RCPD students, faculty, and supporters filled the Kellogg Center withinspiration, perseverance, and positivity Friday, April 15th at the27th Annual Awards and Appreciation Reception. The afternooncelebrated 39 years of ability and opportunity, honoring exceptional faculty,staff, students, and alumni.
Jordan Levin, recipient of the Outstanding Alumnus Award, opened the event.Born premature and deaf in 1976, his life story of overcoming obstacles led himto found the Jordan Levin Childhood Obesity Foundation, own two fitnessbusinesses, and succeed as a motivational speaker. Levin encouraged attendeesto "learn how to be relentless in pursuit of your dreams."
Overall, more than 25 awards were provided to volunteers, staff, andstudents, with 22 undergraduate and postgraduate students receiving a grand totalof $61,100 in scholarships, funded by RCPD's ten endowments. One studentwas honored to continue a second year as a Katrina Tagget Memorial Fellow, aprogram initiated in honor of Katrina's academic excellence and love of servingothers. Sara Tagget, Katrina's mother, said of the fellowship, "Just likein her life, change can come from hardship, adversity and tragedy. Courage andperseverance, two words that define Katrina, in fact, define most of you inthis room. Katrina would have loved to see a scholarship in her name, to seeother students receiving financial rewards for their success."
Additionally, five students accepted the Athletes with DisabilitiesScholarship provided through a multi-year partnership with theAthletes with Disabilities Network initiated in 2009, an increase from lastyear's scholars. Five students received Samaritan Scholar Awards,and five undergraduates and one Master's degree candidate will travel abroadsupported by the Study Abroad Quality Funds Scholarship. One of thescholarship winners noted, "I am extremely grateful for the Quality Funds Scholarship to helpfund my trip to Ireland, and to the people of the RCPD who always stay the samewhich creates stability for me."
While RCPD generally reserves awards for people outside the office, a uniqueand deserving RCPD specialist was honored at the reception. Valerie Nilson, thefirst to retire from the center, accepted the Judy K. Gentile Award for herservice as a Learning Disabilities Specialist for 29 years. The award is givenin honor of Gentile, who founded the Office of Programs for Handicapper Studentsin 1972 and served as its director until 1993. Her memory recognizesoutstanding leadership in developing a spirit of ability to succeed andpromoting programmatic accessibility. Director of the RCPD Michael Hudson noted “Valerie’s service to MSU is sustained and congruent with the values upheld by Judy Gentile. RCPD staff and students commemorate her multi-decade career of leadership.”
The reception was closed with a renewed enthusiasm for the RCPD's work,having honored the many who contribute to the center's success year-round. Alignedwith the theme of "Shining Stories of Success," dozens of inspiring talesresonated with attendees, encouraging perseverance in the face of challenge. As the 2010-2011 academic year comes to a close and preparations begin for the 2011-2012 year, many willlook to the outstanding accomplishments of RCPD students, faculty members, andsupporters for years to come.