Academic Awards Banquet celebrates students, faculty and staff

Apr 19, 2018

Newman University hosted its second annual Academic Awards Banquet April 18 in the Dugan-Gorges Conference Center.

Bestowing academic awards and honors has been a tradition for many years, but 2018 marks the second year that a formal banquet has been the scene for presenting the awards.

The event is held to honor and celebrate the academic success of students, including honor society inductees and campus leaders. This year’s award for Organization of the Year went to the Residence Hall Association for its hard work and dedication to the students. The Club of the Year was awarded to the Multicultural Leadership Organization, which has held multiple events on campus promoting culture and inclusion.

Madison McCollum
Vice President for Student Affairs Vic Trilli presents the Student Leader of the Year award to junior Madison McCollum.

The Student Leader of the Year award was presented by Vice President for Student Affairs Vic Trilli. He said he was excited to present the award to junior Madison McCollum, who leads students through her energy and school spirit.

McCollum said she was surprised and honored when learning she would be receiving the award.

“I’m grateful to everyone who nominated me and sees me as a piece of the Newman community,” said McCollum. “It’s so hard for me to put into words how important I think school spirit is. It can be actively talking about how to make things better, being willing to be the first to dive head-first into something, or just getting people excited and involved. … It’s something that makes a campus feel like home and creates culture and community that people want more than anything.

“This university and the people here have provided me with opportunities that I wouldn’t have received anywhere else and this is just one more I didn’t see coming,” she continued. “I hope that I can live up to the expectations that this award comes with and I look forward to spreading that Jet Pride for as long as I can.”

Awards were presented for students in the division of arts and letters, business, humanities, social sciences and many more. Graduate students were also honored for achievement and excellence, and many honor society inductees were recognized, including members of Kappa Gamma Pi, Phi Alpha, Pi Gamma Mu among many others.

In addition to these honors, the prestigious St. Catherine Medal is presented to a sophomore or junior who has demonstrated outstanding service to the university and has established an excellent record of scholastic achievement. This is one of only a few awards that are kept anonymous until the announcement at the banquet. The 2017-18 recipient, junior Alexis Reed, said she was surprised and shocked to hear her name called.

“I feel very honored,” Reed said. “I’m very shocked — I was not expecting this at all. It’s a great honor and I’m very appreciative.”

Reed, who is majoring in elementary education, said that Assistant Professor of Education Sandra Bequette, Ed.D., is one faculty member who has inspired her during her higher education journey.

Alexis Reed
Junior Alexis Reed was this year’s recipient of the St. Catherine Medal.

“She has definitely inspired me to be a great teacher, to have high expectations for my students, to foster a loving community in the classroom and to always give a hundred percent effort,” said Reed.

Reed volunteers much of her time to multiple organizations in the community. When asked what’s next for you, Reed responded, “What’s next for me is to just keep serving … and to just try to be the best educator that I can be.”

Some advice she would pass on to other students beginning their college career? “Always do your best, give a hundred percent effort and always try and put others before yourself, because, truly, you’ll get a great reward from that.”

Students weren’t the only individuals honored at the banquet. The other two awards kept secret until the night of the banquet are the Staff Excellence and Teaching Excellence awards presented by Newman University President Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D.

The Staff Excellence 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 award was presented to Tina Ast, administrative assistant for the School of Nursing and Allied Health. Ast said the experience of receiving the honor was “very amazing, very shocking and a very big honor.”

Tina Ast
Tina Ast, administrative assistant for the School of Nursing and Allied Health, received the Staff Excellence award.

The Teaching Excellence 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. This year’s honor went to Suzanne Berg, Ph.D., assistant professor of communications, who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in February 2018.

Suzanne Berg
Suzanne Berg, Ph.D., assistant professor of communications

Nominations for Berg poured in from students and colleagues, with accolades such as “had profound impact on students and their futures,” “she would give feedback in a way that was honest, yet motivating,” “she took the training to transform society to new levels,” and “if there was ever a professor that made me feel prepared to transform society, it was Dr. Berg. I look forward to doing just that in her honor.”

Berg’s husband, Bill, was there to accept the award in her honor along with Jill Fort, Ph.D., associate professor of criminal justice. Fort and Berg were close colleagues and friends during Berg’s time at Newman.

Also announced during the ceremony were the nominees for this year’s Ablah Awards. The Ablah Awards were established by Fran and Geri (Ablah) Jabara to honor the memory of Geri’s parents Harvey J. and Leona J. Ablah, and to perpetuate their vision of entrepreneurism. The awards are presented annually to one female and one male graduating student who exemplify the mission and spirit of Newman University. The award recipients are announced at the undergraduate commencement ceremony. This year’s nominees are:


  • Jacob Hobbie
  • Omogbonjubola Odukale
  • Corbin Riley
  • Bryce Williams


  • Rachel Adducci
  • Daniella Buedden
  • Katie Detmer
  • Victoria Frazier
  • Delaney Hiegert
  • Vivan Hoang
  • Rebecca Kopper
  • Thao Le

To see photos from the event, visit the event’s Flickr album.