President celebrates university, staff at convocation
Radford University welcomed faculty and staff back to campus during its annual university convocation on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. It was a moment to look ahead to the upcoming academic year, welcome new faces and celebrate the achievements of the Highlander community.
Addressing the gathering at his first university convocation, President Bret Danilowicz spoke about the people who make up the university and the purpose of the institution.
“Of all the faculty and staff I have met so far, you are awesome. You are student-focused, and you are wonderful,” said President Danilowicz, who took the position as Radford’s eighth president on July 1, 2022. “This is a great and easy community to get to know. There are wonderful people across this institution.”
Radford’s continuing goal, he said, is to be an education-first institution. “It is our sense of purpose,” he said. “We help students learn; we help launch them into careers as global citizens.”
Danilowicz noted that Radford can be “more efficient and effective” in making sure students are successful, citing retention as a primary goal. One new effort toward reaching that objective is the creation of the Highlander Success Center, which combines Academic Advising, Student Connections (formerly New Student and Family Programs), the Student Retention Office and Career and Talent Development.
“This is putting the students first; their success is paramount to the institution,” Danilowicz said of the Highlander Success Center.
The president cited communication as a key ingredient needed to help the university grow toward its potential as a student-focused institution.
“So, I’m going to do an experiment,’ he said. “I’m starting something called Coffee with the President – it will be a Zoom session, which is open for people to attend.” The first meeting is scheduled for Oct. 6.
A longstanding university convocation tradition is to announce the winners of the Radford University Faculty Awards. Those honors celebrate outstanding achievement among faculty members. Nominations are made by members of the Radford University community, and the award recipients are recommended to the president by the Faculty Awards Committee.
The most prestigious award bestowed to a deserving faculty member is the Donald N. Dedmon Distinguished Teaching Professor Award. It is named in honor of the university’s fourth president. Nominees must have an outstanding record of teaching at Radford University, be professionally active in their discipline and be recognized by colleagues and students as thoroughly knowledgeable in the subject matter and current scholarship of their teaching discipline.
This year’s winner is Jennifer McDonel, Department of Music associate professor and director of music education.
“I am sincerely honored to receive this prestigious award,” McDonel said. “I always strive to lift up and support our students in their opportunities to dream big, to reach beyond what they know and pursue excellence.”
Other award winners included:
- Administrative and Professional Excellence Award – Mary Catherine Santoro, clinical instructor and outreach librarian at Radford University Carilion.
- Distinguished Service Award – Holly Cline, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Design.
- Distinguished Faculty Advising Award – James Newman, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism.
The New River Valley Health Foundation received the 2022 Founders Award.
“The recipient of the 2022 Founders Award exemplifies value through action. The recipient has demonstrated these characteristics through a significant partnership focused on making transformative education accessible to bright and promising students,” said interim Vice President for Advancement and University Relations Penny White in the lead-up to the announcement.
“This recipient has given over $1.3 million and created four endowed scholarships providing access to deserving students,” White said. “This commitment and generosity have impacted many Radford University students and positively supported the university community.”
The Founders Award was created by former Radford University President Douglas Covington on the premise that education opens doors to opportunity.
Additional awards presented at the convocation were:
- Keeping It Green Award – Emily Hall, Department of Dance. The annual award recognizes an employee who exemplifies the university’s sustainability initiatives.
- Bea Covington Award – Jessica Stone, Financial Aid Office. The award is given to an individual who consistently demonstrates a positive attitude. The award was established in 2006 to honor the late wife of former Radford University President Douglas Covington.
- Presidential Service Award – Ethan Bowyer, Department of Information Technology Services, and Katie Davis, Department of Music. The award goes to individuals who have a consistent record of excellence that results in outstanding contributions to the university.
Faculty Senate President and Professor of History Kurt Gingrich, Ph.D., brought to the stage for recognition the 2021 Dalton Eminent Scholar Award winners: Interim Department of Music Chair Robert Trent, D.M.A.; Professor of Biology Karen Powers, Ph.D.; Professor and Chair of the Department of History Sharon Roger Hepburn, Ph.D.; and Assistant Professor of Management Richard Gruss, Ph.D.
In addition, 26 new faculty members were welcomed during the convocation, and interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Marten L. DeBoer, Ph.D., announced that 15 faculty members were awarded tenure in the spring, and 28 faculty were promoted.
“Radford University has amazing people who care about each other, our institution and what is best for our students,” denBoer said.