Distinguished Alumni Award

The Distinguished Alumni Award was created by the Maret Alumni Council in 2011 to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of our former students. This award shares with the entire Maret community, especially our current students, the noteworthy achievements of our alumni. The Award Committee selects alumni who, true to our mission, are taking an active role in improving the world and are making significant contributions in the arts, sciences, medicine, business, government, academia, or service to humanity. Through this award, Maret seeks to recognize outstanding leadership and accomplishments at the local, national, or global level.

Any member of the Maret community can make a nomination for the Distinguished Alumni Award.

To nominate a fellow alumnus, please send a paragraph statement on the nominee’s accomplishments and/or reason for nomination. You may also send specific distinctions or publications. We will keep your nomination confidential.

Please send your nomination to Director of Alumni Programs Kim Boyd Lewis at kboydlewis@maret.org or call 202-939-8810. The nomination deadline for this year's award is Friday, November 15, 2019. Alumni who have been nominated in previous years do not need to be nominated again.

Past Recipients

De'ara Balenger '99


David Wolowitz '64


2019 Distinguished Alumna De’ara Balenger ’99

De’Ara Balenger ’99 is a disruptor, creative, and strategist for brands and organizations on social impact, partnerships, philanthropy, and community engagement. She recently co-founded Maestra, a women’s thought leadership cooperative and social impact agency. 

Prior to Maestra, De’Ara spent over a decade in public service; she worked in the criminal justice system in South Florida, ran the Philadelphia Youth Commission, worked on two presidential campaigns, and was a political appointee in the Obama administration at the US Department of State, primarily serving as special assistant and then senior advisor to Cheryl Mills, counselor and chief of staff to former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In the last presidential election cycle, De’Ara was the director of engagement for Hillary for America, where she forged strategic and creative alignments. She was the spark that activated the creative community, leading to creative fundraising opportunities and cementing a roster of millennial influencers, celebrities, activists, entrepreneurs, designers, and artists that the campaign tapped into for support.

De’Ara was a national organizer and strategic advisor to the Women’s March and was named a 2017 Glamour Woman of the Year for her role in the Women’s March. She is co-chair of the board for the Lower Eastside Girls Club, active supporter of the Women’s Prison Association, and a fundraiser for progressive political candidates. 

De’Ara has a B.A. in Black Studies from Macalester College and a J.D. from Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University.

She lives in Brooklyn with her partner, Paola Ramos.

2019 Distinguished Alumnus David Wolowitz '64

David Wolowitz ’64 has been an advocate, advisor, and consultant for the protection of vulnerable individuals in institutional and educational settings throughout his 44-year legal career. He began his career in public service law as a legal aid attorney and a public defender. Eight years later, he entered private practice. His first two cases before the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 1977 and 1978 established due process rights, including the right to counsel, for mentally ill persons facing civil commitment and for developmentally disabled persons facing guardianship and residential commitment. David’s successful suit in July 2000 against Lakeview NeuroRehabilitation Center in New Hampshire for institutional and employee abuse of a teenage resident exposed the institution’s misconduct. The case was featured on the The Center for Investigative Reporting’s podcast Reveal, in their 2015 series “A Mountain of Misconduct.” He was an advisor to the NAIS–TABS Task Force which recently issued its 2018 report on “Prevention and Response: Recommendations for Independent School Leaders.” Recently, David conducted a student safeguarding audit in Liberia following the publication by Time Magazine and ProPublica of “Unprotected,” an investigation into the sexual assault of multiple young students at a private school in Monrovia. 


David is a senior director and co-chair of the Education Law Practice at the McLane Middleton law firm, with offices in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. He advises independent schools nationwide and internationally on all aspects of risk prevention and crisis response relating to student safeguarding. He is a pioneer in applying behavioral risk-management concepts, including training on healthy teacher-student boundaries, to promote healthy and safe school cultures. 


David is a regular presenter at national and regional conferences for independent schools and has presented numerous times at Maret School. He has written numerous articles and is known for his practical approach to complex issues. David has also been qualified as an expert witness and has rendered opinions and testified in multiple cases on the adequacy of independent school policies and procedures for protecting the health, safety, and welfare of students.


David attended Maret School from the seventh through twelfth grades. He has an A.B. from Washington University, an M.A. from Harvard University, and a J.D. from the University of Michigan. 

2012 (Inaugural Award Winner): Daniel Solomon '78

Daniel Solomon ’78 was selected as our inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award winner in 2012 for his tireless efforts to bring voting rights to the District of Columbia and for his committment to Maret and our students, we are pleased to present Daniel Solomon with Maret’s inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award.

Daniel entered Maret School as sixth grader in 1970, and graduated in 1978. Daniel went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California at Berkeley, then earned a juris doctorate from Northeastern University. He later worked for the Labor Department promoting worker rights and discouraging child labor through international trade agreements. His work at the Labor Department took him to five African nations.

In 1998, Daniel helped establish DC Vote, an educational and advocacy organization whose mission is to secure full voting representation in Congress and full democracy for the residents of the District of Columbia. As the stalwart voice behind DC Vote, he has brought the organization’s message back to Maret many times, including last year during the Centennial Alumni Panels and just last month to the sixth grade. Daniel also participated in two summer service learning institutes and works with Lynn Levinson's civil liberties class.

Daniel was selected by the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area as a recipient of the Community Human Rights Award in 2010. He is Vice-President of The Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation, Vice-Chair of the University of the District of Columbia School of Law Foundation Board of Directors, and serves as a board member for the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers. He is active with the Jewish Funds For Justice, which pools Jewish investments to support low-income communities in the DC area.

In addition to working with our students, as an alumnus, Daniel has served Maret on the Board of Trustees, as a Class Agent, and as a Class Reunion Chair. He also participated on two Strategic Planning Committees.

2013: J. Lorand (Randy) Matory ’78 and Richard Berlin ’88

J. Lorand (Randy) Matory ’78 is the Lawrence Richardson Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Director, Center for African and African American Research at Duke University. He earned an undergraduate degree in anthropology from Harvard University, and his master’s and Ph.D. in anthropology from University of Chicago. Prior to his appointment at Duke, he was a professor of anthropology at Harvard. Randy has won numerous awards and distinctions for his work in the field of anthropology and African and African American studies. He is currently writing a book on the history and experience of Nigerians, Trinidadians, Ethiopians, African-descended Native Americans, Louisiana Creoles, Gullah/Geechees and other ethnic groups that make up the black population of the United States. It will be published by the University of Chicago Press under the title Of the Race but above the Race: Stigma and the Schooling of Ethnicity in the “Mecca” of Black Education.

Richard Berlin ’88 has been the Executive Director at Harlem RBI since 1997, and is also a founding member of Harlem RBI’s DREAM Charter School. Rich began his connection with Harlem RBI as a volunteer baseball coach in 1994. Under his leadership, Harlem RBI has grown from a seasonal recreation program with one staff member to a thriving community-based organization recognized locally and internationally with numerous awards for programmatic and operational excellence. In February, Harlem RBI broke ground on a charter school and affordable housing project. Rich earned an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and attended a master’s program in political theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He has also been a Leadership Fellow at the Citizens’ Committee for the Children of New York City.

2014: Frances Z. Brown '98 and Dr. Ralph Davison '64

Frances Z. Brown '98 has worked for over a decade as a practitioner at the intersection of conflict, development, and political transition, including over five years on the ground in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and the Sahel. Her experience includes three years with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), overseeing conflict mitigation programs in Afghanistan, Mali, and the Middle East. She won the 2011-2012 Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) International Affairs Fellowship, which allowed her to spend a year researching the Afghanistan conflict while based at the US Institute of Peace. Before joining government, Frances served a year at a Kabul-based non-governmental organization, and spent two years in Beirut, Lebanon, teaching world history at an international baccalaureate school and volunteering in a Palestinian refugee camp. Other experience includes roles managing projects in Jordan, Iraq, and the UK, as well as with the International Crisis Group and the US Embassy in Kuwait. Frances's commentaries on Lebanese and Afghan politics have appeared in the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, the International Herald Tribune, the LA Times, Foreign Policy, the American Interest, and elsewhere. Currently an Oxford PhD student researching development aid and countering violent extremism, she holds a BA from Yale and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

Dr. Ralph Davison '64 is a Senior Consultant for Carney, Sandoe and Associates, the largest search and consulting firm working with U.S. independent and charter schools and international schools worldwide. Before joining Carney, Sandoe in 2006, he served as the Associate Headmaster of St. Anne's-Belfield School (VA), the Assistant Headmaster of St. Stephen's School (VA), and for 20 years as the Headmaster of Greensboro Day School (NC). He founded the Triad Association of Non-public Schools (NC), served as the President of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools, served on the boards of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and the Southern Association of Independent Schools, and he currently serves on the Collegiate School (VA) Board of Trustees. He served on the local boards of First Union (one year as Chairman) and Wachovia Banks (1991-2005) and was a faculty member of the NAIS Financing Schools Institute. He is the co-editor and an author of "Affordability and Demand: Financial Sustainability for Independent Schools" (NAIS: 2009). Ralph holds a BA in music and French from Hamilton College, an MA in medieval French literature from Middlebury College, and a PhD in history and education from the University of Virginia.

2015: Sonja Lyubomirsky ’85 and Theodore Shapiro ’89

Sonja Lyubomirsky ’85, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Originally from Russia, she received her A.B., summa cum laude, from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in Social/Personality Psychology from Stanford University. Lyubomirsky currently teaches courses in social psychology and positive psychology and serves as the Department of Psychology’s graduate advisor. Her teaching and mentoring of students have been recognized with the Faculty of the Year Award (twice) and Faculty Mentor of the Year Award.

Sonja’s research has been awarded a Templeton Positive Psychology Prize, a Science of Generosity grant, a John Templeton Foundation grant, and a million-dollar grant (with Ken Sheldon) from the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct research on the possibility of permanently increasing happiness. Her research has been written up in hundreds of magazines and newspapers and she has appeared in multiple TV shows, radio shows, and feature documentaries in North America, South America, Asia, Australia, and Europe. She has lectured widely to a variety of audiences throughout the world, including business executives, educators, physicians, entrepreneurs, military officers, mental health professionals, life coaches, retirees, students, and scholars. The How of Happiness is now translated and published in 22 countries, and The Myths of Happiness is translated (or will be) in 18 countries.

In her work, Sonja has focused on developing a science of human happiness. She is currently exploring the potential of happiness-sustaining activities – for example, expressing gratitude, doing acts of kindness, visualizing a positive future, and reflecting on happy moments – to durably increase a person’s happiness level beyond his or her “set point.” She has been conducting research on happiness for 23 years and has published widely in the area.

Theodore Shapiro ’89 attended Brown University and received a Master’s degree in composition from The Juilliard School. Following Juilliard he began both scoring films and writing commissions for the concert hall, including works performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, New York Chamber Symphony, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

After scoring some notable independent films in New York, including Karyn Kusama’s “Girlfight”, and David Mamet’s “Heist” and “State and Main”, Shapiro was hired to score the hit comedy “Old School” for director Todd Phillips. He has since become one of Hollywood’s most sought after composers.

His recent film work includes “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty” (for which he won an International Film Music Critics Award); Ted Melfi’s directorial debut, “St Vincent”, starring Bill Murray; David Frankel’s “One Chance”; the critically acclaimed Sundance Film Festival entry, “Infinitely Polar Bear”, starring Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana; and the hit comedy “We’re The Millers”. He was nominated for an Emmy for his score to the HBO film, “Game Change”. Other notable work includes the Ben Stiller-directed action-comedy “Tropic Thunder”; “Marley and Me”, directed by David Frankel and based on the best-selling novel; “The Devil Wears Prada”, starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway; John Hamburg’s bromance, “I Love You, Man”; and the Oscar-nominated animated film, “The Pirates! Band of Misfits”.

Next up is “Spy”, directed by Paul Feig and starring Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law and Jason Statham; “The Intern”, directed by Nancy Meyers and starring Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway; and “Trumbo”, directed by Jay Roach and starring Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren.

2016: Sarah Greenberg Bowman '91 and Christof Blackman Putzel '97

Dr. Sarah Greenberg Bowman graduated from Maret in 1991. As a student at Maret, she was an active participant and team captain of varsity tennis, she was editor of the yearbook and student director of the spring musical. At graduation, she received the Alumni Spirit Award. Dr. Bowman has been involved with the Alumni Council and Association since 1999 including roles such as secretary, Alumni Fund class agent, Reunion Executive Committee and the School’s Strategic Planning Committee, 2006-2007. In addition, she has been very active in the Maret community since she graduated, helping with the Slices of Science lunches and hosting Maret seniors at CityPaws Animal Hospital for their senior projects. Her siblings, Max Greenberg ’00 and Anna Greenberg ’02 also attended Maret. Dr. Bowman graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Biology in 1995 and received her V.M.D. from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the The University of Pennsylvania in 2000. She worked in New York City for one year before joining a small animal hospital in McLean for five years. In April of 2006, she and her business partner opened CityPaws Animal Hospital on 14th Street in Washington, DC. In February of 2016, they opened a second location in Cleveland Park, CityPaws Uptown. She enjoys spending time with her husband, Jolyon Bowman, and their children. Her children attend Hearst Elementary School where her daughter Zoe (8) is a third grader and her son Zac (5) is in kindergarten.

Christof Blackman Putzel '97 is an on-air correspondent, director, and producer. Over the last decade, he’s won over fifty film and journalism awards, including two duPont Awards, a Livingston Award, an Overseas Press Club Award, and been nominated for five News & Documentary Emmys. Most recently he served as the senior on-air correspondent for Al Jazeera America’s flagship news magazine, America Tonight. Before joining Al Jazeera America, Christof co-created Vanguard, Current TV’s investigative documentary series. Over six seasons, he produced more than 50 44-minute episodes in over two-dozen countries. He’s dodged bullets from Mogadishu to Mosul, and camped on the shores of Yemen, as well as the streets of Wall Street. Christof personally performs or supervises every step of production: finding the story, investigating, casting, budgeting, logistics, filming, script-writing, editing, fact-checking, and post-production. He has managed production teams in the office and directed crews in the field under extremely stressful, even life-threatening, conditions. A third generation journalist, Christof grew up in Moscow where his journalist parents were covering the end of the Cold War. He produced and directed his first documentary, Left Behind, about AIDS orphans in Kenya, while still an undergraduate at Connecticut College. After screening at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, Left Behind went on to win 16 international film awards, including the Student Academy Award. He currently lives in Brooklyn.

2017: Susannah Beverly Wellford '86 and Daniel W. Smith '02

Susannah Wellford ’86 has founded two organizations designed to raise the political voice of young women in America.

In 2007, Susannah founded Running Start to inspire young women and girls to political leadership. Running Start has trained over 12,500 young women and girls from all around the country to lead in politics. Running Start furthers the work begun by the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee (WUFPAC), which Susannah cofounded in 1999 and led for five years. WUFPAC continues a national nonpartisan women’s group dedicated to electing young women to political office.

Susannah travels around the country speaking to colleges, law schools, political groups, and nonprofits about the importance of inspiring and empowering more young women to lead in politics she also regularly meets with groups from around the world including most recently Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Territories. She was invited to Kuwait by the Kuwaiti government in spring 2006 to meet Kuwait’s first women candidates and to advise them on their campaigns and The State Department has sponsored her to speak in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Israel, Belgium and Russia.

After receiving her J.D. from the University Of Virginia School Of Law in 1998, she worked for several years at Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, lobbying for state and local governments, foreign governments, corporate entities, and trade associations before Congress and the Executive Branch. Prior to law school, Susannah worked for Hillary Clinton’s Health Care Task Force in the Clinton White House and was a former legislative assistant for Senator Wyche Fowler from Georgia. Ms. Welford is a 1990 graduate of Davidson College she lives in Washington, DC with her twin sons, Ben and James.


Daniel Smith is an emerging leader in safe drinking water.

He graduated from Maret in 2002 where he enjoyed studying science, the humanities, and playing baseball and music. He received a BS in civil and environmental engineering from Cornell University in '06 and a Master's degree in Water, Sanitation and Health Engineering from the University of Leeds, UK in'14. He has dedicated his early career to implementing programs and conducting research that contribute to the global goal of safe drinking water for all by the year 2030. His academic interests lie at the intersection of the technical, health, economic, and social aspects of drinking water quality.

He is currently a PhD candidate at Stanford University, researching the willingness to pay for disinfected drinking water in Dhaka, Bangladesh and the health impacts of drinking water treatment in rural towns in Central America. Prior to studying at Stanford, he worked in the private and non-profit sectors for ten years, including for extended periods in Vermont, DC, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, The Gambia, and Kenya. He and his wife Yasmin, a research manager focused on reproductive health, live in Palo Alto, California.

2018: Benjamin Marcovitz '98 and Joseph Richman '83

Benjamin Marcovitz ’98 is the founder and CEO of Collegiate Academies (CA), currently operating three high schools in New Orleans and one in Baton Rouge. Beginning in 2007 with Sci Academy, CA has led the district in high school performance and has won honors from the Oprah Winfrey Show and US News & World Report. Ben previously taught in New Orleans, DC, and Boston. He holds a B.A. from Yale University and an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Ben’s work at CA has earned him recognition from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, fellowships at Achievement First’s Charter Network Accelerator, the Pahara-Aspen Institute, the Broad Academy, as well as the Ryan Award for transformational urban school leadership. He has served on the faculties of New Leaders and Leading Educators and presents with Relay Graduate School of Education and Future Leaders in the United Kingdom, among others.

JOSEPH RICHMAN ’83 is a Peabody Award-winning producer and reporter and the founder of Radio Diaries, a non-profit organization. For two decades, Radio Diaries has helped to pioneer a model for working with people to document their own lives for public radio. Joe has collaborated with teenagers and octogenarians, prisoners and prison guards, gospel preachers and bra saleswomen, the famous and the unknown. Through his career, he has interviewed hundreds of people, from a seltzer delivery man to a Civil War widow to Nelson Mandela. Award-winning productions include: Teenage Diaries, Prison Diaries, My So-Called Lungs, New York Works, Thembi’s AIDS Diary, Mandela: An Audio History, Willie McGee and the Traveling Electric Chair, and Teen Contender. Joe also teaches at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. The LA Times called Joe “a kind of Studs Terkel of the airwaves.”