April 20, 2011 — Rhodes Scholar Laura Nelson, School of Nursing administrator Gwendolph Christmas and business professor Yiorgos Allayannis are recipients of this year's University of Virginia Alumni Association awards, which honor a distinguished student, employee and faculty member annually.
The association presented the three awards at a luncheon at Alumni Hall on April 16.
Ernest H. Ern Distinguished Student Award
Nelson, a fourth-year student in the College of Arts & Sciences, is majoring in political and social thought. In addition to being the University's 47th Rhodes Scholar, she is a Jefferson Scholar, a Robert Kent Gooch Scholar, an Echols Scholar and a Lawn resident. She has been the driving force behind U.Va.'s "Flash Seminars," which gather students, community members and faculty for a single-event discussion of one idea.
Founder of both the Engage U.Va. weekly newsletter and the "Talk is Cheap" weekly discussion series, Nelson has served as student chair of the U.Va. Public Service Advisory Board, chair of the Student Council Committee on Civic Engagement, co-chair of the Gray-Carrington Award Selection Committee and a member of the Sexual Assault Board and the Advisory Committee to the Office of Community Partnerships. She is a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority and a hike leader for the U.Va. outdoor recreation program.
In conjunction with her Rhodes Scholarship, Nelson plans to study at the University of Oxford in England. "I've always dreamed of studying literature at Oxford," she said.
The Distinguished Student Award, established in 1966 and later named in honor of longtime University professor and administrator Ernest H. Ern, is conferred annually upon a member of the student body who has won recognition in the academic community for leadership and for his or her concern in preserving the traditions of the University. Though outstanding performance as an athlete, high scholastic standing or participation in student organizations will be taken into consideration, it is the purpose of the award to honor the student who has won the admiration of the University for significant contributions in several areas of University life and has excelled in all of them.
The award, presented to Nelson by Dean of Students Allen Groves, consists of a certificate of recognition, life membership in the Alumni Association and $5,000.
Distinguished Service Award
Christmas, who has been at the University for 34 years, works in the dean's office of the School of Nursing, coordinating financial aid for students and managing the office budget, among other responsibilities.
"Gwen's devotion is above and beyond all standards and expectations," Theresa J. Carroll, assistant dean for academic and student services at the School of Nursing, said in recommending Christmas for the award. "Our office is managed superbly under Gwen's supervision. She seems to know exactly what we need, in what area, at exactly the right time."
Carroll recalled that in the spring of 2008, Christmas stepped in to coordinate graduation responsibilities after a key staff member retired. "Gwen organized and was the key player in planning hooding, pinning, Lawn ceremony line-up, and the diploma ceremony," which was held indoors that year.
The Distinguished Service Award was established in 1981 to recognize a member of the University community who has exhibited leadership qualities that serve as an inspiring example to his or her colleagues and other members of the University community.
The award, presented by Carroll, consists of a certificate of recognition and $5,000.
Distinguished Professor Award
Allayannis, a professor in the Darden School of Business, is an authority on corporate finance, risk management and capital structure. He is a four-time recipient of Darden's Outstanding Faculty Award, and five times he has been elected faculty marshal by that year's graduating class. In 2002, he was awarded the Wachovia Award for Research Excellence for his article on corporate risk management and its impact on firm value.
Between 2005 and 2007, Allayannis was a director in Citigroup's Global Financial Strategy Group in the Investment Banking Division. He worked extensively with clients in the financial institutions and industrials sectors advising on a broad range of issues such as capital structure, credit ratings, capital distribution policies, valuation and risk management. He was involved in several strategic and financing transactions. Allayannis also published several Citigroup reports on risk management in emerging markets, the impact of energy prices on corporate financial strategies and the value creation of divestitures in the financial services sector.
The Distinguished Professor Award was established in 1966 to be conferred upon a member of the faculty who has, over a period of not less than 10 years, excelled as a classroom teacher, shown unusual concern for students, and made significant contributions to the life of the University. Though national recognition, eminence in research and quality of publications will not be overlooked, this award is primarily for the master teacher who has directed his or her efforts toward superior instruction and enrichment of life in the University.
The award, presented to Allayannis by Darden School Dean Robert Bruner, consists of a certificate of recognition and $10,000.
All of the awards were funded by the Jefferson Trust, an initiative of the Alumni Association.
Also on April 16, Victoria Dux Harker of McLean, a 1986 graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences, was elected to succeed 1964 College graduate Alan Y. Roberts as chair of the Board of Managers of the Alumni Association. Harker is executive vice president and chief financial officer of AES Corp., an international power company.
Peter M. Grant II of Long Lake, Minn., a 1978 graduate of the College and a 1986 graduate of the Darden School, was named vice chair. Grant is a partner in Stone Arch Capital LLC, a private equity fund based in Minneapolis.
The following were elected to the association's board of managers:
• Paul B. Barringer II of Hilton Head, S.C., and Charlottesville, a 1952 graduate of the College
• James E. Rutrough of Bloomington, Ill., a 1971 graduate of the College
• David G. Sutton of Charlottesville, a 1971 graduate of the College and a 1974 graduate of the School of Law
• John F. Harris, of Charlottesville, a 1982 graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce
• Dr. Clifford W. Bogue of Guilford, Conn., a 1981 graduate of the College and a 1985 graduate of the School of Medicine
• Amy F.B. Wright of Washington, D.C., a 1987 graduate of the College
• James R. Socas of McLean, a 1988 graduate of the College
• Sheryl W. Wilbon of Bethesda, Md., a 1988 graduate of the College
• Michael C. Smith of Albany, Calif., a 1992 graduate of the College
• Marc A. Pinho of New York, a 1999 graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce
For more about the Alumni Association, visit here.
Photos of the honorees can be found here.