2019 President's Award of Distinction Recipients Announced

Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren recently presented seven Kent State staff members with the President’s Award of Distinction. As in years past, President Warren made surprise visits to each recipient’s office with sincere congratulations and a cashier’s check for $1,500.

The President’s Award of Distinction recognizes full-time, classified and unclassified employees. There were 126 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.


Kevin Dilley

Director of Kent State Student Media
College of Communication and Information

Nomination Criteria: Students First, Regional Impact

Kevin Dilley receiving the President's Award of Distinction

When Kevin Dilley arrived to Kent State in 2015, one of his first accomplishments was collaborating with students, staff and faculty to develop a service-oriented mission statement for Kent State Student Media that reads, in part, “Student Media empowers students through practical, collaborative and professional learning opportunities.”

Over the past three years, this “Students First” mindset has led to new levels of excellence resulting in the department and its partners receiving dozens of top national awards. In 2018, Student Media teams won 31 national awards, including Newspaper of the Year for The Kent Stater; student magazine awards for Fusion, Uhuru and Luna Negra; and second place for College Media Company of the Year. Additionally, students were nationally recognized for work in print, digital, video, sales, design, writing and other categories that reflect the students’ commitment to their craft and the community.

Mr. Dilley also found areas of efficiency and new revenue to help overcome a growing budget deficit. Through collaboration, he has helped student leaders learn how to run all aspects of a media enterprise.


Melissa McCoy

Administrative Clerk
School of Fashion Design and Merchandising

Nomination Criteria: Organizational Stewardship

Melissa receiving the President's Award of Distinction

Melissa McCoy is the face of the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising for a number of stakeholders within the department, greeting and assisting students, faculty, donors, guests and industry professionals with a smile and warm welcome. Her colleagues admit that she solves problems before others know they exist, like creating a system to organize the keys to classrooms, file and display cabinets, and supply closets.

Ms. McCoy heads the Fashion School’s scholarship committee that awards dozens of students each spring semester. She was instrumental in coordinating an important philanthropic initiative undertaken by graduate students who collected much-needed educational supplies for fashion students in Nigeria.

Her coordinating skills, resourcefulness and calm demeanor contribute to the success of daunting tasks, like the relocation of faculty from Rockwell Hall to Terrace Hall in 2018 and the high-profile annual fashion show. Moreover, her responsibilities include assisting more than 50 full- and part-time faculty who extend far beyond the Kent Campus to include those in New York City, Hong Kong and Florence.


Gary Misich

Academic Laboratory Manager
Ashtabula Campus

Nomination Criteria: Students First, Regional Impact

Gary Misich, President's Award of Distinction recipient

Faculty and staff at the Ashtabula Campus describe Gary Misich as an exceptional colleague who is essential to the success of everything that happens in the Morrison Building. Mr. Misich works behind the scenes to prepare supplies for biology, microbiology and anatomy courses by preparing countless microbial plates, tubes and dissection materials. He even provides supplemental instruction to chemistry students. Afterward, he returns to the laboratory to clean and sterilize equipment and discard the waste.

“I would spent 20 hours a week completing these tasks,” said Thierry Delorme, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences at Kent State University at Ashtabula. “Now, I step in the classroom knowing that my supplies are already prepared.”

Each spring, Kent State Ashtabula hosts the Ohio Wine Competition where Mr. Misich sets up, pours wine for the judges and conducts the post-competition analysis, which involves chemical testing on some 150 samples of wine.


Frank Renovich

Associate Director of Energy Operations
University Facilities Management

Nomination Criteria: Organizational Stewardship

Frank Renovich receiving the President's Award of Distinction

The management of the Kent Campus Power Plant and utilities by Frank Renovich, D.Eng., along with his participation in the Economic Demand Response Program to recover operating costs, have resulted in a series of annual refunds for hundreds of thousands of dollars since 2015.

An exceptional steward of the Power Plant, Dr. Renovich keeps the building and its equipment in excellent condition, thereby extending its useful life and reducing operating costs. The Association of Physical Plant Administrators highlighted Dr. Renovich’s operation in a recent review, stating, “Individuals responsible for identifying opportunities and appropriate technologies enabling the clearly evident amount of consumption reduction (notably at the boiler plant) are truly visionary and dedicated to this cause.”


Debbie Riggs

Administrative Clerk
East Liverpool Campus

Nomination Criteria: Students First, Organizational Stewardship

Debbie Riggs, recipient of the President's Award of Distinction

Debbie Riggs lives and breathes the “Students First” initiative. Her service to the East Liverpool Campus begins long before students first walk through the door, and it continues long after they stroll across the graduation stage. She listens, gives encouragement and offers advice when students contemplate tough situations. Ms. Riggs has even played the role of “patient” during lab practical exams when a lab assistant was unavailable.

Her steadfast service to the community includes spearheading events like the annual Robert Bycroft Christmas Party, ensuring that each special needs child receives a gift via student donations. She organizes the Kent State float for the East Liverpool Christmas Parade and makes sure that every child along the parade route gets a book. Ms. Riggs was instrumental in organizing the Team Up to Clean Up day held in cooperation with East Liverpool City Hospital. 


Carla Ronnebaum

Director, Enrollment Management and Student Services
College of Podiatric Medicine 

Nomination Criteria: Students First and Organizational Stewardship

Carla Ronnebaum at commencement

Carla Ronnebaum was instrumental in ensuring a seamless merger of the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine and Kent State, overseeing countless hours of training and adapting to new systems and databases. She maintains consistent student enrollment by overseeing all functions of student affairs at the College of Podiatric Medicine. Despite a 5% to 7% yearly decline in applications to colleges of podiatric medicine across the country, Ms. Ronnebaum has developed programs and strategies resulting in an increase of qualified Kent State College of Podiatric Medicine applicants. 

She personifies the “Students First” initiative, handpicking scholars to participate in recruitment videos based on personal stories of what led them to pursue podiatry. Other projects include organizing the new freshman class White Coat Ceremony and overseeing record keeping for student immunizations.

Despite her daughter battling incurable cancer, Ms. Ronnebaum maintains a warm and cheerful attitude. Her openness about her daughter’s illness has created an environment of learning, loving and support for students, alumni, faculty and staff. 


Melissa Sink

Housekeeping Manager
Division of Student Affairs

Nomination Criteria: Organizational Stewardship

Melissa Sink receiving the President's Award of Distinction

Effective and efficient are two words used to describe Melissa Sink. She supervises three shifts of housekeeping staff who literally work around the clock to keep her units clean and comfortable for students and guests. Ms. Sink arrives at work before sunrise to check in with staffers and ensure a smooth transition from one shift to the next.

Her staff is inspired and motivated by her fairness and generosity. She encourages workers to suggest better processes that she often uses. She provides the necessary tools to help them succeed, like finding the right cleaner to remove salt from the floor in the winter.

Last year, Ms. Sink’s role expanded significantly with the implementation of the shared services initiative. However, she still treats her team like family by remembering birthdays, passing out greeting cards on special occasions, and throwing summer and winter parties for her crew.

POSTED: Thursday, June 13, 2019 - 11:32am
UPDATED: Thursday, June 13, 2019 - 11:35am
WRITTEN BY:
Joe Richardson