The following story originally ran in the 2022 winter issue of the W&M Alumni Magazine. – Ed.
The William & Mary Alumni Medallion is the most prestigious award given by the Alumni Association.
Meet this year’s recipients, who represent outstanding commitment, dedication and assistance to William & Mary; exemplary accomplishments in their professional lives; and leadership in civic engagement in their communities. They were honored in a Feb. 11 ceremony at the Alumni House as part of the university’s 2022 Charter Day fesitivities.
Gail Williams Wertz ’66, M.A. ’20
In a time when women weren’t often encouraged to pursue science as a career, Gail Williams Wertz had her first experience with “bench science” — experimental scientific research, often conducted in a laboratory — as an undergraduate at William & Mary. She was hooked. After an internationally acclaimed career as a virologist, she returned to William & Mary for her master’s in anthropology and is opening doors for future W&M students through her volunteer leadership and support.
Her contributions to the field of molecular biology are extensive. Her laboratory developed the methodology for genetically engineering RNA-based viruses — work that was the basis for a successful vaccine against Ebola. She’s authored 155 peer-reviewed publications and received the National Institutes of Health’s prestigious MERIT Award. She’s an inventor on 10 patents and has trained 16 Ph.D. students and 27 postdoctoral fellows, at least 17 of whom went on to become professors.
She’s also served organizations representing her field, including as president of the American Society of Virology, an editorial board member of the Journal of Virology and more.
Along the way, she continued to conduct her own bench science, even while teaching, running major labs and mentoring students.
“This is extremely unusual and is a reflection of Gail, her passion for her work and her level of commitment to her trainees,” says Sean P. J. Whelan, head of the department of molecular microbiology and the Marvin A. Brennecke Distinguished Professor of Microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “Her selfless devotion to training the next generation of scientists, coupled with a keen vision for her science, served as an inspiration to me and countless other virologists.”
In 2005, Wertz and her husband bought a farm on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. While restoring and farming the historic property, Wertz found Native American artifacts and was curious to learn more. That eventually led to her joining William & Mary’s master’s program in anthropology and archaeology and working with local tribes to protect and research artifacts from their ancestors.
She also became a founding member of the Graduate Studies Advisory Board (GSAB), which fundraises, advocates, builds community and enhances opportunities for Graduate Arts & Sciences at William & Mary.
For her 50th Reunion, she made an estate provision to the biology department, and as a committee member encouraged others in her class to reconnect with and give back to William & Mary. In addition to her regular support for the GSAB, she also contributes to the William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Conservation Biology.
“In the 57 years I have known Gail, I have watched her progress from undergraduate leader to internationally acclaimed researcher to cattle farmer to anthropology graduate student at age 75!” says classmate Dee Boren Ferguson ’66. “I continue to be amazed at the level of her intellect, curiosity and enthusiasm for each new pursuit.”
This article has been updated online to include the full name of Gail Williams Wertz. Read more about her in a 2019 online exclusive at magazine.wm.edu/gail-wertz.
Thomas L. Demakes ’65
From a family of Greek immigrants, Tom Demakes feels a strong affinity for the immigrants from 53 different countries that flock to his hometown of Lynn, Massachusetts, on Boston’s North Shore. Alongside his deep commitment to William & Mary, he is dedicated to helping children in Lynn access high-quality education and services so they can thrive.
Lynn is home to his family’s successful meat-packing company, Demakes Enterprises, which was started by his parents and is now run by Demakes and his three sons. But when Demakes first came to William & Mary, he didn’t think he wanted to go into the family business. After graduating in the ROTC program, he served in Vietnam, then planned to travel. However, family is very important to him, and he returned to help manage what was then known as Old Neighborhood Foods and now includes Thin ’N Trim and Waterhill Naturals & Organics. He says he gets personal joy from sharing the wealth and expertise he’s built with the community he calls home.
“When you honor Tom Demakes, you are honoring a man who embodies the ideals of giving back to the place that made you, and of paying good fortune forward. He and his family have ensured that future generations of children in Lynn will thrive,” says Caleb Dolan, executive director of KIPP Academy Lynn. Demakes’ philanthropy helped KIPP grow from one school using rented spaces to three schools in two permanent facilities, serving 1,500 students — 95% of whom are students of color and 80% of whom receive free or reduced lunch.
He has also been actively involved with the Boys and Girls Club, Girls Inc., the Y, local Catholic schools and many other organizations serving the city’s youth — investing in major capital projects, leading fundraising efforts, providing professional advice, bringing in new supporters and encouraging community partners to work together.
He continues to help his William & Mary family. As a member of his 50th Reunion Gift Committee, he both supported his alma mater and encouraged his classmates to participate as well. He is a generous donor to the Alumni House expansion project and has consistently supported W&M Alumni Association auctions, W&M Athletics’ Botetourt Auction and the Fund for W&M.
A lifelong learner, he went back to school at Suffolk University with his three sons, Elias, Timothy and Andrew, and they graduated with their MBAs together in May 2013.
“William & Mary is blessed and lucky to have a son of the College who is a lifelong leader, benefactor and positive force in transforming communities and lives for their future success,” say classmates Martin Morris ’65 and Robert Andrialis ’65, a 1996 Alumni Medallion recipient. “His goodwill and good works are classic examples of providing hope, building community and inspiring positive change.”
Michael Tang ’76
Never one to sing his own praises, Michael Tang’s leadership, generosity and hard work have nonetheless made an outsized impact in his professional life, in his civic service and for his alma mater. He is motivated to create sustainable value in all that he does so that his work today can benefit future generations.
Tang is constantly traveling the world, keeping up with the demands of his various professional and board roles. He is chairman of Tang Industries, his family’s business. He’s CEO of National Material LP, one of the largest suppliers of steel in America — and that on top of owning and operating a portfolio of diverse companies and being the master franchisee of Dunkin’ in China. He’s also president and chairman of the Cyrus and Michael Tang Foundation.
When he’s not traveling, he’s splitting his time between Las Vegas and Chicago, a city that’s special to him and his family. In 2018, as honorary co-chair of W&M Weekend, he welcomed William & Mary to Chicago and hosted an exclusive tour of the Cyrus Tang Hall of China, which is named after his father, at the Field Museum of Natural History. In addition to serving as a trustee for the museum, he also serves as a trustee for the University of Chicago Medical Center, on the board of the National Defense University Foundation, a governor of Ditchley in the United Kingdom, and much more.
“Michael Tang embodies what I believe we most value in W&M alumni: success, modesty and service,” says H. Thomas Watkins ’74. “Michael is one of those most special alumni who is willing to serve William & Mary in whatever capacity he is asked to fulfill.”
Always willing to share his expertise with his and his daughter’s alma mater, Tang served on the W&M Foundation Board, the steering committee of the Business School Foundation Board and the For the Bold steering committee. From 2009-2013, he led the university on the Board of Visitors, where he chaired the Committee on Strategic Initiatives and New Ventures. This year, Tang is honorary chair of the university’s Asian Centennial.
To enhance the W&M experience for the next generation of students and faculty, in 2008, he established the Tang Faculty-Student Research Endowment, and in 2013, he gave a leadership gift to create the Tang Professorship in Economics.
“Few alumni have consistently demonstrated the sustained, passionate loyalty to William & Mary that Michael has. Significantly, he has followed up that passion with action,” says Jeff Trammell ’73, former W&M rector and a 2017 Alumni Medallion recipient. “He has served in leadership positions for some 30 years and has brought his business and international acumen to the campus in a way that has benefited not only the efficient management of the university but also our academics, students and faculty.”
Learn more about Tang in his 2018 cover story at magazine.wm.edu/tangs-world.
Bruce C. Holbrook ’71
An accountant by trade, Bruce Holbrook is also a consultant and mentor to entrepreneurs and physicians, an organizer and philanthropist dedicated to improving his community, and a stalwart supporter of William & Mary.
“Underlying his work ethic is a deep sense of community responsibility, engagement and altruism,” says Dr. Edward R. George of Virginia Oncology Associates. “Bruce has positively impacted the lives and financial stability of countless individuals, both through his creative solutions to economic problems and his charitable work that has touched so many lives.”
Passionate about his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia, he has served his community through a variety of boards, including as president of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, chairman of the Norfolk Community Services Board and as current board chair of the McMahon Parater Scholarship Foundation, which provides scholarships to Catholic schools. He founded Residential Options Inc., which provided housing for people with mental health and substance abuse issues. As a board member of the DePaul Hospital Foundation, he led the effort to keep this public Catholic hospital open for the low-income families in Norfolk that relied on it.
Along the way, he took the time to mentor talented people and grow their careers. For example, when Dr. Elias Zerhouni was recruited to vice chair of radiology at DePaul, Holbrook personally helped him and his wife get visas. Later, when Zerhouni discovered a way to differentiate cancerous and benign lung tumors, Bruce encouraged him to create a startup, Computerized Imaging Reference Systems, which is still a globally recognized and successful company in Norfolk — the first of many ventures they created together. When Zerhouni was director of the NIH, Bruce advised him on aligning the NIH’s financial and visionary priorities.
In his professional career, Holbrook held a variety of leadership positions at Goodman & Co., where he helped grow many successful businesses. He is now president of Bruce Holbrook Consulting, which provides management consulting for startups and similar businesses, and treasurer of Zerhouni Holdings, a health care consulting firm.
At William & Mary, Holbrook served on the inaugural BBA Partners board at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. He and his wife, Susan, established an endowment in 1999 to enhance the academic experience for accounting students. They have also included W&M in their estate plans.
W&M is a family affair for Holbrook: his two daughters and son-in-law also attended, and Holbrook and his family can often be found enjoying campus, cheering on the Tribe and attending university events.
“Dad set many important examples for me, such as hard work, dedication, and giving back to the community. However, one of the even more important things he taught me was the love of William & Mary,” says his daughter Jennifer Holbrook Burris ’01, M.A.Ed. ’02. “You can see that love in all his does and all he will continue to do.”