By Kyeland Jackson —

Arts and Sciences Dean Kimberly Kempf-Leonard welcomed more than 50 attendees to the A&S Celebration of Excellence award ceremony March 10.

Students, faculty and staff were among attendees who recognized outstanding professionals on U of L’s campus. To be considered, contestants needed to be nominated. Winners received a plaque and $500.

“You are our ambassadors,” Kempf-Leonard said. Kempf-Leonard said this ceremony will represent staff better than last year’s as well. No nominations were forwarded for the A&S supervisor award.

The award for distinguished teaching went to sociology professor Mark Austin. Kempf-Leonard discussed his reliability within the department, as well as popularity among students and faculty.

“Professor Austin taught me to be an independent thinker with my very own opinion,” sociology graduate assistant Eric Jordan said, as quoted by Kempf-Leonard.

The research and creativity in humanities award went to Paul Griner, from the English Department. Kempf-Leonard described Griner as a hard-working novelist who has won recognition from literary greats like Tobias Wolff.

Griner authored various works last year, and is currently on sabbatical working on two novels and a short story collection.

Robert Buchanan, from the chemistry department, and Cherie-Dawson Edwards, from the criminal justice department, were awarded the distinguished service to the university award.

Kempf-Leonard noted their notable impact on research, innovations and outreach at the university.

The award for outstanding performance was earned based on commitment to students, productivity, initiative, dependability and reputable publications. Tracy Heightchew, a project coordinator from the A&S dean’s office, won the award.

The award for clerical/secretarial outstanding performance was awarded to Alexandra O’Keefe, a program assistant senior and graduate student. Kempf-Leonard said O’Keefe has been instrumental in her position, helping make the university honors program more efficient.

“Her (job function) doesn’t begin to do justice to the amazing number of tasks that she balances, the grace with which she juggles them, nor the speed with which she completes them,” Kempf-Leonard said.

The award for outstanding performance from a technical paraprofessional was awarded to Rick Taylor, the facilities manager from the A&S dean’s office.

Taylor’s department chair referred to him as a “unsung hero,” who reaches out to teachers and helped ensure building complaints are addressed.

The final award was the diversity champion award, given for outstanding social advocacy and diversity teaching. Derrick Brooms, from the department of sociology, won the award.

Kempf-Leonard described Brooms’ effectivity in teaching diversity issues and creating a safe place for candid discussion..

Honors Program Director Joy Hart said the ceremony was well timed after months of negative publicity for U of L.

“I think it hasn’t been the happiest of times, and it’s easy sometimes to lose track of that of all the wonderful people and contributions they make,” Hart said. “I think this event allows us to punctuate and look at those things.”

Melissa Moody, the public relations coordinator for the A&S dean’s office, stressed the event’s importance. “It shows the faculty that they’re appreciated, that the work they’re doing is not going unnoticed.”Moody said.

Yolanda Demaree, the faculty affairs manager for the A&S dean’s office, was happy to see faculty and staff recognized. “I was glad to see that they decided to combine the staff and faculty, because sometimes the staff gets left behind,” Demaree said.

Fifty percent of all U of L courses are taught by A&S faculty, according to the weekly A&S newsletter. In the last few months, faculty have discussed what course of action to take after a survey determined the department is low in morale and underpaid.

Photos by Rachel Knue / The Louisville Cardinal