Denise Welch Land '97 Selected as Southern Vermont College Distinguished Alumna

April 3, 2011

Denise Welch Land ’97 of Utica, N.Y., has been recognized by Southern Vermont College as the 2011 Distinguished Alumna. The Distinguished Alumni award is given to an alumna or alumnus of Southern Vermont College or its predecessor, St. Joseph College, in recognition of a combination of career, community service and personal achievements. Land was honored at the College’s Commencement in May.

Since 1998, Land has worked as an Immigration Officer for the Department of Immigration and Naturalization, now the Department of Homeland Security, and was recently tapped by the FBI to serve as a liaison between that organization and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Land graduated summa cum laude earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Private Security from Southern Vermont College. As a star athlete in soccer, basketball and softball, she was inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001. Land was the first female officer hired by the Bennington Police Department (BPD) and has credited the leadership of retired Police Chief and former SVC Distinguished alumnus Richard Gauthier ’91 and current Police Chief and SVC alumnus Paul Doucette ’90 as critical to her success.

In her spare time, Land serves as a volunteer for children’s programs and charities, such as coaching her daughter’s soccer team and raising funds in the St. Jude’s Hospital Walk. This past fall, Land assisted SVC senior Garang Ayang, a refugee from Sudan, in obtaining a visa to see his family, after learning of Ayang’s father’s untimely death. “I have been blessed with many people who led me in the right direction,” Land said. “It’s the least I can do to give back to others.”

Land was presented the Distinguished Alumni Award during SVC’s 84th Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 7. She joined Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, Neuroscience, Oncology and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and Director of the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Laboratory, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who was this year’s Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient, and Marcus Samuelsson, chef, author and food activist,
who also received an honorary degree.

Land will also attend Alumni Reunion festivities during the weekend of June 3 to 5. To join Land and other SVC/SJC graduates during reunion weekend, alumni may register online at