Alumni Humanitarian Award

The Alumni Humanitarian Award, established in 2001, is bestowed upon alumni of the University of Illinois by the Alumni Association on behalf of the University. The award is presented to alumni who, through their outstanding professional contributions and/or volunteer leadership, have significantly improved or enriched the lives of others and the welfare of humanity, on a national or international scale.

2015 Recipient

Molly Jane Melching Molly Jane Melching ’71 LAS, MA ’79 LAS , is honored for her work in empowering communities in Senegal, and elsewhere, to develop literacy and skills training programs, reduce infant and maternal mortality rates, increase school and birth registrations, and foster human rights and female leadership. After participating in the first University of Illinois–University of Dakar graduate exchange program in 1974, she concluded that many development efforts were not addressing the true needs of African communities. Together with local villagers, Melching developed a new type of learning program involving adults and adolescents by using African languages and their traditional methods of learning. This effort became the impetus for her 1991 founding of Tostan (“breakthrough” in the Wolof language), an organization that has engaged hundreds of thousands of people via an innovative grass-roots education model called the Community Empowerment Program. Melching’s work has garnered international acclaim for its positive social transformation, including the abandonment of female genital mutilation and child/forced marriage in more than 7,000 communities in eight African countries. She received a bachelor’s degree in 1971 and master’s degree in French in 1979 from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Previous Recipients

2014
Lynn Schreiber Price ’77 MEDIA

2013
Christie Gilson MSW ’01, PHD ’08 ed

2012
A. Mark Neuman ’85 las

2011
Ann Cody ’86 faa, ms ’92 ahs

2010
Dennis Warner
’63 eng, ’63 las, ms ’66 eng

2009
Ron Miller
’54 LAW, LLB ’55 LAW

2008
Betty Burch Mohlenbrock
’62 ED, EDM ’64

2007
Kenneth Braid ’74 AHS
Colleen Malany Braid ’74 AHS

2006
Eugene Hamilton ’55 LAS, JD ’59 LAW

2005
Susan Nagele '78 LAS

2003
Penny Panayiota Deligiannis '87 MEDIA, MS '92 MEDIA