All-College awards, faculty and staff honors announced at commencement

Posted on May 14, 2016 by Janika Carey

The following awards were presented at Sweet Briar College’s 107th commencement ceremony.

Emily Dallas Emily Dallas

The Penelope Lane Czarra Award was established by Edgar F. Czarra Jr., father of Penelope Lane Czarra of the Class of 1975. The award honors the senior or seniors who best combine scholastic achievement, student leadership and effective contributions to the improvement of the quality of student life at Sweet Briar. The recipients for the Class of 2016 are Emily Morgan Dallas and Megan Ellen Shuford.

In honor of Dr. Connie M. Guion, Mr. and Mr. J. Wilson Newman and their daughters, Clair Newman Blanchard ’60 and Mildred Newman Thayer ’61, established an award given to a member or members of the graduating class for excellence as a human being and as a member of the College. The recipient of the Connie M. Guion Award for the Class of 2016 is Morgan Nicole Deal.

The family of Professor Judith Molinar Elkins established a prize in her name to recognize the outstanding achievements of a senior majoring in the mathematical, physical, environmental or biological sciences who has actively participated in the College community and demonstrated the ideals and dedication to learning exemplified by the life of Professor Elkins. The Judith Molinar Elkins Prize went to Lydia Nichole Fleck.

The Walker Family Award honors a senior or seniors with high scholastic standing, a cheerful, positive disposition, and who show warmth, generosity and humility. This year’s recipient is Calee Nicole Whitten.

Each year, the College recognizes academic achievement by conferring upon the highest-ranking member of each class the honorary title of Emilie Watts McVea Scholar. In addition, the National Council of Alpha Lambda Delta sends to each chapter a book to be awarded to the graduating Alpha Lambda Delta member who has the highest GPA. The recipient of both awards for the Class of 2016 is Shannon Margaret McCarthy.

The Student Government Association in return honored members of the faculty and staff with the Excellence in Teaching and the Excellence in Service awards. Brandi Moore from Dining Services took home the latter for going above and beyond to make sure students didn’t just get their coffee in the morning, but also an ear and often a hug to go along with it.

“Thanks to her, students not only start their day off strong, they start it with a smile,” said SGA president Katie Craig.

Student votes for the Excellence in Teaching Award resulted in an exact tie between Dorys McConnell Duberg Professor of Biology Linda Fink and assistant professor of music Jeffrey Jones, who also directs the Chamber Orchestra and Sweet Briar’s steel band, Skiffle USA.

“Passionate, brilliant and wonderful in every way,” as one student put it, Fink had been helping out wherever she was needed throughout the year, said SGA Academic Affairs chair Kristen Frey.

“Dr. Fink radiates her passion for biology and for the College to the entire Sweet Briar community,” Frey said, adding that Fink’s “enthusiasm extends beyond the biology department into the environmental science department and the Faculty Executive Committee.”

Jones, she said, was “like a second dad” to many students and had helped to connect Sweet Briar College to the world by establishing a music exchange with Trinidad.

“He challenges and pushes students beyond what they believe they could accomplish, while supporting them every step of the way,” wrote one student. “He is intelligent, caring, humble, and — most importantly — a friend to all of his students.”

To watch a video of the commencement ceremony, please visit