Lees-McRae students, faculty, and staff recognized for achievements and efforts at 63rd annual Honors and Award

Students, faculty, staff, and family members from all corners of Lees-McRae gathered in Hayes Auditorium on Thursday, April 21 to recognize award recipients at the 63rd annual Honors and Awards ceremony.

Each year, this ceremony recognizes outstanding Bobcats who go above and beyond to succeed and make a lasting impact in their field. Awards include recognition for high-achieving students in each academic program as well as awards recognizing excellent faculty and staff members. Opening and closing the afternoon’s celebrations was Provost Alyson Gill, hosting her first Honors and Awards ceremony.

Students from the Musical Theater department kept the event lively with surprise flash mob performances of “I Hope I Get It” from the musical “A Chorus Line,” “Thank You for the Music” by ABBA, and “For Now” from the musical “Avenue Q” in addition to the performance of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” by Lees-McRae choral ensemble The Highlanders.

“I am in awe of you. You have faced challenges in education the likes of which the modern world has never seen,’” Gill said in her opening remarks. “Faculty, you continued to deliver on the promises of this institution and did not ever let your students down. This is the day that we celebrate those accomplishments.”

After faculty and staff representatives from each department awarded outstanding students in each academic program, it was time for a student to take the stage and award recognition to a member of the Lees-McRae staff who has made a significant and positive impact on the lives of Lees-McRae students with the SGA Staff Award.

Student Government Association (SGA) President London England awarded the recognition on behalf of himself and the other members of SGA to show their appreciation for the college’s staff who has helped them achieve their goals. This year, the award was presented to Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Kevin Phillips.

“When you ask students on campus what they love most about Lees-McRae, it’s usually how personable the faculty and staff is, and Kevin Phillips is one of those people who exemplifies that,” England said. “With his many hats, Kevin always goes out of his way to ensure that we students have the best experience. He advocates for students and does everything he can to take Lees-McRae to new heights.”

The afternoon’s awards closed with five of the most prestigious awards that the college offers, the Faculty Academic Advising Award, the New Faculty Award, the Edgar Tufts Faculty Award, the Edgar Tufts Humanitarian Service Awards, and the Sullivan Awards.

The Faculty Academic Advising Award, presented by Gill, is awarded to a faculty academic advisor who delivers reliable, consistent, and comprehensive advising to students. This year the award was presented to Assistant Professor of Biology Dee Medford-Baker.

“The winner of the award this year has had a lasting impact on their students, and has provided constant, gentle guidance not only to her students, but to many of us, including myself,” Gill said.

Continuing with the faculty awards was the New Faculty Award, which recognizes a faculty member who has been employed at Lees-McRae for one to three years. This is a faculty member who excels in teaching, advising, scholarship, and service. The winner of the New Faculty Award this year was Assistant Dean of the School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences Shinjini Goswami.

“This faculty member has shown a quiet, gentle presence across campus, and a willingness to serve in all aspects of campus life whether it’s on committees, or taking care of the greenhouse,” Gill said. “She is beloved by her students, and embodies courage, compassion, and grace.”

Possibly the highest honor the college bestows on faculty is the Edgar Tufts Faculty Award, which recognizes a faculty member who exemplifies outstanding professional performance or contributions to the welfare of the college and the community.

The winner of this year’s Edgar Tufts Faculty Award was Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Outdoor Recreation Management, and Director of the Truist Leadership Institute Initiative Katie Wall.

“The first time I came to campus, I was so impressed by the way that the students connected to her, and by the way she talked to them,” Gill said. “One thing about Katie is that as a colleague, she makes me want to try new things, and I cannot imagine the impact that she has on her students. This is what we need here, and this is what we have in her.”

President Lee King took the stage to award the Sullivan Awards and the Edgar Tufts Humanitarian Service Awards. These two awards, referred to by King as the two “MVP awards,” each had two recipients: an impactful community member and an outstanding student.

The Edgar Tufts Humanitarian Service Award is an accolade which is presented to those who best exemplify the spirit of Edgar Tufts by leading a life of service in the community and on campus.

Director of Information Technology Joe Baumhover was the staff recipient of the award.

“Our staff recipient of this award is really an unsung hero at Lees-McRae. He stepped into a very difficult role mid-year as we had a transition in leadership in our technology offices, and I can tell you since he has been in this role it has been a gamechanger for our institution,” King said. “He has a selfless spirit, and selfless dedication.”

England was the student recipient of the Edgar Tufts Humanitarian Service Award. In addition to serving as SGA president England is also a member of Order of the Tower, and a player on the men’s basketball team.

“When we have had a program together where I have been speaking and he has been speaking, I’ve been thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to go first because when he speaks, he really leaves the room in awe,” King said. “He is one of the finest young men that I know.”

The Sullivan Award is presented each year in association with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation, an organization of some of the strongest and most vital academic institutions in the southern U.S. Recipients of this award demonstrate  an outstanding nobility of character that sets them apart as examples for all.

The community recipient of the Sullivan Award this year was Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Pastor Alan Yawn.

“This year’s recipient has gone above and beyond to develop strong relationships with our students, and strong relationships with our faculty and staff. He has helped students in need from his own pocket,” King said.

This year’s student recipient was arguably the star of the afternoon, senior Destiny Johnson. Called a leader on campus by her professors, Johnson is an Elementary Education major, and a player on the Lees-McRae women’s basketball team.

“You have students who touch your heart, you have students that touch the hearts of the students that they work with, and then you have students that you know are going to just change the world,” Assistant Professor of Education Nancy Gryder said.

In addition to being presented with the prestigious Sullivan Award, Johnson also received the Teacher Education Award for excellence through purposeful commitment to the teaching profession, and the Fred I. Dickerson Award for highest GPA among female student-athletes in the senior class.

One other student, December graduate Johannes Øeksnevad, received multiple awards. He was awarded the English award and the Fred I. Dickerson Award for highest GPA among male student-athletes in the senior class.

The Honors and Awards ceremony is one of the many ways that Lees-McRae celebrates the annual achievements and successes of the college’s community members leading up to Commencement.

By Maya JarrellApril 22, 2022
AcademicsCampus Life