Wellesley’s annual Alumnae Achievement Awards are presented to Wellesley graduates in recognition of outstanding achievements in their field of work. Three graduates were honored with Alumnae Achievement Awards in 2020: Dr. Joan Wallace-Benjamin ’75, Dr. Darby Dyar ’80, and Kimberly Dozier ’87. While the 2020 awards were unable to include the traditional in-person ceremony, the recipients were celebrated for their achievements in a virtual conversation with President Johnson on Dec. 3.
Dr. Joan Wallace-Benjamin was presented with the Alumnae Achievement Award to honor her extensive career in political activism and nonprofit work. After her graduation from Wellesley in 1975, Wallace-Benjamin embarked on a career spanning over 40 years in nonprofit work primarily focusing on organizations that support women and people of color.
“I have been blessed with a superior education at every level, so I have great skills to offer,” Wallace-Benjamin told Wellesley Magazine.“I always felt like I should be bringing that back into the African American community because it was that community that made it possible for me to be where I am.”
In 1989, Wallace-Benjamin was asked to work as CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts (ULEM). Although the organization was on the brink of collapse before she entered the role, she agreed to take the risky position and grew ULEM into a thriving advocacy group with ample funding and a devoted network of employees. After leaving the organization, Wallace-Benjamin joined the team of Deval Patrick in his first months as Massachusetts’ governor. After being named a Distinguished Bostonian and releasing a book entitled Leading a Life in Balance: Principles of Leadership from the Executive Suite to the Family Table, Wallace-Benjamin continues her work in public service as a Wellesley College trustee. In a recent address to Cambridge College, Benjamin described confidence as one of the most important skills to develop by saying: “All of the leaders I know are confident people. One must be confident to lead – have the attitude that they know what they are doing and can take on and manage new challenges.”
Darby Dyar ’80
Dr. Darby Dyar was recognized with the Alumnae Achievement Award for her extensive work in astronomy and geology, and for her work as an educator and chair of the Mount Holyoke College Astronomy Department. Dr. Darby Dyar may have followed the path of her mother, aunt and grandmother to Wellesley, but her journey towards studying astronomy and geosciences was anything but predictable. Though she entered her first year with her sights set on a major in the humanities, a geology lecture by Professor Margaret Thompson shifted her focus to the sciences. She later went on to earn her Ph.D. in geochemistry in 1985, thereafter joining Mount Holyoke College’s astronomy department. Now, as chair of the department, Dyar said she sees in many of her undergraduate students the challenges she faced as a Wellesley student in selecting one area of study.
“The problem-solving aspects of what we do are really far more important than the specifics of the field,” Dyar said. “Problem-solving is something that is discoverable by people of all different learning styles.”
Dyar credits her liberal arts education for the universal skills she has been able to apply to multiple disciplines. To her, this Alumnae Achievement Award represents a culmination of all the benefits her family has gotten from Wellesley.
“Wellesley has given so much to my family that it was so wonderful to have Wellesley give this [award] to me,” Dyar said.
Kimberly Dozier ’87
Kimberly Dozier was honored with the 2020 Alumnae Achievement Award for her extensive experience in journalism, notably as a correspondent for CBS News and the Associated Press. After spending part of her early life in Iran, Dozier attended Wellesley, where she followed the path of an individual self-designed major in political anthropology. After graduating from Wellesley in 1987, Dozier immediately left Boston for Cairo. While at Wellesley, Dozier said she “got used to seeing women in positions of authority” and “learned that [she] could count on other women.” After her graduation from Wellesley, Dozier’s career flourished. In 2003, after working as the chief correspondent for CBS-New York’s Middle East Bureau,, she was reassigned to Baghdad, Iraq, where she reported for CBS. In 2006, Dozier was critically injured in a car bombing, which took the lives of her crew. When asked about her decision to return to journalism after recovering from this horrifying ordeal, she responded: “the appeal of journalism wasn’t this adrenaline junkie thing. It was the privilege of being in places where history was being made and being able to explain it back to people.”
Though unable to return to Baghdad, Dozier published a book on her experience entitled Breathing the Fire: Fighting to Report — and Survive — the War in Iraq and continued contributing to The Washington Post and Newsweek, among other publications . Now, Dozier often gives media lectures where she shares her wealth of knowledge on journalism and information-gathering. She advises students challenged by so many options for news to regularly turn to resources from large organizations such as the Associated Press or Reuters “to have a non-partisan baseline” before reading sources that exclusively align with the reader’s political bias.