This year’s three outstanding North Central College alumni may have seemed unlikely award winners when they first came to campus as freshmen. One was a high school dropout and two came to run and be part of championship cross country and track and field teams.
Not so many years later, each one has achieved great success in their professional careers. Each is a testament to the lifelong value of a liberal arts education.
Rachel Louise Snyder ’92 is a writer, university professor and radio commentator. Joseph Mallon ’80, J.D., C.P.A., a retired corporate tax attorney, is launching a second career and studying Chinese medicine. Nathan Montgomery ’00, M.D., Ph.D., is a hematopathology fellow at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
Snyder (left) didn’t finish high school but went on to earn a B.A. in English from North Central, an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College and is now an assistant professor in the M.F.A. creative writing program at American University. A published author of two books, her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Salon, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, New Republic and more. She has hosted the nationally syndicated global affairs series “Latitudes” on public radio, and her stories have aired on NPR’s “Marketplace” and “All Things Considered.”
As a teenager, Snyder had a chance meeting with Rick Spencer, now vice president for institutional advancement. “Something about that meeting with him changed everything for me. He took a huge chance on me. A lot of people I meet don’t get that chance. My gratitude is boundless.” She’s been a strong supporter of her alma mater, sponsoring a student scholarship and returning to campus to speak in classrooms and give talks.
Mallon (right) credits one man, head cross country coach Al Carius, as the “single biggest reason I went to North Central College and he’s probably been the biggest influence on my life. He is nothing but positive and stresses team, team, team all the time.”
As a corporate tax attorney at Deloitte & Touche, Mallon says, “When I think about my days and career there, almost all of them involved leading teams or helping others lead their teams. I learned those things from Al.” Mallon majored in accounting and political science and found time to run, too. His 1979 cross country team won its fourth National Championship and he earned All-American status in track and field.
A member of North Central’s Board of Trustees since 2005, he chairs the audit committee and serves on the executive and academic affairs committees. “I saw all the alumni who were so dedicated to us when I was a student, so I saw this (serving as a Trustee) as a way to give back,” Mallon says.
Montgomery (left) admits his interest in running drew him to North Central, but the opportunities in the sciences set the course for his future. “It was in Steve Johnston’s biology lab that I initially became interested in genetics and ultimately led me to UNC’s Ph.D. program in genetics. That led me into the molecular aspects of pathology and what I do today.” He works in a laboratory at the UNC School of Medicine to diagnose patients with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma and researches similar diseases among HIV patients in Africa.
One of the top doctoral students in genetics and molecular biology in the country, Montgomery was awarded two prestigious fellowships for further graduate study—a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Award and a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. He chose the Hughes award and went on to earn an additional fellowship and awards at UNC.
When Montgomery returns to campus to speak with students, he likely recalls his freshman biology class taught by Professor of Chemistry Nancy Peterson. “To my good fortune she taught it as a cell biology course through the prism of cancer biology, which interestingly enough is what I do now almost 20 years later.”
Snyder and Mallon were honored with Outstanding Alumni Awards and Montgomery with the Alumni Recognition Award at North Central’s 2015 Homecoming Reunion Celebration on Oct. 24.
Also honored was Rev. Toshio Ota ’50 (1911-1988), named to the Wall of Witness, which recognizes alumni of the College and/or Evangelical Theological Seminary for their lives of witness to their faith and service to humanity. (Photo, right)