Scholars & Alumni
Get to know our Thouron Award participants!
British Scholars at Penn
2021 - 2022
American Scholars in the U.K.
Now that he has retired, John Woodward can say it: he spent most of the preceding four decades as an intelligence professional with the Central Intelligence Agency, working in the U.S., East Asia, Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. He also served as a senior analyst with the Rand Corporation and in the Department of Defense, where he received the Army’s third highest civilian award for his counterterrorism work in the field of biometrics. A professor at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies, John credits his Thouron fellowship with setting him on the road to an international career. But, he adds, “the longer-term benefit has been true fellowship. Being a Thouron Scholar is really more like becoming a welcome member of a large, esteemed family.”
After graduating in French and anthropology, Gwyneth Leech used her Thouron fellowship to take an “exciting and terrifying” step in a different direction — studying at Edinburgh College of Art. There she launched a creative career that has spanned three decades and two continents. In Scotland, she was artist in residence at the Scottish Opera, painted murals for the interior of Saint Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, made videos on the lives of African and Asian immigrants and served as president of the Society of Scottish Artists. Now living in New York, she’s drawing, painting and doing installations — notably of her iconic painted paper coffee cups. After one installation opened in London and then Glasgow, she noted, “I have to say that my Thouron fellowship truly enabled the kind of transformative, personal yet public, Anglo-American exchange the founding family intended!” Photo by Marianne Barcellona.
During her years as a student, Bernadette Tiso focused sharply on health care: She used her Thouron Award to study health policy at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at Oxford, then returned to Penn Law with a focus on health issues. Today, she is deputy general counsel to the New York Blood Center, a major nonprofit blood collection and distribution organization which also focuses on the science of blood diseases such as HIV, leukemia and sickle cell anemia. But Tiso’s Thouron year expanded her goals in a broader sense: it inspired a lifelong craving for knowledge of other cultures. “I traveled more and met more culturally diverse people during that single year than during the rest of the years of my life combined.”
Hollywood writer/director Andy Wolk (“Gossip Girl” and “The Sopranos” are among his many film and TV credits) recalls arriving for graduate school at the Royal Holloway College of the University of London and hearing a talk by a director of the National Theatre. “I was enthralled. I introduced myself, told him I had this great scholarship, and all I wanted to do was work in the English theatre and I didn’t need any money because it was all being paid for. Did he know a theatre I could start in? Did he ever! He said, why not start at the National? I went to work and never looked back. I became an assistant director on one production after another — learning like crazy — until I got to direct my first professional play in London. I was 22 years old and a Thouron Scholar.”
With a background in molecular biology, Daniel Simon used his Thouron Award to get an MBA from Wharton and now works at the intersection of science and business: He leads business development for pharmaceutical applications for Guardant Health, a Silicon Valley start-up that puts technology developed for digital communications to work for cancer diagnosis, treatment and research. Like many Thourons, he notes that the fellowship has also given him a “rich vein of friendships and inspiration” – and he adds: “Rupert Thouron’s annual Vermont ski vacations for the scholars are legendary.”
David Bendell is a registered nurse, recently completed research at the famed Cleveland Clinic, creator of educational YouTube videos and advocate for improved health care worldwide. He credits the breadth of his work to his experience at Penn, where he took classes not only at the School of Nursing but at the Wharton School of Business and the Department of Organizational Dynamics. “The array of pedagogy at Penn enabled me to improve my level of independent inquiry, critical thinking abilities, and intellectual curiosity beyond what I could have gained in comparable courses in the U.K.”
Hilary Moore has made her mark in several widely disparate worlds. She loves her day job as a communications specialist with the consulting giant McKinsey & Company. An accomplished musician and author of “Inside British Jazz” (based on her PhD work at Penn), she performs harp or piano in concerts. Most recently, she’s the author of a series of children’s books called “Brave, Strong Girls” – some of them original stories, some retellings of fairy tales like “Brave, Strong Snow White.” And she’s a founding trustee of Positive Women, which supports women and AIDS orphans in Swaziland, where she once did a year of volunteer work. It was at a fundraiser for that charity that she met and was charmed (above) by Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu.
Bruce Kuklick can’t remember how he got the audacious idea of applying for a Thouron – the first person in his family to graduate from high school, he commuted to Penn from his blue-collar Philadelphia neighborhood and thought of a trip downtown as a dangerous adventure. “It blew me away, seeing the spires of Oxford for the first time.” That naïve youth became an important historian and professor; in 2004 he was elected to the American Philosophical Society, a distinction that has come to very few American scholars. “The Thouron Award changed everything” he says. “It opened my eyes to the world, made me think differently about life; it gave me an enduring international perspective and created lifelong friendships.” Photo by Michael T. Regan.
“In the early 1980s, the world of equine veterinary practice was completely male-dominated, and I had little chance of entering it, ” says Sue Dyson. “My entire professional career was jump-started by the Thouron Award” – which enabled her to complete an internship at Penn’s New Bolton Center, one of the leading veterinary schools and hospitals in the world. Today Dyson, based in Suffolk, is an internationally renowned expert in equine orthopaedics – “I’m a sports medicine specialist for horses,” working with animals from all over the United Kingdom and Europe. She lectures and teaches extensively, and provides case management advice and image interpretation to colleagues around the world; she’s also continually involved in clinical research, supervises PhD students and guides two interns a year.
Lorene Cary, an arts administrator and senior lecturer at Penn, is most widely known as a writer, whose works include the acclaimed memoir “Black Ice” and the novel “The Price of a Child.” “Before I left the States, I thought of myself, an African American woman, as a minority,” says Cary. “The Thouron year made me understand how wide – and how black and brown – the world is. It gave me confidence I could not have developed here in the U.S.” Her year at Sussex University not only put her in touch with English and African students, it gave her, for the first time, the open-ended opportunity “to read and write luxuriously.”
“The energy of London in the early ’80s was electric,” recalls artist and jewelry designer John Wind. It was during his Thouron year at the Slade School of Fine Arts that he discovered the treasures of Portobello Road, followed his passions for fashion and popular culture and began making jewelry. “By the time I graduated I was supporting myself at it, and my future was clear.” Today his Maximal Art creations are sold in hundreds of boutiques, museum stores, gift shops and online, and have been featured in Vogue, Oprah and other media. His work is in the permanent collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; The Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; and The Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Michelle Peluso is an executive leader, driver of transformation at many of the world’s leading brands, a mother, and a wife. In the late 90s, Michelle graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the Penn. Within the next year, Michelle studied at the University of Oxford as a Thouron Scholar, completing her master’s of Philosophy degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. It was after Michelle’s time abroad that she began working with Boston Consulting Group and the White House. But, it was Michelle’s fortitude and entrepreneurial spirit that lead to some of her future executive leadership roles. In 1999, she co-founded and held the important role of CEO for a travel business which was acquired by Travelocity. Michelle would go on to lead Travelocity for 7 years as CEO—a transformative role she has held at many other organisations such as Citi, Gilt, and IBM. Today, Michelle serves as the Chief Customer Officer at CVS Health—a role literally created for her, as it is the first executive role of its kind at the American healthcare company. Yet, Michelle’s brilliance as an exceptional leader doing good does not stop there. She is also on the board of directors at Nike. “The Thouron Award was a true gift – enabling me to understand the world in new ways, form lifelong friendships, experience the magic of Oxford, and strengthen my own views about what it means to be a citizen of the world,” she says. “All of this has made me a richer person and a better global businesswoman and leader.”
Even before his first day of classes at Penn, Luke Butler joined the Philadelphia mayoral campaign of underdog reformer Michael Nutter. The public policy graduate student spent far more time at campaign headquarters than in the classroom – and once Nutter won, Butler was named special assistant to the mayor and then chief of staff to the deputy mayor. After a stint at social commerce platform Curalate, he came to Comcast NBCUniversal, where he helps lead the media giant’s LIFT program for tech startups at its soaring Philadelphia headquarters. “This city that I knew virtually nothing about and did not plan to live in has given me a career with a lifetime of experiences,” he says. “All of this is because of the Thouron Award.”
Doug Antczak took up polo during his Thouron years at Cambridge, and loved playing so much he almost dropped out of school. But he dislocated a hip in a fall, and while convalescing from the “lucky break” immersed himself in immunology research. The horse — that “magnificent animal” — has been the focus of a lifetime of authoritative research; today he is an academic veterinary scientist at Cornell University, member of the Equine Research Hall of Fame and 2010 winner of the International Distinguished Veterinary Immunologist Award. He bred Twilight, the mare chosen by the U.S. National Institutes of Health as the DNA donor of the Horse Genome Sequence. His most recent project has sent him to Qatar, to study the comparative genetics of the Arabian horse, the Arabian oryx and the dromedary camel.
Frances Stead Sellers
When Donald Trump returned Frances Stead Sellers’s call, he didn’t reach her at the Washington Post’s high-tech newsroom on K Street — she was at her kitchen table, so that’s where she interviewed him about how his reality TV experience helped him run for the U.S. presidency. It was near the end of the tumultuous campaign of 2016, in which Frances’s job as a senior writer also had her interviewing skeptical Germans in Trump’s ancestral village and drinking moonshine from a jam-jar with Appalachian voters. This wasn’t the career path she expected when she got her master’s in linguistics at Penn (though her German came in handy at Kallstadt, as her French did when she interviewed heroic doctors after the Paris bombings). “Being a journalist means that I am paid to do what all Thouron scholars like doing most of all – talking to people about how their world works. It’s a license to trespass not only into other people’s lives but across topics — in my case, from the arts and sciences to politics. I get to work on what might, rather grandly, be called the search for truths.”
After a lengthy career as an international business lawyer and regulatory expert, Jay Clayton was named chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and since May 2017 he has led the organization that oversees more than half of the world’s securities trading and capital-raising transactions. As chairman, Clayton has focused on modernizing SEC regulations to reflect the global market environment and on improving the investment opportunities for average Americans. He spent his Thouron year at King’s College, Cambridge, where a “wonderful” group of friends led him to “kiss the crown on the statue of Henry IV in the front court (once), fall into the Cam (multiple times) and study with more passion than ever before.” The experience also taught him “to see more opportunity than risk in saying yes to international work” and gave him “a love for the study of markets of all types.”
Sarah Knott is a historian, feminist and, most recently, author of “Mother Is a Verb: An Unconventional History,” which she describes as “an exploration of pregnancy, birth and the encounter with an infant.” The New York Times described it as “a joy to read, born of raw curiosity and intelligence, nurtured into the world to fill a gap in understanding.”
When the Thouron Award brought her to Philadelphia, Knott says she found a community of some of the finest early American historians in the country — people who “shaped my thinking about what is history and how to be a historian.” Her first book on the American Revolution was located in that city, which she still considers her “real” American home. She is an associate professor of history and a research fellow of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, and makes “intermittent” year-long returns to Oxford.