Alumni Awards

Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award

Lab’s highest alumni honor, this award celebrates the accomplishments of alumni across spheres of professional and personal achievement, public and civic service, and philanthropic and volunteer engagement.


The 2020 Distinguished Alumnus Award Winner

George Lewis, ’69

George is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University, and Area Chair in Composition. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, George’s honors include a MacArthur Fellowship (2002), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015), and a Doris Duke Artists Award (2019). A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, George’s work in electronic and computer music, computer-based multimedia installations, and notated and improvisative forms is documented on more than 150 recordings. George has held positions at Harvard, Berkeley, the American Academy in Rome, and the University of Chicago Center for Disciplinary Innovation. 

His book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008), received the American Book Award and the American Musicological Society’s Music in American Culture Award. George is the co-editor of the two-volume Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies (2016), and his opera Afterword (2015) has been performed in the United States, United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic.



Susan Landau Axelrod, '70, MBA'82


Rising Star Professional Achievement Award

The Rising Star Professional Achievement Award recognizes a Lab alumnus or alumna who has graduated within the last 30 years and has made an impact in his or her field.

The 2020 Rising Star Professional Achievement Award Winners:

W. Kamau Bell, ’90

Kamau is a sociopolitical comedian who is the host and executive producer of the Emmy Award winning CNN docu-series United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell. He recently made his Netflix debut with a new stand-up comedy special, Private School Negro. Kamau has a book with the easy-to-remember title The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6' 4", African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama's Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian (2017). He is the director of the critically acclaimed documentary Cultureshock: Chris Rock's Bring the Pain. Kamau has also hosted three critically acclaimed podcasts: Kamau Right Now!, Politically Re-Active, and Denzel Washington is The Greatest Actor of All Time Period. Kamau is on the advisory board of Hollaback! and Donors Choose and is the ACLU Celebrity Ambassador for Racial Justice. The New York Times called Kamau “the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years.” 

Alison Siegler, ’91

Alison is a Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School and the founder and director of the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic (FCJC), the nation’s first legal clinic solely devoted to representing indigent clients charged with federal felonies. The FCJC defends individual clients and pursues impact litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and before the U.S. Supreme Court. The FCJC also engages in broader efforts to reduce mass incarceration, combat racial disparities, and reform the federal criminal legal system. The FCJC is currently running a Federal Bail Reform Project to combat the federal bail crisis, an issue about which Alison recently testified before Congress. Alison received the Seventh Circuit Bar Association’s Justice John Paul Stevens Award for Outstanding Public Service Work in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016, and the American Constitution Society Chicago Chapter’s Ruth Goldman Award in 2014. She is also the mother of two current Lab students.


Alumni Service Award

The Alumni Service Award recognizes alumni who have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the Laboratory Schools and the alumni community.

The 2020 Alumni Service Award Winner:

Andrew Neal, ’78

Andy Neal has been an active volunteer in the Lab community for many years. He served for a total of 15 years as a member of the Lab Board, ending his final term in 2018. He was also co-chair of the Lab+ Campaign and has served in other volunteer roles throughout his many years as a Lab parent. During the 2019-20 school year, he served on the steering committee of the Class of 2020 Scholarship Fund, spearheading a collaboration with Alumni Relations and Development that saw the first ever student-driven fundraising effort for a class scholarship, which resulted in 90% of the seniors making a gift to seed their class fund. Andy is the father of four sons who graduated from Lab and his fifth child, Mary, graduated with the Class of 2020.