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Nazareth Presents 2017 Outstanding Alumni Awards

Published September 26, 2017

For more than 30 years, Nazareth College has been recognizing the outstanding achievements of its graduates with the Outstanding Alumni Award. Each year, the Alumni Board selects individuals who truly exemplify the character of Nazareth graduates with dedication to their communities, professions, and personal achievements. These award recipients serve as role models for Nazareth students, encourage others to consider a Nazareth education, and further inspire a sense of Nazareth pride in their fellow graduates.

Outstanding Alumni Award 2017 Recipients:

Deirdre McKiernan Hetzler ‘61 exemplifies the best attributes of a Nazareth graduate: intellectual curiosity, continual education, and service to others. After graduating from Nazareth with a degree in history, Hetzler spent several decades raising her family and working as a partner for a family realty business. In 1990, she went back to school and earned a master’s in pastoral ministry from St. Bernard’s Institute, launching a second career in parish and campus ministry and supporting students at colleges throughout the Rochester area.

Perhaps most notable is her work with the Irish American Cultural Institute, for which she currently serves as a national board member and through which she has led numerous tours of Ireland and helped others to understand and participate in the Irish culture. In 2013, she authored Irish America Reawakening: The Eoin McKiernan Story.

Joan Mascaro Caruso ‘67, an English teacher at Fredonia High School for 33 years, inspired both students and colleagues with her creativity and humor in the classroom. Earning her master’s in English from SUNY Fredonia, she served as her high school’s department chair, helping guide a K-12 language arts curriculum coordination.

Caruso has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the values fostered by Nazareth College through her commitment to the arts, her involvement in literary events and organizations, and her civic commitment to her local community.

Janet Trzcinski Vasak ‘67, the first in her family to attend college, graduated from Nazareth, and then earned her master’s and doctorate from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, all in mathematics. Now retired, she served most recently as senior vice president at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), where she oversaw the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mission Oriented Systems Engineering Support (MOSES) program, for which she and her team received several technical and managerial awards. In 1999, she was recognized as Minority Small Business Advocate of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration for the Washington metropolitan area.

She has served as a member of the United States Naval Academy Parents’ Club, the Army Science Board, and the American Mathematical Society. She has also been a loyal Nazareth alumna and volunteer for many years, serving on the board of trustees, her 50th Reunion planning committee, and as an active member of the D.C. Alumni Chapter.

Gold Alumni Award: This award recognizes the achievements of an alumna/us who, having graduated within the past 10 years, has distinguished him or herself in the community or workplace while adhering to the values fostered by the Nazareth College experience.


2017 Recipient: Kaitlin Legg ‘10 graduated from Nazareth with a major in communication and rhetoric and a minor in women and gender studies, then went on to earn her master’s in higher education administration and a certificate in nonprofit leadership from the University of North Florida (UNF). She is currently the director for the LGBT Resource Center at UNF, where she implements policies, education, and best practices for LGBT inclusion. She has published a number of articles in the field and has been honored by UNF for employee excellence and as a diversity advocate.

Recently, she was involved in the successful public policy effort to add LGBT protections to the City of Jacksonville’s nondiscrimination policy. Legg has volunteered with many nonprofit organizations, including Planned Parenthood, Girls on the Run, Equality Florida, and Flower City Habitat for Humanity. She is currently partnering with Nazareth’s Office of Alumni Relations to create an LGBTQ+ alumni affinity group.

Nazareth College’s academic strengths cross an unusually broad spectrum of 60 majors, including education, health and human services, management, the fine arts, music, theater, math and science, foreign languages, and the liberal arts. The coeducational, religiously independent, classic campus in a charming suburb of Rochester, N.Y., challenges and supports 2,200 undergrads and 700 graduate students. Nazareth is recognized nationally for its Fulbright global student scholars and commitment to civic engagement. Rigorous programs, an uncommon arts and sciences core, experiential learning, career skills, and a global focus prepare graduates for not just one job, but for their life’s work.