in William & Mary’s core mission — integrating research, teaching, and learning. The Mellon grant also speaks to the integration of academic and public components as we engage the community.”