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Top academic and service awards were presented to members of the faculty, staff and the community during the University of Nebraska at Kearney Faculty/Staff Opening Convocation, which took place on the campus this morning.
UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen presented Kearney Hub Publisher Steve Chatelain with the coveted Ron and Carol Cope Cornerstone of Excellence Award, an award that is presented to a member of the Kearney community in recognition of his or her service to the campus. The chancellor commended Chatelain for his service to both the university and the Kearney community, stressing his excellence in working together in partnership with the university.
“We are very grateful to you,” Chancellor Kristensen said.
Each fall, the Kearney Hub publishes UNK Today, a multiple-sectioned supplement, the first section of which is mailed directly to incoming UNK freshmen as well as being circulated to Kearney Hub subscribers.
In announcing the award, Chancellor Kristensen held up a copy of UNK Today and told the audience that the Kearney Hub is the only newspaper in the nation to produce such a multiple-sectioned supplement about a university.
Four UNK faculty received $1,000 Pratt-Heins Faculty Awards for teaching, service, and scholarship and research. The awards were presented by Tom Tye II of Kearney, a trustee for the Pratt-Heins Foundation.
Receiving awards for scholarship and research were Dr. Chris Exstrom, professor of chemistry, and Dr. Kate Heelan, associate professor of health, physical education, recreation and leisure.
Dr. Exstrom holds four U.S. patents based on his research and has garnered $1.5 million in external grants and contracts. He has had more than 30 undergraduate students work with him on research projects, which have resulted in 18 external presentations and numerous internal presentations.
Like Dr. Exstrom, Dr. Heelan has engaged undergraduate students in her research. In 2005, Dr. Heelan received the UNK College of Education Outstanding Research Award. In 2004, she received the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award.
She has made numerous presentations at state, regional and national scientific meetings. In addition, she has received more than $250,000 in external grants for her research.
The Pratt-Heins Service Award was presented to Stan Dart, chair and associate professor of sociology, geography and earth sciences. Dart, who has been on the KSC/UNK faculty for nearly four decades, was recognized for his nearly 20 years of service on the UNK Faculty Senate, as well as having organized and lead numerous study trips to the southwest United States.
In 1989, Dart received the Pratt-Heins Award for teaching, which makes him one of only a few dual category Pratt-Heins recipients. In 1991, he was recognized by the Kearney Hub with a Freedom Award for Service to the Arts and Entertainment for his work with the Kearney Community Theater.
Dr. Joseph Benz, a professor of psychology, received the Pratt-Heins Award for Teaching. A nomination letter by one of his former students noted: “His class marks a significant turning point in my academic career. It proved to be the most interesting class I had taken and allowed me to decide that the psychobiology major was going to be my career.”
Dr. Benz has been recognized with several teaching awards, including being named the Honors Teacher of the Year in 1991.
“His contributions to teaching have taken many forms, including mentoring of undergraduate student research, scholarship related to teaching, and involvement in professional and other service activities related to teaching,” Tye said.
Two UNK staff members, Paula Gaasch and Rich Brodersen, received TIAA/CREF Staff Awards for excellence. Each recipient received a $1,000 cash award.
Gaasch serves as secretary for the Department of Communication Disorders and the College of Education Clinic, which serves both the communication disorders department and the Department of Counseling and School Psychology.
In a nomination letter, she was described as “committed to UNK at the department, college and university levels.” Another letter of support was signed by 14 of her department’s graduate students.
Although perhaps best known as the voice of the Lopers, Brodersen, assistant athletic director for Facilities and Events Management, coordinates all sporting activities for UNK’s 16-sport program. Some of the duties include coordinating volunteer help and paid workers for athletic events; scheduling practices, camps, clinics and assorted outside events that are held at the UNK Health and Sports Center; and writing and processing athletic contracts.
In addition to the Pratt-Heins and TIAA/CREF awards, the UNK Faculty Senate also presents the annual David Stevenson Hamster Wheel Award, which this year went to former UNK Faculty Staff Senate President Martha Kruse, an associate professor in the Department of English.
In making the award, current UNK Faculty Senate President Dr. Scott Darveau said: “Martha Kruse is highly organized and fair. David Stevenson would have had high praise for her.”