Eva Sommaripa '63 and C. Tracy Orleans '70 Receive 2014 Alumnae Achievement Awards

February 26, 2014

The Alumnae Achievement Award Committee and the Wellesley College Alumnae Association Board of Directors recently announced the 2014 Alumnae Achievement Award recipients. These remarkable alumnae will be on campus for the award celebration on Thursday, February 27, 2014, at 5:30 p.m. in Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall. The event is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a reception Alumnae Ballroom.

Wellesley College Alumnae Achievement Award recipients are chosen for achievement and distinction in their fields, and as an inspiration to current students. It is the highest honor given to alumnae for excellence and distinction in their fields of endeavor and has been presented annually since 1970. This year, Wellesley celebrates two women whose accomplishments have brought them to the top of their fields. Congratulations to the recipients of the 2014 Alumnae Achievement Award: Eva Sommaripa ’63 (left) an organic farmer and champion of sustainable living; and C. Tracy Orleans ’70, behavioral scientist and public health advocate.

C. Tracy Orleans

C. Tracy Orleans ’70 is a nationally recognized expert and leader in behavioral medicine. She has tackled many public health issues, with the key areas of her life’s work being tobacco control and the prevention of childhood obesity. In a discipline that has only recently been recognized for its importance in improving public health, Orleans is considered a gifted leader who has advanced the field. Her work has focused on improving the health behaviors of populations at disproportionate risk, including the poor, the less educated, minorities, and the elderly.

She is currently senior program officer and senior scientist at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted solely to the public’s health. As senior scientist, Orleans leads the foundation’s efforts to develop and disseminate science-based strategies for addressing the major behavioral causes of preventable death and chronic disease. She oversees a current portfolio of more than $375 million in programs and grants. From 2005 to 2009, Orleans was the foundation’s first Distinguished Fellow, a role in which she developed innovative approaches for assuring that the foundation’s commitments in key goal areas would have a broad and lasting impact.

Orleans has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator in 20 National Institutes of Health and other research grants and has authored or co-authored 225 publications. She was elected to the National Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research in 1998 and in 2000 served as president of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.  

Orleans was a psychology major at Wellesley, and she received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Maryland.

Eva Sommaripa

Eva Sommaripa ’63 has been a pioneer in the food world as a purveyor of healthy organic greens and an early leader of sustainable lifestyles. Her organic herb garden, aptly named Eva’s Garden, has been supplying New England chefs with fresh herbs and greens for more than 40 years. Since the start of her garden, Sommaripa has served as an exemplar for the local food movement—long before it became trendy. In fact, she does not follow trends; she creates them.

Throughout the past 40 years, Sommaripa has transformed a backyard herb garden into a 2.5-acre intensive organic garden specializing in culinary herbs, greens, and edible and cut flowers, including many rare and exotic varieties. She also uses the uncultivated fields and forests nearby to forage for wild produce. It has been said that she has taught chefs that an herb doesn’t have to be something green, just for garnish; it can be the main event. As a result, her garden has been described as a “Shangri-La of flavor.”

Sommaripa is also a champion of organic and sustainable living. Long before organic foods became popular, and even before the USDA issued organic certifications, Sommaripa was already growing herbs without pesticides or chemicals. Before sustainability became a concern to the general population, Sommaripa was working with a local coffee-roasting company to utilize their leftover burlap and coffee chaff for mulch and weed control at her farm. If you really want to learn about sustainable living, many experts say, “Start with Eva.”

Sommaripa was an art major at Wellesley and then studied ceramics at the Rhode Island School of Design. 

Past and Future Awards

You can browse a list and read profiles of the past 45 years' award recipients, from architect Eleanor Redmond 1909 to nonprofit executive Ophelia Dahl DS'94, and including Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright '59 and Hillary Clinton '69, journalist Callie Crossley '73, author Nora Ephron '63, astronaut Pamela Melroy '83, and costume designer Patricia Zipprodt '46, among many others.

If you are inspired to nominate an alumna as a candidate for the award, you can learn more about the nomination process online.