UND Honors Faculty, Employees During Annual Founders Day Today

The University of North Dakota will celebrate its 128th birthday today, Thursday, Feb. 24, during the Annual Founders Day event in the Memorial Union.

The University will pay tribute to excellence in education by presenting 13 departmental and faculty awards, as well as honor 36 employees for 25 years of service and 32 retired and retiring employees. In addition, the North Dakota Faculty Achievement Award will be presented to 42 recipients.

A reception will begin at 5:15 p.m., with the banquet at 6 p.m. Pianist David Henrickson will set the stage for celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the Department of Theatre Arts.

The first celebration of Founders Day was held in 1904, with the observance occupying the whole day and marking the anniversary of the signing of the act to place the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. This marked the day as the official birthday of UND.

A total of $122,500 in awards will be presented, with $116,500 from UND Foundation, $4,000 from Fellows of the University and $2,000 from UND local funds.

Teaching, Research and Service Award (Faculty Scholar)

B.C. Gamble Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research or Creative Activity and Service – James Mochoruk, professor of history, $2,500

“Jim serves on an immense number of college and university committees and never shies away from service responsibilities,” said Ty Reese, chair of the History Department. “The amount of Jim’s service, within which he is always an active and engaged committee member, is staggering.”

Undergraduate Teaching Awards

McDermott Faculty Award for Individual Excellence in Teaching – Kanishka Marasinghe, associate professor of physics and astrophysics, $2,000

“Since joining our department in the fall of 2000, Kanishka has demonstrated time and again that he is a highly effective teacher who not only demands the best from his students but also cares very much about their success in and beyond his classroom,” said Graeme Dewar, chair of the Department of Physics and Astrophysics.

Individual Excellence in Teaching – Melissa Gjellstad, assistant professor of languages, $2,000

“Not only is she an extraordinary colleague outside the classroom, she shines as a teacher inside the classroom,” said Claudia Routon, associate professor of languages. “Her excellence as a teacher extends beyond the classroom to include program development and maintenance. She has been solely responsible for revamping, re-energizing, and growing the niche-market Norwegian Studies program.”

Graduate or Professional Teaching Award

Thomas J. Clifford Faculty Award for Graduate or Professional Teaching Excellence – Rebecca Weaver-Hightower, associate professor, English, $2,000

“It’s not accurate to simply say, ‘Dr. Weaver-Hightower is a phenomenal teacher.’ She is, of course, but she does more than simply teach within the confines of the classroom. Dr. Weaver-Hightower is one of those rare teachers who actually works to make her graduate students feel like they are her peers,” UND student Jody Jensen said. “One of the best examples of how Dr. Weaver-Hightower truly inspires lies in the way she works to make her graduate students better teachers.”

Individual Award for Faculty Development or Service

Thomas J. Clifford Faculty Achievement Award for Outstanding Faculty Development and Service – Michael Blake, professor, Music, $2,000

“Perhaps the true importance of Mr. Blake’s service contribution to UND, the music profession, and the community cannot be measured in terms of deeds, but in terms of his relationships with people across all communities in the area,” music professor Michael Wittgraf said. “He is, quite simply, an icon of community service in music and medicine in Grand Forks and North Dakota.”

Department Teaching Award

Thomas J. Clifford Award for Departmental Excellence in Teaching – The Honors Program, $2,000

“In its simplest description, Honors is a community,” said UND student Erin Barta. “It is small and personal, a place where classmates become friends and professors become mentors. What sets this community apart from the rest sprawled across this campus is that the Honors community has ingrained the values of service and civic engagement into its academic philosophies. Through service, we learn, we gain special perspective, and we begin to view the world as a playground not for problems, but solutions.”

Academic Advising Award

McDermott Faculty Award for Excellence in Academic Advising – Sagini Keengwe, assistant professor, Teaching and Learning, $2,000

“Dr. Keengwe is definitely one of those advisors who are genuinely there for their advisees,” said Kendra VanAckeren, one of three students who nominated him. “He is concerned that I am well rounded, academically and socially. “He serves as a strong role model in my life and is also my mentor. This genuine commitment and interest in his advisees is something worthy of recognition.”

Research Award

Thomas J. Clifford Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Research – Sandra Donaldson, professor, English, $2,000

“Dr. Donaldson was an amazing mentor, advisor, scholar, and teacher during my time at UND, but her interest in the well-being and success of her students extended beyond the classroom,” said Richard Van Eck, graduate director of Instruction Design & Technology.

Department Service Award

Fellows of the University Departmental Excellence in Service – Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, $2,000

“We strongly believe that the Department of (Communication Sciences) and Disorders has made significant contributions to the East Grand Forks Head Start program since 1975,” said Norma Campos, manager of the East Grand Forks Family Service Center-Head Start Program. “The services they provide to our children and families at our center go above and beyond our Head Start Performance Standards and have created growth and positive development with lasting benefits for children and families in our community.… Their quality work and professionalism is very valued not only by our program, but also our families. They have empowered and engaged parents in helping to meet their identified and specified needs along with highlighted resources to meet their child’s needs.”

Department Research Award

Fellows of the University Departmental Excellence Research – Department of Chemical Engineering
“If you looked up the definition of teamwork in the dictionary, you wouldn’t find a picture of UND’s Department of Chemical Engineering — but you should,” according to Hesham El-Rewini, dean of the School of Engineering and Mines.

Interdisciplinary Research Award

UND Award for Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Research or Creative Work – Mark Askelson, associate professor, Atmospheric Sciences; Richard Schultz (posthumously), professor, Electrical Engineering; and William Semke, associate professor, Mechanical Engineering, $2,000

The collaboration of UND faculty from three different departments resulted in the establishment of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Engineering (UASE) laboratory that is part of the larger Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence (UAS COE) in Research, Education, and Training on campus.

North Dakota Spirit Faculty Achievement Awards

42 recipients in eight programs and departments – $100,000

Useful links

Complete listing of all UND Founders Day awards and honorees


Patrick Miller, writer/editor
UND Office of University Relations