Columbus Academy alumni and friends gathered on December 22 at The Grand Event Center in Grandview Heights to honor Bob Bradway ’81 as the 2023 Distinguished Alumnus and Debbie Keeran as the 2023 Alumni Service Award recipient at the school’s annual Holiday Luncheon.

The event began with a champagne toast by Head of School Melissa Soderberg with this year’s honorees, past recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award and members of Academy’s Legacy Society, those who have made meaningful and lasting philanthropic impacts on the school.

“Raise a glass to those who know the value of education in our community, our city, our country and the world, for those who are planners, investors and future forward-thinkers, and – above all else – for those who love Columbus Academy,” said Soderberg to those gathered in the ballroom. “Thank you for your confidence and your devotion to this wonderful school.”

Following a reception just outside the ballroom where alumni from nine different decades greeted and mingled with each other, Alumni Board President Mandy Mallott ’03 welcomed the almost 200 guests at the beginning of the official program.

“We are thrilled to have so many alumni in attendance today,” she stated, “and your attendance here means that we are paying proper tribute to today’s award-winners. One is a graduate and a tireless volunteer in his community and advocate for the school. And one is a former faculty member who has distinguished herself through her commitment to the school through outstanding service to her students.”

After being introduced by her daughter Meredith Kessler ’96, Keeran expressed her appreciation for the gifts Columbus Academy gave to her:

  1. Her livelihood
  2. An understanding of true professionalism
  3. Her well-being and sanity
  4. Awareness of diversity and inclusion
  5. Lasting friendships
  6. An excellent education for her girls
  7. A son-in-law

“One last word to the 2024 graduates,” she said to our seniors in attendance, “Academy is your gift, too. You have a leg up because you have this gift of attending Columbus Academy that has a leader in Melissa Soderberg who cares. That’s important. There’s a sense of pride, and I might say a healthy sense of arrogance, that stays with you having graduated or worked at the Columbus Academy.”

When the ceremony resumed after a brief pause for lunch, Soderberg recognized the Academy graduate from the earliest class in attendance, Chuck Loving ’44, who received a standing ovation. She then invited junior Clara Stevens to re-deliver her Junior Speech from earlier this school year. The topic was Clara’s close connection to her grandfather, Academy alumnus Bill McMenamy ’58, who was in attendance and had given his own junior speech 66 years ago.

“Identity is not just defined by someone’s interests but also their personality, their backgrounds, the people they surround themselves with and the choices they make,” Clara said in her speech. “This is also what shapes a career like it did for (my grandfather).”

According to Clara, many of her self-doubts were eased with the realization that it took her grandfather his whole life to discover who he is.

“Despite the seemingly never-ending pressure to know who we are and have our whole lives planned out, nothing needs to be decided today. Even my mom tells that the she still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. So as I struggle with similar feelings of uncertainty, I know that career paths as well as identities can change. The truth is I still don’t know who I am or who I’ll become. As I’ve come to learn, neither did (my grandfather)… and even if I don’t know everything about myself right now, he’s taught me that I have time to figure it out.”

The event concluded with the Distinguished Alumni Award presentation to Bradway, who was introduced by his brother-in-law Squire Galbreath ’79.

“I journeyed through the Academy with a group of classmates whose support and friendship remain very important to me, and we came together from all different parts of the city,” stated Bradway with nine members of his Class of 1981 joining him at the luncheon. “We had diversity at a time when the public schools around us did not. We were better for it then and now. For all our differences, however, we were brought together by one common thread, and that was our families and the values that they placed on the importance of education and their willingness to make sacrifices of their time and treasure so that we could get the very best possible education.”

As chairman and CEO of Amgen, the world’s leading biotechnology company, Bradway was instrumental in recently bringing a manufacturing plant to the Central Ohio region.

“I’m really excited that we’re building a presence here in Columbus,” he said. “The pace of change in our field right now is extraordinary, and the future is really bright. I’m glad Columbus will be a part of it, and more generally, I wanted to share that I’m optimistic about the future of this city. I say that not just as a native son but also as a California-based CEO who recognizes – as my friends at Google, Facebook and of course Intel know – that Columbus, unlike our communities in California, remains a supportive community for business and a community in which a diverse talent pool is available and suited to the high-tech roles that we’re creating here. I think that bodes well for the next generation of families in Columbus, and what’s good for Columbus must also be good for the Columbus Academy.”

Following the luncheon, many alumni and friends stayed afterwards to also celebrate David Block reaching his 50th year of teaching art at Academy.

Learn more about the school’s alumni awards by clicking here.