St. Lawrence University’s Alumni Executive Council has announced that Dr. William A. Van Wie '67, Barbarajean "BJ" Schaefer Blodgett '72, Jeffrey P. Spafford '88, and Dr. Wambui Mutoru '06 will receive Alumni Citations for their dedication and service to the Laurentian Community, while Dr. Edward “Ted” F. Higgins '71 will receive the Sol Feinstone Award for Humanitarian Service.
These honors will be presented during Reunion Weekend on June 4, 2022.
Alumni Citation Recipients
Alumni Citations are awarded to graduates of the University for long-term and exemplary service to the University or for exemplary professional accomplishment or community volunteer activities.
A Laurentian who has been both steadfast in his support of St. Lawrence students for 55 years while building a lifelong career in the oil and gas industry as an exploration geologist, it’s easy to see that Bill rocks! During his undergraduate days in Canton, Dr. Bill Van Wie ’67 studied geology and competed for the St. Lawrence football team. A member of the L-Club, he was also a brother in Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Following his Commencement, Bill earned his Masters and PhD in geology from the University of Cincinnati.
Bill’s career began at Tenneco before earning positions at industry leaders such as Chevron, Pennzoil and Amerada Hess. He joined Devon Energy Corporation in 1999, eventually earning the title of Senior Vice President, which he held until his retirement in 2010. Bill currently serves his profession as a trustee and treasurer of the American Geosciences Institute Foundation, and is a former board member of the National Ocean Industries Association, and a former Vice Chair of the Independent Petroleum Association for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.
Though Bill made many contributions in his professional field, he has always found time to support both his local and the St. Lawrence communities. He has been a leader of several community organizations in the Houston area, including as a member of the Board of Directors of both the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Houston and the Salvation Army. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Trees for Houston, where he has served as President and Chair.
At his alma mater, Bill has been instrumental in helping to establish the St. Lawrence University Geology Alumni Conference (SLUGAC) and spearheaded efforts to create the Doc Bloomer Lecture Fund. For these and other service efforts to the University’s Geology Department, he was awarded the William T. Elberty, Jr. Medal in 2015. Bill has served on a number of Reunion committees, the Leadership Gifts Committee, and as both a career advisor and LINC mentor for the University’s Center for Career Excellence.
He has made St. Lawrence a philanthropic priority throughout his life as a regular supporter of the St. Lawrence Fund. Bill is a leader in supporting the geology department through the University Fellows summer programs and lecture funds. He also established the Harold W Van Heusen ’34 Scholarship in honor of his St. Lawrence mentor. Bill and his wife, Kathy, also funded a major classroom renovation for the geology department to modernize a key learning space.
Barbarajean “BJ” Schaefer Blodgett ’72 has earned the respect and admiration of her classmates and the Laurentian community thanks to her devotion to her alma mater. A fine arts major during her time at St. Lawrence, BJ was inducted into both Omicron Delta Kappa and Phi Beta Kappa, while serving on the Thelomathesian Society. She was also a sister of Kappa Kappa Gamma and served campus as a Resident Assistant.
BJ spent her entire 36-year career in the classroom as an award-winning art teacher in the Watertown School District. She was a dedicated mentor and role model for her students, playing a leadership role in the school theatre program and countless school activities. BJ devoted her life to leveling the playing field for all children. She not only engaged students in the curriculum - she engaged them in life. Her commitment to Northern New York and her passion for education led to her becoming an active supporter and advocate for the Northern New York Community Foundation, where she facilitated the establishment of scholarships. BJ served on the Governor Roswell P. Flower Monument Committee, combining both her artistic abilities with her community relationships to help raise over $100,000 to restore a 1903 Augustus Saint-Gaudens public sculpture in Watertown. She also served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Roswell P. Flower Library, was president of the Jefferson County chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), and was Educational Foundation Chair of the New York State AAUW.
BJ’s passion for St. Lawrence is unmatched, with no request for her time ever being turned down. She has been a lead voice for St. Lawrence’s Class of 1972 for 50 years. She has loyally served as the 1972 class reporter since the spring of 1983 bringing news from her classmates to the Laurentian community. BJ has been a Reunion Committee leader mainstay to ensure her class generates both excitement and gifts for their milestone celebrations. She is a former member of the Alumni Executive Council, and has also served her alma mater as a former event volunteer and admissions volunteer. She has shown unwavering loyalty to the St. Lawrence Fund, supported various Alumni Council endowments, and joined the G. Atwood Manley Society, remembering the University in her estate plans.
Jeff Spafford ’88 has more than 25 years of wide-ranging healthcare executive leadership, including roles that have guided sales, marketing, strategy, and technology innovation. In 2009, after 10+ years as a specialty pharmacy owner and innovator, Jeff realized the need for a technology-driven process to simplify a complex system, improve specialty patients’ speed to therapy and drive better outcomes from care. He co-founded AssistRx, and has served as president and CEO since its inception. AssistRx is the market’s leading specialty therapy initiation and patient support company with a mission to transform lives through access to therapy. As a key driver of AssistRx’s strategic vision and organizational growth, Jeff was named CEO of the Year by Orlando Business Journal in 2016. Additionally, AssistRx was selected as one of Orlando’s top workplaces in 2021 by Orlando Sentinel Media Group.
Through his continued work to support medication access and therapy affordability for patients, Jeff co-founded The Assistance Fund — a non-profit created to help patients and families facing high medical costs by providing financial assistance for co-payments, co-insurance and related medical expenses. The Assistance Fund was on Forbes’ list of the 100 largest U.S. charities in 2021. Jeff also serves on the board of directors for etectRx — a digital health start-up aimed at embedding wireless sensors into medications to support patient adherence therapy.
In 1998, Jeff established OncoScripts, one of the first specialty pharmacies in the nation. After OncoScripts was acquired in 2001 by CuraScript, he served as executive vice president of sales and marketing until 2005 when he co-founded Advanced Care Scripts (ACS). Serving as president and CEO, he built ACS into a leading specialty pharmacy and pharma services organization. After three years of rapid growth, he sold and shifted management of the business to Omnicare, Inc.
Jeff began his career with the General Electric Company as part of the Financial Management Program. Upon finishing the program, he earned a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School and took a leadership position with APM, Inc. where he focused on management consulting for large hospital systems and independent healthcare practices.
Spafford holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from St. Lawrence University where he earned Phi Beta Kappa honors. He has been a strong voice for St. Lawrence students looking to make an impact in the world. He returned to his alma mater in 2018 as a Laurentian in Residence, spending time with students both in and out of the classroom. He also has served as a career advisor and is a loyal supporter of the St. Lawrence Fund. Most recently, Jeff supported Learning for the 21st Century initiatives during The Campaign for Every Laurentian.
Jeff resides in the Central Florida area with his wife Amy and their four children.
Wambui Mutoru ’06 graduated from St. Lawrence with a degree in chemistry with a double-minor in mathematics and European studies. She was a devoted member of the African Student Union, the Africa Club, the Big Brother / Big Sister Program, and Chymist Club. Wambui also spent a semester abroad in Denmark, served campus as a Community Assistant, sang in the Gospel Choir, and was inducted into a number of honorary societies including Omicron Delta Kappa, Pi Mu Epsilon, and Phi Beta Kappa.
Following her Commencement, Wambui earned her Masters of Science in chemical engineering and a PhD in chemical and environmental engineering from Yale University. She would begin her professional career at ConocoPhillips in 2012, rising to the position of Senior Reservoir Engineer in the Strategy, Exploration, and Technology organization. The company is the world’s largest independent oil and gas exploration & production company. In her tenure with the company, she contributed to technology development and deployment for improved oil recovery from onshore fields in the United States’ lower 48, Alaska, and Canada as well as offshore fields in Norway. Wambui would join Equinor in 2019, an international energy company focused on developing oil, gas, wind and solar energy in more than 30 countries worldwide. She works in Commercial Development, focused on strategy formulation for a decarbonized energy hub, hydrogen and CCS infrastructure concepts, and end-user market development. Wambui is currently an MBA candidate at the Red McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.
Wambui has been an engaged alumna, having returned to campus as a Laurentian in Residence to support current St. Lawrence students. Most recently, she has served her alma mater as a LINC mentor. Wambui has also supported both the St. Lawrence Fund as well as the Engaging Africa Fund.
Sol Feinstone Humanitarian Award
The Feinstone Award is presented to a graduate who, through devotion of his or her resources or personal effort, has demonstrated deep commitment to the advancement of the freedom of people to pursue and attain personal, professional and economic freedom.
Dr. Edward “Ted” Higgins has dedicated his life to providing top-tier surgical care to patients around the world. A 1971 graduate of St. Lawrence, Ted earned his degree in government while playing for the University’s football and tennis teams, and serving as a dorm counselor for two years in Sykes Hall. He was a brother of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and a member of the ‘L’ Club. Following St. Lawrence, he attended medical school at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY. He then completed his general surgery residency at Yale-New Haven Medical Center followed by a vascular surgical fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX.
In 2016, he established the Higgins Brothers Surgicenter for Hope in Fonds Parisien, Haiti. The goal of the surgical center was to provide surgical access in an area of Haiti with no surgical options, and to help train surgical residents from the General Hospital in Port Au Prince. In 2018, several surgical residents Ted had worked with were hired to remain in Haiti and continue the work at the Surgicenter full time. Since then, the Surgicenter has added a 24/7 emergency and trauma service for general and vascular surgery, full service obstetrics and gynecology, urology, orthopedic, and dental care. All services are provided by Haitian doctors and caregivers, performing over 600 operations and 400 deliveries annually.
In 2020, the Higgins Brothers Surgicenter for Hope inherited a failing medical clinic that was preparing to close. Over the year, the medical staff was reorganized, a medical pavilion clinic area was constructed on campus, and the medical, pediatric, obstetric, gynecological, HIV, surgical and dental clinics saw 1,600 patients in 2021. Although Covid vaccinations were not available until late in 2021, an outreach team was established early on to visit mountainside communities and inaccessible locations to inform them about Covid and instruct on prevention.
In August 2021, a massive earthquake again affected the southern peninsula of Haiti creating huge destruction and causing over 3,000 deaths. Ted joined a select surgical team from his Surgicenter to provide care for the earthquake victims. Together, they drove over the mountains on a "goat road" to avoid gangs controlling the main roads. The team of surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists brought supplies and took over a hospital still standing in the earthquake zone to provide surgical care for a week.
Ted practiced general and vascular surgery in the group he helped start in Kansas City 38 years ago. He retired from his group to devote his time to helping train surgeons in Haiti and raising funds for the Higgins Brothers Surgicenter for Hope. Ted will quickly point out the Higgins Brothers refer to his father and uncle, both surgeons in Cortland, NY, who practiced together for 36 years. Both did their mission work as surgeons during World War II.
Ted has received many awards from the Kansas City Medical Society, Kansas City Surgical Society, Research Medical Center, several magazines and newspapers for his quality service and surgical expertise. He helped establish the Research Rough Riders, a bicycle team that rides annually for multiple sclerosis. They have raised more than $1 million for MS research. Throughout his busy career, Ted continued to see surgical consults in his office from the Kansas City Care Clinic, a free health service for those without healthcare. Amongst his many accomplishments, he is, no doubt, most proud of his four wonderful children, his wife of 40 years, Kim, and three young granddaughters.
Ted considers his time at St. Lawrence as a formative period of his life. He has always been grateful for the experiences and friends he established while on campus. Although he was not a pre-med candidate as an undergraduate, St Lawrence helped create a view of the world that led him to a surgical career that extended far beyond his community and has benefited thousands all over the world both in the surgical training he delivered and the care he provided for the underserved people in third world countries.