By Eva Simeone
As Ohio University students take the stage this week for formal recognition of their service and leadership, joining them will be a nationally prominent leader and fellow Bobcat.
David Wilhelm will deliver the keynote address at the 25th annual Leadership Recognition Awards Gala at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Baker University Center Ballroom.
Best known for his political work -- which has included managing campaigns for President Bill Clinton, U.S. Sens. Paul Simon and Joe Biden, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley -- Wilhelm became the youngest-ever chair of the Democratic National Committee in 1993. He holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Ohio University and a master's degree in public policy from Harvard University.
"The Leadership Gala is one of my favorite nights of the year," said Director of Campus Life Anne Lombard. "It's a special time designated for the university community to come together and celebrate the excellent work and commitment of our students."
Featuring a prominent leader for this year's event is one aspect of the Division of Student Affairs' effort to emphasize the importance of leadership.
Kevin Smith, interim assistant director of campus life for leadership and community service, said this year's gala is the most inclusive awards event on campus honoring students for all forms of leadership. Student Affairs extended its outreach for nominees this year to include all colleges and facets of campus life.
"It's important that we help define what leadership means or can mean because it's more than a position or a trait," Smith said. "We want to define it as something that can be learned or appreciated by every student who goes to school here regardless of major, college or organization.
"We want Ohio University to be known as a school where students can learn and study leadership," he added.
Any member of the Ohio University community could nominate a student for recognition. In total, 130 students were nominated, including 45 for the Outstanding Senior Award. Ten additional award category winners will be announced at the gala.
"We're really trying to emphasize all of the student nominees," Smith said. "To be one of more than 130 nominees (signifies) a substantial contribution. It's a big deal."
Organizers of the "black tie optional" event are even calling for a higher standard of dress than in past years in order to best honor the nominees and recipients, Smith said.
A capacity crowd is expected for the event, with proceeds from ticket sales benefiting a Women in Philanthropy endowment that supports universitywide student leadership development activities through Baker University Center's Amanda J. Cunningham Leadership Center.