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Honorary Degree And Granite State Awardees Are Nonprofit Leaders…And So Much More

Story By:
Paul Miller | Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations
Marcus Soutra '06
Marcus Soutra '06 founded and led an award-winning nonprofit, and has given lectures and keynotes in venues across the globe to support the learning disability community. (Photo by Pepe Pombo)

Keene State College will bestow two individuals with special awards and another with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree at its annual Commencement on Saturday, May 4.

Commencement is held outdoors at the Fiske Quad in the center of campus.

Marcus Soutra ‘06, a leader in the learning differences field and recipient of the Keene State College Alumni Inspiration Award in 2016, will receive the honorary degree. Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, authors and founders of the Daily Good, a nonprofit that provides free, culturally responsive Global Foods Pantries at Keene State College, Antioch University of New England, and River Valley Community College, will receive the Granite State Award.

The College will also recognize a current student with the Leo F. Redfern Outstanding Citizenship Award. The recipient’s name is confidential until announced at Commencement.

These awards represent a Keene State tradition that spans more than 50 years and honors those whose outstanding accomplishments reflect the vision and values of the College.

Marcus Soutra ‘06: Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters

The College confers this degree each year on an outstanding individual of national or international importance whose contributions have enhanced society or have otherwise brought significant enrichment or benefit to a particular group.

After graduating from Keene State with social studies and secondary education degrees, Soutra worked as a public school teacher before joining an informal grassroots group called Eye to Eye. He became the group’s first official staff member and, as co-founder and president, built Eye to Eye into a national organization with the mission to improve the educational experience and outcomes of neurodiverse young people, while engaging them and their allies in the movement for a more equitable and inclusive society.

Diagnosed at a young age with dyslexia and ADHD, Soutra has a profound commitment to fostering diverse learners’ potential. His work has expanded from students with learning difficulties to promoting inclusive learning in varied environments.

He lectures and presents nationally and internationally to reduce the stigma associated with learning differently. In March, Soutra announced that he would hand over the reins of Eye to Eye to its co-founder after 17 years and focus on his advocacy and speaking engagements.

Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace: Granite State Award

First Generation Authors, Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace
Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace

The Granite State Award is presented annually to a person, agency, corporation, or foundation that demonstrates outstanding achievement in their field and contributes significantly to the welfare or success of the state.

The Global Food Pantry was an initiative at Keene State when the College transitioned to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. While most students returned home to complete the semester, international students and other students unable to arrange to stay on campus drew support from the pantry, which is set up in the College’s Office of Multicultural Student Success and Support.

The pantry continues to operate, providing an important sense of belonging and a means for connection.

Additionally, Rich and Sandra established the Koenig-Siddall First Generation Scholarship at Keene State, which is focused on first-generation students and students whose pathways to higher education face barriers. The scholarship honors the first-generation ancestors of Sandra and Rich.

Between them, Rich and Sandra have authored nearly 100 novels and book-length works of nonfiction, many of which have won major awards.

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Keene, New Hampshire 03435