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14 Emory staff members honored with Award of Distinction
Emory University Award of Distinction recipients 2024

The 2024 Award of Distinction honorees pose with President Gregory L. Fenves at an evening reception held in their honor April 17. Shown are (l-r) Michael Kloss, Gina Shannon, Roland C. Witter, Circe Tsui, Terez M. Whatley White, Emma Yarbrough, Annie Shanley, President Fenves, Freda Hall, Kate Grace, Betty J. Webb, David Carroll, Harriet Ruskin, Blaire Wilson and Lisa Nuñez.

— Jenni Girtman, Atlanta Event Photography

Emory University celebrated the Award of Distinction honorees on April 17, recognizing 14 university staff members. The highest award available for staff, the Award of Distinction — which began in 1985 — recognizes employees for their outstanding contributions to the Emory community.

The 2024 honorees were recognized at a reception with Emory President Gregory L. Fenves and other university leaders. Each received a $1,000 award.

The 2024 Award of Distinction honorees include the following:

As director of the Democracy Program at The Carter Center, David Carroll’s dedicated efforts have significantly contributed to the establishment and enhancement of one of the Center’s flagship initiatives, reflecting Emory’s fundamental commitment to promoting democracy and inclusivity globally. Throughout his three decades of service to Emory University, Carroll’s leadership has propelled the Democracy Program to the forefront of international election observation, fostering consensus on democratic election standards and spearheading innovations to counter digital threats to democracy. Since assuming the role of program director in 2003, he has overseen remarkable growth, expanding the program’s annual budget by more than 400%. Carroll has been pivotal in setting global benchmarks for professional international election observation, garnering endorsements from more than 50 organizations, including the United Nations and the European Union. He also provides technical and financial support to organizations striving to bolster democracy within their respective countries, thereby broadening Emory’s influence in promoting democratic governance worldwide. A tireless advocate for enhancing trust in the U.S. electoral process, David champions voter education, promotes best practices in electoral transparency and fosters bipartisan consensus on the five core tenets of democratic elections. His endeavors not only embody the vision and values of Emory University, but also align closely with the principles upheld by President and Mrs. Carter, solidifying The Carter Center’s position as a leading advocate for human rights and international democracy.

As a team member in Emory’s Center for Civic and Community Engagement (CCE), Kate Grace has made significant contributions over the last 17 years. She brings Emory’s mission of creating, preserving, teaching and applying knowledge in service to humanity to life through her leadership of the Community Building and Social Change (CBSC) Fellows Program. As the director of this program, Grace introduces talented and diverse Emory undergraduate students to the challenges and opportunities of building community in contemporary urban America. Under her guidance, hundreds of students have participated in service-learning projects with close to 100 community partners, resulting in well over 50,000 hours of service benefiting thousands of individuals in Atlanta’s communities. The CBSC has become one of the premier programs of its kind in the country. As co-founder of the University-Partner Learning Communities within the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, Kate facilitated collaboration between community partners, faculty, students and staff to address local concerns. Her unique approach to engagement has served many communities across Atlanta and built lasting relationships. Additionally, Grace leads efforts for scholarships and internships at the CCE, significantly impacting the academic and professional development of Emory students. Her contributions have been recognized through the success of former CBSC Fellows, many of whom have received prestigious awards. Her tireless dedication, passion, intellect and willingness to mentor make her a critical collaborator in advancing the mission of the CCE, Campus Life and Emory University.

Freda Hall epitomizes the spirit of community within the Emory housing units, where she works as a custodian (II). With her dedicated work ethic and unwavering kindness, Hall fosters a sense of belonging and respect within the Emory community. A simple “Good morning, how are you?” from her has the remarkable ability to brighten anyone’s day, yet Hall’s compassion extends far beyond mere pleasantries. In her 26 years of being a member of the custodial team, Hall has forged deep and meaningful relationships with the students around her. She exudes warmth and genuine care, celebrating everyone’s successes, offering students sentiments of encouragement before tests and providing unwavering support when her staff needs it most. Her leadership is marked by empathy and understanding. Following intense sorority recruitment weeks, she took it upon herself to restore the lodge kitchen to perfection despite challenges of messiness and clutter. Her consistent acknowledgment and validation of the team’s efforts during stressful times demonstrate her exceptional character. As a beacon of kindness and patience, Hall strengthens the bond between sororities and fraternities at Emory University. Her uplifting presence and genuine support make the resident lodges feel like a true home for all who reside there. She stands out as an invaluable member of the Emory community and has a lasting impact on all who encounter her uplifting spirit and unwavering dedication to the community of students and staff.

As assistant vice president for Emory events and the University’s chief protocol officer within the Division of Advancement and Alumni Engagement, Michael Kloss has made unparalleled contributions that have shaped the university’s events landscape and elevated Emory’s national and international prominence. With more than 19 years of exemplary service, Kloss’ commitment to excellence, innovation and community engagement has inspired his colleagues and has had a lasting impact on institutions beyond Emory. As the orchestrator of the university’s signature events, such as Commencement and Homecoming, Kloss has led the Emory events team to transform these occasions into cherished milestones that celebrate Emory’s rich traditions and vibrant community spirit. One of his most notable achievements is his leadership in planning and executing events featuring global figures like His Holiness the Dalai Lama and various political dignitaries, enriching the community and emphasizing the university’s commitment to fostering global connections and dialogue on critical issues. A testament to Kloss’ exceptional skill and dedication is his facilitation of the National Tribute Service for First Lady Rosalynn Carter. This profoundly significant responsibility required meticulous planning and coordination with The Carter Center, the United States Secret Service and the White House. His leadership ensured that the service was a fitting tribute to Mrs. Carter’s remarkable legacy and a moment of profound significance for Emory. His exceptional ability to bring people together in celebration and remembrance, coupled with his dedication, makes him a remarkable part of the Emory community.

As the director of global programs for the Lillian Carter Center (LCC) within the School of Nursing, Lisa Nuñez leads the school’s immersion program, ensuring that all nursing students can engage in learning experiences locally or globally. During the pandemic, Nuñez worked around the clock to get two groups of students and faculty back safely from Jamaica and the Bahamas. With her dedication, the School of Nursing was also able to continue global efforts during the pandemic. She helped develop two virtual immersions in the Dominican Republic and with Chapa-De Indian Health Service in rural northern California. Additionally, she created a partnership with 18 performing arts organizations in Atlanta to develop COVID-19 safety protocols. Her work received national recognition and has been highly influential in the return to live performing arts events in Atlanta and the U.S. The protocols she helped to develop were used as guidelines for opening requirements for the Actors’ Equity Association and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artist and Allied Crafts of the United States, and Its Territories and Canada (IATSE). With the student body experiencing tremendous growth in recent years, there arose a need for more efficient data management within service-learning immersions. Nuñez took the lead in implementing a new computer tracking system that streamlined document storage and filing, and greatly improved the efficiency of the application and credentialing processes. Her steadfast support for students and programs elevates the School of Nursing to its highest potential, enabling students to gain unparalleled hands-on experience, and making her an incredible asset to Emory and the local and global communities.

As a proud graduate of Emory’s MBA program, Harriet Ruskin has demonstrated unwavering dedication to Emory University for more than three decades. As director of MBA international and dual degree programs at the Goizueta Business School, Ruskin’s responsibilities extend far beyond her official title. For nearly two decades, she has meticulously overseen all aspects of the school’s graduation activities, managing multiple ceremonies and coordinating student involvement in PhD and dual degree diploma ceremonies. Her leadership in managing dual degree programs has fostered interdisciplinary collaboration and enriched student experiences. Additionally, Ruskin serves as the Honor Code and Code of Conduct Officer, guiding the review of student cases and revising the Honor Code. Her most significant impact lies in her dedication to assisting international students’ assimilation. Ruskin coordinates incoming and outgoing exchange opportunities for full-time MBAs and spearheads the International Student Orientation program, ensuring MBA students are well-prepared for academic challenges (including developing a pre-English language program to address language barriers in the MBA classroom). She warmly welcomes students into her home, provides airport transportation, assists with essential documents and offers support with everyday needs, fostering a sense of belonging. Despite the demanding nature of her role, she approaches each task with patience, humor and an unflappable demeanor, earning the admiration and gratitude of colleagues and students alike.

As associate registrar and provenance researcher at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Annie Shanley is emerging as one of the field’s leading practitioners, transforming the role from pure research into action. Her knowledge of the Carlos Museum’s collection and her tenacity in the face of challenging research serve as the foundations of her unwavering commitment to furthering provenance research at Emory University and building the ethical reputation of the Carlos Museum. Shanley’s research has helped resolve issues within the museum’s permanent collection and ensures the collections are grown according to the highest legal and ethical standards. Among her notable accomplishments is the return of an Assyrian ivory to the government of Iraq following research that revealed the piece had been looted from the Iraq Museum, Baghdad in 2003. Shanley helped transfer title of five antiquities to the Italian Republic, two of which remain on long term loan to the Carlos. She also facilitated the return of three objects to Greece, which led to the signing of a long-term agreement of cultural cooperation between Emory University and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture. As part of her work, Shanley has developed relationships with researchers, government officials and law enforcement across the globe. Within the Emory community, her work has ultimately contributed to a greater understanding of museum ethics, and she is helping to strengthen the Carlos Museum’s position as an ethical leader in the field.

Gina Shannon serves as the director of the School of Medicine’s Human Simulation Education Center (HSEC), where she has overseen more than 300 annual human simulations across various training programs. Through her dedication to collaborative practice in health care education, she has integrated many ways for staff, students, faculty and simulated patients (SP) to partner on human simulation projects. Shannon’s leadership has led to numerous innovations in this field. Notably, she initiated the Physical Exam Teaching Assistant (PETA) program to integrate SPs into the physical exam practice, resulting in enhanced student training time, doubling student satisfaction and reducing discomfort as students perform fewer skills on each other. In addition, Shannon has made significant contributions to medical education as co-chair of the Human Simulation Advisory Group and through her role on the Education Transformation Task Force. She played a pivotal role in adapting the SOM End of Applications (EOA) exam as a robust replacement for the canceled national Step II CS exam, ensuring graduating students acquire essential clinical skills. Moreover, Shannon actively promotes human simulation beyond Emory as a member of the Association of SP Educators, where she serves on committees, acts as conference chair and contributes to influential publications. Recognized as a leading expert in human simulation, her contributions have profoundly enhanced medical education both at Emory and globally.

In her role as associate director of solutions architecture in the Office of Information Technology, Circe Tsui demonstrates a deep commitment to advancing Emory’s mission through innovative technology solutions and unwavering dedication to supporting teaching and research. With 23 years at Emory, Tsui has significantly enhanced research capabilities by implementing forward-thinking solutions that improve efficiency, security, partnerships and best practices across diverse programs. Many years ago, Tsui developed a custom application for a substantial research grant, which later evolved into Emory’s significant GA Clinical and Translational Science Alliance Award. This application, CR-Assist, enables the consortium to operationalize their studies, schedule rooms and access laboratory data, greatly improving efficiencies. Her contributions to flagship programs like Emory’s Goizueta Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Emory Healthy Aging Study are widely recognized for their impact on study participant management and operational excellence. Tsui’s visionary leadership was evident in her creation of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) at Emory cloud service framework in 2016, onboarding more than 1,000 investigators to access cutting-edge computing resources. Her recent work architecting the HyPER C3 high-performance computing cluster for the AI.Humanity initiative further solidifies her reputation as a trailblazer in technology, with great value to research and teaching projects. Known for her respectful and professional demeanor, Tsui consistently demonstrates reliability, integrity and a commitment to excellence. Her contributions to Emory’s IT organization and community are invaluable, and her listening and technical skills are essential to the success of numerous campus-wide initiatives.

Betty J. Webb is the indispensable heart of the general internal medicine division within the School of Medicine, where she serves as the administrative manager. With nearly 40 years of dedicated service, Webb has earned praise from colleagues and faculty alike for her exceptional professionalism, unwavering support and outstanding problem-solving skills. Despite the demanding nature of her role, Webb never appears overwhelmed, always maintaining a calm and kind demeanor. Her career exemplifies Emory’s commitment to the public good, utilizing individual talents and abilities for global goals. Webb was a pioneer in developing the “jeopardy” system used for scheduling during unforeseen situations, which was particularly important during the pandemic to simultaneously decrease stress and maintain clinical coverage. Her vast knowledge of clinical coverage intricacies and her creative contributions have assured scheduling success within the department. The general motto among the division’s employees when dealing with logistics is, “Ask Betty” because she anticipates the needs of others and does anything she can to improve the lives of everyone around her. At the heart of Emory’s mission is a distinct purpose: to think beyond oneself. Webb has spent almost four decades creating a community of impact among faculty, staff and learners while also using her skills to promote the tripartite mission of academic medicine: service, education and research. She is recognized as an unsung hero whose professionalism, dedication and kindness make her an invaluable asset to Emory.

As the academic department advisor (Fachbereichsverwaltung Deutsch) for the Department of German Studies at Emory College, Terez M. Whatley White is a central figure, responsible for cultivating the department’s closeknit and collaborative atmosphere. His dedication to Emory began early, as he is a graduate of both Oxford College and Emory College. Over the years, he has taken on increasing responsibilities, becoming the department’s program administrative assistant in 2006 and the academic degree program coordinator in 2013. Since 2015, he has served as the academic department administrator, demonstrating exceptional service and commitment to the institution. Whatley White is a dedicated student advocate, fostering positive and productive relationships with students, advocating for their needs and contributing to the welcoming academic environment of the Department of German Studies. He is also instrumental in planning the department’s Giving Week, serves on the Oxford College Alumni Board and is a member of the university’s Staff Council. In addition to his administrative roles, Whatley White played a key role in implementing sustainable practices, earning recognition for his efforts. Notably, he received an Office of Sustainability Incentives Grant in 2013 to pilot a composting program, two years before the university adopted its own composting and zero waste program. He also led the implementation of an award-winning tea plant initiative in 2021. Whatley White’s kindness and professional attitude, demonstrated through his everyday actions, make him an invaluable asset to Emory.

As senior associate director of the Honor Council and deputy Title IX coordinator for Emory College, Blaire Wilson has worked to support countless undergraduate students in difficult moments. Since joining the Office for Undergraduate Education in 2015, Wilson has contributed to the College Honor Council by implementing a restorative justice-based resolution process, reducing case times and easing student worries. In the Title IX process, Wilson supports faculty, staff and students by providing training programs, assisting individuals reporting cases and facilitating supportive measures. Her work at Emory involves sensitive disciplinary matters. She navigates complex cases with empathy and skill, ensuring students feel heard and supported while upholding values of accountability and fairness. Without hesitation, she consults with students outside regular hours to guide them through the Honor Code process and alleviate their concerns. Wilson is a published author in the field of academic integrity. Her position on the Board of Directors of the International Center for Academic Integrity has strengthened Emory’s reputation on a global stage and brought opportunities to students and colleagues. Conferences she has organized have showcased Emory College students as presenters and volunteers, enriching their academic experiences. For many years, Wilson has volunteered as an advisor in the Title IX process, an open expression observer in Campus Life and an interviewer for National Scholarships and Fellowships. Committed to the public good, she advances Emory’s mission through her dedication to academic integrity.

As a lead financial analyst for Campus Life, Roland C. Witter is an accomplished professional recognized for his unwavering dedication, innovative problem-solving skills and outstanding leadership over a distinguished 25-year career. Starting his career as an accountant at Emory University, Witter successfully reconciled a substantial $100,000 outage discrepancy on Eagle Dollars and implemented new structures and processes to fortify future audits. His keen eye for detail led him to become the point of contact for internal audits after uncovering more than $100,000 in Apple credits for the computer store. Witter’s transformative impact extended to reshaping Dooley Dollar transactions, introducing a change that required vendors to earn students’ money upon purchase instead of allowing vendors to receive funds directly before any student purchases, significantly enhancing the efficiency and accuracy of payments within Campus Life. He spearheaded various financial advancements, including streamlining Campus Life’s annual merit process and consolidating Emory’s student health insurance into a comprehensive health plan, elevating both accuracy and efficiency. Beyond his role as lead financial analyst, Witter has demonstrated his commitment to financial oversight by serving on the Board of Directors of the Emory Alliance Credit Union and the American Educational Scholarship Fund. His positive attitude and unwavering dedication have been instrumental in shaping Emory’s financial systems, ensuring accuracy, integrity and efficiency. Campus Life owes much of its success to his tireless efforts and invaluable contributions.

As assistant director of Emory Arts and the Center for Creativity and Arts within the College of Arts and Sciences, Emma Yarbrough has demonstrated a profound commitment to Emory University’s mission of generating and preserving knowledge for the betterment of humanity. As a former Emory student herself, Yarbrough is deeply dedicated to fostering a vibrant and inclusive campus culture that celebrates diversity and fosters meaningful connections. During a pivotal period, she transformed the Emory Arts department from a marginal office in the College of Arts and Sciences to a department whose initiatives not only engage faculty and students across Emory but are also breaking into the national media. She played a significant role in overseeing the implementation of the Emory Praise House Project, a public art installation and immersive experience that honors and preserves African and African American history, memory and ritual. Yarbrough has also made significant contributions to the promotion of the Arts and Social Justice Fellows program, engaging both internal and external audiences, and fostering crucial connections with the Atlanta arts community. These efforts have enriched the undergraduate educational experience, directly supported artists of color in Atlanta and exemplified Emory’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Through various installations, narratives and press releases highlighting the arts at Emory, Yarbrough serves as one of the university’s primary conduits to the broader Atlanta community. Her work facilitates meaningful connections between what could otherwise be a secluded campus and the vibrant cultural landscape of Atlanta.

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