Alumni Council Awards Announced for 2021

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Mercersburg Academy’s Alumni Council has announced the 2021 recipients of five awards presented annually to members of the Mercersburg alumni community for their service, leadership, and distinction. This year’s honorees are Paul Dickman ’71 (Alumni Council Medal for Distinguished Achievement), Scott Cummings ’71 (Alumni Council Medal for Distinguished Service), Kurt Muhler ’96 (Alumni Council Prize for Achievement), Ann Marie Bliley-Ester ’01 (Alumni Council Prize for Service), and Hilary Gridley ’06 (Young Alumni Leadership Award).

Dean Patterson
Dean Patterson Jr. ’71

Together with this year’s Class of ’32 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Dean Patterson Jr. ’71, all six Alumni Council Award recipients will be honored during Virtual Reunion Weekend 2021. In addition to these alums, last year’s Class of ’32 Award recipients and Alumni Council Award recipients will be recognized at Reunion Weekend as well, due to last year’s event being postponed.

Alumni Council Medal for Distinguished Achievement
Paul Dickman ’71

Paul Dickman is a senior policy fellow with Argonne National Laboratory focusing on nuclear energy, nonproliferation, and national security policy. He has held senior managerial positions at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. He holds leadership positions in the American Nuclear Society and the World Council on Isotopes, advises organizations on risk communication, and serves as an adviser to the Japanese government on the decommissioning of the Fukushima accident site.

Paul was named a Waste Management Symposium Fellow for 2020, one of the highest awards presented at the Waste Management Symposium. Paul received this honor for his ​“distinguished contributions to the advancement of radioactive waste and radioactive material management.” The award recognizes his extensive work in nuclear waste management and nuclear materials disposition nationally and internationally. For more than 35 years, Paul has been in the forefront of nuclear energy and security programs, promoting U.S. civil nuclear technology and safety and international nonproliferation goals and regimes.

Paul received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Denver and a master’s degree in natural sciences in nuclear chemistry and physics from the University of Wyoming.

Paul has served Mercersburg Academy as a reunion committee member and has supported the Annual Fund for 47 consecutive years as a Torchbearer. He and his wife Catherine live in Vienna, Virginia, and have two children and one grandchild.

The Alumni Council Medal for Distinguished Achievement was established in 1997 to recognize alumni who have distinguished themselves in their professional or personal lives and, in doing so, have brought honor to Mercersburg.

Alumni Council Medal for Distinguished Service
Scott Cummings ’71

Scott Cummings is founder and owner of Agile Asset Management, an investment advisory firm based in Denver. A portion of Scott’s professional career entailed 25 years in institutional sales and sales management with three investment banks—two in San Francisco and one in Boston. He subsequently established and ran his own equity-oriented hedge fund for 10 years in the Bay Area. Scott now focuses his consulting efforts on introducing various hedge fund managers to Colorado-headquartered companies.

Scott earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University, was a teammate on the 1973 Brown Ivy League champion lacrosse team, and received All-Ivy Honors. After graduation, he continued his lacrosse activity with the San Francisco Lacrosse Club, winning three California state titles in six years. In addition, Scott was active in coaching a variety of youth sports teams in soccer, basketball, and baseball, ultimately winning a National Junior Basketball title in Anaheim, California, with both his oldest son and his youngest daughter in separate years.

While in California, Scott served on several boards, including as first vice president for The Guardsmen, a San Francisco-based philanthropic men’s organization focused on summer camps and school scholarships for inner-city children.

Scott’s service to Mercersburg Academy spans nearly 50 years. He served as a class agent from 1971-1976, a Mightily Onward Campaign volunteer, a regional event volunteer for gatherings in Denver, a Denver Host Committee member for the school’s Daring to Lead Campaign, an Annual Fund caller for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, and a member of his 25th (chair), 30th (co-chair), 40th (member), and 45th (chair) reunion committees. He is currently serving a second term on the Alumni Council (his first term ended in 1990), for which he is now a member of the nominating committee and chair of the engagement committee. Scott has also served as a virtual event host and is chairing his 50th reunion committee. He is a member of the William Mann Irvine Society and has supported the Annual Fund for more than 40 years, including as a Torchbearer for the last eight years.

Scott has three grown children, two in Colorado and one in California. When not on the golf course, he and his partner, Philae Dominick, split their time between their 1903 Firehouse home in Denver, Philae’s ranch in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of southern Colorado, and an apartment in New York City.

The Alumni Council Medal for Distinguished Service was established in 1957 to recognize alumni who have made outstanding contributions toward Mercersburg’s mission and continued excellence at the school, as reflected in its faculty, student body, facilities, and financial strength.

Alumni Council Prize for Achievement
Commander Kurt Muhler ’96

In December 2020, Commander Kurt Muhler concluded his successful tour as the commanding officer of Special Boat Team Twenty-Two in Stennis, Mississippi. He has had a career of more than 20 years as a U.S. Naval officer with a specialization in special operations. As a SEAL, Kurt has held a variety of leadership and staff assignments that have taken him around the globe, accumulating more than eight years living and working abroad, to include five years in declared combat theaters. His personal decorations include the Bronze Star (three awards, one with valor), Defense Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), Navy Commendation Medal (three awards), Navy Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, and various campaign and service awards.

Kurt graduated with honors from the United States Naval Academy in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in oceanography. In 2013, he was selected for a U.S. Navy Political-Military Fellowship, whereby he received a Master of Public Administration degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

While at Mercersburg, Kurt was a member of the cross country and swim teams and participated in the Mercersburg TREK program, the precursor to Mercersburg Outdoor Education. He is a proud alum from first floor Main Hall and has supported the Annual Fund with 23 years of giving.

Kurt, his wife Anna, and children Elise (6), Astrid (3), and Ivar (1) recently relocated from Mandeville, Louisiana, to Brussels, Belgium. Kurt will begin a new assignment at NATO Special Operations Headquarters, and Anna will return to work at the European Commission.

The Alumni Council Prize for Achievement was established in 2016 to recognize alumni within 25 years after graduation who have distinguished themselves in their professional or personal lives and, in doing so, have brought honor to Mercersburg.

Alumni Council Prize for Service
Ann Marie Bliley-Ester ’01

Ann Marie Bliley-Ester is the managing director of development for the Office of the Vice President for Research at Colorado State University. She leads philanthropic efforts for campus-wide interdisciplinary programs in energy, sustainability, conservation, aging, and infectious disease, including COVID-19 priority projects. She collaborates with advancement colleagues across 15 major gift fundraising teams.

Ann Marie earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the College of Wooster and a master’s degree in organizational leadership with a concentration in strategic innovation and change management from the Colorado State University System. She has completed the Institute for Leaders in Development program at the University of Denver and has presented at a national conference of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. She holds the Certified Fundraising Executive credential.

Ann Marie is a member and current vice president of the Alumni Council. She served on her 5th, 10th, 15th, and 20th reunion committees and is a former class agent. She seasonally worked for Mercersburg Summer Programs while in college. Ann Marie has served her community by volunteering for St. John XXIII University Parish, Partners Mentoring Youth, Autism Speaks, and Great Outdoors Colorado.

Ann Marie is a member of the William Mann Irvine Society and a Torchbearer with 21 years of support for the Annual Fund. Her father, David Bliley ’58, is also a Mercersburg alum. Ann Marie has contributed to the new Lloyd Aquatic Center as well as to the restoration of the Irvine Memorial Chapel window “Kindness,” a special joint gift with her father. She and her husband, Kyle, live in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The Alumni Council Prize for Service was established in 2016 to recognize alumni within 25 years after graduation who have made outstanding contributions toward Mercersburg’s mission and continued excellence at the school, as reflected in its faculty, student body, facilities, and financial strength.

Alumni Council Young Alumni Leadership Award
Hilary Gridley ’06

Hilary Gridley is director of product marketing for Big Health, which creates digital therapeutics to help millions back to good mental health. She has also served in previous roles with Dropbox, Nike, DoSomething.org, and Ocean Conservancy. Hilary was a Yale Center for Customer Insights Fellow at HP Inc. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in environmental science from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Yale University. 

Hilary leverages her experience in community service. She served 826 National, with chapters that provide under-resourced students with opportunities to explore their creativity and improve their writing skills. She has served as a Climate Fellowship application evaluator at Echoing Green, addressing economic development, racial and gender equity, and environmental sustainability. She is the co-founder of afterwordsproject.com, a career resource for, by, and about students of English literature. After Words is designed to shine a light on the diverse career opportunities awaiting English majors and explores how studying language and literature can concretely prepare one for the demands of life after college, in and out of work.

At Mercersburg Academy, Hilary was a prefect, editor-in-chief of The Mercersburg News, captain of the varsity tennis team, member of Cum Laude, and winner of the Harry F. Smith Prize in English. Hilary has served as a member of her 10th reunion committee and has hosted students during school trips to northern California. She is a Torchbearer with six consecutive years of support for the Annual Fund, and her family Mercersburg connections include her great-great-uncle (Haines Gridley 1900), father (William Gridley ’69), and brother (William Gridley ’04).

Hilary lives in San Francisco and in her spare time illustrates absurdist children’s posters (instagram.com/hihellohils) and writes a monthly newsletter called The Night Crazies (https://tinyletter.com/hils).

The Young Alumni Leadership Award was established in 2016 to recognize alumni within 15 years after graduation whose achievements have demonstrated excellence in their profession and service to their community, the public, humanity, or Mercersburg, embodying the values, spirit, and pride of the school.