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University of Montevallo celebrates Founders’ Day

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MONTEVALLO—The University of Montevallo celebrated Founders’ Day on Oct. 11, commemorating 116 years of service to its alumni and to education in the State of Alabama.

The day began with a convocation in Palmer Hall featuring speakers from the three entities represented on the Montevallo Development Cooperative District (MDCD), awards presentations to several members of the university faculty, staff and alumni, and the traditional investiture of the senior class and the tapping of new members of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society.

Following the theme, Commitment to Shared Success, Montevallo Mayor Ben McCrory, Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock and UM President John W. Stewart III each spoke about contributions made to the MDCD by the three entities represented. This coalition is working to extend the university to downtown Montevallo, thereby promoting the “town and gown” relationship among the entities, revitalizing the city, and in addition, promoting economic development and tourism within the county. These speakers recognized UM’s Founders’ Day as an appropriate occasion not only to honor the establishment of the University of Montevallo, but also to recognize the formation of a coalition to extend the benefits of the University, the city and the county to future students and citizens.

Assistant Professor of Biology Brett D. Noerager was named the 2012 University Scholar. This award recognizes significant contributions to scholarship and creative endeavor. A prolific researcher, Noerager has published five national peer-reviewed papers since joining the faculty at UM, including one published in the journal Science.

Cynthia P. Tidwell, associate professor of chemistry, received the Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award. Tidwell, an alumna of UM and a faculty member since 2000, was honored for her dedication to her students and her enthusiasm for teaching. A strong advocate for undergraduate research, she advises a number of students in their research projects.

Jill Wicknick, associate professor of biology, was the recipient of the Faculty Service Award. An active force in support of service and environmental issues, not only at the University, but also in the community at large, Wicknick has served as faculty adviser for the University’s Environmental Club since its inception in 2004, coordinating activities such as recycling, the Community Garden and cleanup days at UM’s Ebenezer Swamp. She was a key leader in the development of the Environmental Studies minor, which received approval in 2009.

Lois Reach Cooper, executive assistant to the president of UM, received the Outstanding Staff Service Award. A member of the Montevallo family since 1983, Reach has served in the Admissions Office, the Division of University Advancement and the President’s Office. She was recognized not only for her expertise and professionalism, but also for her leadership and loyalty to the university.

The recipient of the Alumnus Loyalty Award was Jeffrey Purvis, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in social work in 2002. After working for a number of years with the Alabama Department of Human Resources, he joined his family’s business as an analyst. He is active in the University of Montevallo National Alumni Association and serves as treasurer of the Junior Alumni Board of Directors. He supports the Social Work Program through donations as well as by attending events where he mentors students, offering advice and encouragement.

A reception for seniors and their families was held immediately following the convocation. Following that reception, the launch of the new Vallo Opoly game, designed by the students of the UM Game Studies and Design minor, took place in Reynolds Hall. Vallo Opoly is a game similar to Monopoly™, but with all the properties, cards, etc. featuring University of Montevallo landmarks and traditions.

The Founders’ Day celebration concluded in the evening with the 15th Annual Life Raft Debate, a lively argument by a panel of UM faculty members vying for the last seat on a mythical life raft after a purported global cataclysm has wiped out all other human population. Each panel member tries to convince the audience, who selects the winner by a vote, why his or her discipline should be the one to be preserved in the new civilization, while the others are left to drown. The oar of victory was awarded to Brett Noerager, assistant professor of biology, who also was named University Scholar during the Founders’ Day convocation earlier in the day.