Newman University honored student scholars and leaders for their outstanding academic achievements and accomplishments at the 2017 Academic Honors and Awards Banquet, held April 19 on the Newman campus.
The university-wide event is presented each year to acknowledge superior performance by students, and includes recognition of honor society inductees, campus leaders, students selected for this year’s Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities, and top scholars in business, information technology, education, science, nursing and other academic disciplines.
This year marked the first time Newman has presented the awards at a banquet instead of a convocation setting. Also unlike previous years, most student awards were announced to students before the event, so they could invite parents, family members and friends to attend the celebration.
One exception is the prestigious St. Catherine Medal, which is awarded annually to a sophomore or junior who has demonstrated outstanding service to the university, and has established an excellent record for scholastic achievement. The recipient, student Khoi Nguyen, said she was very surprised when her name was announced.
“It was a lovely surprise and I wish that my parents were at the banquet to share this joy with me,” Nguyen said. “I am truly honored to be the recipient of the St. Catherine Medal. I appreciate all the support I have received and I believe that I would not have been on stage to receive the award had it not been for those who have made important impacts in my life.”
In addition to student awards, the Newman Academic Honors and Awards banquet featured the announcement of the Teaching Excellence Award to Associate Professor of Theology and Director of Graduate Theology Programs Joshua Papsdorf, Ph.D. The award is presented each spring to a full-time faculty member who has demonstrated an innovative or dynamic approach to courses, course revisions, and teaching techniques. The recipient has the honor of speaking at the following spring commencement ceremony. The name of this award recipient is also kept secret until the banquet event.
The banquet also included the Newman Staff Excellence Award. The award is presented each year to a full-time staff member who goes above and beyond in the performance of his or her job duties. The name of the recipient of this award was also kept secret until the banquet. The award went to Administrative Assistant to the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Division of Science and Mathematics Debbie Flax.
Following the banquet, several students spoke of how they felt about receiving an award.
“I’m so excited,” said Liping Peng, a senior who received the Faculty Choice Award for Radiologic Technology. “I can’t believe I was chosen. I’m so proud of this.”
“I was so surprised when I learned I was getting the award,” said Ashley Gonzalez, recipient of the Teacher of Promise Award - Elementary Main Campus. “There are so many good students in my class, so for me to be chosen is an honor.
Gonzalez added that she has already secured a job to teach 6th grade at Maize Middle School.
“It’s an honor to be recognized,” said Hilary Cabrejos, the mother of a 10-year-old daughter and a newborn son who received the Creative Achievement Award. “I’ll be sorry to leave. The people and culture are amazing here.”
“I think tonight I finally realized that my time [at Newman] is coming to an end,” said senior Diane Kemp, who received the Sr. Vivian Miller Award in Education. “It’s been really nice to stand back and see all that’s been accomplished here.”
“I was on the verge of crying,” said Ruben Lerma, who received the Outstanding Senior Chemistry/Biochemistry Student Award, and has been given a fellowship from Kansas State University to pursue a Ph.D. in the genetics of plants. “I do feel like I did a lot of work for Newman, but Newman did a lot of work for me. It’s great to be recognized by the faculty that I can do what I did.”
Below is a list of 2017 Academic Honors and Awards recipients, with their respective hometowns, followed by new honor society inductees, Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities inductees, and Graduating Presidential Scholars.