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Gala honors excellence in student leadership, among student organizations (PHOTOS)


In an annual celebration of Ohio University’s best student leaders and exemplary organizations, more than 40 students and groups were honored with awards and scholarships at this year’s Leadership Awards Gala on Wednesday, April 5.

University dignitaries, administrators, faculty, staff, family members and the guests of honor – OHIO students who exemplify the core ideals on which Ohio University founded – filled the Baker University Center Ballroom for the 34th annual awards ceremony. Even before the night began, it was one for the record books as the nomination process for this year’s Leadership Awards Gala netted 197 applications, the most ever. 

In a ceremony highlighting and honoring Ohio University students for their contributions to both the University and the greater community, this year’s event celebrated the theme of “Legacy” and reflected on the ways in which student leadership carries forward OHIO’s legacy of transformation and academic excellence. 

“In many ways, Ohio University’s legacy is a tribute to generations of student leaders who have paved our 200-year existence,” Jenny Hall-Jones, senior associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said in welcoming those in attendance. “They forged the innovation, the academic excellence and the global leadership for which we are known. We are who we are because students through time recognized the importance of giving back. And I have no doubt that the tradition will continue with you, our current student leaders.”

The “Legacy” theme was prevalent throughout the evening as each award given focused on how the efforts and dedication of the student recipients had left their marks on the organizations that they serve, their fellow Bobcats and community members with whom they interact, and the OHIO community as a whole.

“Leadership isn’t just about what you accomplish – it’s about what you inspire in others,” Vice President of Student Affairs Jason Pina said in his opening remarks. “I guarantee that the stories we are about to hear will inspire. These are the makings of legacies.”

More than 15 awards and scholarships were presented by the Division of Student Affairs and offices and planning units throughout the University. This year’s award and scholarship winners are: 

  • Charles J. Ping International Leadership Awards – Monica Acon, Rene Grzona and Alena Klimas
  • Women’s Issues Leadership Award – Gabriela Clarke
  • Blackburn-Spencer Achievement Awards – Elsie Ansong, Lauren Cartwright, Justine Johnson, Matthew Kinlow, Victoria Lewis, Kaleb Russell and Alexandria Stewart
  • Blackburn-Spencer Scholarship Awards – Yasmine Agyekum, Randi Bateman, Aissatou Boye and Crystal Vincent
  • Latino Heritage Awards – Salvador Gomez, Madison Lopez and Emily Morello
  • Francine Childs Diversity Leadership Award – Diarra Ndiaye
  • Eyes of Freedom Scholarship – Brenna Innocenzi and Alexandra Vasel
  • Edwin L. Kennedy Leadership Award for Outstanding Community Service (Student) – Kate Blyth
  • Edwin L. Kennedy Leadership Award for Community Service (Organization) – Ohio University Student Chapter of the American Meteorological Society
  • Outstanding Programming Awards – Unity Walk (spring semester 2016); Blackburn Spencer Pageant (fall semester 2016); Heroes Honoring Heroes (spring semester 2017); and Bobcathon (outstanding late night programming)
  • Kerrigan Family Scholarship Award – Erin McMahon
  • Rudy Award for Outstanding Student Leadership – Niara Stitt
  • Division of Student Affairs Academic Excellence Scholarships—Alexis Armstrong, Connor Belak, Elise Whitesell, Ruby Williams and Taylor Woodyard
  • Division of Student Affairs Excellence in the Workplace Scholarships—Paige Collier, Olivia Hoon, Matthew Kinlow, Chais Michael and Jenna Worden
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Leader Award – Jivanto Van Hemert (master’s program) and Hashim Pashtun (doctoral program)
  • Outstanding Senior Leader Awards – Alexis Apparicio, Hannah Clouser, Phoenix Crane, Samantha Cross, Jacob Lambert, Katherine Morua and Xinyi Yan
  • John Newton Templeton Outstanding Senior Leader Award – Jeffrey Billingslea

“It’s absolutely incredible to be recognized by such an awesome University,” said Kate Blyth, the recipient of the Edwin L. Kennedy Community Service Award. “I think events like this really show how strong our community is.”

“This award means a lot to me because it’s always been my goal to leave a positive legacy on this campus,” said Jeffrey Billingslea, who received the John Newton Templeton Outstanding Senior Leader Award. “I think this event challenges us to always do our best and also serves as a motivational tool for people to get more involved.”

“I’ve had the best experiences at OU,” said Erin McMahon, the recipient of the Kerrigan Family Scholarship Award. “It means so much to be recognized for giving back to this University because it has given so much to me.”

The evening ended with one of the most anticipated announcements of the night—the selection of OHIO’s new student trustee. Gov. John Kasich selected Faith Voinovich, a chemical engineering major in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, to represent the student body and serve a two-year term on Ohio University’s Board of Trustees. 

Here are some highlights from this year’s Leadership Awards Gala:

David Descutner, interim president of Ohio University, congratulates Faith Voinovich, who was selected by Ohio Gov. John Kasich to serve as one of two student trustees on the University’s Board of Trustees.

David Descutner, interim president of Ohio University, congratulates Faith Voinovich, who was selected by Ohio Gov. John Kasich to serve as one of two student trustees on the University’s Board of Trustees.

Francine Childs, professor emerita in the Department of African American Studies and the first tenured African-American professor at Ohio University, celebrates with Diarra Ndiaye, this year’s recipient of the Francine Childs Diversity Leadership Award.

Dr. Francine Childs, professor emerita in the Department of African American Studies and the first tenured African-American professor at Ohio University, celebrates with Diarra Ndiaye, this year’s recipient of the Francine Childs Diversity Leadership Award. The award is the most prestigious diversity honor bestowed upon an OHIO student and recognizes individuals who promote the principles of social justice, leadership, cultural diversity, and service to the University and/or the region.

Carla Triana accepts an Outstanding Programming Award on behalf of OHIO’s International Student Union.

Carla Triana accepts an Outstanding Programming Award on behalf of OHIO’s International Student Union. The student organization received the award for creating the Bobcat Unity Walk event that was held for the first time in February 2016.

Pete Trentecoste, executive director of the Department of Housing and Residence Life, congratulates Ruby Williams.

Pete Trentecoste, executive director of the Department of Housing and Residence Life, congratulates Ruby Williams, who is studying integrated social studies education in the Patton College of Education and is a student employee in the Dean of Students Office. Williams received one of the very first Division of Student Affairs Academic Excellence Scholarships.

Erin McMahon, a strategic communication major in the Scripps College of Communication, is presented the Kerrigan Family Scholarship at the 34th Annual Leadership Awards Gala.

Erin McMahon, a strategic communication major in the Scripps College of Communication, is presented the Kerrigan Family Scholarship at the 34th Annual Leadership Awards Gala.

Krista McCallum Beatty, director of International Student and Faculty Services, presents the 2017 Charles J. Ping International Leadership Award for a Graduate International Student to Rene Grzona.

Krista McCallum Beatty, director of International Student and Faculty Services, presents the 2017 Charles J. Ping International Leadership Award for a Graduate International Student to Rene Grzona. An OHIO international student from Germany, Grzona is pursuing a coaching education degree from the Patton College of Education.

(From left) Ami Scherson, Brie Boothby and Ruby Williams pose for a photo at the 34th Annual Leadership Awards Gala, held April 5 in the Baker University Center Ballroom.

(From left) Ami Scherson, Brie Boothby and Ruby Williams pose for a photo at the 34th Annual Leadership Awards Gala, held April 5 in the Baker University Center Ballroom.

Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, associate director of the Multicultural Center, presents the Blackburn-Spencer Scholarship Awards at the 2017 Leadership Awards Gala.

Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, associate director of the Multicultural Center, presents the Blackburn-Spencer Scholarship Awards at the 2017 Leadership Awards Gala.

Interim President David Descutner presents Alexis Apparicio, a student pursuing degrees in both African American studies and political science, an Outstanding Senior Leader Award.

Interim President David Descutner presents Alexis Apparicio, a student pursuing degrees in both African American studies and political science, an Outstanding Senior Leader Award.