Navy, Army, National Guard veteran wins Heart of Belmont Award
In a ceremony marked by numerous standing ovations, students and faculty were honored Wednesday during the annual Scholarship and Awards Day convocation in the the Massey Performing Arts Center. All of the awards given reflected Belmont’s mission and commitment to scholarship, service and leadership, with two new faculty awards, the Christian Scholarship Award and Leadership in Christian Service Award, being introduced for the first time this year. Dr. Ronnie Littlejohn, the 2013-14 Chaney Distinguished Professor, provided the morning’s Honors Address on “Knowing Whether,” encouraging attendees to pursue moral wisdom.
In one of the most moving presentations, graduating senior Matthew Thompson was awarded the John Williams Heart of Belmont Award, which is given to a student committed to Belmont’s values including innovation, persistence, advocacy for change, community development and service. Before coming to Belmont, Thompson served in the Navy on the USS George Washington for five years. In 2005, he enlisted in the Army where he served an additional four years and afterwards completed one year of service in the Tennessee National Guard. After 10 years of service and three deployments, he was honorably discharged and began pursuing a degree in social work at Belmont.
An intern at Operation Stand Down, Thompson has been integral in the development of veterans services on campus and developed an intercollegiate student veteran coalition that spans six universities across Middle Tennessee. Thompson’s mission is to continue on to a career path that assists veterans who are transitioning from military service into civilian life. In his own words, his “biggest motivation has never been to be recognized but to instead encourage and inspire others to step forward and contribute.”
Other students honored in Wednesday’s ceremony included:
The Williams-Murray First Year Writing Awards: Kelsey Rose (“Frankenstein and Modern Science”) and Andrew Strader (“The Humanity of Empathy”)
The Alfred Leland Crabb Awards: First place to Clifford O’Sullivan (“The Pathophysiology and Pharmacologic Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes and Human Immunodeficiency Virus”) and second place to Veronica Maria Plukis (“Romanticism and Rousseau”)
The Stacy Awalt Writing Awards: Sean Della Croce (“The Utility of Faith in Love” 1st in Original category) and Abigail Marchese (“On Mirror Neurons and Their Possible Applicability to Philosophy of Mind” 1st in Research category)
The Annette Sisson First Year Writing Award: Austin Nelson (“The Evolution of the Music Industry”)
The Lumos Travel Award: Rachel Butler (Argentina), Brittany Robinson (Germany), Mary Elizabeth Vance (Iceland) and RiTara Williams (South Africa)
The First Year Award, Leadership: Kathleen Roth (music business major)
The Second Year Award, Leadership: Zoe Dollman (double major in Spanish and international business with a marketing concentration)
The Third Year Award, Leadership: Elena Harmon (social work major)
The Fourth Year Award, Leadership: Emily Snyder (self-designed justice, faith, and culture interdisciplinary major through the Honors Program’s LEAD track)
In addition to student award winners, two new awards were given to faculty members. The Christian Scholarship Award honors faculty scholarship that engages the Christian intellectual tradition and advances the scholarly conversation between Christian faith and learning. This year’s recipients were Assistant Professor of History Dr. Pete Kuryla and Professor of Religion Dr. Mark McEntire.
Leadership in Christian Service, the other new faculty award, honors faculty who provide leadership to a new initiative or to an established Christian organization that serves those in need. This year’s recipients were Professor of Religion Dr. Judy Skeen and Assistant Professor of English Sue Trout.
Dr. Kim Daus, professor of chemistry, was named the 2014-15 Chaney Distinguished Professor. The Chaney Distinguished Professor Award, determined on the basis of superior teaching, is presented each year to a faculty member who best represents the vision of the university to be a “premier teaching institution.”
Daus said, “For me, receiving the Chaney Teaching award is truly a reflection of the best of Belmont – the amazing students who work so diligently to learn (and who are open to trialing my crazy ideas and projects), the wonderful mentors and colleagues who encourage and inspire me in my teaching, and the strong administration who support and value classroom teaching. I am very honored and humbled to be this year’s recipient of the Chaney Teaching Award.”
Dr. Jonathan Thorndike, chair of the Honors program, was awarded the 2014-15 Presidential Faculty Achievement Award. The Presidential Faculty Achievement Award is presented each year to a faculty member who has made outstanding contributions to student life outside the classroom. The award honors and recognizes excellence in faculty-student relationships, special abilities in meeting student needs – academic, personal and professional – and symbolizes Belmont University’s commitment to being a student-centered institution.
Thorndike said, “I am deeply honored to receive the Presidential Faculty Achievement Award. It represents the highest ideals of Belmont University’s mission to empower students of diverse backgrounds to engage and transform the world with intelligence, compassion, courage and faith. To be a member of a faculty community that upholds this mission is my greatest honor, and I feel humbled and blessed to be recognized with this award. I love working with Belmont students in class and outside of academia in so many settings on campus, in Nashville and overseas.”
Click here for additional photos from the event.