Alex (Sasa) Portner ’89, the recipient of the 2019 Thomas Shaw Award, still remembers Gabe Hodziewich’s enthusiasm in science class and the joy of throwing clay in Tracey Goodrich’s ceramics class. Her middle and high school experience motivated her to do more for her alma mater in the 30 years since she graduated.
“I think that St. Andrew’s really just gave me a great foundation for school and life,” Portner said. “I have been inspired to go back and stay in touch with (St. Andrew’s) just to provide the same opportunity for other people.”
Alex will receive the Thomas Shaw Award Oct. 19 during the Reunion Celebration Brunch. The Thomas Shaw Award recognizes someone whose deeds and actions reflect his or her pride in their alma mater and loyalty to the school, as demonstrated through their support of the school, the Alumni Association and its programs.
Portner started at St. Andrew’s in seventh grade, sold on the small-school environment but also excited about the physical scale of the Bradmoor campus. “The whole feel was comfortable – a perfect fit for me,” she said.
After graduation, Portner studied at Hood College and the University of Maryland, where she studied psychology. After an internship at the National Institutes of Health, she returned to school to follow a different passion, earning her master’s degree from The George Washington University’s Interior Architecture & Design program. She married fellow St. Andrew’s alumnus Mark Portner ‘88 and moved to New York, where she worked for an office design firm until she had her first child, daughter Devin.
While raising her family, Alex has made time to give back to St. Andrew’s by volunteering as a class agent and reunion chair. She has returned to St. Andrew’s – this time, to the Postoak campus – to provide an alumna voice on committees and task forces.
“(Mark and I) both really had such a great experience and want to be a part of it going forward,” Alex said. “It’s been so great to see it grow, from when we started there on a different campus. The kids are so fortunate to be in an amazing academic space and a beautiful space as well. When I go back, I’m slightly jealous - I wouldn’t mind going back myself.”