Opening celebration welcomes faculty, staff to new academic year

Staff members receiving award from President Fred Whitt

To mark the beginning of the 2023-24 academic year, faculty and staff gathered in Belk Centrum at the annual opening celebration on August 17. During the program, 13 new full-time faculty members representing 11 disciplines, 8 new IT team members, 11 staff members and 9 athletics staff members were welcomed to campus.

Jennifer Burris, Ph.D., university provost and vice president for academic affairs, recognized faculty promotions. Michael Deckard, Timothy Goldberg, and Scott Schaefer promoted to the rank of full professor; Tabitha Toney, Tom Turner, Jamie Conrad, Paula Swindle, Astra Czerny, Lindsay Weitkamp, Claire Pope, Laura Hope-Gill, Carly York, Jennifer Garbett and Doug Knight were promoted to associate professor with tenure; Daniel Grimm was awarded tenure; and Forrest David and Matthew Swiatlowski were recognized as faculty moving to tenure track.

Additional faculty and staff were recognized for their years of service to university, ranging from 5-25 year milestones. Five members of the LR community have surpassed those milestones into 30+ years: Michael McGee (30), Becky Sharpe (35), Burl McCuiston (46), Marsha Fanning (50) and Charles Cooke (60).

As part of President Fred Whitt’s annual presentation, he awarded a select number of staff with the Presidential Parachute Award, which recognizes unsung heroes from all areas of campus.          

Ashley Causby-Hicks, Technical Assistant for Conference & Events

“Causby-Hicks served as the Production Assistant at LR for just a little over two years. She supervises over 30 work-study students, makes schedules, teaches work skills and assists in all aspects of running a number of performing arts spaces on campus while working on her master’s degree in leadership. She is very friendly, hard-working and ambitious. She and her husband Charles enjoy visits to Disney World and taking care of their corgi, Dutchess. In fact, when there were equipment problems yesterday in Belk Centrum. she worked to find a solution and tested it last night to make sure it was working today.”

Terry Finger, Aramark Dining

“Finger has worked at LR/Aramark for nine years and has worked all stations in the cafeteria. He is famous for his soul-inspired food, including his special fried chicken and fish, his own tartar sauce and signature coleslaw. He has two children and grandchildren with his better half, Cloud. He is a hard-working employee that gets his work done on time. We can always rely on Terry!”

Joey Greene, Aramark Facilities

“An LR/Aramark employee since 1998, Greene celebrated his 25th anniversary in April 2023. He is the senior maintenance technician who handles most of our mechanical systems and has responsibility for our athletic building as his main job duties. He has been on the on-call team for many years and has been the guy that comes in the middle of the night to rescue us during floods, power outages and everything in between. We are grateful to have such a dedicated and well-versed employee on our crew and count on him to keep the campus going.”

Dondi Joyner, Director of the Bookstore

“Joyner has been the campus bookstore manager since 2021 after a 21-year career with the school system. She is responsible for all facets of the day-to-day management of the store and supervision of associates, including student employees. She ensures that staff deliver excellent customer service through coaching, training and development while working tirelessly with the faculty to ensure they have what they need, and their students are prepared for the first day. She is always helping make sure graduating seniors have their proper regalia for commencement and always greets customers with a wonderful smile.”

Piper Stephens, Administrative Assistant for the College of Health Sciences

“Widely acknowledged by colleagues for her remarkable dedication and constant support within our college community, Stephens has an exceptional ability to manage a diverse range of tasks with efficiency and a consistently positive demeanor that is truly outstanding. She is a reliable and approachable team member, her friendly interactions enhancing the daily experience for all. She is dedicated to colleagues and students and leaves an indelible impact on the overall success and positive atmosphere within our college. She exemplifies the spirit of the Parachute Award through her unwavering commitment to the success of others and the overall success of the institution.”

Three staff members were recognized at the end of the celebration as the Jeff Norris Non-Teaching Employee of the Year

Scott Eller, Assistant Controller in the Business Office

“Eller joined LR in 2010 as a staff accountant, then he was promoted to senior accountant and again to assistant controller. He is an incredibly hard worker and brings a helpful and humble spirit to everything he does. His main hobbies are mountain biking and running.  He also has a deep interest in WWII-era planes (such as the P-51 Mustang), which is attributed to his father serving in the war. From his business office coworkers: ‘Scott Eller is the most dedicated employee I have known. He is always willing to help anyone else in the office if they are in a bind and is always my go-to when I need something completed. He is always working extra hours to be sure things get done. Besides work, he is the first one to bring up everyone’s spirits with a quick joke or funny comment. The office is never a dull place when Scott is there.’”

Alyssa Stewart, Assistant Registrar (previously) and now Director of Teacher Education and Assessment Coordinator in College of Education

“Stewart has been with LR since 2011, first as first-year adviser, then as a coordinator of enrollment services. She works closely with faculty, staff and the athletic department – both as the point person for NCAA compliance and as the proud mom of two LR student-athletes. She is passionate about working to ensure that students are successful during their time at LR. Stewart is well known for her hard work, commitment to exemplary customer service and her infectious smile and personality.  She has a long-standing family connection to LR, including completing her own bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in 1998 and later her master’s degree in Higher Education Leadership in 2022. Her paternal great-grandparents, Verley Lorenzo Fulmer and Edith Propst Shell, both attended Lenoir College (now Lenoir-Rhyne) in the early 1900s.”  

Katie Wohlman, Director of Career and Professional Development

“Wohlman has been at LR since 2008. As director of the career center, she has helped literally thousands of students find jobs, perfect resumes, craft their elevator speeches and just listened to them voice their anxieties while they figure out their path after LR. Last year her office (of one full-time staff and a handful of students) had more than 655 individual meetings with students. From a coworker: ‘One of the nicest people you’ll ever have the pleasure of working with. After every meeting with her, I think I need to be as nice as Katie and then I give up because it’s just not possible.’”

Katie Fisher

A special recognition award was presented at the end of the celebration to recently retired dean of student life, Katie Fisher, Ed.D., Whitt shared the following:

“Known simply as Dean Katie, she joined LR as a professor of education in 2002 and then served as chair of the School of Education. She was named dean of student life in 2009 and remained in that role until her retirement in May 2023. She was responsible for every aspect of student life — policy oversight to student well-being to campus engagement and everything in between. She was always wherever students were and remembered everyone names. She was a constant presence and made students all feel welcome and valuable and part of the Bear family.”

As an addition from last year’s ceremony, faculty awards were presented at the celebration to the following:

  • Faculty Scholar Award, Taylor Newton, Ph.D.
  • Adjunct Faculty Teaching and Service Award, Sandy Leach
  • Raymond M. Bost Distinguished Professor Award, Tom Turner, Ph.D.
  • Roediger Distinguished Service Award, Kimberly Price, Ph.D.
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