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JFK Awardee Luncheon

Former JFK Awardees at 2004 Reunion Luncheon

Eight JFK Awardees joined our 40th Reunion celebration for a luncheon in their honor, highlighted with remarks from University President Jeffrey Lehman. The buffet luncheon was held at the edge of Beebe Lake. Awardees talked to the group about the impact of the JFK Memorial Award on their lives since graduation. See their bios below, current as of June, 2004.

JFK luncheon 2004

Front row, from left: Jason Belmont Conn, Joan Melville '64, VP, JFK Award; Joyce West, Chris Vaeth. Back row: Ilir Zherka, Kirk Forrest, Joe Lupica, Drew Warshaw, Jared Genser.

Jason Belmont Conn '03

After graduating from Cornell, Jason Conn has just completed his first year at the University of Michigan Law School. This summer he will be an intern at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

In the fall, Jason will take over as a Co-Chair for the University of Michigan Law School Hunger Coalition, coordinating the law school’s volunteer efforts at local shelters and food banks. Additionally, he will continue his involvement with the Food Stamp Law Advocacy Project, which assists low income families from the greater Detroit area with the burdensome process of applying for government food assistance.

Kirk Forrest '72

Kirk Forrest is beginning his thirtieth year practicing law since graduating from Harvard Law School. He has held positions on the legal staffs of major corporations and was a partner in a major law firm for six years. Most recently, he served as Vice President & General Counsel of SAM'S CLUB, the warehouse club business of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. in Bentonville, Arkansas.

While he has not gone into public service on a full time basis, Kirk has remained active in community leadership, serving as a Board member of many charities. He is currently the President of the Simon Estes Educational Foundation in Tulsa, which provides scholarships to needy college-bound students.

Jared Genser '95

Jared Genser is the president of Freedom Now and an associate in the federal affairs and legislative practice group of Piper Rudnick LLP in Washington, D.C. Previously, Jared was a management consultant with McKinsey & Company, the global strategy consulting firm. Before forming Freedom Now, he represented James Mawdsley, a British national who served 416 days of a 17-year sentence in solitary confinement in Burma for handing out pro-democracy leaflets there.

After graduating from Cornell, Jared earned a Master’s in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a J.D., cum laude, from the University of Michigan Law School. He has published opinion-editorials on human rights topics in such publications as the Washington Post, Asian Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, and Washington Times.

Joe Lupica '76

Joe Lupica is Managing Director of Comann and Montague, a NASD-member investment banking firm serving public and private companies in the consumer products, healthcare, technology, logistics, and other manufacturing and service industries. In 1983, after graduation from Cornell Law School, Joe became a White House Fellow in the Reagan Administration, during which time he served as Special Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs as part of the White House staff and Special Assistant to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

He has since served a variety of corporate, nonprofit, and governmental clients as an investment banker, attorney, and development officer. The central interests of his broad career have been in the areas of healthcare, the consumer product and service sector, and international emerging markets. His diverse experiences also include having been a partner in a major Connecticut law firm, a senior officer at Kidder, Peabody & Co, and vice president of finance at Goldman Sachs.

Joe currently serves on a number of Advisory Boards for growth-stage companies in the healthcare, wellness and managed care sectors. He is also currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations and the Advisory Board of the Governor’s Council on Health, Physical Fitness and Sports for the State of Arizona.

Drew Warshaw '03

Since graduating from Cornell, Drew Warshaw has been working in Washington, D.C., at the Center for American Progress. He serves as Special Assistant to the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President, Sarah Wartell. The center is dedicated to finding progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and to developing proposals that support those solutions.

Working for campaign finance reform and public interest lobbying remain Drew’s major interests. While an undergraduate at Cornell, Drew was the Co-founder of Democracy Matters, a non-partisan, student-based organization dedicated to comprehensive election reform, and served as its Campus Director from 2001-03. After graduation, Drew became the founding editor of the online Democracy Matters Digest, a monthly dispatch with the purpose of framing the news of the day so that it will “inform the public that the democratic process matters -- not in some abstract sense, but in a fundamental way that affects the daily life of all Americans.”

Joyce West '86

Joyce C. West is currently the director of the American Psychiatric Practice Research Network (PRN) which she helped establish in 1993. She has also served as Associate Director for Research and Evaluation in the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA’s) Office of Quality where she conducted research to monitor and improve quality of psychiatric care.

Prior to joining the APA, Joyce was a consultant with Lewin and Associates, a Washington, D.C.- based health policy consulting firm. The author of numerous publications, Joyce holds a doctor of philosophy degree in mental health services research from Johns Hopkins University and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Ilir Zherka '89

Ilir Zherka, is Executive Director of DC Vote, an educational and advocacy organization whose mission is to secure full voting representation in Congress for the residents of the District of Columbia. He has helped submit pending legislation such as the No Taxation Without Representation Act, putting to good use the his legal education from the University of Virginia Law School, which he attended after graduating from Cornell.

Ilir is a lifelong advocate of civil, human, and worker rights. Before joining DC Vote, he was President and Executive Director of the National Albanian American Council (NAAC), where he was instrumental in convincing the US government to intervene in the Kosova war and helping to secure peace in Macedonia through constitutional reform.

Prior to his work at NAAC, Ilir promoted worker rights as Senior Legislative Officer to Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman. He also acted as legislative counsel to Congressman George Miller (D-California) for labor, judiciary, and foreign policy issues. In this capacity, he spearheaded Miller’s “No Sweat” campaign to combat the use of sweatshops abroad, and was responsible for organizing the hearing that exposed the use of child labor in the production of the Kathie Lee Gifford clothing line. That hearing drew significant national attention to child and sweatshop issues, paving the way for major reform.

To further the cause of human rights, Ilir has testified before the US Congress, the DC City Council, and other governmental bodies. He has also appeared on numerous television and radio news programs, including the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, One on One with John McLaughlin, Fox’s Hannity and Combs, and CNN’s Talk Back Live.

Ilir Zherka: 2011 Update