Oct 10, 2016
Story by Kaitlyn Pacheco, BSJ ’17, Photos by Dan Owens, UCM
The 76th annual Alumni Awards Gala honored 13 individuals whose outstanding professional achievements and service have made a significant impact on Ohio University.
The 2016 gala took place during Homecoming, and the awards ceremony was held in the Ballroom of Baker University Center. The esteemed event accommodated 366 alumni and guests.
This year President Roderick J. McDavis, BSEd ’70, was named Alumnus of the Year, which is the most prestigious award given to graduates. During his acceptance speech, President McDavis shared that his 99-year-old father, Joe McDavis, died the night prior to the gala.
“He taught me, as a young person, what being a man was really all about. He taught me that it’s not about you, it’s about what you give,” President McDavis said. “I stand here tonight on the shoulders of the alumni who have come before me, but most importantly I stand here tonight on his shoulders.”
McDavis has served Ohio University for more than 12 years as the university’s first African American and second alumnus president. Among many accomplishments during his tenure as president, he successfully led a $500 million capital campaign, increased multicultural enrollment through the Urban and Appalachian Scholars program and administered the OHIO Guarantee level-rate tuition and fee model. McDavis also directed the university’s creation of two new extension campuses in Dublin and Cleveland, five new residence halls, a new Baker Center and more than a dozen buildings to the Athens and regional campuses.
Assistant Vice President of Alumni Relations and Executive Director of the OUAA Jennifer Neubauer served as emcee, and opened the black tie event by recognizing the inaugural OHIO Cheermeister, Jan-Marie Bales, BS ’11, MEd ’13. Neubauer, along with OUAA Board members Larry Starr, BSEd ’68, and Ronald Teplitzky, BA, ’84, presented the evening’s awards.
First Lady Deborah McDavis received the Honorary Alumna award for her tremendous service to the university and its surrounding communities. For 12 years, McDavis has recognized and shared with Bobcats the importance of excelling academically, being a responsible citizen and maintaining a positive morale.
The First Lady spoke about her emotional connection to OHIO and how proud she was to be an honorary Bobcat.
“Bobcat nation, from the depths of my heart, thank you,” McDavis said.
The gala is a partnership with OHIO Athletics, and is the platform wherein The Kermit Blosser OHIO Athletics Hall of Fame inductees are recognized along with the Alumni Awardees. Russ Eisenstein, the voice of the Bobcats, presented this year’s hall of fame inductees with Athletic Director Jim Schaus and Chair of Kermit Blosser Ohio Athletics Tom Davis.
Timothy Courtad, BSSP ’00, former All-American wrestler, Ellen Herman, BSG ’10, MAC Player of the Year in 2008 and 2009 for volleyball, and Samuel Shon, BBA ’13, four-year letter-winning football quarterback. Criss Somerlot, BSEd ’69, celebrated member of the 1967-69 track and field team and former Olympic coach, was given the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award.
“[OHIO] taught me value, character, respect for others, determination and to be passionate about the pursuit of dreams,” Shon said. “Thank you for providing these building blocks of success, it is what makes Ohio University great.”
The Charles J. and Claire O. Ping Recent Graduate Award recognizes the outstanding achievement of alumni within 15 years of their graduation from Ohio University. This year’s honorees are Kelly Baylog, BBA ’04, and Travis Kidner, BS ’00.
Kidner, an award-winning surgical oncologist, received notice of the award when he was on life support after having suffered a near-fatal accident.
“Get-well cards and messages of hope poured in from past and current members of the Marching 110,” Kidner said. “The highlight of my years here in Athens was spent on the field with the Marching 110, and I am happy to continue to support this incredible group of students.”
The Distinguished Service Awards honorees are David Abram, BSC ’89, devoted volunteer who oversaw the first annual Manasseh Cutler Lobster Fest, Charles W. Beck, Jr., BS ’62, former Ohio University Foundation Board trustee and College of Business mentor, and Amy Hollis, BSJ ’96, instrumental member of the Cleveland regional The Promise Lives Campaign committee.
The Medal of Merit awards honor alumni who have achieved high distinction in their chosen professional fields, and the prestigious award has been given to more than 500 recipients. The 2016 recipients are John P. Gainor, Jr., BSC ’78, president and CEO of International Dairy Queen, Inc., and Francis Papay, BA ’75, celebrated plastic and reconstructive surgeon.
“Ohio University, and specifically the College of Communications, prepared me for a career that has spanned several industries, but has always allowed me to utilize the education and life skills that I acquired during my four years in Athens,” Gainor Jr. said.
Know an outstanding alumnus or alumna who deserves to be recognized next year? Nominate them here.