The University of Montevallo celebrated Founders’ Day on Oct. 10, commemorating 117 years of service to its alumni and to education in the State of Alabama.
The day began with a convocation in Palmer Hall featuring a message by entrepreneur and UM alumnus Michael E. Stephens, 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.
Stephens, a leader in the field of health care and physical rehabilitation and a philanthropist, graduated from UM in 1973. He founded the Lakeshore Foundation in the mid-1980s, focusing on athletic rehabilitation, and when another of his corporations, ReLife, merged with HealthSouth in 1994, he turned his attention to community service. In 1997, in recognition of his service and generosity toward the university, UM renamed its business school the Michael E. Stephens College of Business.
Stephens spoke to the theme of Founders’ Day, “Dedication to Our Past, Commitment to Our Future,” recalling how the University of Montevallo transformed him and the course of his life. He encouraged the Montevallo family to commit to support the school as the early residents of the town did when the Alabama Girls’ Industrial School was founded. Calling UM “an institution of substance,” he called on alumni, faculty, staff and students to contribute not only funding, but also ideas, time and service.
Professor of clarinet and saxophone Lori Ardovino was named the 2013 University Scholar. This award recognizes significant contributions to scholarship and creative endeavor. Ardovino, an active performer, clinician and composer, received the 2013-2014 Alabama State Council for the Arts Artist Fellowship and was composer-in-residence with Escape to Create in Seaside, Fla.
Michael Sterner, professor of mathematics, was the recipient of the Faculty Service Award. Since joining the UM faculty in 1997, Sterner has redesigned the university’s mathematics curriculum, elevating the reputation of the math major throughout the Southeast. Active in a number of projects in the community, one of his most-significant achievements is the development, with Professor Michael Patton, of the James Wylie Shepherd Observatory near the UM campus.
Associate Professor of Business Harold Hamilton received the inaugural Faculty Advisement Award. This award is presented to a full-time faculty or staff member who has demonstrated excellence in academic advising. While he currently serves as the faculty athletics representative and chair of the intercollegiate athletics committee, he is most recognized for his rapport with students. He says that effective advising is less about guiding students in building course schedules than in helping them create rich college experiences that prepare them for fulfilling careers and satisfying lives after graduation.
Ivan Smith, an adjunct instructor of mathematics since 1994, was the recipient of the first-ever Adjunct Faculty Teaching Award, given to a part-time instructor who has taught at UM for at least six semesters, who has demonstrated effective teaching, and who has had interaction with a significant number of students. By structuring his courses as learning laboratories in which students receive individual attention, he creates a supportive environment that helps build students’ confidence as it builds their proficiency in math. Smith also had a distinguished career in the U.S. Army and the Alabama Army National Guard, enlisting as a private and retiring 42 years later as a much-decorated major general.
Karen Kelly, who graduated from UM in 1980, received the 2013 Alumna Loyalty Award. A highly respected professional in the field of compensation and benefits, she is currently employed by McWane Inc. in Birmingham. Kelly has been a class representative to the UM National Alumni Association Board since 1985 and served on the board from 1998-2012. She served as president of the UMNAA board from 2008-2010 and also held a seat on the UM Foundation board for four years.
The recipient of the Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award was Dr. Robert Barone, professor of history. A member of UM’s faculty since 1989, Barone has taught history freshman honors courses since 1996 and has served as the faculty adviser for UM’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honorary organization, since 1994. His teaching style is enthusiastic and engaging, and his students appreciate his willingness to answer questions and discuss subject matter outside the classroom.
Jeremy Ward, associate director of development at UM, was the recipient of the Staff Service Award. Ward, a member of the UM staff in the division of university advancement since 2008, has overseen substantial increases in the rates of giving on the part of all UM constituents and the doubling of the amount given to the university’s annual fund. Under his leadership, the faculty and staff giving rate increased to 80 percent, one of the highest institutional giving rates in the nation. He has also served twice as interim director of alumni affairs while performing his regular job duties.
A reception for seniors and their families was held immediately following the convocation. Following that reception, Michael E. Stephens signed copies of the book, Sports Rehabilitation and the Human Spirit: How the Landmark Program at the Lakeshore Foundation Rebuilds Bodies and Restores Lives, for which he wrote the epilogue, and the UM Theatre Department held a matinee performance of The Thugs.
The Founders’ Day celebration concluded in the evening with the 16th 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 Assistant Professor of Mathematics Scott Varagona. The win made Mathematics the first three-time winner in the history of UM’s Life Raft Debate.