University will honor five graduates with Distinguished Alumni Awards

September 27, 2023
By: Bellalorraine Carey-Hicks

Five Worcester State University graduates will be honored in October with Distinguished Alumni Awards for their excellence in community service, education, professional achievement, and service to the university.

The Friday, Oct. 27 awards ceremony, which is held every other year, will kick off Worcester State’s Homecoming Weekend. The Distinguished Alumni Awards are the university’s highest non-degree recognition for alumni. After a call for nominations, winners are selected by a committee that includes the Alumni Association’s Advisory Board as well as the university’s representative to the board.

“These distinguished alumni are truly Lancer leaders,” said President Barry Maloney. “They have an impact in their communities and professions and have given back to this university in so many ways. The range of their accomplishments reflects the broad impact of a Worcester State degree and also the ethic of service we aim to instill in all of our graduates.”

Here are this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipients:

Celia Johnston Blue ’00
Outstanding Volunteer Service to the Community

A seasoned executive with more than 25 years of leadership experience in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, Johnston Blue collaborated with 12 women of color from across Massachusetts to launch the Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition (MAWOCC) in Worcester, Mass., in 2015. In her current role as president and CEO of MAWOCC, Celia is leading the organization to realize its vision and mission of advocating for the voices of women of color to be heard to address the inequities present in every aspect of their lives. Prior to her current role at MAWOCC, Celia was the interim director of the Rhode Island Department of Human Services, a cabinet-level position, reporting to Governor McKee, providing benefits and services to approximately 300,000 people, one-third of Rhode Island’s population. She holds a bachelor of science from Worcester State University and a master’s in business administration from Anna Maria College and is enrolled in a Ph.D. leadership program at the University of Vermont.

David Cawley ’74
Distinguished Professional Achievement

In 2000, Cawley co-founded The CawleyJohnson Group in Atlanta, and, through his leadership, the company has become a national leader in providing comprehensive behavioral health management and consulting services. It has worked with more than 160 health systems nationwide to include services ranging from crisis intervention to emergency room and home health programs. At Worcester State, Cawley was a four-year starter on the Worcester State football team and tri-captain his senior year and was awarded defensive MVP in 1973. After graduating in 1974 with a degree in psychology, he joined the U.S. Army and was assigned to the Department of Neuropsychiatry at Ireland Army Hospital, Fort Knox, KY, and earned a master’s degree from the University of Louisville and worked in national healthcare management and executive positions for 21 years before launching CawleyJohnson.

George Annan ’21
Outstanding Young Alumnus

Annan is a first-generation Ghanaian-American photographer specializing in editorial and environmental portraits and photojournalism. His work is inspired by the ever changing lives of people, as his creative practice is rooted to the city and the fondest memories of his subjects. As a community leader, he has been awarded the Key to the City of Worcester twice for community-based projects and work during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a photographer, he has worked for media outlets like The Wall Street Journal and Good Morning America as well as ad campaigns for well-known brands like Converse and Puma and has taken part in projects like Dialogues, Diasporas, and Detours Through Africa, a group exhibition on view at the Fitchburg Art Museum through January 2024.

Maryanne Hammond ’69, M.Ed. ’72, M.Ed. ’77
Outstanding Service to Alma Mater

A longtime ambassador and volunteer for Worcester State, Hammond served on the Board of Trustees at Worcester State 2012-2022. She was instrumental in a decade of Board decisions that have shaped the university, from major campus expansion to new policies and strategic objectives. Her contributions have been numerous, from helping to establish a Student Emergency Fund for students to integrating a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in all the Board’s committees and bylaws and helping to lead the university through a pandemic. Her focus in all her endeavors has been what is best for students. A friend and mentor to many students, faculty, and staff, Hammond has supported virtually every kind of program at Worcester State, from athletics to scholarships to student life.

Renah Razzaq ’02, M.Ed. ’09, Ph.D.
Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Education

An accomplished educator, Razzaq became a teacher after her own education was disrupted by an uprising in the occupied territories of the West Bank, Palestine. She moved back to the U.S. and finished her GED in 1996. However, without a high school diploma, Razzaq was not initially accepted to Worcester State. Determined to attend the university, she enrolled at Quinsigamond Community College and earned enough credits to enroll at Worcester State, where she earned her degree in mathematics. Razzaq embraced her career in education at Doherty Memorial High School, where she taught math for 21 years and is now acting assistant principal. In 2010, she began teaching math as an adjunct instructor at Worcester State. In 2023, she earned a Ph.D. in learning science and technology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

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