Touching the Future Awards – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Touching the Future Awards

HWS honors the educators who prepared graduates for future success.

Each year during the Commencement ceremony, Hobart and William Smith celebrate the educators from elementary, middle or high school who supported graduates before they arrived at the Colleges.

On Sunday, June 6, during Commencement ceremonies for the Classes of 2020 following the upheavals of the pandemic, the Colleges will recognize two outstanding educators and mentors with the 2020 Touching the Future Award: Brandy Alexander, a teacher and athletics director at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools: NOW Academy in Los Angeles, Calif.; and George Rooney, the varsity bowling coach at South Burlington High School in South Burlington, Vt., and a driver education instructor at Middlebury Union High School in Middlebury, Vt.

In her essay nominating Alexander, Valerie Cuellar ’20 notes his impact as “a trustworthy teacher that cares for the well-being of all his students.” Cuellar met Alexander as a seventh grader and came to rely on his mentorship and support, both academically and personally, throughout middle and high school. Alexander provided a critical connection to the Posse program, which led Cuellar to HWS. She writes that Alexander “deserves to be honored as an educator because the contributions to my education and personal development have helped me contribute to my fellow peers throughout my years as a student and mentor.”

Rooney, who was nominated by Hugh “Nick” Mckenny ’20, creates a respectful, welcoming environment for the teams he coaches and students he teaches. As Mckenny writes, “He doesn’t try to change his students but works with them so that their strengths are highlighted and molded to best serve the team. Everyone is always worthy of his attention and his help as long as they are putting in the effort…I think his biggest strength is that he creates a space in which everyone can belong. Year after year, he takes a group of misfits and makes them a family by ensuring everyone feels valued, respected and included.”

The Touching the Future Award was established by the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Board of Trustees in 2004. It derives its name from the famous words of Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher selected to participate in the space shuttle program who died in the explosion of Challenger. McAuliffe expressed the sentiments of many teachers when she said, “I touch the future, I teach.”