The President's Award of Distinction was created as a recognition program to reward staff members who have demonstrated exceptional performance in advancing the strategic goals of the university during the previous fiscal year.


The President's Award of Distinction, formerly the President's Excellence Award, was created as a recognition program to reward staff members who have demonstrated outstanding achievements, service, leadership and dedication to Kent State in advancing the university's strategic priorities and core values. 


Full-time classified and unclassified employees at all campuses who have been employed by the university for a minimum of three years and are in good standing with the university are eligible to be nominated. Faculty are not eligible for this award. Past recipients are not eligible to be nominated.


A nominee must demonstrate exceptional performance in living our university's core values and/or advancing one of the priorities of the Strategic Roadmap (2015) to a Distinctive Kent State. Performance can be but is not limited to actions, initiatives, achievements, service, leadership or projects. A nominator may only submit one nomination per individual. Nominations may come from peers, supervisors or other divisional leaders, faculty or students. The final decision resides with the president. Each recipient will receive a $1,500 award.

Nomination period Aug. 12 - Nov. 14. For questions, contact Lashonda Taylor, 330-672-2235 or

2022 President’s Award of Distinction Recipients Announced

Kent State University President Todd Diacon recently notified 14 Kent State staff members that they are the 2022 recipients of the President’s Award of Distinction, which includes a $1,500 award.

Walt Bainey

Director of Infrastructure

Information Technology, Kent Campus

Most of the work Walt Bainey and his team does is behind the scenes, ensuring the integrity and delivery of the critical IT services Kent State University students, faculty and staff depend on every day. Because disruptions can occur at any time, he’s on-call 24/7/365. Working as both a leader and a team player, Bainey’s dedication and calm demeanor in the face of challenges have earned him a reputation as a leader with an extraordinary attitude and “a calm approach to otherwise messy things.”

Bainey and his team recently planned, configured and deployed a cost-effective disaster recovery solution that will allow critical services in the data center to be transitioned in just hours, as compared to days with the prior system. He was also key in assuring that Blackboard Learn and other high-demand systems were available and had capacity to support increased demand for remote operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bill Buckbee

Bill Buckbee HeadshotAssistant Director of public safety

Finance and Administration, Kent Campus

After the COVID-19 vaccines were approved for use, the challenge for Kent State University was how to effectively distribute these vaccines to large populations in an orderly and efficient manner. Bill Buckbee rose to the challenge and accepted the leadership role of chairing the Vaccine Committee. The committee was comprised of university faculty, staff and students as well as representatives of the Portage County and Kent health departments. Buckbee was a liaison among all participating parties and his skills in listening, engaging and directing were essential in keeping the committee on track and making sure the university was a true partner in this community effort.

Through the work of this committee, with Buckbee’s leadership in preparing plans, meeting with partners and keeping this large and complex initiative moving, the university established a point of distribution for the vaccine at the Kent State Field House. Buckbee was on-site at the Field House when it was operating to make sure everything ran smoothly. Ultimately, the operation was able to provide vaccinations to thousands of community members, protecting people and saving lives.

Mary Collins

Marketing/communications/development secretary

Communications/marketing and development offices, Ashtabula campus

In many ways, Mary Collins is the heart of Kent State University’s Ashtabula Campus. As the main switchboard operator, hers is the first voice people hear when they contact the campus. She engages students and community members when they call, answers their questions and directs them to the people and resources they need. She is a wealth of information about university procedures, donor and scholarship information, and facts about the Ashtabula Campus.

Collins is organized, efficient and dedicated, “going the extra mile” in all that she does. She plans the annual Scholarship Banquet – an event that always impresses students and donors – and she stepped up to distribute the campus mail while many staff members worked remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Collins exemplifies the Kent State philosophy of “Flashes Take Care of Flashes” as she ably assists students and new employees and makes all feel welcome to Kent State’s Ashtabula Campus.

Karla Dohse

Custodial crew leader, Housekeeping, Residence Services

Residence services, Kent campus

Colleagues say it was a lucky day for Kent State University when Karla Dohse joined the staff 22 years ago. She brings care, knowledge and a strong work ethic to her daily tasks and leads by example in all that she does. Dohse knows the value of first impressions and is dedicated to making sure the Kent State experience is the best it can be for students and parents as well as faculty and staff.

Students know they can reach out to her for the things they need, and her co-workers value her experience and the knowledge she shares. Dohse is considerate and caring, always wearing a smile to work and remembering co-workers’ birthdays and other special occasions. Her supervisors report that working with her has made them better at their jobs and say her work is essential to enhancing the Kent State experience for our students.

Amanda Avery Dolan, Ph.D.

Associate Director, Data Governance

Information technology, Kent campus

Amanda Dolan practices Kent State University’s “Flashes Take Care of Flashes” philosophy and its values of diversity, equity and inclusion in her service on the Anti-Racism Task Force. Dolan served as the chair of the accessibility subcommittee, where her unique perspective and forward-thinking approach to student-focused solutions helped the task force consider more nuanced ways to provide access with resources and technology – with success for ALL students in mind.

Also while working for the task force, Dolan developed a sophisticated recommendations dashboard to provide the Kent State community with ongoing updates and show how the task force is progressing toward its goals. She has also trained a graduate student to input data to keep the dashboard current. Dolan continues to act as a steward and role model as she works with students and staff across the eight-campus system to support the task force’s goals in project planning, diversity and inclusion.

Elizabeth Henry

Liz Henry HeadshotSenior Director, Marketing Research and strategy

University communications and marketing, Kent campus

At any given time, Kent State University has multiple initiatives in action or in the planning stages and Elizabeth Henry is typically actively involved in many of them. Her leadership and guidance aim to empower and maximize the potential of all contributors to make sure these actions are smart, thoughtful, engaging and purposeful.

Working with enrollment management, Henry has helped develop targeted communication strategies to reach both traditional and non-traditional students, first-generation students and other important groups with meaningful messaging at every stage of recruitment and orientation for new students. She has also assisted the School of Fashion and the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with marketing strategies that help them reach their goals. In collaboration with university deans and the Office of the University Architect, Henry has coordinated the marketing strategies for multiple groundbreaking and facilities opening ceremonies, including the opening of the Design Innovation Hub and groundbreaking for the College of Aeronautics and Engineering’s building expansion. 

During the pandemic, Henry worked with the Office of the President, the Division of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, the Division of Student Affairs, University Dining Services and the Division of Academic Affairs to make 2020’s virtual homecoming an exciting and engaging experience for all members of our university family. She worked with these same groups to help coordinate a return to an in-person Homecoming experience in 2021 – one of Kent State’s all-time most successful celebrations. Henry’s tireless hard work and dedication continue to enhance Kent State’s status as a distinctive university.

Emily Hermon

Manager, Accounts payable/Interim Payroll Manager

Finance and administration, Kent Campus

Near the end of the fiscal year in 2020, when changes in staffing left her department without a few key members, Emily Hermon rose to the challenge and took on the job of interim payroll manager. This was in addition to managing the university’s purchasing card (P-card) program. During the pandemic the P-card program was essential in helping the university procure health and safety equipment and supplies for faculty, students and staff. Hermon helped keep these operations running smoothly while also working to find the best solution to adjust the entirely manual accounts-payable operation to function in a remote environment. On the payroll side, a new system had just been implemented, and Hermon was key in keeping this project on track and moving forward. Even faced with an aggressive timeline, with her guidance the department was able to meet project goals.

Hermon is trained in Lean Six Sigma methodology and uses her experience to find ways to improve processes, especially when facing budget challenges or in spreading the workload appropriately across the staff. As a subject matter expert in many areas, she always makes herself available to answer questions from the university community. Hermon’s colleagues say they appreciate her leadership, loyalty and dedication. They also admire her ability to keep smiling in the face of the challenges that inevitably come with the often overlooked back-office functions of Kent State.

Scott Imhoff

Scott Imhoff HeadshotAssistant Director, University Catering

University Culinary Services, Kent Campus

Recently transitioned from university vendor to a full-time Kent State University employee, Scott Imhoff became a leader in the transition from Dining Services to a university-run Culinary Services and catering program. He is dedicated to ensuring that special events on campus are successful, offering high-quality service to attendees and guests. Imhoff created a plan for catering that included scaling up staffing and elevating the department’s quality of service. He also provided support for large events at the Regional Campuses to ensure a successful reopening of campuses for Fall Semester 2021.

The Office of Global Education is especially grateful to Imhoff for going above and beyond to ensure that international students have what they need and the types of meals they want at department events. As the university worked to reach international students who were isolated and lonely during the pandemic, Imhoff helped find innovative ways to provide good meals while maintaining strict social distancing and safety protocols. Imhoff has shown his commitment to putting students first and the “Flashes Take Care of Flashes” philosophy through his tireless dedication.

Jill Jenkins

Jill Jenkins HeadshotSenior Executive Director, University Housing and Culinary Services

Division of Student Affairs, Kent Campus

Jill Jenkins is a leader who supports and uplifts those around her while she truly works to build a distinctive and inclusive Kent State University. She is a senior administrator who stays connected to her colleagues and Kent State students; her top priority is putting students first. To keep tabs on what students prefer in their housing and dining experiences, she regularly connects informally through town hall discussions and Kent Interhall Council meetings. She recently cleared her schedule to meet with a student who had an idea to make the move-in process more inclusive. That idea became a successful part of move-in day.

During the pandemic, Jenkins was key in contacting students, answering questions and organizing property pick-up. As staffing challenges arose, she enthusiastically tackled new roles, taking on the work of several people while remaining in touch with her staff to make sure all had what they needed to be successful. Jenkins’ dedication to Kent State is demonstrated every day as she works to transform the lives of our students, staff and the community through her leadership, her work and genuine caring.

Nicole Kotlan, Ph.D.

Nicole Kotlan HeadshotSenior Director, Exploratory Program and Retention Initiatives

University College, Kent Campus

Students and those who have worked with Nicole Kotlan call her “committed,” “passionate” and “persistent.” Her focus on students is singular, always with the goal of helping them develop and succeed – especially first-generation students. She embraces the “Flashes Take Care of Flashes” philosophy and, through her work, takes it a step further – to “Flashes Help Make Sure Flashes Graduate.”

Kotlan does whatever it takes to keep in touch with students. She calls, texts and sends emails and helps them find support resources and jobs. She sticks with them when they stumble or struggle and helps them get back on track. She encourages students to be their best. Kotlan cares deeply and fiercely for Kent State students and takes special pride in seeing her exploratory students find their majors and move forward on their paths to graduation.

On the Retention Task Force her keen eye for data and the ability to ask questions has helped people look at data differently to better understand patterns and trends. She has pushed colleagues to creatively solve problems and develop a collaborative environment.

During the pandemic, Kotlan worked to help students succeed in an online environment while also pursuing a Ph.D. As her roles within the university have changed Kotlan has continued to exemplify a “whatever it takes” commitment in everything she does. She is one of the amazing people who make Kent State special.

Shana Lee

Shana Lee HeadshotAssistant Dean of Students

Division of Student Affairs, Kent Campus

After working at Kent State University for several years with a focus on serving the university’s underrepresented student populations, Shana Lee recently transferred to the Division of Student Affairs to help support its efforts with parents and families. Making this transition during the pandemic came with special challenges. A large population was in need, with high levels of need and high expectations from parents and families. Lee entered her new role with limited resources and staff and no clear blueprint for success. This was the first time the division had hired a person dedicated to this task.

Lee found ways to advocate for parents and families and empower their voices. She also connected with her colleagues to support them. She was able to elevate the experiences of Kent State’s parents and families with insight and support that, in turn, enhanced the Kent State experience for students. Lee also incorporated affinity groups of parents of underrepresented students along with a Parent and Family Council that will guide further growth in this area. Her colleagues have observed that Lee’s transition was aligned with her passions in finding creative ways to support Kent State parents. The growth of our parents, families and campus community has benefited greatly from Lee’s growth into the work she is now doing.

Kevin McCreary

Kevin McCreary HeadshotDirector, Research Compliance

Research and Sponsored Programs, Kent Campus

In a university that is nationally recognized for having high research activity, the scope of Kevin McCreary’s job is extensive. He contributes to the success of all Kent State University faculty and student researchers while ensuring that research is conducted in a safe and ethical manner. Faculty members are grateful for his willingness to take the time to explain processes and provide materials that make compliance review more efficient. For students, he is an educator in ethics training. Most of the research he reviews is from students and he helps ensure that graduate and undergraduate students understand necessary rules and ethics.

Representatives from research offices outside of Kent State have complimented McCreary’s work on Kent State’s compliance website. They have used the guidance and research found there to help create their own compliance websites.

Another important aspect of McCreary’s job is to identify faculty who are pursuing similar research from different directions. Through this process, he has helped create successful interdisciplinary collaborations among faculty who were previously unknown to each other.

Tina McLeary

Tina McLeary HeadshotCustodial Crew Leader

University Facilities Management, Custodial Services, Kent Campus

While many Kent State University employees were working remotely during the pandemic, Tina McLeary was on campus working to make sure the university’s buildings would be ready when everyone returned. After campus reopened, she has worked to keep all areas cleaned, sanitized and safe for students, faculty, staff and visitors. McLeary continually monitors building conditions and asks building occupants about their needs and concerns, coordinating her efforts with other custodians and  facilities management staff.

McLeary takes pride in the quality of her work and meets all challenges with a smile. Her co-workers admire her attitude and work ethic and say that for her, “no job is too big, too messy or too hard.” She demonstrates that “Flashes Take Care of Flashes” each day through her tireless efforts in making sure that Kent State’s on-campus experience is pleasant for everyone.

Daniel Ridgway

Daniel Ridgway HeadshotDirector of Operations

College of Podiatric Medicine, Kent Campus

In his position at the Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine, Daniel Ridgway is involved with every facet of operations, including maintenance, housekeeping and security. He also oversees student support, traveling with the continuing education team and other essential roles. So, in 2020, when faced with the pandemic, his responsibilities grew more complex as he worked with essential staff members to keep the campus and its clinics up and running. He worked on campus to support campus events and infrastructure while most staff members were working remotely.

With funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, Ridgway tackled the large project of completing major IT systems updates at the podiatric campus. He had a key role in coordinating all aspects of the update with vendors, purchasing agents, university leadership and IT representatives from the podiatric campus and the Kent Campus.

The care Ridgway puts into his work touches the lives of all students, faculty and staff and the Kent State experience at the College of Podiatric Medicine is much better for it.