The Distinguished Alumni Awards are conferred annually at a signature event that celebrates the achievements of each recipient. The 2022 Distinguished Alumni Awards dinner was held on Friday, April 29 in the Sutton Center on Wake Forest’s Reynolda Campus. The 2022 honorees are former Board of Trustee chair Donna Boswell (’72, MA ’74), groundbreaking scientist Eric Olson (’77, PhD ’81, D.Sc. ’03) and inspiring athlete Rodney Rogers (’94). (Note: the recipients were selected and announced in 2020, but the conferral of the awards was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Donna Boswell (’72, MA ’74)
Dr. Donna Boswell started pushing boundaries as an undergraduate at Wake Forest. Forty-five years later, she was appointed the first woman chair of the Wake Forest Board of Trustees. Donna is a distinguished leader in academia and the law, a former Wesleyan University professor and a retired partner in the Health Group’s Washington, D.C. office of Hogan Lovells. As partner, she excelled in educating other professionals in regulatory law for technology and health care. She also served as past Chair of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center Board of Directors. As first woman Chair of the Board of Trustees, Donna promoted a culture of entrepreneurial innovation and philanthropically supported scholarships, faculty research and medical education. In 2021, Dr. Boswell was awarded the Medallion of Merit, Wake Forest’s highest honor for service to the University.
Eric Olson (’77, PhD ’81, DSc ’03)
Dr. Eric Olson is a molecular biologist whose pivotal research has led to treatments that have transformed lives. His current work focuses on muscular dystrophies and regenerating cardiac and skeletal muscle. A renowned specialist in muscle development, stem cells and transcriptional regulation, he founded multiple biotechnology companies that translate discoveries into new therapies. Eric is founding chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and founder of UT Southwestern Regenerative Science and Medicine Center. His numerous awards include the Basic Research Prize and the Research Achievement Award from the American Heart Association. Eric embraces the spirit of Pro Humanitate, striving to better the lives of others through his gift for research. A mentor to hundreds, he is a quintessential teacher-scholar who advances the Wake Forest mission of wedding knowledge, experiences and service to lift the human spirit.
Rodney Rogers (’94)
Rodney Rogers inspired us on the basketball court as ACC Rookie of the Year, ACC Player of the Year and NBA Sixth Man of the Year. After a life-changing accident in 2008 that paralyzed him from the shoulders down, he continues to inspire us today. Rodney Rogers was in the NBA for 12 seasons after he was picked ninth overall in the draft by the Denver Nuggets. Prior to his professional career, he was an exceptional college player who led Wake Forest to three NCAA Tournament appearances, had his Number 54 jersey retired and was inducted into the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame. Praised for his giving spirit as much as his athletic ability, Rodney models Pro Humanitate values through the outreach of the Rodney Rogers Foundation, encouragement for others with spinal cord injuries and inspiring speeches about personal growth through perseverance.