2004 RCPD Awards Ceremony

June 23rd, 2004

Rachel Leone

Over 100 gather for the 20th Annual Awards & Appreciation Reception

The Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities honored a number of faculty, staff, and students on April 23rd at the 20th Annual Awards and Appreciation Reception held for the second year at the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center.

The auditorium, decorated with sunflowers and balloons, held the promise of summer as the RCPD celebrated the end of another great school year. The event began with a wonderful dessert bar and a framework from Director Michael Hudson relaying highlights in programmatic enhancements over the past 20 years. Hudson reminded attendees that "we're here to celebrate ability and opportunity" as he urged people not to see the impressive achievements of the honorees as "miracles" but rather as "evidence of personal vision, persistence and excellence in action."

The awards section of the program kicked off with the Judy K. Gentile award recognizing outstanding leadership in developing a spirit of ability to succeed and promoting programmatic accessibility for persons with disabilities. Aaron Scheidies was this year's recipient and even though Aaron was out of state, competing in an international triathlon, he provided a video tape acceptance. Aaron spoke of his love for MSU and RCPD and how much the office has helped him succeed and the memories he will take with him forever.


Ali Faraj and Joshua Vincent received this year's RCPD Awards for displaying outstanding Resourcefulness, Commitment, Perseverance, and Dedication.  Also, the Council for Students with Disabilities Board accepted the Student Leadership Award and Haley Cole received the Anita Giampalmi Scholarship for the 3rd year in a row.

Three graduate students received the annual Robert L. Decker and Benjamin Muns Friendship Memorial Scholarship in memory and recognition of two Ford Motor Company executives who died in a small airplane crash in 1991. Mr. Decker and Mr. Muns were committed to increasing productivity of the workforce while elevating the quality of the work-place environment. This year the scholarship was awarded to Sathya Gopalakrishnan and Manashi Ray. Mark Decker, son of Robert Decker, was present to congratulate the scholarship winners.

Another scholarship was also presented to five undergraduate students. This was the third time in the RCPD history that the Samaritan Foundation Scholarship was awarded. The Samaritan Foundation was established by MSU alumni Jim and Judy DeLapa over two decades ago and in 2003 began providing scholarships through RCPD to undergraduate students. It's distinguished as the first scholarship for MSU undergraduate students with disabilities and Mrs. DeLapa was present at the ceremony to award the scholarships to Allen Beeuwkes, Karen Henderson, Casey Hof, Andrew Martin, and Alexander Stuart. Judy urged recipients of this award, and the attendees in general, to remember services and opportunities that helped them develop success and to in turn reinvest in these programs as they make progress in their own careers and personal lives.


Several faculty and staff were also recognized at the event. The Dorothy Millbrook Staff award went to Brenda Nelson. Brenda received the award for her dedication within Brody Hall as the Food Service Manager and her willingness and determination to accommodate an employee with a disability. Brenda emphatically stated that she will continue to do what she has always done, find people who want to work and employ them in ways that facilitate meaningful contributions. Also, Dr. Linda Hunt, Rachel Miller, Dr. Scott Yoder, and Jeanne Drewes were each awarded this year's outstanding faculty and staff award for their outstanding contributions to equal opportunity for achievement and an environment of excellence.

Upon receiving his award, Dr. Yoder expressed his thanks to the RCPD for all they do both for students and professors. "Receiving the award was very humbling, in part, because I felt I did so little to deserve it.When a student came to me the first day of class that semester he confided that he didn't know what to do because his sight had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer read. I told him I didn't know how we were going to deal with the situation either, but that I knew who did-the RCPD. This is not the only student I've worked with who was involved with the RCPD, and in every case my experience has been positive. Two things stick out in my mind.  First, the RCPD makes my job as a faculty member very easy. I know that the students who work with the RCPD get excellent professional assistance. Typically, the things I need to do to help the students are relatively minor. Secondly, there is tremendous 'spillover' from talking to the students with disabilities and understanding what I need to do to facilitate their learning, I have learned a lot about different styles of learning. As a result, I feel that I almost always come away better able to provide a quality learning experience to all my students."

Important friends of the RCPD also were recognized at the ceremony. James Bohr, an RCPD alumnus received the Outstanding Alumnus award. Bohr is currently a network administrator at the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition. He earned both his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and his Doctorate of Philosophy in Theoretical Chemistry through Michigan State. Gerald Such, an important supporter of RCPD, was also recognized. He received the Margaret A. Chmielewski Volunteer Award. Gerald is a consistent volunteer within RCPD and gives freely of his time to assist at the front desk and in other areas and programs of the office.

The ceremony closed with recognition for the Tower Guard sophomore honor society and independent volunteers for their dedication to reading textbooks onto audio tape and converting books into electronic text format. Also, this year's graduates were commended and congratulated on all of their hard work during their time at MSU.

Chronic Health and Deafness and Hard of Hearing Specialist Marta Belsky coordinated the event and was pleased with its success. "Everyone who attended  including  the award recipients had a wonderful time seeing old friends and meeting new friends. For the first time a dessert bar was served with ice cream and a variety of cookies, brownies and bars. The ice cream was a big hit!"

Congratulations again to all of this year's award and scholarship recipients and to the recent graduates. The RCPD wishes you a wonderful summer and we look forward to another great school year ahead and another great awards ceremony to follow.