By Eva Simeone
In evening gowns and tuxedos, some 400 students, staff, faculty and even alumni -- a few sporting aviators and many proudly wearing silver OHIO pins -- gathered Wednesday evening to recognize Ohio University's current student leaders and the century's future ones. The occasion was the 25th annual Leadership Awards Gala in Baker University Center Ballroom.
Organized by the Division of Student Affairs, the event set out to honor leaders in all facets of campus life. It did so by awarding honors in 11 categories that recognized students for outstanding community service, academic excellence, senior leadership and more.
Sophomore Chauncey Jackson, who was introduced at the event as the university's new student trustee, served as the evening's master of ceremonies.
For many, the event's quarter-century mark was a time to reflect on the founding of the university and its traditions that inspire leadership. The final speaker to address the crowd, Graduate Student Senate President Dominic Barbato, echoed sentiments earlier expressed by President Roderick J. McDavis.
"The very founding of our institution was a proud endeavor," he said. "Here, we do not create mere guides in our leaders. Our leaders create their own paths and are the trailblazers, pioneers and mapmakers taking this university into its third century."
Keynote speaker and alumnus David Wilhelm, known for his political work managing campaigns for former President Bill Clinton and other prominent officeholders, said Ohio University grooms leaders in civil rights, racial justice and public service, giving graduates their primary competitive edge.
"Leadership is simply in our DNA," said the Athens native and faculty son. "Ohio University graduates cannot help but reflect the quality of the leadership at the university."
Many award recipients received standing ovations from their peers, and others walked to the stage amid cheers and applause. For Elizabeth Vaccaro, a journalism major and Outstanding Senior Leader award recipient, it was a moment of emotion and pride.
Asked later about the importance of leadership, the past year's University Programming Council president said, "It's the foundation for everything. With one leader comes 25 leaders. That changes and betters us as a whole, and it can completely shape an experience for any individual."
Proceeds from ticket sales for the event benefit a Women in Philanthropy endowment that supports student leadership development activities universitywide through Baker University Center's Amanda J. Cunningham Leadership Center.
View a full list of the evening's honorees.