The UM National Alumni Association held its annual awards reception and dinner on Oct. 13 to honor the outstanding service of a staff member, faculty member and alum, closing the celebration of the University’s 126th Founders’ Day.
“This evening we come together as alumni and the University community to honor character and commitment,” said Stephanie Shaw ’93, UMNAA president. “These individuals have strengthened us as an institution and reinforced the values that we hold so dear.”
Outstanding Staff Service Award
Jenny Bell, director of Student Life since December 2011, received the Outstanding Staff Service Award, which recognizes a staff member’s excellence in service and loyalty to the University.
Dr. Tammi Dahle ’92, vice president for Enrollment and Student Affairs, said Bell is a consummate professional, dedicated staff member, role model and student mentor who understands that leading a department in higher education means oftentimes working nights and weekends.
“Given that demanding schedule, Jenny constantly works to engage UM students from the time they are prospective students by planning orientation and welcome weekend events to maintaining a rigorous plan for the oversight of the SGA, Greek Life, intramural sports and more than 90 student organizations.”
Bell said one of the primary reasons she and her husband stayed in Alabama when they moved to the state is because she fell in love with UM because of her co-workers and the students.
“To receive recognition from a place that you love for a job that you love is the most special kind of honor,” she said. “Thank you for that. …I feel so very privileged to be part of this amazing University.”
Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award
The Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award was conferred upon Dr. Greg Samuels, associate professor of secondary education and chief diversity and inclusion officer. He is also president of the Social Science Education Consortium, Inc.
The Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award recognizes a UM professor who is dedicated to providing quality education and makes an impact on students through the teaching-learning process.
Nominator Jason Perry ’18, M.Ed. ’20, student diversity and retention coordinator, said Samuels embodies commitment and the meaning behind the award as a shining example of humility, dedication and excellence.
“His impact transcends the classroom, and he represents everything you would hope
for in a professor and mentor when attending college,” Perry said. “Outside of the classroom, he has continued to find ways to serve UM, such as serving as the University’s diversity and inclusion officer, and being an integral part of establishing the Dr. Wilson Fallin Jr. Lecture Series. …He has been an unbelievable addition to the UM family, and his work will forever be a part of the legacy of Montevallo.”
Samuels thanked the Alumni Board, colleagues, his wife and students.
“For me, teaching is truly a privilege,” he said. “…I’m humbled to accept this award for Outstanding Commitment to Teaching, but please make no mistake. I’m only as good as the students I serve, and the University of Montevallo has some pretty amazing students.”
Mary Lou Elder Williams Alumni Loyalty Award
The Mary Lou Elder Williams Alumni Loyalty Award — given to an alum who has demonstrated loyalty and dedication in their strength of service to UM through contributions of time, talents, or resources — was bestowed upon Claudia Harrell ’73. Nominator Sandi Falkenhagen ’68 said over the years she’s come to deeply respect Harrell for being an unwavering supporter of Montevallo in so many ways.
“Freshman move-in day? She’s there,” Falkenhagen said. “Alumni Board leadership? She’s there. She’s always ready to step in and do absolutely anything to make an event or project of any scope successful.”
“Plus, she is a delightful person. With Claudia, you get exactly what you see: an active, determined supporter of all things UM. She totally has earned this honored recognition.”
Harrell said the news of the award was sprung on her through an ambush Zoom meeting. She couldn’t believe she was selected.
“As soon as we got off the Zoom call, I was still trying to breathe. And I thought ‘this may have been a mistake,’ but then an old phrase came to my mind: ‘When pigs fly,’” Harrell said, unwrapping a figurine of a winged pig.
Harrell thanked a plethora of people, telling personal stories about them and heaping high praise upon each.
“I get happy when I come back to the bricks where I belong. Loyalty is everything. It is not about the circle, but the loyalty within. I am proud and honored to be part of that circle. Helen Keller said ‘Alone we can do little, together we can do so much.’”
The night was concluded with the 15 Within 15 awards.