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Four Receive Clarkson University's Highest Alumni Honor

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POTSDAM, N.Y. -- William D. O’Flaherty of Potsdam, N.Y.; Robert S. Menchel of East Rochester, N.Y.; Pam Morin Nelson of Aurora, Ohio; and William Robb of Newcastle, Maine, have been honored with Clarkson University’s highest alumni honor, the Golden Knight Award.goldenknight01

Presented each year during Reunion Weekend, Clarkson's most prestigious alumni award is given to alumni who have distinguished themselves either by service to Clarkson through Alumni Association activities or have demonstrated outstanding career achievement, bringing distinction to themselves and to Clarkson.

No other individual has played a larger role in the success of Clarkson hockey over the past 30 years than William “Bill” O’Flaherty.  His passion for the game, his skill as a hockey tactician, and his loyalty to Clarkson helped to maintain the Golden Knights as a perennial power and one of the top collegiate hockey teams in the country.

O’Flaherty graduated from Clarkson in 1971 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Humanities.  He joined Clarkson’s physical education faculty in 1972 and served as an Assistant Coach for the Golden Knights for seven years.  He became Clarkson’s head coach in 1979 and in his six seasons at the helm compiled a 134-59-12 overall record. His .683 winning percentage is one of the best in recent college hockey history.  O’Flaherty’s teams qualified for the ECAC play-offs every season and advanced to the NCAA play-off games three times.  Seven Golden Knights earned All-American status during his tenure.  One of those All-Americans, Dave Taylor ’77, would eventually provide the opportunity for O’Flaherty to begin a career in the National Hockey League some 20 years later. 

In 1986, O’Flaherty became Clarkson’s Director of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation.  His accomplishments as a coach and athletic administrator were recognized in 1981, when he was named the recipient of the Spencer R. Penrose Memorial Trophy by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) as its Division I Hockey Coach of the Year.  In 1997, he received the John MacInnis Award presented by the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) for his contributions to amateur and youth athletic programs and for his outstanding professional success.  That year O’Flaherty left Clarkson to become Director of Player Personnel for the Los Angeles Kings.  His duties include all aspects of player development, oversight of the Kings minor league operations, and assisting Vice President and General Manager Dave Taylor in all other facets of Los Angeles Kings hockey operations. 

Today, O’Flaherty credits much of his success to his family and his time and experiences at Clarkson.  He was actively involved in Alumni Association affairs and served for many years as a staff liaison to the Alumni Association’s Athletic Relations Committee.  During this period, Clarkson’s Athletic Hall of Fame was developed and alumni reunion weekends for both men’s and women’s sports teams were organized.  A member of the Clarkson Roundtable, O’Flaherty has also served as a volunteer or board member for various community organizations, including the Potsdam Rotary Club, the Potsdam Hospital Foundation’s Linda Richards Society, and the Boy Scouts of America.

Since he became the first deaf student to earn a degree from Clarkson when he graduated with a B.S in physics in 1961, Robert Menchel has pursued an extraordinary career path. Beginning his professional life as a scientist, he emerged on the national stage as a role model for individuals with disabilities and became an educator, mentor and advocate for those who face similar challenges. Today he continues to exert an enormous impact as a distinguished faculty member at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Menchel launched his career at the U.S. Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory and then worked as a research physicist for Avco Corporation and Xerox. In 1977 he was selected by the American Association for the Advancement of Science as a national role model for the handicapped. For a year he traveled to more than 40 states and he spoke to more than 5,000 students, teachers, parents, and counselors. Subsequently he assumed the first of what became many advising and teaching positions with the National Institute for the Deaf.

Meanwhile, Menchel pursued his own formal education, earning an MBA from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1983 and Doctorate in Education from Harvard University in 1995. His doctoral dissertation is recognized as a landmark study of deaf students in postsecondary education. He has published some 45 articles and made more than 50 presentations on physics and the teaching of science, and on a wide range of issues related to the hearing impaired.

Among Menchel’s most recent achievements is his receipt of a National Science Foundation grant of $78,000 for 2001 to implement a partnership program with Mt. Holyoke College to encourage young deaf women to enter careers in science and engineering. His numerous honors and awards include scholarships at Harvard University, the Award of Merit from the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, and the Health Association’s Outstanding Volunteer Services Award.

Menchel is active in a dozen service organizations that assist the hearing impaired from the local to the national level. He has played a significant role in promoting equal access to all aspects of living for the disabled, and has, for example, exerted a large impact in having captions carried on television and in films.

Always a strong supporter of Clarkson, Menchel says he may be best remembered on campus for garnering the most charitable donations in the “Ugly Man” contest two years in a row. “I did this because I believed it was for a good cause,” he says, “and this continues to be my philosophy in life, I do whatever I can for my fellow man now, because I will not pass this way again.”

Since her graduation from Clarkson with two degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1976 and a Master of Business Administration in 1978, Pam Morin Nelson has always been a thoughtful and committed volunteer and has remained connected to her alma mater.  As a young alumna, she was always eager to participate in regional chapter activities and to help plan and host many events for the Central New York Chapter.  Nelson was a chapter board member and President, and served for five years as a Member-at-Large on the Alumni National Executive Council.  Her leadership extended to Class of 1976 activities, and she has served as both the class reunion campaign chair and class reunion activity chair. 

Nelson enjoyed a 22-year career with the Carrier Corporation, beginning after graduation as a Service Engineer and progressing through other capacities such as Systems Analyst, Manager of Employee Services, and, most recently, a Senior Zone Sales Manager.  Clarkson has always enjoyed strong relationships with Carrier, in part due to her efforts as a Clarkson liaison at Carrier.  Nelson played women’s hockey at Clarkson in the days of the famous “Frazer’s Blazers” and has recently been involved in organizing reunions for the women’s hockey team.

Nelson has always been involved in programs helping kids, and has decided to retire from Carrier to pursue classroom teaching.  She has been a reading program volunteer in the public schools, a referee for area youth hockey programs, a basketball and soccer coach, and a Girl Scout leader.  She also finds time to be an arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau, serves as Vice President of the Barrington Women’s Golf Association, and is an officer of the local Home Owners Association.

In receiving this award, Nelson says that she is proud to follow in her uncle’s footsteps, Harold G. Young ’28, who also majored in Mechanical Engineering, played hockey, and received a Golden Knight Award.

William M. Robb began a distinguished career in the petroleum industry after graduating from Clarkson with two degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering Summa Cum Laude in 1966 and a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering in 1968.

From 1968 until 1984, Robb held various engineering and operations assignments with Shell Oil Company including Environmental Support Engineer, Gasoline Programs Manager, Business Manager for Upstream Lubricants, and Operations Superintendent.  In 1984, he joined Pennzoil Products Company in Houston, Texas, as a Senior Vice President of Operations where he managed all of Pennzoil’s refineries and specialty plants.  In 1987, he was named the Executive Vice President of Manufacturing and in 1995 became Vice President and Corporate Officer with bottom line responsibility for Pennzoil’s base oil and specialty products businesses.  In this capacity, he was also a member of various Pennzoil joint venture committees and chaired the management committee for the Pennzoil-Conoco joint venture.  Robb retired from Pennzoil in 1999 and is enjoying a more leisurely pace in Newcastle, Maine.

Robb was involved in a number of professional organizations and served on the board of directors for the Houston area Junior Achievement.  Despite his distance from campus, Robb has always remained involved with Clarkson and active in Alumni Association affairs.  His concern for his alma mater led to significant gift support from Pennzoil to support Chemical Engineering Department initiatives and research conducted by Clarkson’s Center for Advanced Materials Processing.  He was also instrumental in the establishment of Pennzoil’s Minority Scholarship Program, which provided funding for two students to attend Clarkson from Houston each year.  An established member of the Clarkson Roundtable, Robb has hosted events for Houston area alumni and serves as a Class Partner for The Campaign for Clarkson.

PHOTO CAPTION: Four Clarkson University alumni were presented with the Golden Knight Award –the University’s highest alumni honor – during the school’s Reunion Weekend. From left: Donald R. Dangremond, executive director of alumni and parent relations; Elmer E. “Stub” Estey, president of the Clarkson University Alumni Association; recipients William M. Robb, Robert S. Menchel, Pam Morin Nelson and William D. O’Flaherty; and Clarkson University President Denny Brown.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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