Smeal graduates Lou D’Ambrosio and Julie McHugh were among eight Penn State alumni to receive Penn State’s Distinguished Alumni Award, the University’s highest honor, in June. The award recognizes the achievements of outstanding alumni whose “personal lives, professional achievements, and community service exemplify the objectives of their alma mater.”

Lou D’Ambrosio was part of the University Scholars Program (the predecessor of the Schreyer Honors College) and graduated as valedictorian of Penn State’s College of Business (now Smeal) class of 1986 with a degree in management. He earned a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School before beginning his professional journey with IBM. In more than 15 years with the company, he rose to an executive role leading sales and marketing efforts for the firm’s $12 billion software group.

That experience opened doors for D’Ambrosio to take on chief executive officer positions with Avaya and Sears and serve as executive chairman of Sensus. From there he became a senior advisor for Goldman Sachs, where, as leader of their Value Accelerator, he helps companies improve in areas such as pricing optimization, sustainability, company culture, data strategy, and more.

D’Ambrosio says that when Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi called to share the news of his Distinguished Alumni Award he was immediately grateful and enthusiastic to reconnect with the University and reflect on “one of the most formative experiences” of his life.

After that though, his thoughts turned to his family.

“When my dad passed away, one of the first philanthropic ventures my wife and I started was a scholarship in recognition of my father… for Penn State, for Schreyer Honors College,” D’Ambrosio says. “During the call about the Distinguished Alumni Award there was a reflection on my dad and how proud he would be.”

D’Ambrosio received the Smeal Outstanding Young Alumnus Award in 1999 and the Penn State Alumni Fellow Award in 2008.

Like D’Ambrosio, McHugh was also a part of the University Scholars Program and a member of the College of Business’s class of 1986, graduating with a degree in finance. She spent more than 35 years in the biopharmaceutical industry, beginning as a management associate with Smith Kline and French (now Glaxo).

Her experience includes general management, strategic planning, research and development, mergers and acquisitions, and organizational design. During her career, she led the development and commercialization of breakthrough products for the treatment of cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, autoimmune, and infectious diseases.

McHugh, who earned a master’s degree in business administration from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, currently serves as the chairman of the board for Ironwood Pharmaceuticals and is a non-executive director on the boards of Lantheus Medical Imaging, Evelo Biosciences, and Xellia Pharmaceuticals. She is also a senior advisor to HealthCare Royalty Partners.

McHugh first reconnected with Penn State as a corporate liaison for Johnson & Johnson in the 2000s — an experience she calls exhilarating. “I recalled all of the wonderful opportunities that the University afforded me and was instantly re-inspired by the incredible culture of Penn State,” she says.

McHugh joined Smeal’s Board of Visitors in 2007, and after her daughter, Emily, enrolled at Penn State in 2014, she was asked to co-found and co-chair the Parent Philanthropy Committee.

McHugh says that being named a distinguished alumna of the University is one of the greatest honors of her life. “My adult life has been so enriched by being involved at Penn State. I am grateful beyond words,” she says.

McHugh was previously honored with the Smeal Undergraduate Distinguished Achievement Award in 2016 and the Penn State Alumni Fellow Award in 2018. She and her husband, Michael, who earned a Penn State degree in accounting in 1982, are members of the Mount Nittany Society.

— Anne Louise Cropp and Ray Schmitt