L&S alumni Robert Bergman, Kelly Kahl receive Distinguished Alumni Awards, WAA's highest honor

September 11th 2017 | Nikki Denison
Alumni & Friends, Awards
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The Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA) will honor four alumni with its highest distinction: the Distinguished Alumni Award. Two of the 2017 recipients — Robert Bergman and Kelly Kahl — are L&S graduates. WAA is a division of the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association. 

The 2017 recipients are:

  • Jim Berbee, BS'85, MS'87, MBA'89, a UW School of Medicine and Public Health assistant professor
  • Robert Bergman, PhD'66, Chemistry, the Gerald E. K. Branch Distinguished Professor Emeritus in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Danae Davis, JD'80, the executive director of Milwaukee Succeeds
  • Kelly Kahl, BA'89, Communication Arts, the president of CBS Entertainment

The honorees will accept their awards at a chancellor's luncheon on the UW-Madison campus on October 19.

Robert Bergman

Robert Bergman is a pioneering organic chemist whose findings have led to numerous commercial applications. He discovered a reaction known as the Bergman Cyclization that has had major implications for the pharmaceutical industry. He has also done innovative research in the field of organometallic chemistry. In 1981, Bergman led a team in the discovery of an unusual new group of organometallic complexes that sever carbon-hydrogen bonds, which created an entirely new subfield of chemistry virtually overnight

Bergman began teaching at the California Institute of Technology in 1967, moving on to serve as a professor at the University of California–Berkeley in 1977. He has been named a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the California Academy of Sciences. He has more than 575 publications and 8 patents to his name. Bergman has earned some two dozen awards for his research and teaching, including an honorary doctorate from Texas A&M University and the 2017 Wolf Prize in Chemistry. (The Wolf awards are regarded as second only to the Nobel Prize.) He is the initiator and codeveloper of the Bay Area Scientists in Schools program, which provides science outreach for elementary school students in the Berkeley area. Now that he has emeritus status, Bergman remains active in research, teaching, and outreach.

Kelly Kahl

It’s very possible that Kelly Kahl is responsible for one of your favorite TV shows. As senior executive vice president for CBS Primetime, he oversaw the planning and scheduling of all primetime programming for more than two decades. He helped build a schedule that included hugely successful shows such as Survivor, Blue Bloods, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Big Bang Theory, CSI, and three editions of the NCIS franchise, ensuring that CBS ranked number one in viewers for 14 of the last 15 seasons. Kahl was promoted to president of CBS Entertainment in May. His current role involves leading the network’s entertainment division, overseeing programming, research and scheduling, marketing and promotion, digital-interactive, diversity, and publicity.

Kahl signed on at CBS in 1996 after several years at Warner Brothers Television. Prior to that, he was with Lorimar Television, starting as a research intern and quickly rising through the ranks as a research analyst and manager. Kahl, whose Twitter handle is cali badger, is well known for his love of Wisconsin sports, and he serves on the Communication Arts Partners board for UW–Madison. He often hosts UW events at his home and at the bar he owns, the Underground Pub, and he has also established a successful internship program at CBS for UW students. Senior Ryan Holtz, this year’s intern, says, “Kelly is extremely hands-on with his interns. His promotion happened just as I was arriving at CBS for the summer, but he was still able to keep his door open for each and every minute question that I had.”

Story courtesy of the Wisconsin Alumni Association.

Nominate an outstanding UW alum

WAA is now accepting nominations for the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards at uwalumni.com/go/nominatedaa.