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Dads Association honors four with Certificate of Merit Awards

Mare Payne, News Bureau


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Dads Association at the University of Illinois recently presented its annual Certificate of Merit Awards – one each to an outstanding faculty member, staff member, student and student organization.

Andrea Ray, staff secretary in the Institute of Communications Research, was named Outstanding Staff Member.  Since her January 2006 arrival, Ray has reorganized operations, established constructive practices and created new ways of handling information, people and questions that have made the unit far more productive. One nominee said: “She can identify and fix matters on her own before they become problems. She has made changes in our system that has dramatically increased our efficiency and ease of operations.”

Two winners were named Outstanding Faculty Member.

Nancy Benson, a professor of journalism, was honored for her creation of an international reporting class in broadcast. In 2005, Benson took 10 students to Peru and this summer, 10 to China. The students research stories, conduct interviews and produce radio stories that were broadcast on WILL-AM (580). One nominator said: “Professor Benson motivates her students to strive for excellence as professional broadcasters. She makes them bolder and, therefore, better journalists. She gives them a glimpse of what is possible and moves them out of the realm of the mundane.”

Wayne Banwart, an associate dean in the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, was honored for his dedication to students and for his leadership and administrative oversight.

Banwart serves as the college’s liaison to the Graduate College on matters of academic policy and programs; represents the college on academic policy at the campus, state, regional, national and international levels; supervises personnel and administers budgetary and fiscal matters in the Office of Academic Programs; leads programs that recognize excellence in teaching and provides teaching improvement opportunities and teaching improvement workshops.

Emily Ward, a senior in advertising and speech communication with a minor in African-American studies, was named Outstanding Student. Ward, from Frederick, Ill., has been involved in a variety of activities on and off campus, including the Illio yearbook, WPGU, the Junior Main Street project, St. John’s Lutheran Church Sunday School, Orange Krush and the American Advertising Federation. She currently works at the Campus Visitor’s Center during the school year and was an I-Start guide throughout the summer. She was named the most enthusiastic tour guide by the visitor’s center. One nominator said: “She clearly cares about the students and parents coming to Illinois as well as the quality of programs and services that she helps to provide. Emily is a reliable and dependable individual who behaves with a great deal of integrity.”

Student Advancement Group for Education (SAGE) was named Outstanding Student Organization. SAGE works to advance the mission of the College of Education by assisting with activities and events that bring together students, faculty members, alumni, donors, and friends of the college, including the Thank-a-Thon, the Student Recognition Banquet and Distinguished Alumni Award Weekend activities. One nominator said: “SAGE is visible wherever and whenever our office needs their assistance, and always with a smile on their faces. As a consequence, they have interacted positively with individuals who range in age from 4 to 94.”

Recipients receive a framed certificate, an engraved mantle clock and a cash award.  They were recognized at the annual Dads Weekend banquet Oct. 5.