Dedicated Professionals Honored at Annual Conference

Dedicated Professionals Honored at Annual Conference2014-06-01nonefalse

ACUI bestows Emeritus Award, Honorary Membership, and Presidential Award for Distinguished Service to deserving members.

Emeritus Award

The Association recognizes those professional who are retiring and have made an impact at their institution. Nominees must have worked in the profession for at least 10 years. This year, ACUI honored eight individuals.

After working more than 30 years in student activities, Don Castle, Southern Illinois University–Carbondale, will be retiring in 2014. His love for his job and student leadership development is ever-present. Castle served in various regional volunteer roles.
“I’d like to thank my family and friends at Southern Illinois University–Carbondale, you guys are the best,” Castle said. “I’d also like to thank my professional family at Western Illinois University. It’s been a wonderful time in this field.”

Richard Heller
served as the director at Georgia State University for 17 years before retiring in July 2013. Under his Heller’s leadership, the Student University Center was born and crafted as a visionary organization implementing scores of successful initiatives.
According to colleagues, Heller truly believes that students come first and created an environment that supports student growth and development. He also built a reputation as a compassionate, responsible, and knowledgeable professional and colleague.

During his 42-year career, Bruce Jacobs worked at six institutions. For the past seven years, he has served as the executive director of the Indiana Memorial Union at Indiana University–Bloomington, where he played a key role in supporting ACUI’s affiliation with the university.

“ACUI, for me, has always been a family,” Jacobs said. “It’s been an organization that allowed me to do what I think is important for all of us to do, which is to create environments where students can learn about themselves, each other, and the world that they live in. Thank you all for everything you do on your campuses.”

Karen Mehnert-Meland, Minnesota State University–Morehead, has attended nearly every Region 10 conference since she began her career in 1987. Before the term “safe zone” was coined, she supported the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community on her campus by creating an environment where everyone mattered. Mehnert-Meland will retire at the end of June.
“This profession chose me as a young professional and has been an amazing career,” Mehnert-Meland said. “I’m thankful for the people I have met through ACUI, whether we shared an idea or experiences or we developed a lifelong friendship. You made a difference in so many ways as I navigated my life’s journey.”

During his 15 years at Valparaiso University, Larry Mosher oversaw the largest construction project in the institution’s history when the Harre Union was built in 2009. Mosher was also an avid regional and international volunteer. He retired in August 2013.
“I can’t thank you all enough,” Mosher said. “I consider you all friends. This is what ACUI has done for me. It has brought me to know a lot of you, to be acquaintances with a lot of you, and especially to be friends with a lot of you.”

Dave Robertson has worked in the Plemmons Student Center at Appalachian State University for 30 of his 41 years in the profession. During this time, he oversaw four additions and three renovations to the facility.
“We all drink from wells that we did not dig,” Robertson said. “Any success I have achieved is due in large measure to the people who have supported me so generously throughout my life.”

Thom Simmons, Indiana University–Bloomington, started his career at the Indiana Memorial Union 25 years ago. He has supported many graduate students and building managers who have gone on to work in the field.
“I realize how lucky I am to be part of this association,” Simmons said. “As I look out upon the members of the Association, I know that our association and our college unions are in good hands.”

Bob Yecke started his career in 1973 as a recreation manager and advanced to become a knowledgeable union operations professional. During his 20 years at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor, and in previous roles, Yecke has been a leader and role model to colleagues. He will be retiring at the end of June.
“I like to thank the Association for 45 years of fun, love, and mentorship,” Yecke said. “This doesn’t seem like it was work. For those of you who are young and beginning in this profession, that is how it is supposed to feel.”

Honorary Membership

The ACUI Board of Trustees bestows honorary membership upon those individuals who have given exceptional service to the Association. This year, Jerry Mann was recognized with this honor.

“I’d like to thank my colleagues for nominating me, the Board of Trustees for losing their senses for the moment it took them to approve it, and all of you here in this room and those who couldn’t be here tonight for helping me to make the journey through this career and my life such a joy.”

Mann worked for 30 years in the profession. He started at the University of California–Los Angeles in 1985, where he served for 13 years as the union director. In 2008, Mann moved to the University of North Carolina–Charlotte and was named executive director of the Student Union and Cone Center in 2009. Mann retired in May 2014.

A dedicated professional, Mann also served in various volunteer roles. Regionally, he was an Education Council member and membership coordinator in Region 15, as well as a conference host chair in Region 5.

“Like many of you, I found a home in regional activities,” Mann said. “And I found my ACUI niche in research, writing, and projects.”
Internationally, Mann played important roles in ACUI’s benchmarking and assessment services, helped implement and define the core competencies and associated skill sets, served as an Education Council member, and, most recently, completed a term as an elected member of the ACUI Board of Trustees.

“This conference has been a bittersweet experience,” Mann said. ”A mixture of excitement of the future that lays before me, regret for what I will be missing in the many positive elements that our daily work gives to us, and sadness knowing that I will not see many of you ever again.”

The Presidential Award for Distinguished Service

The Presidential Award for Distinguished Service is awarded at the discretion of the president to someone demonstrating exceptional and unique service in fulfilling the mission, goals, and values of the Association. The award was presented for the first time in 1988, and less than 10 individuals have received the recognition in its history, with it last being awarded in 2000. This year, the award was given to three individuals.

Cynthia Woolbright served as a director, assistant director, and program coordinator during her 30-year college union career. In that time, she also served varied roles within ACUI.

Woolbright’s first position was as student chairperson for Region 3 in the 1970s. She went on to chair the Women’s Concerns Committees, Commission on Educational Programs and Services, and the Study on Volunteerism. Woolbright sat on the Executive Committee for two terms and was president of the Association in 1985–86.

Today, Woolbright heads her own consulting group, working closely with educational institutions and not-for-profit organizations, advising them on enhancing and engaging board leadership, volunteer and staff training programs, and development strategies for raising philanthropic support, donor relations, and stewardship programs. And since leaving the profession and ACUI, she has continued to give freely of her time to consult with the Education and Research Fund.

“For those of you who know me, speechless would not be a quality that I think anyone would ever attribute to me,” Woolbright said. “But I’m really just amazed and overwhelmed. I do know that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. And I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to stand with them.”

Brenda Evans, University of Massachusetts–Lowell, and Jeremy Schenk, Virginia Commonwealth University, co-chaired the Regional Audit Task Force. As the recommendations were approved, both agreed to lead the Regional Restructuring Task Force.

Throughout the process, these two individuals always remained focused on the original charge—determining the most effective and efficient way to deliver regional programs and services to the Association’s membership. They ensured that the results were driven by assessment data and that each of the recommendations was implemented in concert with the global vision. And they were able to accomplish something no one else could since 1964.

“The whole process was all about engaging all of the membership in the decision to move forward,” Schenk said. “We’re happy with where we’re at, and we thank you all for embracing it.”

Schenk and Evans were active in the Association prior to taking on the regional audit. Schenk started as a regional volunteer in 2005 and served as Region 11 director; currently, he is an at-large Board of Trustees member. Evans began volunteering for ACUI in 2001, also on the regional level. She has served as Region 1 director and is currently the Region VIII director.

“Jeremy and I would like to thank the Regional Audit Task Force,” Evans said. “This wouldn’t have happened without them as well as the Regional Restructuring Task Force.”

Orlando2014-04-08Justin RudisilleVolunteer and Staff Development Manager812.245.8064jrudisil@acui.orgtruefalse
Updated May 16, 2014