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Outstanding alumni and faculty

periodiCALS, Vol. 7, Issue 2, 2017

The Outstanding Alumni Awards honor CALS alumni who have achieved success in their professional fields, demonstrated commitment to the college, and contributed to the betterment of society through humanitarian and charitable endeavors. Outstanding faculty and staff are also recognized for significant contributions in research, education, outreach or administration. Visit the CALS Alumni Association website for more information or to make a nomination.


Scott Braunstein ‘86
Outstanding Alumni Award

Braunstein. 

Through three major career changes, Scott Braunstein, M.D., has remained focused on one major goal: helping patients. 

Braunstein’s first, decade-long career as a practicing physician included roles as an assistant clinical professor for Columbia University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. From there he pivoted to investment management, working as a healthcare analyst and portfolio manager at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. In that role, he grew the company’s Global Healthcare fund from $20 million in assets to over $3 billion in just five years.  

Now, Braunstein works as chief strategy officer for Pacira Pharmaceuticals, which focuses on developing opioid-free products for acute postsurgical pain, and is operating partner at the healthcare private equity firm Aisling Capital. He’s also on the board of Esperion Pharmaceuticals, which develops targeted cholesterol-lowering drugs. 

In his service to Cornell, Braunstein has worked with the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network, as an on-campus advisor to students interested in medicine, financial services and healthcare consulting, and on the board of the CALS Alumni Association. Through that association, Braunstein helped initiate a grant program that provides financial assistance to undergraduates for summer experimental research.

He lives in New Jersey with his wife, Lisa. They have two sons, Jordan ‘16 and David ’21.


Brad Grainger ’79 and Mary Maxon Grainger ‘79, MPS ‘87  
Outstanding Alumni Award

Mary and Brad Grainger. 

Mary Maxon Grainger’s advice to new students has not changed since she gave her first tour as an undergraduate CALS ambassador: Take advantage of the area’s diverse academic, cultural and social opportunities. 

Mary and Brad Grainger have been improving those opportunities for others for nearly 40 years. 

Their service includes Cornell University Council, Class of 1979, CALS Advisory Council and Cornell Alumni Association. 

Long-time Ithacans, the Graingers volunteer for a host of Ithaca organizations. Brad has served on the Ithaca City School District Board of Education, the Seed Capital Fund of Central NY and the Boy Scouts of America. Mary serves with the Ithaca Public Education Initiative and helped found the Friends of Ithaca Youth Bureau. Both serve the Tompkins County Public Library and Family and Children’s Service of Ithaca, to name a few.   

In 2016, the pair earned the Frank H.T. Rhodes Exemplary Alumni Service Award, Cornell’s highest award for service. 

Brad worked in the mortgage banking industry securing FHA-insured loans for healthcare companies. He served as president at Continental Securities and retired as a managing director at Cain Brothers. Mary worked in CALS admissions, before becoming a full-time parent and an independent publicist and fundraiser. She has been particularly active with groups dedicated to female empowerment. 

The couple have three daughters, Aileen, Maura and Erin ’13.


Brian Lazarro

CALS Rising Star Faculty Award

Lazzaro. 

Why do some individuals in a population succumb to bacterial infection while others resist it? Brian Lazzaro, a Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor appointed in the departments of Entomology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, was one of the first scientists to use insects to study immunity from the combined perspectives of evolutionary and functional genetics.

Lazzaro’s research team employs innovative, cutting-edge approaches to study how the immune system operates within the overall physiology of the host and how pathogens react to the host they live within. He considers host and pathogen as interacting components of a single system, shaped by the external environment, and queries how natural selection operates on host-pathogen interactions through time.

Lazzaro joined Cornell’s faculty in 2003 and has taught courses such as Ecological Genetics, Population Genetics, and Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease, as well as field courses in Kenya and the Galapagos Islands. He is director of the Cornell Institute of Host-Microbe Interactions and Disease (CIHMID) and he co-chairs the committee that develops the annual college-equivalency Advanced Placement Biology exam for high school students.


Catherine ‘Kitty’ Mackey ’77, Ph.D. ‘83
Outstanding Alumni Award

Mackey. 

Throughout her extraordinary career, Catherine “Kitty” Mackey has translated leading-edge science into solutions for real-world problems. 

Mackey’s career began in agricultural biotechnology with Pfizer and then DEKALB Genetics, where she invented and applied new genetic technologies to create plant varieties with increased yields while lowering use of harmful herbicides and pesticides. 

Next, her passion for a healthier world led Mackey to make a career transition that few have navigated—from agriculture to human health. Mackey served as senior vice president of Pfizer’s Global Research and Development, overseeing Pfizer’s La Jolla Laboratories, its staff of 1,000, one-million-square-foot campus and $300 million budget. Her team delivered four cutting-edge cancer-fighting drugs. 

Since retiring from Pfizer, Mackey has served on the boards of directors of numerous biotech companies and started one of her own—CYPrus Therapeutics, Inc., focusing on improving the safety and efficacy of medicines. 

In addition, Mackey has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations, in particular Rady Children’s Hospital–San Diego, where she has been instrumental in forming the Rady Children’s Institute of Genomic Medicine. 


Olga I. Padilla-Zakour M.S. ’88, Ph.D. ‘91
CALS Outstanding Faculty Award

Padilla-Zakour. 

Olga Padilla-Zakour, professor and chair of the Department of Food Science, is described by her colleagues and students as understanding yet fair, well-liked and highly respected, and compassionate but insistent on high standards. 

Padilla-Zakour has proven excellence in research, education and outreach, with a focus on enhancing the safety and quality of plant-based food products.

Padilla-Zakour was appointed in 1997 to lead what is now known as the Cornell Food Venture Center (FVC), which helps food entrepreneurs and farmers develop and introduce new products. Under her leadership, the FVC has flourished: since 2000 it has served more than 13,000 individual entrepreneurs, and a satellite office opened this summer in Brooklyn.

A Fellow of the Institute of Food Technologists since 2014, Padilla-Zakour has received numerous awards for her teaching (2016 Cornell Food Science Advisory Council Teaching Excellence Award), her research (2006 Shepard Award for best scientific paper published that year in the Journal of the American Pomological Society), and her extension work (2013 Elizabeth Fleming Stier Award, Institute of Food Technologists; 2013 William V. Hickey Memorial Award, New York State Association for Food Protection; among many others). 

She and her husband John Michael Zakour have a son, John Sebastian Zakour ’15, M.P.S. ’16.


Harriet Pimm Wegmeyer ‘99
Young Alumni Achievement Award

Pimm Wegmeyer. 

Harriet Pimm Wegmeyer has dedicated herself to helping good things grow—through the foundation she directs, the family farm she co-manages and the service she’s given to Cornell.  

Wegmeyer is executive director of the Nutrients for Life Foundation, a not-for-profit focused on educating the agriculture industry, the media and the public on the importance of fertilizers in plant growth. The foundation creates science-based curricula for elementary, middle and high school classrooms, all of which have been reviewed by the Smithsonian Institution. 

During her tenure, the foundation has grown its annual operating budget from under $500,000 to over $2 million, while expanding its network of teachers from less than 100 to more than 45,000 across the country. 

In addition, Wegmeyer and her husband, Tyler, operate Wegmeyer Farms, a strawberry and pumpkin farm in Loudoun County, Virginia. The farm was named 2016 Virginia Farm of the Year by the Virginia Cooperative Extension. 

Wegmeyer’s extensive service to Cornell includes volunteering with the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network and serving as a Class of 1999 Alumni Class Officer.

She lives in Hamilton, Virginia, with her husband and three children: Torsten, Tucker and Colden.