2018 President’s Award of Distinction Recipients Announced

Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren recently presented 11 Kent State staff members with the President’s Award of Distinction. President Warren made surprise visits to each recipient’s office with a hearty congratulations and a check for $1,500.

Formerly known as the President’s Excellence Award, the President’s Award of Distinction recognizes full-time, classified and unclassified employees. There were nearly 300 eligible nominations received from supervisors, peers, colleagues and students across Kent State’s eight campuses.

Staffers had to demonstrate exceptional performance in advancing one or more of the following criteria aligned with the university’s strategic goals during the previous fiscal year. This includes actions, initiatives or projects related to the following:

  1. Student First – Provide an inclusive and engaged living-learning environment where all students thrive and graduate as informed citizens committed to a life of impact.
  2. A Distinctive Kent State – Drive innovation, idea generation and national distinction through top-tier academic and research programs, including the recruitment and support of talented faculty and staff.
  3. Global Competitiveness – Advance Kent State’s impact and reach as a leading international university.
  4. Regional Impact – Serve as the innovative engine and engaged partner to meet community needs and enhance quality of life in the region and state.
  5. Organizational Stewardship – Ensure a culture of continuous improvement and the efficient stewardship of university resources and infrastructure.

The President’s Award of Distinction recipients are listed below.

Jim Brewster, receiving and distribution supervisor at University Facilities Management, receives the 2018 President’s Award of Distinction from Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren.
Jeff Brewster
Receiving and Distribution Supervisor
University Facilities Management
Nomination Criteria: Students First

Jeff Brewster epitomizes Kent State’s core values: respect, kindness and purpose in all we do. His top priority is customer service, and he goes above and beyond to satisfy his colleagues, staff and students. Whether it is placing thousands of chairs at commencement or setting up residence hall rooms for incoming freshmen on move-in day, Mr. Brewster brings a smile and the right attitude to get the job done.

Responsible for moving and delivery services for the entire Kent Campus, Mr. Brewster processed 2,225 work orders from students, faculty and staff in Fiscal Year 2017. His supervision resulted in the successful staging of numerous high-profile events, such as Destination Kent State, concerts, commencements, convocations, student move-in and move-out days and all athletic events in the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center, not to mention all moving requests from faculty and staff.

With nearly 17 years of service at Kent State, Mr. Brewster has established excellent working relationships with the surrounding community. He also plays a big role in advancing Kent State’s sustainability initiative by repurposing furniture and assisting in the electronics recycling program.


Paula Cribley, custodial worker at University Facilities Management, receives the 2018 President’s Award of Distinction from Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren.
Paula Cribley
Custodial Worker
University Facilities Management
Nomination Criteria: Organizational Stewardship

Although her official title is custodial worker, Paula Cribley could easily be mistaken for a tour guide and counselor by visitors learning the history of May 4 at Taylor Hall. She has worked behind the scenes for 22 years to make the building feel like home to students and staff.

Always available to clean the May 4 Visitors Center for unexpected dignitaries, Ms. Cribley went beyond expectations to find the most efficient method to clean the outdoor walking tour signs. In preparation for an opening exhibit, she worked many long hours to make sure the carpet was immaculate and the building was spotless.

When building staff are overwhelmed with guests during the annual commemoration, it is not unusual for Ms. Cribley to assist with tour directions and share facts related to the May 4 story. She is always considering new ways to improve the way Taylor Hall functions and is deeply devoted to the entire building but pays special attention to the presentation of the May 4 Visitors Center and Reflection Gallery.


Barbara Davis, administrative secretary in the Department of Anthropology, receives the 2018 President’s Award of Distinction from Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren.
Barbara Davis
Administrative Secretary
Department of Anthropology
Nomination Criteria: Global Competitiveness

A multilinguist who has lived and worked in France, England and Germany, Barbara Davis is an excellent ambassador for the Department of Anthropology. She is genuinely interested in all peoples and cultures around the world.

Ms. Davis is sometimes referred to as the “heartbeat” of the Department of Anthropology, and she often solves problems before others even knew they existed, handling them with the utmost professionalism. In fact, there is no task too large or small for Ms. Davis to take on, particularly when it concerns scholars.

She lives by the motto “students first.” Ms. Davis developed and nurtured a close relationship with an international student from China who was very reserved. Providing support and encouragement through frequent meetings allowed the student to feel welcomed and become more relaxed and engaged.

Ms. Davis has also proven to be a top-notch fundraiser and recruiter. Her promotion of Kent State’s Japan Student Exchange program during the Giving Tuesday campaign last November resulted in additional donations from external connections. She has successfully promoted the anthropology curriculum and its graduate student exchange program with Kyoto University in Japan via the web, flyers and PowerPoint presentations that continually scroll across the department’s digital monitors.


Ken Ditlevson, director of the LGBTQ Student Center, receives the 2018 President’s Award of Distinction from Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren.
Ken Ditlevson
LGBTQ Student Center
Nomination Criteria: Students First

Under Ken Ditlevson’s leadership, the LGBTQ Student Center has never turned away a student. Not only that, with Mr. Ditlevson at the helm, LGBTQ+ students flourish in the open and welcoming environment. With increased scholarship funding, the center has transformed from a walk-in closet to a fully functional office space equipped with everything necessary for students to learn, connect and thrive.

Mr. Ditlevson has raised awareness within Kent State and the surrounding LGBTQ+ community by advocating for and fostering diversity, equity and inclusion related to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression by providing support, programs, educational opportunities and leadership development for the university and greater community. His hard work has not gone unnoticed. A genuine appreciation was visible on the faces of the 76 students at Lavender Graduation, an annual ceremony that honors the achievements of graduating LGBTQ+ students.


Sean Melnik (center), instructional designer at the Trumbull Campus, receives the 2018 President’s Award of Distinction. He is pictured with his co-workers at the Trumbull Campus.
Sean Melnik
Instructional Designer
Trumbull Campus
Nomination Criteria: Organizational Stewardship

Sean Melnik is in such high demand that the running joke on the Trumbull Campus is that everyone on staff has his phone number on speed dial. Mr. Melnik often holds group seminars that provide a surplus of innovative learning techniques that faculty can use to teach within a diverse student population. Faculty on the Trumbull Campus are grateful that his instructional strategies engage students and aid in their learning.

Occasionally, Mr. Melnik is asked to instruct on techniques that are unfamiliar to him. But instead of declining, he finds the information, learns it and then teaches it. Alice Colwell, associate lecturer in the College of Nursing, cannot recall ever counting on someone on campus as much as she counts on Mr. Melnik.

Whether it is assisting with Blackboard courses, online testing, educational offerings or consulting, Mr. Melnik delivers with a smile. His in-person or webinar training for faculty augments their professional development and fosters a culture of lifelong learning across the campus community.


Eron Memaj, international student affairs director in the Office of the Dean of Students, receives the 2018 President’s Award of Distinction from Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren.
Eron Memaj
International Student Affairs Director
Dean of Students
Nomination Criteria: Students First/Global Competitiveness

Eron Memaj spearheads a number of initiatives designed to increase global awareness of and appreciation for different cultures. His programs create a better campus environment for international students and advance the university-level initiative of global competitiveness.

A few of the programs and initiatives include:

  • The Conversations Partners, a program that pairs domestic and international students in a weekly campus cultural exchange.
  • Creating more than 80 faculty/staff and international student partnerships as part of the International Friendship initiative.
  • The Global Village living-learning community in Clark Hall, which builds the cultural competency of domestic and international students and hosts a series of cultural spotlight programs called Res Airways. Students can travel the world without leaving the residence halls. With Mr. Memaj’s leadership, 13 Res Airways were hosted in 13 residence halls this year. Students who participated felt they had a higher degree of cultural competence and appreciation for different cultures.
  • Organizing Cleveland airport pickups to welcome new international students.


Michael Menyes, lead IT user support analyst in the Department of Psychological Sciences, receives the 2018 President’s Award of Distinction from Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren.
Michael Menyes
Lead IT User Support Analyst
Department of Psychological Sciences
Nomination Criteria: Organizational Stewardship

Michael Menyes is responsible for managing information technology for a very large department with extraordinary technological needs. Troubleshooting, updating and overseeing the labs and personal computing needs for so many faculty and staff are monumental feats.

A few years ago, the Psychological Clinic upgraded to an electronic medical records system. It was Mr. Menyes who made it run seamlessly. He often responds within minutes to various requests from colleagues several times a week.

When there was a serious issue with the department’s server, Mr. Menyes worked well into the night to determine the extent of the problem and assist with a solution. He has spent countless hours problem-solving and troubleshooting when the existing video recording system breaks down, saving the office tens of thousands of dollars in replacement costs. More importantly, Mr. Menyes does not just fix problems; he enhances the user’s experience with technology.


Erin Michael-McLaughlin, academic program coordinator in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, receives the 2018 President’s Award of Distinction from Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren.
Erin Michael-McLaughlin
Academic Program Coordinator
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Nomination criteria:
A Distinctive Kent State

A colleague considers Erin Michael-McLaughlin to be the mechanic of the machine known as the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. She manages the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). Funded by the National Science Foundation, REU is a cooperative between the chemistry department and the Advanced Materials and Liquid Crystal Institute.

Ms. Michael-McLaughlin works tireless during the summer organizing REU social events on weekends and evenings, including sporting and cultural activities, hikes and canoe trips. She even manages the department’s social media sites. She advises the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society and coordinates Kent Chemistry Day, the Chemistry Sibs and Kids events and the annual Chemistry Award ceremony.

Ms. Michael-McLaughlin keeps all the principal investigators, co-principal investigators and participating faculty and students informed, on time and on track. She puts students first by aiding the current group of graduates while simultaneously managing the search for new ones. She is a graduate of the Kent State’s award-winning Institute for Excellence.


Jilann Morgan, groundskeeper crew leader at University Facilities Management, receives the 2018 President’s Award of Distinction from Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren.
Jilann Morgan
Groundskeeper Crew Leader
University Facilities Management
Nomination criteria: Distinctive Kent State

A well-groomed campus is vital to recruiting students. As groundskeeper crew leader, Jilann Morgan’s efforts have a direct impact on a student’s decision to attend Kent State. As such, her professionalism and commitment to groundskeeping are on display daily.

With extensive experience in horticulture and the greenhouse industry, Ms. Morgan is primarily responsible for hanging flower baskets, flower pots, large floral displays and formal gardens like the ones found at the Cartwright Anniversary Gardens by the Student Recreation and Wellness Center and the Beyer-Murin Gardens by the University Library and the Kent Student Center.

She holds herself to the highest standards and never stops trying to improve the groundskeeping process, even while saving money. Ms. Morgan willingly shares her knowledge of flowers and floral design with colleagues, peer groups and other industry professionals.


Amanda Rabinowitz, senior reporter at WKSU, receives the 2018 President’s Award of Distinction from Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren.
Amanda Rabinowitz
Senior Reporter

Nomination criteria: A Distinctive Kent State

Listeners across 22 counties in Northeast Ohio wake up each morning to the soothing voice of Amanda Rabinowitz. As WKSU’s host of “Morning Edition,” Ms. Rabinowitz exemplifies Kent State’s values by engaging and educating listeners across the region.

In March 2017, Ms. Rabinowitz launched a new program called “Shuffle,” a weekly feature highlighting local musicians. She gets glowing reviews from her long-time sports feature “The View From Pluto” that features syndicated sports columnist Terry Pluto.

Ms. Rabinowitz works with graduate students from the College of Communications and Information who serve as “Morning Edition” producers. She provides real-word experience and teaches journalistic tactics and strategies on what it takes to produce good radio. In fall 2017, Ms. Rabinowitz became the advisor to Black Squirrel Radio, Kent State’s student-run radio station, where she helps to launch the journalism careers of even more Kent State students.


Sarah Sigler (center), associate director of prospect research in Prospect Management and Research, receives the 2018 President’s Award of Distinction from Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren. They are pictured with Vice President for Institutional Advancement Stephen Sokany (left).
Sarah Sigler
Associate Director of Prospect Research
Prospect Management and Research
Nomination criteria: Organizational Stewardship

Bringing a decade of exemplary service to Kent State, Sarah Sigler’s knowledge and unique perspective on Kent State allows the department to position itself strategically and capitalize on new partnerships that advance university fundraising.

Her attention to detail when completing executive research requests helps the university prepare for high-level meetings with key stakeholders. For the past 10 years, Ms. Sigler has dedicated herself to improving the department while building and motivating a passionate team of researchers who can envision and achieve future growth.

Her peers respect and value her tenure and appreciate her quiet leadership. She is always willing to lend a hand to ensure projects are timely, successful and exceed expectations. Ms. Sigler is a team player who cares about team success.

POSTED: Friday, November 9, 2018 02:19 PM
UPDATED: Thursday, July 18, 2024 03:47 PM
Joe Richardson