College Honors Alumni of the Year at Celebration

by Rashad Mulla

College Honors Alumni of the Year at Celebration

Newly minted graduates were not the only ones celebrating on Friday, May 20. At 12:30 p.m. on that day, alumni of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences gathered in Mason Hall for the college’s annual Alumni of the Year Celebration.

Departments recognize alumni for the annual awards based on nominations by department chairs, faculty, staff and external partners. Some criteria for recognition include professional accomplishments, awards, philanthropy, and service and contributions to the college and university community.

In all, 12 departments and programs in the college recognized exemplary alumni. Ted Burnes, class of ‘96, executive board member of the George Mason University Alumni Association, read each awardee's biography, then the chair or representative from the department gave the winner a certificate of achievement and an Alumnus or Alumna of the Year medal.

Ted Kinnaman, chair of the philosophy department, attended the event and found it very interesting.

“One thing that impressed me about the event was the huge range in experiences among the alumni honored,” he said. “Our department honored Veronica Schild, who graduated from Mason in 1979 and now is a very distinguished professor in Canada. But Liana Montesinos, '09, a Spanish major who double-majored in philosophy, was honored by the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, and she has done amazing things just in the last two years.”

David Wilson, chair of the criminology, law and society department, selected Dennis Butler, '02, for the award. Wilson said he was impressed by Butler's work as the police chief of Ottawa, Kansas.

"Policing has changed a great deal in recent decades and Chief Butler is actively engaged in changes that are improving police practice," Wilson said. "In particular, he is involved in helping the state of Kansas revise the training of law enforcement with respect to the handling of domestic violence cases."

The English department chose to honor Eric Johnson, '05, who created Open Source Shakespeare, a comprehensive search engine of the texts of Shakespeare's work, available for free on the Internet.

"Eric Johnson is the proverbial Renaissance man - a writer, actor, web designer and computer programmer," said Robert Matz, chair of the English department. "His online Shakespeare search engine, Open Source Shakespeare, which he began to write while serving in Iraq, is the best tool out there for electronic searches of Shakespeare's work."

Rodger Smith, advisor for WGMU Radio and a communication faculty member, capped off the event by presenting rising senior Alex Romano with the Beth Kauffman Award for Creativity. Romano has worked extensively with WGMU throughout his college career and is currently the radio station’s program director.

“Alex has provided some of the best leadership for WGMU I have seen in my 17 years here,” Smith said. “He has done an outstanding job working with other student organizations to develop working relationships to help WGMU become a vibrant college radio station.”

Toby Hettler, alumni gifts manager for the college, thought the event was a success, both in prestige and attendance.

“I think the event went very well and I’m glad so many guests, friends and faculty were on hand to make this special day more meaningful to the alumni of the year,” he said. “Of the 12 award recipients, we had alumni from the 70's, 80's, 90's, and 00's.”

The complete list of winners is as follows:

Department of Communication

Mark Root, MA ‘10 

Department of Criminology, Law and Society 

Dennis P. Butler, ‘02

Department of Economics

Tyler Cowen, ‘83

Department of English

Eric M. Johnson, MA ‘05 

Department of History and Art History

Ronald L. Hurst, ‘79

Department of Modern and Classical Languages

Liana E. Montecinos, ‘09 

Department of Philosophy

Veronica Schild, ‘78

Department of Psychology

Rene Hackney, MA ’97, Phd ‘05

Department of Public and International Affairs

Michael L. Whitlock, ‘96

Department of Sociology and Anthropology 

Andrew Bickford, ‘93

Global Affairs Program

Beata Angelica, ‘06

Individualized Study Program

Margaret R. Blasinsky, ’93, MA ‘97

WGMU Award – Beth Kauffman Award for Creativity

Alex Romano, Communication, ‘12