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Five distinguished alumni to be honored with Arents Awards

September 17, 2009

Jaime Winne Alvarez
(315) 443-3784

Five distinguished Syracuse University alumni representing excellence in the areas of civil liberties and women’s rights, international business and law, the performing arts, social activism and literature will be honored with George Arents Awards during the University’s new Orange Central celebration.

Arents Awards are the University’s highest alumni honor. Presented annually to alumni who have made outstanding contributions to their chosen fields, the award is named for George Arents, a successful manufacturer who served on the SU Board of Trustees from 1930 until his death in 1960.

At the Reunion Gala Luncheon on Friday, Oct. 2, Karen L. DeCrow L’72, Samuel V. Goekjian ‘52, Frank A. Langella ‘59, Donald G. McPherson ‘87 and Joyce Carol Oates ‘60, H’00 will receive Arents Awards for their outstanding accomplishments.

The Reunion Gala Luncheon will begin at 11:30 a.m. Reservations are required; contact the Office of Alumni Relations at 1-800-SUALUMS (782-5867) or e-mail for more information.

Karen L. DeCrow L’72

George Arents Award for excellence in advocacy of civil liberties and women’s rights

DeCrow is a nationally recognized attorney, author and advocate specializing in constitutional law, gender and age discrimination, and civil liberties. For 42 years, she has devoted countless hours to writing articles, columns and books on feminist issues and lecturing on reproductive rights. Her law practice primarily uses litigation as a tool for social change. DeCrow’s lifelong activism and dedication to promoting gender equality has had a profound impact on the lives of women and men, both in the United States and abroad.

DeCrow joined the fledgling National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1967, at a time when the organization was pushing for equal pay for equal work─a concept that appealed to her, an overworked, underpaid employee in the publishing industry. In 1969, she decided to pursue a law degree; during her first year as an SU law student she became the first woman to run for mayor of Syracuse, the first woman to run for mayor in New York state and one of only a handful of women running for office anywhere in the country.

From 1974 to 1977, DeCrow guided NOW as its national president. Under her leadership, efforts to advance gender equality included persuading the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to recruit women; persuading the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate sex discrimination complaints; pressuring the three national television networks to include women and minorities in front of and behind the camera; and influencing the male Ivy League schools to admit women.

In 1988, she co-founded World Woman Watch with Robert Seidenberg to urge world leaders not to use religion or culture to mask sex discrimination, and she campaigned tirelessly for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, traveling the country to debate anti-feminist writer Phyllis Schlafly more than 50 times.

DeCrow’s many articles and columns have appeared in such prestigious publications as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune and USA Today. Among her notable books are “The Young Woman’s Guide to Liberation” (Pegasus, 1971), “Sexist Justice” (Random House, 1974) and “Women Who Marry Houses: Panic and Protest and Agoraphobia,” co-authored with Seidenberg, (McGraw-Hill, 1983). According to former New York Times columnist William Safire, DeCrow was the first person on record to use the phrase “politically correct.”

In recognition of her pioneering advocacy for gender equality, DeCrow will enter the ranks of some of the most celebrated women in U.S. history when she is inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in October.

GoekjianSamuel V. Goekjian ’52

George Arents Award for excellence in international business and law

A highly respected lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in international business, Goekjian is currently chairman and CEO of Intracon Associates LLC, a business consulting and venture capital company offering business and financial services to American and foreign clients.

Born in Greece, Goekjian attended school in Ethiopia and Cyprus before coming to SU in 1948, one of few international students then on campus. Active in student government, sports and clubs, he graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with an undergraduate degree in history. Goekjian went on to earn a law degree at Harvard Law School and saw military service during the Korean conflict.

Continuing his interest in international banking, Goekjian joined Surrey & Morse, a Washington, D.C., law firm. Within a few years, he established offices for the firm in Beirut, Riyadh, Paris and London. In 1983, Goekjian became chairman and CEO of Consolidated Westway Group, a holding company for U.S. subsidiaries of an international trading and manufacturing group in Europe. He later served for 15 years as managing partner of Kile, Goekjian, Reed & McManus, a law firm specializing in intellectual property, communication technology and international trade.

A naturalized American citizen who speaks several foreign languages, Goekjian has advised governments and government entities of developing countries on legal and financial aspects of international transactions and economic development activities. He has also served on an array of councils and committees on such matters as U.S.-Egypt business, African law and international development.

Goekjian is a member of the SU Board of Trustees and the longest-serving member of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs’ Advisory Board.

LangellaFrank A. Langella ’59

George Arents Award for excellence in performing arts

Langella is considered among America’s greatest stage and film actors, known for his powerful onstage presence and extreme versatility. His performances range from Strindberg’s drama “The Father” to Noel Coward’s comedy “Present Laughter.” During his long and distinguished career, Langella has won international acclaim with well over two dozen nominations and awards, including Tonys, Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, Cable ACE Awards, Obies and critics’ awards.

Not long after graduating from SU with a degree in theater arts, Langella made his New York stage debut as the lead in an off-Broadway revival of “The Immoralist.” During the next decade, he won three Obie Awards for his work off-Broadway and a Drama Desk Award for “A Cry of Players” by William Gibson. In 1974, he made his Broadway debut in Edward Albee’s “Seascape,” for which he won a Drama Desk Award and the first of three Tony Awards.

Langella made his film debut in 1970 in “Diary of a Mad Housewife” and later the same year co-starred in the iconic Mel Brooks comedy “The Twelve Chairs.” While appearing regularly in films and on television, he continued to be in great demand as a stage actor. In 1977, his outstanding performance as the bloodthirsty count in the Broadway revival of “Dracula” earned Langella his second Tony nomination. He reprised his performance for the film version in 1979.

Continuing to work steadily on Broadway, Langella won a second Tony for “Fortune’s Fool” in 2003 and was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame. In 2007, he won his third Tony for “Frost/Nixon.” That same year, he won an Independent Spirit Award nomination for his starring role in “Starting Out in the Evening” and earned rave reviews for his bravura performance in the 2008 revival of “A Man for All Seasons.”

Langella’s success in film continued with his critically acclaimed portrayal of William S. Paley in 2005’s “Good Night, and Good Luck “and his co-starring role in the summer blockbuster “Superman Returns” in 2006. In 2008, he was honored with a Best Actor Academy Award nomination, as well as Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations, for his portrayal of former President Richard Nixon in the film adaptation of “Frost/Nixon.” Langella is currently set to star in “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps,” a film directed by Oliver Stone.

McPhersonDonald G. McPherson ’87

George Arents Award for excellence in social activism

McPherson is one of the most decorated student-athletes in Syracuse football history. As SU’s star quarterback in 1987, he led the Orange to an 11-0-1 season and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting that year. He holds or shares 11 Syracuse football records, and he claimed MVP honors in the 1987 Sugar Bowl. His many accolades include winning more than 18 national Player of the Year honors during his collegiate career, the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, the Maxwell Player of the Year award and the inaugural Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. He was inducted into the NCAA College Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2008.

After graduating from SU with a degree in psychology, McPherson played for three years in the NFL and four seasons in the Canadian Football League. He went on to become associate director of Athletes Helping Athletes, a program that trains high school student-athletes to talk with their peers and younger students on topics ranging from building self-esteem to preventing violence. Following that, McPherson was director of Athletes in Service to America and associate director of the National Consortium for Academics and Sports at Northeastern University.

McPherson is one of the nation’s leading educators and advocates for the prevention of men’s violence against women. He has conducted workshops and lectures on this topic for more than 200 college campuses, community organizations, and national sports and violence prevention organizations, and facilitated the first NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Conference in 1997. His presentations have reached more than one million people. He also founded the Sports Leadership Institute at Adelphi University, using the power and appeal of sports to provide proactive and positive violence prevention programs.

As a social activist and feminist, McPherson has testified at hearings before the U.S. House of Representatives and worked closely with the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, Lifetime Television and many other organizations focused on violence prevention. He has been honored with numerous humanitarian awards, including the Frederick Douglas Men of Strength Award and Lifetime’s Champions for Change Award, and has been featured on “Nightline” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

McPherson has served on the SU Alumni Association Board of Directors, participated in Syracuse Welcome (giving an anti-violence against women lecture to incoming students), and is honorary co-chair of 2009 Orange Central festivities.

He currently owns Don McPherson Enterprises LLC, a company that offers professional training and coaching to help organizations maximize their potential. McPherson continues to do violence prevention work through speaking and consulting, and serves on the board of the MS Foundation for Women. He is also a principal of G9 Turf Inc., a new synthetic turf company.

OatesJoyce Carol Oates ’60, H’00

George Arents Award for excellence in letters

Oates is one of America’s most prolific and versatile writers. She has written novels, collections of short stories, volumes of poetry, plays, innumerable essays and book reviews, as well as nonfiction works on literary subjects ranging from the poetry of Emily Dickinson and the fiction of Dostoyevsky to studies of the gothic and horror genres. She also has written on such diverse subjects as the painter George Bellows and the boxer Mike Tyson.

Growing up on a farm in upstate New York, Oates displayed a precocious interest in books and writing. When she was only 19, she won a college short story contest sponsored by Mademoiselle. Oates attended Syracuse University on scholarship, graduating in 1960 as class valedictorian with a degree in English. Following graduate school, she taught at the University of Detroit, where she witnessed the social turmoil engulfing America’s cities in the 1960s. These violent realities influenced much of her early fiction, including her first novel, “With Shuddering Fall” (Vanguard, 1964), which was published when she was just 28.

In the following decade, Oates published new books at the extraordinary rate of two or three per year while teaching full time at the University of Windsor. In the early 1980s, she surprised critics and readers with a series of novels, beginning with “Bellefleur” (Penguin, 1980), in which she reinvented the conventions of Gothic fiction, reimagining stretches of American history. Just as suddenly, she returned to her realistic style with a series of ambitious family chronicles, including “You Must Remember This” (Dutton Adult, 1987), which creates a fictional world that mirrors the ambiguity and real world experience of our time.

Oates’ work has earned many awards, including the PEN/Malamud Award for “a lifetime of literary achievement,” the 2004 Fairfax Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Literary Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the O. Henry Prize for Continued Achievement in the Short Story, to name a few. In 1999, she was nominated for the Nobel Prize for the third time. Her novel “Them” (Vanguard, 1969) received the National Book Award.

Today, Oates continues to live and write in Princeton, N.J., where she is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University. Her newest work, “Dear Husband” (Ecco, 2009), is described as “a gripping and moving new collection of stories … which reimagines the meaning of family–by unexpected, often startling means.”

For more information on Orange Central and an up-to-the-minute schedule of events and activities, visit For questions, contact the Office of Alumni Relations at 1-800-SUALUMS (782-5867) or e-mail

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