Harvard Medalists

Four people honored for extraordinary service to the University

The four recipients of the 2023 Harvard Medal, from left: Paula A. Johnson, Philip W. Lovejoy, Antonio Madero, Rya W. Zobel

THE HARVARD ALUMNI ASSOCIATION (HAA) has announced the recipients of the 2023 Harvard Medal, to be awarded in person during the Harvard Alumni Day festivities on June 2.

Paula A. Johnson ’80, M.D. ’84, M.P.H. ’85, a physician-scientist, educator, and president of Wellesley College, has been instrumental in advancing STEM education for women and focusing on women’s roles and development in other arenas. Prior to taking the helm at Wellesley, Johnson served as chief of the division of women’s health and founding executive director of the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. There, she addressed gender imbalance in medical research, promoted understanding of sex differences in disease, and advocated for changes in public policies that benefitted women. At Harvard Medical School, Johnson was the Grayce A. Young family professor of medicine in women’s health (named in honor of her mother), and at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, she served as an epidemiology professor. Johnson chaired the Boston Public Health Commission board, served on the National Institutes of Health Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health, and co-chaired a committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that published a landmark 2018 report on sexual harassment of women in STEM fields. An elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, she was recognized as a national leader in medicine by the National Library of Medicine and has received numerous awards for groundbreaking contributions to science, medicine, and public health.

Philip W. Lovejoy, a 25-year Harvard community member, served as executive director of the Harvard Alumni Association and associate vice president of alumni affairs and development from 2014 until retiring last year. Working closely with staff and volunteers who appreciated his intellect, compassion, and sense of humor, Lovejoy led with a steady voice of reason and a global outlook, seamlessly merging tradition with innovation. Inspired by the volunteerism of his late father, George M. Lovejoy Jr. ’51 (whose service included becoming an HAA elected director and president of the Harvard Club of Boston), Lovejoy built relationships with hundreds of alumni volunteers, strengthening outreach and engagement in numerous ways. He restructured the HAA board of directors; increased understanding of the annual elections for Harvard’s Board of Overseers and HAA elected directors, while improving alumni participation; ushered in the inaugural Harvard Alumni Day in 2022; and developed the diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging work of the alumni community. He also led the HAA through the pandemic, finding ways to engage virtually with alumni and volunteers. Lovejoy joined Harvard in 1998, first working at the Harvard Museum of Natural History before moving to the HAA, where he held several positions, including director of the Harvard alumni travel program and director of University-wide alumni affairs before becoming executive director. (He was also a member of Harvard Magazine’s Board of Directors.) In retirement, Lovejoy has taken on leadership of the Blue Hills Foundation, a central New Hampshire land trust founded in 1986 by his parents—both ardent conservationists—which now comprises nearly 8,000 acres of land conserved in perpetuity.

Antonio Madero, M.B.A. ’61, a prominent business leader, has helped generations of students from his home country of Mexico pursue graduate studies at Harvard. Moreover, he has cultivated close ties between Mexico and Harvard, fostering a unique collaboration that has benefitted both communities. The founder of Mexico City-based auto parts company Rassini and former chair of the Mexican Business Council, Madero earned his bachelor’s degree in mining and metallurgical engineering from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in 1958, then went on to Harvard Business School. In 1989, he founded and served as the inaugural president of the Fundación México en Harvard, a philanthropic organization that has provided scholarships and/or loans to more than 1,200 Mexican graduate students at Harvard. He also played a founding role in Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS)—which provides resources for students, faculty, and scholars focused on the cultures, histories, and contemporary affairs of Latin America. Since 1999, the Antonio Madero Visiting Scholar fellowship at DRCLAS, created in his honor, has supported Mexican researchers from Mexican institutions to pursue education-related projects. He also served on Harvard’s Committee on University Resources and has held leadership positions on Harvard Business School’s Regional Advisory Board for Latin America. Among many honors, he received the Woodrow Wilson Award in 2019 from the Woodrow Wilson Institute for contributions to bilateral relations between Mexico and the United States. 

Rya W. Zobel ’53, L.L.B. ’56, a pioneering lawyer and distinguished federal judge, has forged a path for women and demonstrated a lifelong commitment to civic values. She grew up in Nazi Germany, escaping East Germany at age 14, and ultimately landed in the United States. Within three years, she learned English and entered Radcliffe College, and then graduated from Harvard Law School as one of 13 women in a class of more than 500 students. After a decade as a law clerk, she became the first woman partner at a prestigious Boston firm, the first woman judge on the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, and the first woman director of the Federal Judicial Center. A committed Harvard volunteer, Zobel was on the Board of Overseers, and served on visiting committees across the University. She is also a recipient of the Radcliffe Alumnae Recognition Award, given to alumnae who exemplify the value of a liberal arts education. During a six-decade legal career, much of it spent on the federal trial bench, Zobel received the 38th annual Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award—the first woman U.S. District Court judge to be selected for the honor—as well as the American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Award, which celebrates remarkable women lawyers. In 2019, she presided over what is believed to be the first citizenship ceremony held at Harvard, and in 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services gave her the Outstanding Americans by Choice award, which recognizes the extraordinary achievements of naturalized U.S. citizens.



Read more articles by: Nell Porter Brown

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