The 18th Annual Awards and Appreciation Reception 2002

May 16th, 2002

On Friday, April 19, 2002, The Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD) hosted The 18th Annual Spring Awards and Appreciation Reception at Michigan State University.  Held in the Union Building's Union Gold Room, the reception ran from 2:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon.  Established to honor MSU students, alumni, faculty and staff for their accomplishments in and contributions to the community of persons with disabilities, the ceremony included refreshments, the presentation of awards and speeches by both presenters and recipients.

This year, the RCPD director, Michael Hudson, opened the reception with introductory remarks.  Welcoming his audience to the ceremony, he began by speaking of the RCPD, its traditions and its efforts to maximize and celebrate opportunity and ability.  He continued by attributing the office's success in part to its team of dedicated professionals.  Introducing those in attendance, he listed some of the accomplishments they had achieved over the passed year.  They included: Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Chronic Health and Mobility Specialist Marta Belsky, the reception's organizer for 2002; Learning Disabilities Specialist Valerie Nilson, who has been working hard with MSU's Study Abroad Program; Learning Disabilities Specialist Elaine High, one of those engaged in educating faculty through the Disability Opportunity Internetworking and Technology (DO-IT) grant; Psychiatric and Brain Injury Specialist Stoney Polman, next years president of the President's Advisory Committee on Disability Issues (PACDI); Blindness/Visual Impairment and Chronic Health/Mobility Specialist Virginia Martz, who has been central to the RCPD's e-text project; and Resource Coordinator for Employees John Pedraza, who has been working in concert with Elaine High on the DO-IT grant and who was responsible for compiling the reception's program.  Also present were Sign Language Interpreters Donna Leahy and Jennifer Doerr, Real-Time Captioners Karen Rivard, Gail McAllen and Donna Clark, along with Assistive Technology Specialist Stephen Blosser, Student Athlete Support Services Liaison Virginia Walker, Budget/Personnel Manager and Secretary to the Director LuAnn Gloden, Receptionist Pam Pope and Secretary Diana Shank.  After acknowledging the contributions of student workers Web Accessibility Consultant and Web Master David Holstius, Promotional Materials Developer Aaron Miller, Harbinger Editor Melissa Peele, Database Developer Wajahat Ali M. Syed, and Career Services Support Liaison George Morrison, Mike went on to enumerate the other strides the RCPD has made toward equalizing opportunity throughout 2001 and 2002.  In conjunction with other university departments and outside agencies, the office participated in the redesign of local intersections, resulting in the receipt of the da Vinci Award, made significant improvements to web accessibility and to the physical accessibility of IM Circle and the front of Erickson Hall.  In conclusion, Mike introduced the reception's Mistress of Ceremonies, Brenda Flanagan, and passed the microphone to her.

After introducing herself as a deaf student in the Teacher Education department, Ms. Flanagan introduced Vice President for Student Affairs and Services, and Assistant Provost for Student Academic Support Services and Multicultural Issues Dr. Lee June.  Dr. June announced his pride in the Resource Center and the leadership of its director.  In closing, he congratulated those receiving awards that afternoon and all the students graduating in May.

Michael Hudson gave the first presentation, The Judy K. Gentile Award, to the RCPD's Web Master.  The award was established in memory of the RCPD's founder and first director.  A wheelchair user due to polio, Judy K. Gentile was an accessibility pioneer who instituted many far-reaching and sometimes-controversial changes in the world around her with caution and care for the future.  The students who receive this award, therefore, are those who have exhibited outstanding leadership in promoting a spirit of ability and accessibility for persons with disabilities.  This year, this spirit has been best exemplified by David Holstius, who came to the RCPD with a vision of website "usability" and who endeavored to implement it by developing understandable programming concepts, discussing them on national list serves and offering instruction in a web design class at MSU.  Upon receipt of the award, David thanked the RCPD staff, reiterated his belief in the importance of web and service "usability" and promised to pursue the same accessibility ideals during his attendance at the Carnegie-Mellon Institute.

Dr. Charles Ballard and Dr. Kazuya Fujita received the next award, The Outstanding Faculty/Staff Award, jointly in recognition of their contributions to equal opportunity in the academic environment.  His nominating student commended the former, an economics 201 instructor, for his foreknowledge of the RCPD, extra time and effort.  The latter, a geography professor, was praised for his communication skills in both large and small group settings and for his willingness to meet with individual students on weekends, evenings and during all hours.  Both professors insisted that they felt they were being rewarded for nothing more extraordinary than doing their jobs, but professed themselves honored.

Elaine High presented the RCPD Award.  Reserved for students who display resourcefulness, commitment, perseverance and dedication, this year's recognition went to Stephanie Beel and a student pursuing his Masters in agriculture.  Stephanie, who spoke at last year's May Morning Sing, lectures to classes, belongs to Habitat for Humanity and who attended the Triathlon in England and Waterloo, thanked the RCPD staff for the nomination and said her goal was to assist others.

Virginia Martz and Marta Belsky stepped forward to present the Student Leadership Award to Mistress of Ceremonies Brenda Flanagan and political science senior Dan Furton.  Ms. Flanagan is a participant in PACDI and on two Safety and Accessible U subcommittees, to which she devotes many hours.  The reception's MC pronounced her ignorance of the honor until a few days before the ceremony and expressed pleasure at working with these great groups of people.   Mr. Furton, who plans to study law in graduate school, is a vocal advocate for persons with disabilities.  From his arrival at MSU, he has spoken at length with students and staff, worked with the Counsel of Students with Disabilities (CSD) and spoken to numerous professors and before the Board of Trustees in an effort to save the blind and visual impairment student teacher program at MSU.  This summer he will be studying for the LSAT and serving as Vice President of CSD.  Mr. Furton thanked the RCPD for the award, commented on the aptness of its "maximizing opportunity" slogan, and insisted that the RCPD staff was more deserving of the award.

The next award, the Anita Giampalmi Scholarship, was a new addition to the RCPD Awards and Appreciation reception.  Named for a 1993 graduate of MSU's Elementary Education program, the award is reserved for incoming students at MSU who share her ideals, her zest for life and her concern for others.  The recipient, who has participated in school radio, newspaper, the National Honors Society and who has earned the Michigan Merit Award for her outstanding scores on the MEAP test, will be entering MSU as a journalism major in the fall.

Family members were present to witness the award of the Robert L. Decker and Benjamin Muns Friendship Memorial Scholarship, which was founded in 1991 to commemorate the friendship of two Ford Motor Company Executives who worked together and died together in a small airplane crash in June of 1990.  The recipients, Song-Jae Jo, a second year Ph.D. student in the Counseling, Education and Psychology and Special Education department, and Roy Chen, a third year Ph.D. student in the same program, are both very active in the community of persons with disabilities.  Song-Jae is involved in the editing and formatting of e-text and is instrumental in applying these concepts to Braille and technology.  He said he wished to thank Tower Guard, the university's volunteer reader organization, and the RCPD staff for all their hard work, as well as the Decker and Muns families for receipt of the award and proclaimed that the experience put a fine end to a long and hectic semester.  Roy, an energetic and enthusiastic participant in PACDI and a teaching assistant in the CEPSE program, told the audience that the time has come to explore his dissertation topic and that the scholarship will be of great assistance during this period.  In addition, he has come to value his experiences teaching in the CEPSE department and that he was very satisfied to note the names of several of his students listed among Tower Guard's membership.  Both students said they felt a deep obligation to give back what they had received in their work with the community of persons with disabilities.

The Dorothy K. Millbrook Award was established in memory of Dorothy Millbrook, who was once the receptionist at the RCPD and whose warm, welcoming heart and respect for the individual made new students feel at home on MSU's large campus.  The award is bestowed on employees whose dedication towards the advancement of persons with disabilities exemplifies her generous spirit.  This year, Valerie Nilson was able to present it to Cindy Chalou, Assistant Director of the Study Abroad Program.  Ms. Chalou, who has been working closely with MSU throughout 2002, is a former NCU graduate and a one-time member of the Peace Corps.  She has traveled extensively and been recognized professionally for extending opportunity.  In her acceptance speech, Ms. Chalou asserted that her work with the RCPD has been a pleasure and that the award should truly go to those students who have overcome the barriers to study abroad and taken steps to change lives in the process.

Stoney Polman and Patrick Scheetz of the Alumnus Association presented the Outstanding Alumnus Award to Para-Olympian and US Team member Nick Catanzarite.  Traditionally given to RCPD graduates successful in their field who have become role models for persons with or without disabilities, the Outstanding Alumnus Award could be given to no more fitting representative than Nick Catanzarite.

Lastly, the Tower Guard received the Outstanding Volunteer Organization award.  This award recognized the outstanding efforts of the Tower Guard for leadership in developing an environment of opportunity and excellence through their work with the volunteer reading program.  For students with visual impairments, standard textbooks are completely inaccessible. These students rely on audio recordings of books, recorded by volunteers and members of the Tower Guard sophomore honorary organization.  This reading not only helps students with blindness and visual impairment, but also benefits students with learning disabilities.