Each year in May, Kean University celebrates the stellar achievements of its students with commencement ceremonies. In doing so, the contributions of faculty and staff who provide education and support services to the students are also recognized and applauded. In what has become another spring tradition at Kean, the Retiree Luncheon, President Dr. Dawood Farahi honored those faculty and staff who are retiring after giving years, and in many cases, decades, of service to the university. Also during the ceremony, The Alumni Association Teacher of the Year Award was presented to Dr. Jay Spaulding and Dr. Farahi bestowed Presidential Excellence Awards, acknowledging exceptional contributions in teaching, scholarship and service to 10 the following dedicated university employees this year.
Dr. John Gruesser, professor in the Department of English and Coordinator of the M. A. in Liberal Studies, is the recipient of the Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Scholarship. In the last 5 years, John has published two monographs, one edited collection, one anthology, six essays in books and seven essays and essay reviews in various journals including such leading periodicals as the P.M.L.A., Clues, The Edgar Allan Poe Review and American Literary History – all while teaching his courses at Kean and helping to develop our MALS (Master of Arts in Liberal Studies) program. This speaks not only to his expertise in African American literature and culture, post-1800s American lit and detective fiction, but his commitment to our students. His writing is enriched by his leadership and participation in professional and scholarly communities such as the Poe Studies Association, American Literature Association and New Jersey College English Association. Previous publications include Confluences and The Black Sleuth and more are in progress.
Cosmore “Cosmo” Harrell was selected as the recipient of the Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Service for his invaluable service as a member of the university’s facilities and maintenance staff. A supportive, driven and diligent worker, Harrell has proven to be accountable for his duties and an asset to the campus community. He is known to be a team player in every sense of the term as he consistently seeks ways to meet deadlines and maintain professionalism and quality service in his work. When Harrell in involved in an event, planners are confident that the set-up and maintenance are in good hands.
A member of the Kean staff since 1965, Pat Ippolito is also a two-time alumnus of Kean University. Today, he is receiving the Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Service for his many contributions within and beyond the Kean community – including Faculty Senate positions and service on University-wide committees. Since 2002, he has served as an associate professor and coordinator of the Elementary Education Program at Kean while also providing leadership and service to various external community groups. This includes being a member of the Livingston First Aid Squad – he even has two CPR saves to his name – and president of the Livingston American Little League for 26 years. Ippolito was recently named UNICO Citizen of the Year for 2012 for service to the community.
According to one of nearly 20 letters written in support of Collette Kennedy, she should be considered for the “Ms. Kean University” award – for her unwavering work ethic, pleasant personality and wonderful rapport with both faculty, staff and students across disciplines, but especially in the Department of Physical Education, Recreation and Health where she currently works as a managing administrative assistant. She also gives her time to organizations and efforts across campus as well as contributes countless hours to community service, often going above and beyond to help others. Well, we don’t have a Ms. Kean award, so we’re giving her the Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Service instead.
As many of you know, Kean University suffered a great loss this week with the death of Dr. Dale Vitale of the Chemistry/Physics Department. He is especially important to Collette because he was the first person to hire her in 2002 to work as a secretary in his department – and later became her mentor. Collette donated the monies she received from the award to the Kean University Foundation to develop a scholarship in Dr. Vitale’s name. If anyone wants to contribute, please contact the Foundation Office.
Dr. Cheryl Krause-Parello, associate professor in the School of Nursing and coordinator of the School Nurse Program, has received the Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Scholarship. Cheryl also serves as the Director of Kean’s Center for Nursing Research, where she mentors students across disciplines in research initiatives and collaborates with faculty on innovative research focused on assisting vulnerable populations. To date, Cheryl has received nearly $500,000 in research funding from both internal and external sources. Some of her more recent work has investigated how animals can assist in the rehabilitation of wounded war veterans and victims of child abuse. Cheryl is helping to develop a Nursing Symposium to be held right here at Kean in the fall.
Dawnmarie McDermid, a professor in the Robert Busch School of Design at Kean University, received the Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Teaching among adjunct faculty.
McDermid, a graduate of Kean, has been teaching design courses for several years. Her inventive pedagogy, creative direction, professional design, technical skill and management capabilities led to her current role as the primary instructor for The Design Studio within the Robert Busch School.
The Design Studio is an advanced course taken by students pursuing bachelor of fine arts degrees and serves as an active studio that provides communications and design services to both Kean and the non-profit community throughout New Jersey. During McDermid’s time as Design Studio instructor, students have won multiple awards for their work from such professional organizations as the Art Directors Club of New Jersey.
In her own words, McDermid said her optimal goal is to get students fired up with passion about design work. To that end, she shares her own passion for art and creativity and seeks to show students emotionally, practically and intellectually that their creativity and critical thinking are inextricably linked in the service of design. McDermid believes that each student is unique and deserves to be taught in a way that fits his or her special qualities – so that they can become better designers than they ever thought possible.
A man whose Kean career began more than 30 years ago as an instructor, Dr. Victor Ortiz, now a professor in the School of Curriculum and Teaching, is being honored today with a Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Service. In addition to his commitment to academia and students in the Department of Education, Victor has provided 12 (twelve) years of service to the Faculty Senate, including as chair from 2005-2007. He has chaired various University-wide committees including the Promotions Committee, Appeals Board and Graduate College committees. In the community, Victor has been equally active in providing access and opportunities for students – namely, as the coordinator of the Bilingual Education Career Advancement program, a 5-year, $1.2 million dollar grant to help prepare bilingual pre-service teachers, and 10 years as the coordinator of the Future Teachers’ Academy for high school students aspiring to become teachers.
Jay Sgaramella, assistant director of Recreation, Intramurals and Events Management, received the Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Service among professional staff. A former star quarterback during his undergraduate years at Kean, Sgaramella was hired in 2003 as an assistant football coach. In his position, he maintains responsibility for day-to-day operations of all recreational fitness centers on campus, including record keeping and managing payroll for student workers, academic specialists and team managers. He created and maintains Facebook and Twitter pages for students to keep current on recreation department announcements. He also penned a five-year plan for Kean’s Recreation and Intramural programs and updated the Athletic Department’s site supervisor manual. Sgaramella is known for having improved the quality of recreational offerings and maintaining a great rapport with the Kean community as he represents the athletics and recreation department on a number of campus-wide committees.
Michelle Smalls, head clerk in the Department of Nursing at Kean, received Kean’s Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Service among clerical staff. Smalls has been employed at Kean for 23 years, with the last 10 in the Department of Nursing. When nursing students arrive for the first time at Kean, Smalls’ face is the first one they see. She also takes responsibility for a myriad of tasks including organizing and maintaining the 500-plus student records, as required by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission; making sure new nursing students are assigned faculty advisors and are provided with a master advisement list; organizing materials for student registration advisement; working with Kean’s graduate program coordinator to ensure that student admission applications are reviewed and returned to Graduate Student Services. Through Smalls’ own initiative, she updates and maintains The School of Nursing website and learned the Qualtrics system so it could be used to gather and analyze data for School of Nursing courses and program outcome assessments.
Denise E. Wujciak, an assistant athletic trainer at Kean, received the Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Service among professional staff. Wujciak, employed at Kean since 2003, demonstrates a high skill level in injury management and therapeutic rehabilitation and is recognized as handling her demands with a positive attitude. Among her responsibilities in the Department of Athletics are: evaluation, management, treatment, prevention and rehab of athletic injuries of Kean’s teams; managerial duties including inventory, budget, record keeping and day-to-day administration; scheduling of pre-season physical exams for athletes; adjunct teaching courses to junior athletic training students; and approving clinical instruction for Kean’s Athletic programs.