The 2017 Hilltop Excellence Awards were held on Monday, April 17.
Excited friends and family of the nominees filtered into the Hughes-Trigg auditorium; members of the board of trustees and SMU President R. Gerald Turner took spots in the first row.
The auditorium was filled to the brim and buzzing with activity when Joanne Vogel , director of Student Affairs ad Interim, began the ceremony, welcoming all of the nominees into the space. The students and staff proudly walked down the aisles to their seats to the sound of roaring applause.
After the introduction, Student Body President Blake Rainey gave the State of the University address. Visibly proud of the university’s progress under his tenure, Rainey talked about increases in student parking, the introduction of a 24 hour 5-day-a-week Fondren Library, overhauls of office hours and a revitalization of the student center, among other major milestones. He candidly said, “God bless you all, and God bless Southern Methodist University,” as he stepped away from the podium, and was met with cheers and applause.
The first award given was the Emmie V. Baine Legacy Award, presented through the women and LGBT center in honor of the woman who founded the SMU women’s symposium. Emily Trible won this honor.
The A. Kenneth Pye Greek Leader Award was awarded next, to a group of Greek men and women shining in both their Greek communities and in the classroom. This years recipients were:
Emily Fann, Kappa Alpha Theta
Biko McMillan, Sigma Lambda Beta
Reed Namnoum, Sigma Alpha Epsilon
Taylor Nickens, Delta Sigma Theta
Henry Shepherd, Phi Delta Theta
The ceremony then paused for a moment in order to thank important board members and administrators, namely Bobby B. Lyle, R. Gerald Turner and Joanne Vogel.
After the James E. Caswell Award, awarded to Robert Schmidt, the Rotunda Outstanding Professor Award was presented to a group of professors working to make a lasting impact on their student’s lives. This years’ winners were:
Outstanding professors continued to be recognized with the presentation of the Extra Mile Award, presented to professors going out of their way to support students with learning differences. This years’ men and women were:
The next awards were given as follows.
The Sheri Mooney Memorial Scholarship Award:
James Thomas Kuchler
Jimmy (Guan Ha) Xie
The Outstanding Faculty/Staff Volunteer Award:
Outstanding Senior Woman Award:
Outstanding Senior Man Award:
Outstanding Administrator Award:
The late Pamela Anthony. This very well loved and missed administrator was, without question, deserving of this award. Her brother and close friend came to accept the award in her place.
Outstanding Staff Award:
Outstanding Trustee Award:
Bobby B. Lyle
Willis M. Tate Award:
Avela Winn Hay Award:
John L. Freehafer Award:
Umphrey Lee Award:
Finally, the time came to present the two premier awards of the night: the Presidential Awards of Excellence and the M Award. The Presidential Award for Scholar/Athlete was awarded to Sylvia de Toledo, the Scholar/Leader award went to Betsy Ehmcke and the Scholar/Volunteer award went to Ryan Martin Mckee.
The M Award—the highest honor an SMU staff member or student can receive, was awarded to:
Faculty/Staff: Gordon Birrell, Joe Gargulo, Albert Niemi, C Paul Rodgers III and David Son.
Students: Hope Anderson, Vafa Behzadpour, Aveline Chan, Dominique Earland, Jessica Giraudon, Caroline Gurley, Clark Holt, Jessica Mitchell, Blake Rainey and Jose Santoyo.