Established in 1997 by the Executive Council to recognize and honor those alumni who have been a credit to the School and its teachings, the Alumni Association Award is the highest distinction that can be bestowed on an alumna or alumnus by the association.
Recipients are those living alumni who, through outstanding service, have improved the quality of life in a community on a local, national or global level.
Recipients are selected by the Alumni Association’s Presidents Council, which includes the president and past presidents, as well as the executive director and past executive directors.
Read more about the 2023 recipients of this award: Dr. Frederick H. Lovejoy Jr. ’55 and Sia Manta Sanneh ’97.
Dr. Frederick H. Lovejoy Jr. ’55
The Academic Physician
Dr. Frederick H. Lovejoy Jr. ’55 has trained thousands of Harvard pediatricians and cared for sick children from all over the world.
As the oldest son of a prominent family in the steel business in Concord, Massachusetts, Frederick H. Lovejoy Jr. ’55 could have taken the obvious path: attending Concord’s Middlesex School for his secondary education, as many of his grade school friends had done, and entering the family business after college. That he chose an untried route — the only member of his family to attend St. Paul’s School, he’s also the only one to become a medical doctor — speaks to the qualities that have made him an exceptional physician, and a fitting recipient of a 2023 St. Paul’s School Alumni Association Award: a strong sense of purpose and an appetite for hard work.
“My parents instilled in all of us, me and my brother and sister, the importance of service,” he says. “When I told them I was going into medicine instead of business, they said I should pursue the career I wanted. But the expectation was that whatever I chose, l do it well.”
After St. Paul’s, Lovejoy attended Yale, where he majored in history. A varsity athlete who played both soccer and squash — he was on the 1959 squash team that won the national championship — he completed much of his pre-med coursework during summer breaks (“afternoon labs and varsity sports didn’t really mix,” he explains.) and earned his M.D. from the University of Virginia in 1963. He completed an internship in pediatrics at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital and then in 1965 was given the choice of doing his residency either at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore or Children’s Hospital in Boston. He chose Children’s, and aside from a two-year stint in Morocco in 1966-68 treating soldiers who were returning home from Vietnam, has remained there ever since. He spent four years as chief resident to physician-in-chief Dr. Charles Janeway, considered one of the foremost pediatricians of the 20th century, and worked with John Enders of the Form of 1915, winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Today, at the age of 85, Lovejoy is the associate physician-in-chief and deputy chairman of Boston Children’s Hospital and the William Berenberg Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
In the 1970s, Lovejoy served as the director of the Boston Poison Information Center and in 1978 founded the Massachusetts Poison Control System with then-governor Michael Dukakis. He also contributed foundational research to the understanding of fevers of unknown origin in children and helped develop the classification and staging system for Reye syndrome, a disease that can develop in children with flu or chicken pox who are given aspirin products.
“It was our work that led to the warning labels you see on medicines that contain aspirin today,” Lovejoy explains.
But it’s his 27-year leadership of Harvard’s residency program — from 1980 to 2007 — that Lovejoy says is his most meaningful contribution to medicine. “That program has trained over a thousand pediatricians who have gone on as faculty at the hospital and throughout the country. They have furthered the care of sick children, created new knowledge in pediatric medicine and assumed major leadership roles in academic pediatrics. Today, they are the legacy of the residency program training the future academic pediatric leaders,” he says.
Lovejoy met his wife, Jill, during his own residency. The couple married less than six months after their first date and share three children, their spouses and six grandchildren.
Beyond his clinical and administrative duties, and with a nod to his undergraduate studies, Lovejoy has found time to write six books — all histories of various aspects of Boston Children’s Hospital. His dual interests in science and the liberal arts also have been felt at SPS, where he established the Lovejoy Science Prize in 2004. The prize is awarded at Graduation to the Sixth Former “who has best integrated science into a liberal arts education as demonstrated through academic performance, independent project work and enhancement of science in student life,” and also funds a speaker series to bring practicing scientists to the SPS grounds.
“I loved St. Paul’s,” he says. “But during my time there, science practically didn’t exist in the curriculum.” Instead, he says, what most influenced him was the School Prayer and its exhortations to be unselfish in friendship, thoughtful of those less happy than ourselves, and eager to bear the burdens of others. That, and his parents’ expectation that he do well in his chosen career path.
“If I have to choose one thing I’d say I’m most proud of, it’s contributing to the success of the best pediatric hospital in the world,” he says. At the same time, of the Alumni Association Award, he says, “It is remarkably meaningful, profoundly cherished and humbly and deeply appreciated.”
Sia Manta Sanneh ’97
Through her work with the Equal Justice Initiative, Sia Sanneh ’97 has provided legal representation, and a fighting chance, to individuals in need.
Sia Sanneh ’97 has spent the last 15 years defending individuals who have been on death row. Who have been wrongly incarcerated. Who were sent to jail as minors and grew up there. It’s a career that she feels has been a gift, to be able to provide direct service to people. A gift she says was passed to her.
“I had incredible parents. My dad was from a really small town in The Gambia, West Africa, and my mother grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, during apartheid. They both had a rich appreciation for how much our lives are shaped by the context of the world you are born into,” says Sanneh, a 2023 recipient of the St. Paul’s School Alumni Association Award. “They had a sense of fairness and justice and an awareness of how life could have been different. And the more I learned about history, the more I understood that my educational opportunities were fought for by generations of Black civil rights leaders who came before and fought to open doors that would otherwise have been closed to me.”
Both of her parents taught at Yale. Sanneh grew up knowing they believed in the power of education, and had a sense of what she was going to do with hers — a bachelor’s degree in history from Columbia University, a master’s in teaching from Columbia University Teachers College, and a J.D. from Yale Law School — but didn’t know it would lead her to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama, where she is a senior attorney. She joined the EJI in 2008, the year after graduating from law school.
“I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do when I started law school. But looking back, it seems like a really clear through line to where I ended up,” Sanneh says. “I was interested in the bigger structures of life. I hoped to have clients I could help through direct service. I thought I would do international rights work.”
Then, during her second year of law school, she met Steve Bright, an attorney who taught courses on capital punishment and issues of race and poverty at Yale. She saw him as someone who was focused on public service, who believed you go where you are needed.
“His class helped us understand that the kind of lawyer someone gets makes a difference,” she says. “If they’ve never tried a criminal case and you’re on trial for something that can get you a life sentence, that’s a problem. It made me realize how much I could do as a lawyer to make sure people get fair treatment.
She cites the case of a man who, during the first week of April, celebrated eight years of freedom after being in prison for 30 years for crimes he did not commit.
“The reason the EJI exists is because we know there are so many people across the country who have never had a good lawyer and are in prison,” Sanneh says. ‘There’s just no chance for them without the right lawyer.”
The Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit, works to educate the public about America’s history of racial injustice, and how race has shaped the criminal system. All clients are represented free of charge. Sanneh says that allows their attorneys to serve people who have the greatest need.
But having the right lawyer doesn’t always mean they are successful. There are losses, and Sanneh says they have shaped her life.
“It’s really devastating because I care very deeply about every one of my clients. I’ve worked with so many people in really challenging hopeless situations. Clients who have faced execution with dignity and courage. That stays with you forever,” Sanneh says.
There was a time when she would have said she wanted to be the best and win to show herself that she was doing a good job. But Sanneh says she has learned invaluable lessons from her mentor, colleague and friend, EJI’s executive director Bryan Stevenson, and now finds value and true meaning in standing with people, with being there for them and their families.
“That value exists whether you’re successful or not,” she says.
While not winning has affected her, she says it’s in the best way. To be with an organization that wants to be of service matters to her and, she hopes, that is reflected in all aspects of her life.
“It makes me want to be better — a better person, a better parent, a better family member. I’m really grateful to be in a community that believes in service and how much it enriches our lives if we can just be open to it.”