Alumni, Students Recognized at Celebration
On April 15, 1999, the George Mason University Alumni Association hosted the annual Celebration of Distinction awards dinner in the Johnson Center Multipurpose Room. Nearly 200 alumni, university administrators, faculty, and friends of George Mason were in attendance to recognize and honor 21 alumni, students, faculty, and staff for outstanding achievements. At the event, the Alumni Association presented 12 awards and 5 scholarships.
The Alumnus of the Year award was presented to Judge Jonathan C. Thacher, J.D. with distinction '80, for outstanding achievements that bring honor to George Mason University. A partner in the firm Thacher, Swiger, and Cay from 1980 to 1994, Thacher was appointed as general district court judge to the 19th Judicial District, Fairfax. After only four years on the bench, he was elected by the Virginia General Asssembly to the Circuit Court, the highest court in the commonwealth. In addition, Thacher coaches high school basketball, studies Tae Kwon Do (he has a black belt), and competitively water skis. Since his graduation, Thacher has served as an adjunct law professor and judge for the Moot Court and Client Counseling competition, helped found the Law Alumni Association, and has been an active member of the Patriot Club.
Juliana Kuo, M.A. Music '95, received the Alumni Service award in recognition of her outstanding service to the university. Kuo has been "a tireless advocate of George Mason University and a faithful alumnus." In addition to actively recruiting students for the music program, she was instrumental in helping the Music Department become acquainted with a local entrepreneur, which resulted in the Melton Music Teaching Scholarship Awards, the largest gift ever received by the Music Department. Kuo also contributes to the annual Music Benefit Concert and serves as an Alumni Association director at large.
The Faculty Member of the Year award recognizes outstanding contributions by a faculty member in the areas of academic activities, university participation, and service to the university and the community. This year's recipient, Karen Oates, New Century College (NCC), is recognized specifically for her work in as associate dean of NCC since its inception four years ago. Oates has worked on curriculum development, degree requirements, faculty recruitment, external relations, and student affairs while striving to live up to NCC's motto: "Connecting the classroom to the world." In doing so, she has connected students with intern and mentoring opportunities and small grants from the Century Club, developed fund-raising opportunities with the Learning Retirement Institute, and helping bring back the adult degree program (Bachelor of Individualized Study).
The Senior of the Year award was presented to Jason Eakes, a senior majoring in communication, for his outstanding contributions to academic excellence, student life, service to the university, and leadership. Eakes maintained a 3.6 grade point average while holding more than five leadership positions, including chair of the Council of Student Umbrellas, and organizational chair of Volunteer Week. Eakes faced several challenges during the course of his education, requiring him to work full-time while pursuing his degree. In addition, in September, he dealt with the tragic death of his best friend, roommate, and fellow scholar Stefan Meskunas. Such endeavors have led him to be described as a "remarkable, mature young man" by his nominators.
The Peter Forame Student Leader Scholarship was awarded to biology major Gloria M. Lee for her outstanding leadership skills and commitment to service. While maintaining a 3.8 grade point average, working in the Biology Department as a tutor and in the lab, and making the dean's list every semester, Lee served as vice president of the Biology Club. There, she succeeded in rerouting the course of the faltering organization by strengthening student and faculty involvement and improving the communication within the club. Lee also served as the vice president of GMU Rotaract, where she strived to increase the organization's visibility as a volunteer organization, and participated in various other service organizations.
The John C. Wood Scholarship was awarded to Stephani Bennett, a senior majoring in nursing. This scholarship provides financial assistance to a student who demonstrates academic excellence and contributes to the life of the university and the community while overcoming obstacles in pursuit of an education. Bennett has a 4.0 grade point average and is on the dean's list. She became interested in nursing after witnessing firsthand the impact nurses have with the premature birth of her son in 1990. Bennett has worked at INOVA Fairfax Hospital in various positions while pursuing her degree.
Patricia Louise Farley, a master's candidate in secondary education with endorsements in ESL and English, was awarded the John C. and Louise P. Wood Graduate Scholarship for her unusual motivation in pursuit of her education and contribution to the university. Unable to afford college immediately after high school, Farley joined the Marine Corps. In 1993 when her youngest son was in kindergarten, she finally got her chance to return and attended a community college and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington before transferring to George Mason, where she received her B.A. in 1998. On the dean's list, Farley maintains a 4.0 grade point average while she continues to devote time to the Boy Scouts of America as a leader and committee member, a volunteer at Burrows Elementary School, and the director of the vacation bible school at her church. Her work in scouting encouraged her interest in teaching, and she anticipates a May 2000 graduation with certification to teach at the high school level.
In addition, Alumni Association groups and university departments presented a number of awards and scholarships.
The Department of History and Art History presented its Outstanding Graduate Award to Robert K. Hedrick, Jr., B.A. History, '71. He is currently head of public finance for Jackson Securities.
Joseph Thompson, M.P.A. '82, received the Wayne F. Anderson Award for Distinguished Public Service, given annually for outstanding accomplishments in public service. Thompson has taken on the initiative of reducing VA benefits program's dependence on paper files and has been commended for his work by Vice President Al Gore (See story on p. 14).
The Career Connection Alumni Award, sponsored by University Career Services, recognizes alumni for their active support of Career Services and George Mason students in encouraging career exploration and providing greater access to employers and the world of work. The recipient was Rose Tajvidi, B.A. Marketing '85. She currently works as a campus relations representative at Electronic Data Systems and has assumed responsibility this past year for the entire range of college relations and recruiting activities at George Mason.
Cesar G. Soriano, B.A. Speech Communication '94, received this year's Broadside Alumni Association's Outstanding Service Award for his service to the association, including the creation of its first web page. A current reporter with USA Today's life desk, Soriano has also worked for USA Weekend and the Washington Times. In addition, he serves in the U.S. Army National Guard. He used his journalistic talent during a nine-month deployment in Bosnia, where he work on the military publication Talon. The web page Soriano designed for the Broadside Alumni Association is complete with an alumni directory, job and internship listings, and information useful to journalists.
The Distinguished Nursing Alumni Award was given to Carolyn K. Lewis, Ph.D. Nursing '93, for her involvement with the nursing community. In addition to several awards, including the Commonwealth Fellow from the Virginia State Council of Higher Education, and many published scholarly articles, she has served as a consultant on rural health care to the former Soviet Union and the Trilateral Initiative for the North American Nursing certification committee. Lewis is the executive director of the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the founding president of her state Rural Health Association, and was recently appointed to the Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties.
In addition the following awards and scholarships were presented to students: Mary Lynn Boland, Outstanding Student Achievement Award; the School of Law Alumni Scholarship; the Dean Engle Memorial Award; the New Century College Graduating Senior Internship Award; and the M.B.A. Alumni Association Coleman Raphael Scholarship.