Distinguished Alumni & Faculty Awards
The Gulliver Alumni Association is proud to announce the
2018 Distinguished Alumni and Faculty Award Recipients.
Outstanding Raider Award
Chris Derks ‘88
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Chris Derks graduated from Gulliver Prep in 1988, entering the Naval Academy. He then transferred to Tulane University on a swimming scholarship. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1993 with a degree in human biology, and George Washington University in 1994 with a degree in forensic science. Chris returned to Gulliver in 1993 to coach swimming at the Academy, before becoming a professional marathon swimmer in 1995.
He competed in the 2001 swim across the British Channel, where he achieved the fastest time of the year, and twelfth-fastest time in history. Chris went on to win both an individual and team national title, and is an eight-time All-American swimmer.
From 1997-2002, Chris worked for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as a forensic chemist, and is currently an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Notable projects in Chris' professional career include: white collar crime and public corruption investigations, astronaut recovery in the 2003 Columbia Space Crash, supervising a hazardous response unit, handling crime scenes at bombings of U.S. embassies, serving as an expert witness at the trial of the Boston Marathon bomber, and leading the investigations of active shooter situations at the Washington Naval Yard and a congressional baseball game.
Chris remains a proud Gulliver alum, even serving as the school's very first Raider mascot.
Rising Star Award
Valerie Berrin ‘07
Health Information Project
Valerie Berrin graduated from Barnard College-Columbia University with a B.A. in Religion. Valerie grew up in Miami and graduated from Gulliver Preparatory School. She currently serves as the Director of Operations for the Health Information Project (HIP), an organization dedicated to educating teenagers about their health issues and assisting them in accessing existing community health resources.
During college, she worked with the New York City public high schools. That experience taught her about the numerous physical and emotional health needs of the students and the lack of resources in their schools and communities.
Valerie currently serves as the chair of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools School Health Medical Advisory Committee (SHMAC), which sets health/medical policy for the entire school district. She is a 2014 New Leaders Council Fellow.
Valerie also serves as the chair of the Barnard Alumnae Young Professionals Group in Miami and the Gulliver Alumni Council. In her spare time, Valerie is a commissioner of a girls’ community basketball league and coaches one of the teams.
Hank Langston Award for Alumni Service
Libby Witherspoon ‘87
BNY Mellon Wealth Management
Libby Witherspoon is a Senior Director – Team Leader of Portfolio Management with BNY Mellon Wealth Management. Libby joined BNY Mellon in 2007 and currently serves as the Team leader for the portfolio management team in Miami. She works closely with her clients and other professional advisors to determine a wealth management strategy for each client’s unique set of circumstances.
Libby has over 27 years of experience in the wealth management industry, catering to the investment and wealth management needs of high net worth individuals, their families, endowment funds and pension plans.
Libby is a member of and has actively supported (through board membership, chairmanships, and committee involvement) Gulliver, Tiffany Circle of the American Red Cross, American Red Cross of Greater Miami and The Keys, the Junior League of Miami, the Junior League of Miami Foundation, Beaux Arts, Friends of Art of the Lowe Art Museum, CHARLEE Homes for Children, CAP, Inc., Kristi House, Diabetes Research Institute, Florida Heart Institute, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, American Red Cross Spectrum Awards, MD Anderson, and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital President Cabinet.
She is an extremely proud Raider Alum of the class of 1987 and current parent of Julia, a rising sixth grader at the Academy.
Marian C. Krutulis Faculty Award
Late Academy Director of Student Activities
Les Cooperman was Director of Student Activities at Gulliver Academy, a school he served for nearly 40 years. Les graduated from the University of Miami in 1975 with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education Early Childhood. He then began a career dedicated to education, first at F.S. Tucker Elementary School as a kindergarten teacher in 1976, then as a P.E. teacher at Kinlock Park Junior High School in 1977-78, followed by teaching math and P.E. at Sunset Prep School in 1978-79.
Les joined Gulliver Academy 1979 as a math teacher, and served in that role until 1992 when he became Director of Student Activities. His wife, Susie, has been a kindergarten teacher at Gulliver since 1993, and their two children, Jeffrey and Rebecca, are both Gulliver “lifers,” having attended school here from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Les’ love of education could only be matched by his love of baseball. He played for the University of Miami from 1971-72, and even tried out for the New York Yankees.