The Haddonfield Alumni Society recognized its 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award recipients at an annual ceremony on Nov. 27.
The seven recipients included Nancy Kirby from the class of ’56, Dyann Waugh from the class of ’64, James Smith from the class of ’80, Jack O’Malley from the class of ’81, Ari Palitz from the class of ’92, Nancy Motolese and Ron Smith.
“We looked for alums who had been able to excel in their field, usually taking on some role as leaders in their field or innovators in their field,” society president Joe Serico said. “We also look for people who make a significant contribution to their profession, and then we also look for people who make a significant contribution to their community.”
The society accepts nominations for lifetime awards recipients until September. This year, two of the honorees – Waugh and Kirby – were located through the organization’s Preserve Black Haddonfield initiative. The former called honoring two African Americans historic and shared memories of her childhood in Haddonfield, in particular a choir director who gave her the confidence to sing.
“I really appreciated that courage,” Waugh recalled. “Just to know how a teacher can encourage you to be more than you realize you can be, to develop skills you didn’t know that you had. That was a very important time for me.”
Waugh’s career started when she had joined the Peace Corps and met severely malnourished children in Kenya. That led her to study nutrition, medicine and occupational health and inspired work on national challenges. She earned the national Vice President’s Award in 2001, thanks to her help in shutting down, cleaning up and reopening the Washington, D.C., post office after the 2001 anthrax scare.
The society award recognizes both career achievements and community service. The news that he had received the lifetime honor came as a surprise to O’Malley, who didn’t see his contributions as extraordinary. In reality, he has been heavily involved in Haddonfield, from coaching all kinds of youth sports to sitting on a number of boards and committees, including as president of the Haddonfield Foundation and as a member of the borough civic association.
“One of the most touching things (Joe Serico) said (when introducing me) was, ‘Every town has somebody (that), when you say the town’s name, there’s one or two people you automatically associate with it, and Jack O’Malley is that guy for Haddonfield,'” O’Malley recalled.
“It was very touching,” he added. “You do a lot of things over the years, you take it for granted and you kind of just grind along.”
O’Malley also acknowledged during his acceptance speech that while he has given back to the borough, he has received much more in return, including countless friends made over the years.
Other alumni society honorees are Smith, an environmental science and biology teacher who has been named Camden County Teacher of the Year and was recognized for his work training both students and teachers for field studies; and Palitz, who studied at the (actor) Robert De Niro School of Film and moved up the ladder from production assistant to independent filmmaker, making music videos and documentaries with virtual realty storytelling.
Honoree Kirby was part of an organized sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in North Carolina during the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s. She has a background in psychology, sociology and social science that led her to become the first African American offered tenure at Beaver College (now Arcadia University), where she worked in the department of sociology.
Kirby also has been actively involved in advocacy and social justice issues, serving as a board member for nonprofits that included Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania and as a trustee for the Inglis House, “that enables people with disabilities and their caregivers to live life to the fullest,” according to the award event program.
Motolese was also recognized as a Haddonfield Memorial High School Spanish teacher who taught at all levels for 36 years. She created curriculum maps; mentored student teachers; brought students to Spain and Costa Rica for home stays; and was a cheerleading coach, Spanish club advisor and founder of a bilingual exchange with two Camden schools.
“She would do anything to make the school better, teaching everything from grade school to AP Spanish, taking on additional classes in an emergency situation and generously staying after school to tutor struggling students,” noted John Duffy, Motolese’s colleague of more than three decades.
Smith was recognized for athletic achievements at Haddonfield Memorial, where broke nearly every distance record in track and cross country, including a memorable Meet of Champions victory in 1979. He also competed in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field trials in 1983 and was named to the South Jersey Field Hall of Fame. Professionally, Smith has been recognized for his work in Decision Science at Dartmouth College.
During his remarks, he acknowledged the many people who had helped him along the way.
“That was perhaps the greatest gift that the village of Haddonfield – friends, teammates, and teachers and coaches – gave me: That is showing me that hard work could be fun,” Smith related.
To nominate someone for the 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award, visit https://hmhsalumni.org/.