Bestowed by the Alumni Council, the Distinguished Alumni Awards recognize outstanding Dickinson alumni who demonstrate exemplary service to the college, accomplishment in their professional and civic lives, and strength of character. This year, Dickinson recognizes the following alumni for their achievement and service.
James D. Chambers ’78
As a board member, volunteer and donor, Jim Chambers ’78 has provided vital leadership, vision and financial support that deepens alumni connections to the college, enhances student experiences and helps position the college as a leader in higher education during challenging times.
Jim forged a successful career in international business management and served as a member of Dickinson’s Board of Trustees from 2008 to 2020 and as vice-chair of the board from 2017 to 2020.
Jim and his wife, Niecy, established the John Robert Paul Brock Scholarship in honor of Dickinson’s first-known African American graduate. Their gifts also established a Dickinson Fund Scholarship and support the preservation of historic campus buildings, including providing seed money for the renovation of the Historic President’s House. With that gift came the challenge to the college to think creatively about the building’s future use. Jim was also key to bringing other contributors to the table for this project, later named the John M. Paz ’78 Alumni & Family Center. Reflecting on the lifelong benefits of Dickinson’s study-abroad and athletics programs, Jim provided the lead gift for the Francesco Guccini Scholarship and was one of three lead donors for an alumni initiative benefitting Red Devils lacrosse. Jim also served on numerous all-college committees and as chair of the 2016-17 Presidential Search Committee.
Jim and Niecy were inducted into Dickinson’s Founders’ Society in May 2022.
"It is a great honor to be named this year’s recipient of the Walter Beach Award. Beach should be viewed by all alumni as a role model for representing and supporting the college throughout our lifetimes. His dedication to Dickinson was, and continues to be, inspiring," Jim says. "We are at a critical juncture in Dickinson’s history, and the alumni form an invaluable and vital force for sustaining the institution. I encourage us all to increase our engagement, and I would like to offer my sincere thank you to the Alumni Council for this recognition."
Karen Dougherty Buchholz ’88
As executive vice president of administration for Comcast Corporation, Karen Dougherty Buchholz '88 leads a wide array of corporate functions, including corporate real estate, facilities, aviation, corporate services, travel, campus events and programming, and corporate security.
During her more than 20-year tenure at Comcast, Karen has led many facets of the organization, including serving as the company’s first head of communications. Karen also oversaw the development of Comcast’s corporate headquarters in Philadelphia, including the city’s two tallest skyscrapers, the Comcast Center and the Comcast Technology Center, home to the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia. Prior to Comcast, Karen led the City of Philadelphia’s effort to attract a national political convention and ultimately served as president of the host committee.
Karen received her M.S. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. She is a proud 1988 graduate of Dickinson and the Dickinson Center for European Studies in Bologna, Italy.
Karen serves on the WSFS Financial Corporation and Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB Board of Directors and the FS Credit Real Estate Income Trust, Inc. Board of Directors. She is chair of the board of directors for the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau and serves on the boards of Drexel University and the Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) Network.
“Dickinson is an incredibly special place—and one that broadened my horizons in ways I wouldn’t have imagined when I started college,” she says. “From the opportunity to study abroad through the Dickinson in Bologna program to my many wonderful professors and classmates who fostered a lifelong love for learning, my time at Dickinson was transformational. It is an honor to receive the Dickinson Distinguished Alumni Award.”
Florizelle Brathwaite Liser ’73
Florizelle (Florie) Brathwaite Liser '73 strongly believes in the power of international trade to spur economic development and prosperity—whether here in the United States or in the world’s poorest countries. Throughout her career, she has worked with the public and private sectors to develop and implement policies that grow trade, create jobs and promote sustainable development. That passion and expertise led her to be named the first woman president and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA).
Prior to working at the CCA, Florie served as assistant U.S. trade representative for Africa, leading trade and investment policy for 49 sub-Saharan African nations and overseeing implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Previous posts include: assistant U.S. trade representative for industry, market access and telecommunications; senior trade policy advisor in the Office of International Transportation and Trade at the Department of Transportation; director in USTR’s Office of GATT Affairs; and associate fellow at the Overseas Development Council.
Florie earned a dual degree in international relations and political science at Dickinson and also holds an M.A. in international economics from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. She was honored to receive in 2021 the Washington International Trade Association (WITA) Lighthouse Award (that acknowledged her career-long commitment to international trade), is a member of the U.S. Export-Import Bank Sub-Saharan Africa Advisory Committee, and previously served on the Women in International Trade (WIIT) Board as well as the Advisory Council of the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
“Dickinson College is where I first learned about and fell in love with international relations," she says. "That passion and belief in the power of international engagement to change people’s lives has been my motivation for all that I’ve done professionally, for every job I’ve had since Dickinson. Being named a Dickinson Distinguished Alumni Award winner is such an honor and reminds me that it all started here and that I need to make sure I remain an active alumni contributing to future generations of Dickinson-educated leaders.”
Spencer Bailey ’08
Spencer Bailey ’08 is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the media company The Slowdown and host of Time Sensitive. He is also editor-at-large of the publishing house Phaidon and a contributing editor at Town & Country, where he covers architecture and design. His latest Phaidon book, coming out June 28, is Alchemy: The Material World of David Adjaye, which explores how the Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye—famous for his design of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture—chooses, uses and combines materials, and the extraordinary buildings and structures that result.
A writer, editor and journalist, Bailey has written at length about architecture, art, culture and design, and has contributed to publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, Fortune and Newsweek. From 2013 to 2018, he was the editor-in-chief of Surface magazine. Prior to that, he worked in editorial roles at The Daily Beast, Vanity Fair and Esquire. He is also the author of the books In Memory Of: Designing Contemporary Memorials (Phaidon, 2020) and Tham ma da: The Adventurous Interiors of Paola Navone (Pointed Leaf Press, 2016) and co-author, with Andrew Zuckerman, of At a Distance: 100 Visionaries at Home in a Pandemic (Apartamento, 2021). Spencer earned an English degree at Dickinson and is also a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He is a trustee of the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, N.Y., and has taught a workshop in the design research master’s program at the School of Visual Arts.
“Dickinson was a transformative and catalytic place for me,” he says. “It opened me up to an intersectional way of thinking—and, more importantly, being—that has helped me thrive to this day.”
Alexander Strachan ’13
Alexander Strachan ’13 began playing violin as a child, and in high school, he performed uplifting music for nursing-home residents, a practice he continued as a Dickinson music major. Soon after graduation, he founded Healing Strings Studio, which provides the comfort of live music to terminally ill children and adults and their families. Alex also serves his community as a police officer—a combination so noteworthy that he’s been featured through national media, including through CBS News and The Kelly Clarkson Show.
Alex has received a Commander’s Award for his professionalism and demeanor as an officer facing often challenging situations. He also continues to perform in nursing homes, hospices and elsewhere, both through his studio and as a representative of the police department, including a gig, in uniform, before the start of a public town hall. He sees both of his callings as acts of service. Perhaps his most personally satisfying professional moment arrived within the past year, when he learned that young boy who looks like him was inspired to see him perform—because it confirmed to the boy that he, too, could follow his dream of playing violin.
“Being able to do both [police work and music performance] is rewarding and also humbling, because, in my field, people have preconceived notions and stereotypes that, as a Black male, playing classical violin and wearing a gun and badge, I don’t fit,” he says. “I find it so important to challenge those perceptions.”
Published June 5, 2023