2015 Distinguished Service Award Recipients Announced

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Southern Virginia University Provost Madison U. Sowell today announced the recipients of the 2015 Ed and Chieko Okazaki Distinguished Service Award.

The Okazaki award for distinguished service, now in its ninth year, is given annually by surprise announcement to representatives of Southern Virginia’s student body, staff and faculty.

This year’s recipients are Sam Mellor, a senior from Colfax, Wash.; Bill White, network administrator; and Launa Whitehead, Catherine and Doyle Tucker Professor of Music History. Nominations for award recipients were opened up to all Southern Virginia students, faculty and staff.

At the awards forum, the university also announced that Barbara Crawford, professor of art, is the recipient of the 2016 Michael and Kay Elton Lectureship for Outstanding Teaching and Scholarship and James David Drasbek, student association president, is the first recipient of the new Chairman’s Scholarship.

The Okazaki award’s namesakes are Ed, a Japanese American who served in a highly decorated unit of the U.S. Army during World War II, and his wife, Chieko, who was an author, educator and former first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The award honors exemplary leadership and service. For student recipients, the honor appears on their permanent transcripts and ranks with valedictorian as the highest distinction afforded to a Southern Virginia University student.

Sam Mellor

Mellor is majoring in politics and minoring in chemistry. He began attending Southern Virginia in 2010 and returned to the university after he served a full-time LDS mission in Argentina from 2011 to 2013. He is a Marriott scholar, a member of the Southern Virginia University Orchestra and captain of the university’s NCAA Division III football team. In addition to his many extracurricular pursuits, he is also leading efforts to organize the upcoming Remote Area Medical clinic, which will be held on the university’s campus on March 5 and 6.

“‘This massive undertaking demonstrates strong organizational abilities in addition to dedication to giving meaningful service,’” said Provost Sowell, quoting those who nominated Mellor. “‘Organizing a Remote Area Medical clinic means recruiting and coordinating hundreds of doctors, dentists, optometrists, nurses, EMTs and other volunteers; handling over 1200 patient services; and arranging food, accommodations, facilities, preparation, security, crowd control, advertisement and hundreds of other details. Each Remote Area Medical clinic is monumental in scope, so the fact that [Mellor] is in charge of organizing the 2016 clinic underscores his exceptional people skills, leadership abilities, and organizational skills, as well as his deeply held desire to serve others.’”

Bill White

White has worked at Southern Virginia for nearly 20 years. He currently serves in the Information Technology Support Office as network administrator.

“‘[He] spends more hours on campus than anyone I know. He never complains about long hours, staying late, or getting calls in the middle of the night. He quietly goes about doing his work,’” Provost Sowell said, quoting White’s nomination. “He went ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ during the Robey renovation project. ‘He took on several very difficult tasks, showing his commitment to making the final product as good as possible for the students who would live there, even though going the extra mile often required significantly more effort on his part than a quicker, easier solution would have.’”

In addition to his dedication to the university, White was nominated for his service in his faith, the local community and his family.

Launa Whitehead

Whitehead has served at the university for more than a decade. In addition to her work as a professor, she currently serves as chair of the Fine and Performing Arts Division and on the academic affairs council. She holds a master’s degree in flute performance from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

She has previously taught music courses at Dixie State College and directed flute studies at Southern Utah University and the Tuacahn Center for the Performing Arts. She has directed a number of flute choirs, played principal flute with the Southwest Symphony Orchestra, and been a featured soloist in the Temple Square Concert Series and at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City. Most recently, she has performed with the University-Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra, the Rockbridge Symphony Orchestra and the Rockbridge Choral Society.

“In addition to mentoring students, she has served for three years as the Stake Young Women’s President in the Buena Vista Virginia Stake,” said Provost Sowell. “She was a featured speaker at the ‘Why I Believe’ series at the Washington DC Temple Visitors’ Center. She is a member of the National Flute Choir Orchestra, which performed at the National Flute Choir Convention in August. She has beautified our campus and our community in many ways, not the least of which was through the donation of lovely chimes that play hymns for all to enjoy.”