Orange Central 2021

39Jim Morris, María D. Meléndez, Keith Cartwright, Dan Mezzalingua accepting awards at Orange Central 2021

Orange Central 2021

Honoring Exemplary Alumni with Awards of Distinction

During the 2021 Alumni Awards Ceremony held during Orange Central 2021, María D. Meléndez ’89 and Dan Mezzalingua ’60 (A&S/VPA) were among four alumni presented with the George Arents Award, the University’s highest alumni honor which recognizes professional excellence. Also honored was Ivan Robles ’15 (WHIT/MAX) who, along with three other alumni, received the Generation Orange Award, recognizing graduates of the last ten years for their continued commitment to Syracuse University.

María D. Meléndez, chief diversity officer and a former partner at Sidley Austin LLP and a member of Syracuse University’s Office of Multicultural Advancement Advisory Council, was recognized for excellence in law and diversity initiatives. As chief diversity officer, Meléndez leads her firm’s efforts to advance and increase diversity and inclusion across 20 global offices and within the legal profession as a whole. A frequent speaker on issues surrounding equity and fairness, Meléndez is dedicated to bolstering the framework of policy and practices that have advanced Sidley’s recognition as a top law firm for women and lawyers of diverse backgrounds. She is a member of the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals and proudly serves on the boards of The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Latino Justice PRLDEF and the Advisory Board of the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession.

Giving credit to Syracuse University for her success, Meléndez says, “Syracuse University was incredibly impactful in my life. I experienced and was met with all kinds of opportunities that allowed me to grow and develop as a person.” Earlier that day, she discussed those opportunities and shared her professional perspectives with students during a career conversations event at the Whitman School.

Dan Mezzalingua, a former member of the Whitman Advisory Council, was recognized for excellence in business and philanthropy. An investor and past president of Production Products Company, Mezzalingua says he and his wife Kathy feel honored to be able to give back to Syracuse University. “Philanthropy is very important to us. We believe in sharing the wealth. We believe that we have been blessed. We want to give a platform to others to have the same opportunities.”

Mezzalingua is a Syracuse University Life Trustee; he gives generously to his alma mater including a gift to fund the Kathy and Dan Mezzalingua Scholarship Program and contributions to Syracuse Athletics, the Whitman School, and the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities Program.

In addition to his exemplary commitment to Syracuse University, Mezzalingua was also a trustee of the Witherspoon Institute, Ave Maria University and St. Bonaventure University, and a former council member of the American Enterprise Institute.

Ivan Robles and his fellow honorees were recognized for their leadership in growing the Generation Orange Leadership Council into one of the most engaged and dedicated volunteer groups on campus. The Council spent countless hours over the last four years creating innovative ways to engage young alumni and support the University. A few examples include becoming the first board to achieve 100% participation during Syracuse University's Boost the ’Cuse day of giving over the last three years, creating the Generation Orange Professional (“GO Pro”) event series and helping to create young alumni city guides for recent graduates.

Syracuse Samplings: Showcasing Alumni Entrepreneurs and Local Businesses

After a virtual-only homecoming in 2020, it was wonderful to host Orange Central 2021 in person. The full schedule of programming and events across campus included Whitman’s Syracuse Samplings event.

In the spirit of entrepreneurship, Whitman showcased alumni entrepreneurs and locally-owned businesses during the event. Alumni and friends visited Whitman for a taste of selections from various food and beverage purveyors, including a chocolatier, a winery and a beloved barbecue eatery.

Syracuse University alumni entrepreneurs whose creations were offered for sampling included 27 Teas (Margaret Gay ’13), City Girl Coffee (Alyza James ’08), Funk ‘n Waffles (Adam Gold ’06 (NEW)), Nutsola (Adam Kukoff ’12), Chocolate Pizza Company (Ryan Novak ’11) and Baked by Melissa (Melissa Ben-Ishay ’06 (FALK)).

The locally-owned New York establishments featured at Syracuse Samplings were Dinosaur BBQ (founded in Syracuse in 1988), Saranac Brewery (founded in Utica in 1888), Middle Ages Brewing Company (founded in Syracuse in 1995), 1911 Established (founded in LaFayette in 2010) and Bully Hill Vineyards (founded in Hammondsport in 1970).

This was the second annual Syracuse Samplings at Whitman; the first was hosted during Orange Central 2019. Whitman plans to expand the event each year to feature more alumni and student entrepreneurs, as well as offerings from more businesses founded in the Syracuse area. This year’s Syracuse Samplings will be paired with Whitman’s Orange Tank alumni and student business pitch competition to create an entrepreneurship extravaganza during Orange Central 2022.

Calling Syracuse University Alumni and Student Entrepreneurs:

If you have a product you would like to showcase at Whitman’s Syracuse Samplings event on September 30, during Orange Central 2022, please contact Alison Kessler, director of alumni engagement, at by August 1.