2020 Alumni Award Honorees

Outstanding Alumni Award

Bellini, sister_jean min_.jpgJean Bellini ’65 

Jean grew up on a duck farm in Long Island, graduated from Nazareth College in 1965, and first became a science teacher.

She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1966 and continued to teach science, including biology, for eight years in all.

She worked as a campus minister at Ithaca College in the 1970s, and then, at the age of 33, went to Brazil, where she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph mission in the state of Goias (pronounced GOY-us). She ministered as a pastoral agent in two neighboring towns for 6 years, regularly visiting rural communities. She helped workers organize: Laundry women created an association and achieved recognition of basic workers’ rights, and farm workers organized a union and came to know their basic rights.

In 1983, she moved to the northeast region of the neighboring state of Mato Grosso, on the southern border of the Amazon region, and worked as a pastoral agent for 22 years, in 7 different places. Along with visiting rural communities and preparing for the sacraments and liturgies, Jean had continued contact with squatters who faced violence and intimidation by absentee landowners and land grabbers. There too, she helped organize farm workers’ unions.  

Since 1981, she has participated in the Pastoral Land Commission — a progressive effort of the Brazilian Catholic Church to offer legal services, encourage unions, and denounce violence against rural poor people. For the first 28 years, she worked at the grassroots level, then worked in the National Secretariat of the Pastoral Land Commission, as part of the documentation team, and then as a member of the National Executive Team — an elected office — for 6 years. In a story in the New Yorker magazine in 2020, she said she believes that God gives everyone a vocation, and that hers is to help others help themselves. Progress is not linear, and not always clear to see, she told the magazine, but by joining together, people can create a more just and equal world.

Outstanding Alumna Award

Childs, Paula (3).jpgPaula S. Childs, Ph.D. '70

After Paula graduated from Nazareth in 1970 with a B.S. in chemistry, she earned a doctoral degree in chemistry from Tufts University in 1974. To continue her education, she completed two years of postdoctoral studies in clinical chemistry at the Medical College of Virginia (now VCU Health Systems). These educational studies led to a few years in hospital-based clinical chemistry research and administration. 

Then came what a “cosmic career shift” into forensic toxicology at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in Atlanta, GA. Picture the forensic case files, DNA evidence, and mass spectrometry that you see on NCIS, CSI, and Forensic Files. 

Her career focused on clinical and forensic toxicology for more than 30 years – understanding the impact of drugs in the workplace, medication monitoring programs, and drug abuse prevention and recovery programs. Paula’s experience provided insights into laboratory programs of excellence for these areas.

“Retirement” finds her in Raleigh, NC, where she has lived and worked for 30+ years. In 2018, Paula completed the Wake Tech certificate program for teaching English as a Second Language to adults. She conducts online conversation labs for English language learners, and assists students wishing to complete their high school credentials. 

In early 2000, Paula and her husband started funding “Summer Visions” at Nazareth — a summer research program with financial support for undergrad chemistry students. This program has served both students and faculty with new insights. In the past few years, students have been connected with Nazareth graduate Jason Somarelli, Ph.D., at Duke University in Durham, NC, to do research. Paula said, “What a pleasure it has been for my husband and I to meet the research students and see their presentations, either “live” or through Zoom!”

What a great way to fuel change in science and in the lives of students!

Outstanding Alumni Award

Hilderbrant, Chris (1).jpgChris Hilderbrant ’99 has spent his career working for diversity, equity, and civic engagement.

After experiencing a spinal cord injury at age 14, he has focused on ensuring that people with disabilities are able to live as fully productive members of our society, with equal opportunity for success. He began his career at the Center for Disability Rights during his final semester at Nazareth College. He started part-time, working directly with people with developmental disabilities or traumatic brain injuries. Ultimately in his time at the Center for Disability Rights, Chris was privileged to lead systems advocacy efforts to enhance compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and to improve access and integration for people with disabilities in the Greater Rochester area, across New York State, and the nation. Chris played a significant role in the inclusion of $5 billion for community-based support services in the Accountable Care Act.

Chris served as chief operating officer at the Center for Disability Rights and later Common Ground Health. He is currently the executive director of the Rochester Spinal Association, heads his own consulting business, and is on the adjunct faculty at Monroe Community College.

Chris has volunteered in many organizations, enhancing his experience and understanding of others while using his skills and connections to advance civil rights for others. Chris served on the board of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley and the advisory committee of We the Deaf People. He was an active accomplice during the Black Lives Matters protests in Rochester throughout 2020. Chris ran for office in 2005 — and is thankful he lost — and has facilitated voter registration and education efforts. He regularly returns to campus to provide guest lectures to classes. He is equally comfortable working for equity on the streets and in the boardroom.

When not engaged in these passions, Chris enjoys playing wheelchair rugby — where the team welcomes Nazareth physical therapy students as volunteers — and spending time with his wife and children. Chris and his family live in Brighton, N.Y., just a few minutes from the Nazareth campus!

Outstanding Alumni Award

SevierBuckingham, Anne.jpgAnne Sevier-Buckingham ‘63, who passed away unexpectedly in 2019, had a distinguished career in the telecommunications industry and volunteered on multiple boards to benefit the community — including 20 years on Nazareth’s board of trustees.

Anne was a native of Auburn, New York, and worked for 30 years at Frontier Corporation and its forerunner, Rochester Telephone Corporation, as district manager, operations director, and in other managerial positions. 

In addition to being a lifelong supporter of Nazareth College, Anne volunteered on community boards and project committees such as the American Red Cross, National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) Foundation, Lifespan, Frontier Pioneer Life Member Board (receiving its Lifetime Achievement Award), and 20 years on the Women’s Council of RIT.

Anne enjoyed life and her many friends, and she could have an engaging conversation with anyone. She was always up for an adventure and traveled to many countries. She was unrivaled at trivia and took delight in her daily crossword puzzle and innumerable books. She is  missed and will not be forgotten.


Sweet_Kelsey (1).jpgKelsey Sweet ‘15 graduated from Nazareth College with a degree in communications and rhetoric, and began her career as special events coordinator for the Naturals, a minor league baseball team in northwest Arkansas. 

She returned to her hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., in 2016 to work for the Buffalo Bisons. She now works at Pegula Sports and Entertainment as a senior social media editor, contributing to the content and strategy on the social media channels for the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres, and Buffalo Bandits. She specializes in YouTube, TikTok, and influencer strategy.

Kelsey has served on Nazareth’s Alumni Advisory Board since 2016. She remains enthusiastically connected to the college by mentoring students, staying in touch with fellow classmates, and engaging and connecting with alumni of the college. Kelsey also is active in giving back to the Buffalo community through Buffalo Prep, the Salvation Army, and the United Way.

 2021 Alumni Awarde Honorees

Outstanding Alumni Award

Dimke, Sandy (1).jpgSandy Chmielinski Dimke ’70 values her Nazareth education for her broad liberal arts background, which made her passionate about giving back to the community. After earning her B.A. in history from Nazareth, Sandy continued on to SUNY Albany, where she received her M.B.A. with a concentration in marketing — and met her husband Russ. They will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in May 2022.

Sandy opened an advertising agency in Connecticut, which blossomed into a six-person firm that specialized in marketing luxury homes. She turned her love of photography into a second career as a professional architectural photographer.  

Russ and Sandy’s move to Beaufort, South Carolina, in 2001 was a life-changing event in their early 50s. They chose Beaufort as a small town where they felt they could make a difference. She uses her gift of bringing people together for important causes and leads fundraisers for many local non-profit organizations, all while serving for 15 years as the chairperson of her community’s architectural review board. She also serves actively on the boards of several art, photography, and history boards in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina. She is active in the Women with a Purpose ministry at her Catholic church in Beaufort.  

For the past 5 years, one of her main goals has been to promote photography as a fine art. Sandy’s photography has won awards nationally and internationally, and she was a guest exhibitor at the Photography Society of America convention in Spokane, Washington, in 2019. She is the 1st Vice Chair of the Print Division of that national organization. In 2019, she also was juried into the National Association of Women Artists and serves on its South Carolina board. Sandy is the author of two photography books and her photos can be found in numerous books and magazines. She teaches photography and art both in-person and through Zoom presentations.

Sandy has been instrumental in keeping the Class of 1970 together by introducing quarterly Zooms for the past 2 years, as their  50th class reunion was being organized. COVID-19 struck a blow and the reunion was postponed until May 2021 then postponed to September 2021. Using Zoom and social media, she re-introduced classmates to each other and friendships continued or developed over their mutual love of Nazareth. She encouraged the alumni office to attend the Zooms to promote fundraising to her class. Two years ago, she contacted her fellow classmates to learn who had made a career as a fine artist (whether or not they graduated with a degree in art). Sandy curated an exhibit of their art, which will be shown digitally at their reunion luncheon and available online.  

Sandy embodies Nazareth’s commitment to a life guided by intellectual, ethical, spiritual, and aesthetic values. She used her education to pursue a meaningful career and continually tries to inspire others to volunteer their service to their communities.

Outstanding Alumni Award

Groot, Matthew.jpegMatthew Groot ‘06

While in college, Matt Groot was a 4-year member of the Nazareth College men’s basketball team, appearing in 99 career games. Twice during his basketball career, he earned the team’s “hustle, heart, and harmony” award, and he served as a co-captain his senior year. Matt majored in history while getting his quad inclusive education certification. 

Matt started his teaching career as a special education teacher at Newark High School, where he has worked for 15 years and continues to teach. Matt has also coached many Newark sports teams, including junior varsity football, varsity basketball (as an assistant coach), modified basketball, and for 14 years, he was the head varsity lacrosse coach. Matt also brought the Unified Sports program to Newark in 2016 and has coached them and partnered with Special Olympics. Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. Through Matt's involvement with unified basketball and unified bowling, Newark was honored as a National Unified Champion Banner School in 2020, recognizing the commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 standards of excellence.

Matt has helped the Newark unified team partner with the Nazareth College men’s basketball team. Players and coaches from Nazareth have gone to Newark to collaborate on a clinic. The Newark unified athletes have also visited Nazareth College on multiple occasions, learning from, interacting, and socializing with the current college students. During the pandemic, the Nazareth men’s basketball team sent handwritten letters to each of the Newark unified athletes, helping to bring joy and further develop the social relationship between Nazareth College student athletes and Newark unified athletes. Newark unified athletes also attended the Special Olympics opening ceremonies at the Golisano Training Center. Matt says he is proud and excited by the recognition and commitment from Nazareth College to aid in the inclusion revolution and keep the unified movement growing.

Matt continues to support Nazareth athletics, specifically basketball, and shows his pride in the Golden Flyers whenever he can!

Outstanding Alumni Award

McGwin, Mike (1).jpgMike McGwin ‘93, ‘00G

Mike McGwin is so devoted to Nazareth College that he came as an undergraduate student in 1989 — and stayed.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1993, he became a Nazareth admissions counselor — helping more students get a Nazareth education. He earned his master’s in management from Nazareth in 2000 and since then was promoted four times, to his current role as assistant vice president for enrollment strategy and operations.

“The best part of my job is being able to share with prospective students and their families the pure joy from the experiences I have had as a student, alum, parent, and employee,” he says. “The opportunities that Nazareth gives to students is incredible. Also, it has been amazing seeing fellow alums come back and tour the campus with their children and then seeing the next generation of Naz friendships being built, similar to the ones I had.” 

That’s true in his own family. As Mike puts it: “The past four years have been awesome seeing my daughter carry on a legacy, studying history and education at Naz  — just like her mom and her grandmother. Also I’m enjoying a legacy of friendships with children of fellow alums that I went to school with. Nazareth continues to foster an environment for students to build transformative experiences. I am proud to share this with prospective students and families.”


Gold Alumni Award

Remollata, Norlene.jpgNorlene Jayme Remollata '15 develops and creates innovative programs with local collaborators, providing opportunities for the Rochester community.

After earning a marketing degree from Nazareth, Norlene ventured into several career opportunities. "My career has been everything but linear, and I wouldn't have it any other way! I'm not afraid to change the terrain and my landscape. I'll write the chapters as I walk the path," she says.  

Working at Nielsen, a Fortune 500 market research firm, she had a revelation that she could do more for her community. She then made a career change to concentrate on nonprofits and arts and cultural organizations. Her first exposure to the field was working at Garth Fagan Dance in Rochester, NY, where she spearheaded performances, events, marketing and branding. While overseeing the Garth Fagan Dance School, Norlene created the after-school program Dance2b, where Garth Fagan performers provide free dance classes in the Fagan technique to Rochester City School District students. The program gives students a creative and safe environment, plus enrichment classes such as yoga and nutrition. The program started with first-graders and second-graders and has expanded to middle school grades. Norlene continues to do collaborative work with organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, Center for Youth, and Urban Charter School.

Norlene continued her education at the University of Maryland, University of Michigan, Northeastern University, and the University of Virginia. She earned  certifications in business, community engagement, social impact, and arts and cultural management. Recently, she has earned certifications from Bocconi University in Food & Beverage Management and The Science of Gastronomy from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Beyond the office, her passion lies in cooking. Her blog Lola Jayme focuses on Filipino culture and cuisines and seeks to “uncover the islands of the Philippines one recipe at a time.” She is using her voice and art to amplify change for the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community.

GOLD Alumni Award

Wilkinson, Melissa.jpegMelissa Wilkinson ’17 has distinguished herself as a young professional while upholding the core values of Nazareth College.

After graduating from Nazareth College, Melissa began graduate school at Rutgers University in the M.S./Ph.D. joint graduate program in toxicology. She researches a novel drug that has therapeutic potential in acute lung injury and interstitial lung diseases. Melissa has published her research in multiple peer-reviewed journals and has been honored for her research efforts at both regional and national research conferences. She also was awarded the Bristol Myers Squibb Fellowship, which has funded her Ph.D. studies. In addition, Melissa has been involved as a leader in her graduate program, serving as vice president and president of the Rutgers Association of Toxicology Students for consecutive terms. She also has served as the program director for the Rutgers Toxicology, Health, and Environmental Disease High School Summer Program, which allows students to gain exposure to science and research experiences.

Outside of her graduate program, Melissa strives to use her scientific knowledge to enact positive change in our society. She was selected as a Washington Fellow through the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, where she received the opportunity to learn more about the intersection of advocacy, science, and policy. She also served as an Eagleton Institute of Politics Graduate Fellow where she furthered her policy knowledge and had the opportunity to do science policy research at the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services. 

She hopes to continue to act as a bridge between scientists and policymakers after receiving her Ph.D. in October 2021. 



Each year, Nazareth College honors some of the best ever to don the purple and gold. More than 100 alumni, coaches, and administrators, along with three national championship teams, have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

View the announcement with the 2021 Sports Hall of Fame Inductees