Six Lebanon Valley College Alumni Honored at Awards Brunch

People seated at tables at Alumni Awards Brunch

Lebanon Valley College recognized six alumni during the Annual Alumni Awards Brunch on Sunday, Oct. 16, at the Hershey Country Club. The event was part of the College’s annual Homecoming celebration.

Creative Achievement AwardCristabelle Braden ’15 was 14 when she sustained a traumatic brain injury. As she worked through recovery, she discovered a gift for music, including songwriting. Though facing significant challenges, Cristabelle achieved two degrees at LVC, in music and religion, and a Master of Arts in theological studies from Liberty University in Virginia.

Cristabelle uses her gifts to share her faith and message of hope in many ways. She has been recognized with several Christian music awards and earned recognition in songwriting competitions. She performs at hospitals, rehab centers, prisons, and other venues where she can deliver her message of hope. She is a sought-after speaker and brain-injury advocate at medical conferences and ministry events. Cristabelle started the first bible study for people with brain injuries and hosts two podcasts and an online community featuring support meetings and live videos. Learn more about Cristabelle here.

Alumni CitationThe Hon. Bryan D. Cutler, Esq., ’01 is Pennsylvania’s 139th Speaker of the House, serving his eighth term representing the 100th Legislative District in Lancaster County. Bryan began his career as an x-ray technologist at Lancaster General Hospital before earning a degree from LVC in health care management. He went on to Widener Law School, focusing on healthcare law. Bryan is an attorney with Nikolaus & Hohenadel LLP in Lancaster.

Bryan was first elected to public office in 2006. He was Majority Leader before being elected as Speaker in June 2020. Bryan’s legislative and advocacy efforts have focused on government transparency and healthcare law. He has been a strong supporter of LVC, and a frequent presenter in classes, bringing the legislative process into focus for students. Learn more about Bryan here.

The June Herr Outstanding Educator of the Year AwardDr. Mariah Rackley ’01 is the director of curriculum & instruction for the Cornwall-Lebanon School District. She has worked in the district for 21 years, including 13 as middle school principal. Mariah earned her Ed.D. in educational leadership from Drexel University, M.Ed. from Penn State University, and superintendent letter of eligibility and principal certification.

Mariah has been recognized with several awards, including Outstanding Graduate Student in Teaching and Curriculum (Penn State Harrisburg, 2006), Lebanon County Educational Honor Society and Outstanding Principal Award, Women Band Directors International (2012), and Digital Principal of the Year (National Association of Secondary School Principals, 2018). She is widely regarded for initiatives that focus on and foster unity, lead to student success, and create a culture of pride.

Young Alumnus AwardAlex Reber ’07, M’17 is a CPA and managing partner of Miller Dixon Drake in Harrisburg. He earned his B.S. in accounting and business from LVC and later earned his MBA with a concentration in healthcare management from The Valley.

Alex is a volunteer and leader committed to public service, his community, and the College. He is chair of the Harrisburg City Audit Committee and a treasurer and volunteer for many organizations. He is a member of the Legislation Committee of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants and was recognized by the organization with a Young Leader Award in 2021. Alex has served LVC frequently by speaking to classes, attending networking events, and serving on the Leadership and Alumni councils. He was elected to the LVC Board of Trustees in May 2022. Learn more about Alex here.

Distinguished AlumnusDr. Raymond “Ray” E. Schaak ’98 is the DuPont Professor of Materials Chemistry at Penn State University. Following his graduation with a degree in chemistry from LVC, he received a Ph.D. in materials chemistry from Penn State in 2001. He was a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University in New Jersey from 2001–2003, then an assistant professor of chemistry at Texas A&M University. In 2007, Ray returned to Penn State as an associate professor of chemistry and was appointed as the DuPont Professor of Materials Chemistry in 2013. His research team, the Schaak Group, focuses on developing new chemical strategies for the synthesis of nanoscale solid-state materials and applying these materials to problems at the forefront of modern materials research.

Ray has received several prestigious awards and honors, including a National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2006), DuPont Young Professor Grant (2006), Sloan Research Fellowship (2007), Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (2007), National Fresenius Award (2011), the Penn State Faculty Scholar Medal in the Physical Sciences (2012), American Chemical Society (ACS) Inorganic Nanoscience Award (2016), and the ACS Akron Section Award (2020). In 2017, Ray was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Solid State Chemistry, an associate editor of ACS Nano (since 2010), and the inaugural deputy editor of ACS Nanoscience Au, which launched in 2021.

Ray is credited with more than 200 publications. The Schaak Research Group’s primary interests are in the general area of synthetic inorganic nanochemistry. He continues his close connection with LVC’s chemistry faculty and staff, often speaking to students about his research and experience.

Alumni CitationShila Williams Ulrich ’05 is the executive director of The Caring Cupboard food pantry in Palmyra. A graduate of LVC’s Psychology Department, she earned her Master’s in Social Work from Temple University and a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University in North Carolina.

Passionate about building strong communities, Shila volunteers with several community agencies and committees. She is a founder and key leader of Palmyra’s Great Give, a one-day giving event to raise funds and awareness for community organizations. Shila frequently engages the LVC community as a class presenter and site leader for groups volunteering at the Caring Cupboard. She was inducted into the Lebanon County Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018 in the category of Women Demonstrating Leadership. Under her guidance, The Caring Cupboard was named Partner of the Year Runner-Up in 2018 by the Central Pa Food Bank, which has more than 1,000 partner agencies.

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