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Students, faculty, staff, alumni recognized in spring 2022

Award Index: 

JoAnn Burnett named WVU Potomac State College’s Outstanding Professor of the Year

Jennifer Orlikoff, Joanne Burnett, Donna Ballard, and Phil Douthitt

Business Administration and Technology Instructor JoAnn Burnett was named the 2022 Outstanding Professor of the Year. Burnett started teaching at WVU Potomac State College as an adjunct instructor. She taught computer information systems during the 2017-2018 academic year. She then became a visiting professor in business during the 2018-2019 academic year followed by a tenure track position in 2019-2020.

Burnett also serves as an online instructor with the WVU Reed College of Media, Marketing & Communications graduate program.

She earned her Master of Science degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from the WVU Reed College of Media; her Regents Bachelor of Arts degree from WVU Potomac State College and studied computer science at Western Connecticut State University.   

Students who nominated Burnett for Outstanding Professor offered the following comments:  

“Her teaching style makes things understandable, retainable and useful.”

“She has helped me in my college journey each time I have ever needed it.”  

“Though COVID-19 has made my college career trying at times, she was easily reachable during online schooling when I had any questions or concerns regarding my class work.”  

Burnett’s colleagues offered the following comments:  

“Her work is always representative of her best effort and shows tremendous dedication to our unit and Potomac State College.”  

“Approaches student success through academic advising, pedagogy and program/curriculum development.”

“Always has a positive attitude, provides positive but constructive feedback, and brings a wealth of knowledge from previous endeavors.”

Burnett had the honor of carrying the academic mace and leading the faculty procession into the 2022 Commencement this spring.

Earle named Outstanding Student at WVU Potomac State College

Phil Douthitt with Marissa Earle

Marissa Earle, who has excelled academically and athletically, was recently named the Outstanding Student of the Year for 2022 at West Virginia University Potomac State College. Presenting the award is Philip Douthitt, associate academic dean at the College.

This year’s Outstanding Student of the Year started her own nonprofit, excelled academically as well as on the field, and discovered her passion while on a mission trip.  

Marissa Earle, from Petersburg, W.Va., was recently named the Outstanding Student of the Year for 2022 at West Virginia University Potomac State College. As the Outstanding Student, Earle delivered the graduation message to fellow students as well as introducing the keynote speaker during Commencement Ceremonies.  

Earle graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management and has been named to the President’s List for all semesters that she’s attended Potomac State College.

This past fall, she was a recipient of the prestigious Catamount’s Climb Higher award which recognizes students for resiliency; exemplifying an outstanding work ethic; practicing kindness, and displaying a positive attitude.

In addition to her studies, Earle excelled as a player on the volleyball and softball teams and was named Female Sophomore Athlete of the Year for 2019-2020. She has volunteered as a coach for the volleyball team as well and served as president of the Baptist Campus Ministries club.   

Earle displayed her entrepreneurial spirit by creating ‘Almost Heaven Hands of Hope,’ a nonprofit she started after participating in several mission trips and an internship in Puerto Rico. She plans to host mission teams in the area and provide youth sports camps annually.  

Earle plans to attend the WVU Morgantown campus in the fall to begin her master’s in public administration, as well possibly dual majoring in a master's in sports management. She would like to work for the Federal Emergency Management Agency or another entity where she can assist with disaster relief or community involvement. 

“I have found my passion in serving others and am focusing on turning that passion into an occupation,” Earle said. “Potomac State College opened many doors and provided many opportunities for me to succeed. Attending Potomac State was the best decision I could have ever made.”

Each year, an ad hoc committee is appointed by the Campus President to choose the Outstanding Student of the Year using the following criteria: the student must be at least a full-time sophomore and must have carried a minimum of 14 credit hours for each of the semesters considered; the student must have been named to the Campus President’s List for three previous semesters with no failing grades; the student must have at least two campus leadership and/or service roles; and the student’s conduct must be above reproach.

Three students recognized as Whitmore/Gates Scholars at WVU Potomac State College

Connie Whitmore Kesecker, with students Jackson Taylor, Alexx Grady and Benjamin Ritz

WVU Potomac State College students were recently recognized with the inscription of theirnames on the Duke Anthony Whitmore/Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Academic Achievement Wall.  Students are selected who exhibit exemplary scholarship and potential for continued achievement. Pictured from left are:  Connie Whitmore Kesecker, with Students Jackson Taylor, Alexx Grady and Benjamin Ritz.

This spring, Jackson Taylor, Alexx Grady and Bejamin Ritz were recognized with the inscription of their names on the Duke Anthony Whitmore/Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Academic Achievement Wall. Students, alumni, faculty, and staff were recognized during a special Recognition Day presentation at West Virginia University Potomac State College.   

Jackson Taylor is a biology major with a 4.0 GPA, from Berryville, Va. He was also awarded the Jasper Morris Organic Chemistry and the W. E. Michael Biology Awards. He was also inducted into the Sigma Phi Omega Honor Society.

Taylor played on the PSC baseball team and was a member of the Life Science Club. He enjoyed the small campus community at PSC and has credited it with allowing him to have an exceptional education that has prepared him for his next steps. These steps include completing his Bachelor of Science degree in biology, joining the Army, and then pursuing dental school.

Alexx Grady is a biology major from Oakland, Md. She, too, was awarded the Jasper Morris Organic Chemistry Award.

She served as president of the Sigma Phi Omega Honor Society, was a member of the Life Science Club, the Honors College, and played midfielder on the Lady Catamounts soccer team. 

Grady plans to pursue her bachelor’s degree in biology and then attend medical school. She hopes to make a difference in her community and in the lives of others. 

Benjamin Ritz is a biology major with a 4.0 GPA, from Springfield, W.Va. He is an active member of the Sigma Phi Omega Honor Society and the Sigma Alpha Rho Nursing Honor Society. He has been active on campus in the Life Science and Campus Crusade for Christ Clubs. He is also a member of the Student Nurses Association.

Ritz has served as a mentor for the Health Sciences and Technology Academy and as a volunteer at the PSC Health Center and at Valley Health’s “Health Science Academy.” In addition, he serves his community as an emergency medical technician.  

Ritz will be returning to Potomac State College to complete some of the pre-requisite courses needed to further his education as a physician’s assistant. Ultimately, he wants to pursue a career in internal medicine.  

Each year, up to three students may be selected who exhibit exemplary scholarship and potential for continued achievement.

The Achievement Wall, originally conceived to recognize the academic and scholarly  achievements of PSC's students, alumni, and faculty, was named in honor of Alumnus Henry Louis Gates, Jr., PhD, who serves as the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University, and for deceased PSC Professor Duke Anthony Whitmore, PhD, so that “…the student and his mentor may be honored together.”

Charles Ryan recognized as alumni’s Whitmore/Gates Scholar

Charles Ryan

Charles “Charlie” Ryan, Class of 1960, was recognized with the inscription of his name on the Duke Anthony Whitmore/Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Academic Achievement Wall. Ryan has served as an author, journalist, editor, University Dean, and owner of Charles Ryan Associates.

Mary Kaye Staggers recognized as faculty’s Whitmore/Gates Scholar

Mary Kaye Staggers

Retired faculty member, Mary Kaye Staggers, was recognized with the inscription of her name on the Duke Anthony Whitmore/Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Academic Achievement Wall. During her time at the College, Staggers was selected as an Outstanding Professor of the Year, was instrumental in the development and coordination of the first two years of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the College and retired from PSC with the rank of professor emerita.  

Duke Anthony Whitmore Best Creative Essay Award

Sarah Sbengheci

Sarah Sbengheci, majoring in recreation, parks and tourist resources, was the recipient of the Duke Anthony Whitmore for Best Creative Essay award. Named in memory of Professor Emeritus Duke Anthony Whitmore, this award is presented to a student whose essay represents the best creative work produced in all English classes at the College during the year. The award was presented by Professor Steve Oberlechner.

Aslyn Didawick presented with Keyser Rotary Club's "Service Above Self" award

Aslyn Didawick

Aslyn Didawick, a junior in the WVU Nursing Program, was the recipient of the Keyser Rotary Club’s “Service Above Self” award. Didawick’s professors nominated her for her leadership in the community outreach during COVID, especially her work in the testing conducted on the campus.

Maurice Powell General Chemistry Award

Makenna Douthitt, Jay Badenhoop, Noah Sprouse, and Grant Brill

Makenna Douthitt (left), an exercise physiology major, Noah Sprouse (second from right), a mechanical engineering major, and Grant Brill (right), a biology major, were presented with the Maurice Powell General Chemistry award. This award is named for Maurice Powell, who served for many years as chairman of the College’s chemistry department. Students receiving this award must have the highest average in both lecture and laboratory for the complete two-semester sequence of Chemistry 115 and 116. The awards were presented by Professor Jay Badenhoop.

Gary Seldomridge Mathematics Award

Richard Peterson, Madison Paris, Christopher Burton, and Matthew Weatherholt

Professor Richard Peterson (left to right) presented Madison Paris, a biometric systems engineering major; Christopher Burton, also a biometric systems engineering major; and Matthew Weatherholt, a civil engineering major, with the Gary Seldomridge Mathematics Award. This award is named in honor of former Professor Gary Seldomridge, PhD, who retired from the College after serving for 41 years in higher education.

Child Development and Family Services Award

Ruth Upton and Scarlett Peralta-Sanchez

Scarlett Peralta-Sanchez (right), a child development and family studies major, was presented with the Child Development and Family Services award. The award was presented by Professor Ruth Upton.

Willa Louise Cather Award for Best Noncreative Essay

Steve Oberlechner and Sophia Lord

Sophia Lord, a biology major, was the recipient of the Willa Louise Cather Award for Best Noncreative Essay. Named for Professor Emerita Dr. Willa Louise Cather, this award is presented to a student whose essay represents the best noncreative work produced in all English classes during the year. The award was presented by Professor Steve Oberlechner.

Human Anatomy and Physiology Award

Sheri Chisholm, Taylor VanMeter, and Viktor Frazier

BSN Nursing Majors Taylor VanMeter (center) and Matthew Kennedy (not pictured) were presented with the Human Anatomy and Physiology award.  This award is given by the Biology Department to students with the highest cumulative grades for Anatomy and Physiology I and II at the end of the academic year. The award was presented by Professors Sheri Chisholm and Viktor Frazier.

Dr. Henry Falkowski Survey of Chemistry Award

Jacob Logsdon and Jay Badenhoop
Jacob Logsdon (left), a BSN nursing major and Alyssa Guthrie (not pictured), a pre-dentistry major, were presented with the Dr. Henry Falkowski Survey of Chemistry award. This award is named in memory of Henry S. Falkowski, PhD, who taught chemistry at the College for 41 years. The award is given to students who achieve the highest overall average in the Chemistry 111 and Chemistry 112 sequence, in lecture and laboratory. The award was presented by Professor Jay Badenhoop.

General Biology Award

Paige Durr

Paige Durr (right), an exercise physiology major, was presented with the General Biology award. The award was presented by Professor Erin Cunningham.

Outstanding Sophomore Agriculture Award

Corey Armstrong and Angela Fagga

The Outstanding Sophomore Agriculture award went to Angela Fagga, who is majoring in pre-veterinary medicine. The award was presented by Professor Corey Armstrong.

Mauzy-Harris History Award

Cassandra Pritts and Emily Ratliff
Emily Ratliff (right), an elementary education major, received the Mauzy-Harris History Award which was created by Pittsburgh Businessman Sydney Harris in honor of former history professor and dean of Potomac State College, Frank Mauzy. The award was presented by Professor Cassandra Pritts.

W.E. Michael Biology Award

Gerry Wilcox and Jackson Taylor

Jackson Taylor (right), a biology major, was the recipient of the W.E. Michael Biology award which is bestowed in memory of Professor Emeritus W.E. Michael, who taught at the College for 33 years. This award is given to the student with the highest average in the complete biology major sequence. The award was presented by Professor Gerald Wilcox.

Jasper Morris Organic Chemistry Award

Jackson Taylor, Jay Badenhoop, and Alexx Grady

Jackson Taylor (left) and Alexx Grady (right), both biology majors, were recipients of the Jasper Morris Organic Chemistry award. This award is named for Professor Jasper Morris, a former professor of chemistry and physics at the College. Students receiving this award must have the highest average in organic chemistry, both in lecture and laboratory, for the two-semester sequence. The award was presented by Professor Jay Badenhoop.

Outstanding Spanish Award

Julia Leverone and Timothy Reidell

Timothy Reidell, a criminology major, was presented with the Outstanding Spanish award. The award was presented by Professor Julia Leverone.

Emmy Noether Award for Achievements in Mathematics

Jessie O'Quinn and Madison Paris

Madison Paris (right), a biometric systems engineering major, was presented with the Emmy Noether Award for Achievements in Mathematics. Professor Jessie O’Quinn presented the award.

Jon Philip Spoerl Scholarship

John Wilkinson and Jennifer Dietz-Smith  John Wilkinson and Katelyn Thornton

John Wilkinson, who serves as treasurer of the PSC Alumni Association, presented Jennifer Dietz-Smith (left) and Katelyn Thornton (right) with the first two John Philip Spoerl Scholarships. John Philip Spoerl, Class of 1963, created a perpetual trust as part of his estate which funds scholarships for students enrolled in business administration at the College.


Awards and students not pictured:

The Outstanding SAGE BAS Award went to Justin Cook, a sustainable agriculture entrepreneurship major.

The Don S. Starcher Outstanding Freshman Agriculture & Forestry Award went to Sarah Sions, a wildlife & fisheries resources management major.

McKenzie Wilt, a sustainable agriculture entrepreneurship (SAGE) major, received the Outstanding SAGE AAS Student award. 

Allison Klavuhn, a business technology major, was presented with the Outstanding Business Management Student award. This award is presented to BAS students who exhibit academic excellence, leadership and character.

Kylie Eckard, a business management major, was presented with the Outstanding Business Management Student award. This award is presented to a BAS student who exhibits academic excellence, leadership and character.