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2023 Presidential Distinguished Medalist Award Winners

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The top graduating seniors with the highest grade point average who completed all coursework through The University of Olivet are annually honored with the Presidential Distinguished Medalist Award, formally known as the Donald A. Morris Academic Excellence Award. In addition, professors chosen by the students as most influential are also honored. Congratulations to the following students and professors.

Daniel Ballagh
Major: Insurance and Risk Management

Future Plans: Starting in June I will be working for Munich Re at their headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey as a graduate claims trainee.

What I will remember most about The University of Olivet: After leaving The University of Olivet the thing I will remember the most are all of the opportunities I got to experience simply by being involved in different things on campus. I was able to go on so many different trips to new places I had not been before and meet many new people that I would not have been able to otherwise.

Most influential faculty member: Professor Thomas Humphreys, CPCU, CLU, ChFC, CIC

In what ways has your honored professor impacted your learning and experience at Olivet? Professor Humphreys has impacted my learning by challenging me to be a better student every day. He exposed me to new ideas daily that allowed me to broaden my academic horizons much further than they would have been able to go otherwise. He always goes above and beyond to support his students in every aspect of their learning. Due to his extensive network and knowledge of the industry he has opened the door wide for his students to meet potential employers. He offers many opportunities for students to go on trips and to learn the ins and outs of our industry with those from all over the country and even the world.

Professor Thomas Humphreys
Thomas Humphreys, CPCU, CLU, ChFC, CIC, serves as the director of the Risk Management and Insurance Center at The University of Olivet and assistant professor. Prior to joining the The University of Olivet faculty, Professor Humphreys led a successful career in the insurance industry and served in other teaching capacities. He is especially passionate about helping students gain real-world experiences through internships, professional conferences and competitions, and involvement in Gamma Iota Sigma.

“Dan is an outstanding student and a wonderful, well-rounded individual. He is very inquisitive, always striving to produce quality work. Dan demonstrated superior time management skills, balancing academics, participating in collegiate sports and being a resident advisor. I’ve sincerely enjoyed our time together, specifically Dan wandering into my office to discuss classwork but ultimately straying to talk about what was happening in each of our lives. He has achieved much, but I know he will go on to achieve much more, both professionally and personally. I’m honored to have contributed to his growth on both levels and hope we have more conversations in the future. He is destined to be a force within the insurance industry as he starts his career with Munich Re Insurance in Princeton. Well done Dan!” — Professor Humphreys

Erin Brady
Major: Actuarial Science

Future Plans: After graduation I plan to fulfill an underwriting position in the insurance industry.

What I will remember most about The University of Olivet: I will definitely remember the relationships I have had the opportunity to make at The University of Olivet. Through school, athletics, and Greek life, I’ve gotten to meet so many amazing people that I’ll have lifelong bonds with. The University of Olivet is always going to hold a special place in my heart.

Most influential faculty member: Professor Thomas Humphreys, CPCU, CLU, ChFC, CIC

In what ways has your honored professor impacted your learning and experience at Olivet? Professor Humphreys is one of those professors that no matter what you do it’s not good enough — now I’m saying that in the best way possible! He inspires us all to always keep pushing past our comfort zone and teaches us that the only thing that can limit us is ourselves.

Professor Thomas Humphreys
Thomas Humphreys, CPCU, CLU, ChFC, CIC, serves as the director of the Risk Management and Insurance Center at The University of Olivet and assistant professor. Prior to joining the The University of Olivet faculty, Professor Humphreys led a successful career in the insurance industry and served in other teaching capacities. He is especially passionate about helping students gain real-world experiences through internships, professional conferences and competitions, and involvement in Gamma Iota Sigma.

“Erin has been an outstanding, well-rounded student during her entire career at The University of Olivet. She has always gone above and beyond expectations within the classroom, her internship experience and as a leader in Gamma Iota Sigma. Performing at such a high level in these endeavors while also playing collegiate softball is a testament to Erin’s dedication, character and work ethic. It has been my extreme pleasure to watch Erin grow as an individual and professional over the last four years. Her actions have rewarded her with employment at EMC Insurance in Lansing upon graduation. Well done Erin, and your journey is just beginning!” — Professor Humphreys

Laura Fox
Major: History major with a minor in political science

Future Plans: Next fall I will be attending Michigan State University College of Law on a full tuition scholarship. Currently, I am looking to pursue a career in intellectual property law or public policy.

What I will remember most about The University of Olivet: I will most remember the relationships I formed at The University of Olivet. Through my experiences over the past four years, I have gained so many meaningful relationships with both my professors and fellow students that have given my college experience and personal development such great depth; and I am very thankful for these bonds and immense feelings of support that I have from my time at The University of Olivet.

Most influential faculty member: Jeremy Duby, M.M.

In what ways has your honored professor impacted your learning and experience at Olivet? Mr. Duby has had a profound impact on my time at The University of Olivet. Mr. Duby and I have worked closely together since the end of my freshman year when I became drum major and has been a wonderful teacher, mentor and friend. He provided me with a space to grow as a leader and find myself through the responsibilities and values that the band program helped me to develop. Without Mr. Duby’s support and guidance, I would not be who I am today, and would not have been able to take the next steps in my education with nearly as much success.

Mr. Jeremy Duby
Jeremy Duby, M.M., is the director of bands at The University of Olivet where he conducts the College Wind Ensemble and Marching Comets. Since his tenure as the director of bands, the program has undergone significant growth and is receiving national and international recognition. He is known for instilling a passion for music in future Comets, current students and the entire college community. In addition, Mr. Duby works closely with the College admission office, meeting with prospective families to guide them through the college selection process.

“From her first day on campus Laura has had an acute awareness of those around her. She has been an incredible leader in many areas across campus and an influential mind in the maintaining of the culture within the band program during very uncertain times of the global pandemic. Her ability to connect with her peers across all disciplines is unrivaled. She is a consummate communicator always looking to unite in order to work for a common cause. She has bridged partnerships with athletics and music, while also connecting the music program with other academic programs. Additionally, she was the lead researcher for the Olivet fight song and alma mater project. Because of her work we now have a formal record of the correct words and background to two of the most important College songs. Laura’s leadership and work ethic is nothing short of inspirational and exceptional. She is a high point of pride for the The University of Olivet community. She will be a successful change agent in the world, and will carry her Comet pride brightly for all to follow.” — Mr. Duby

Alexis McDonald
Major: Psychology

Future Plans: I plan to pursue job opportunities in the psychology field to hopefully improve the lives of those around me. I would also like to continue my education and get my master’s degree as well as my doctoral degree in clinical forensic psychology.

What I will remember most about The University of Olivet: What I will remember most about The University of Olivet is the friendships I have made with my roommates MeKailah, Jadyn and Courtney. I will also remember joining Psych Club and being inducted into Psi Chi and being a part of a group of people with the same interests and building friendships within those groups.

Most influential faculty member: Professor Will Hagerty ‘06, Ph.D.

In what ways has your honored professor impacted your learning and experience at Olivet? Professor Hagerty has impacted my learning and experience by preparing me for what is to come after I finish my time at The University of Olivet. Professor Hagerty was my advisor as well as my psychology professor for most of my classes. He is honest and a person that I could look to for guidance and goes above and beyond for his students to ensure that their educational needs are met.

Professor Will Hagerty
Dr. Will Hagerty ‘06, Ph.D. serves as assistant professor of social sciences, and he works closely with the department faculty in developing curriculum and teaching a course load in the clinical field. He has taught an array of courses, including statistics for the social sciences, counseling and psychotherapy, and psychology of gender, as well as other psychology and sociology/anthropology courses.

“Lexie has been a great student since the day she stepped foot onto campus. No matter the class or assignment, she was confident in herself, and the quality of her work substantiated it. What’s more is that she has been integrating all her coursework into her career aspirations. Her skills are already entry-level, and her ability to discern clinical situations and respond in a supportive and therapeutic manner is outstanding. The most important aspect of Lexie’s experience here is that she has relied so much on who she is as a person. In courses where we talk about engaging in clinical settings, we often talk about how the most important tool you have is yourself. In this way, there isn’t a student who is better suited to take on the field than Lexie. She will do well no matter what she does. The skills she has developed and the interventions she has learned can only give her so much of an advantage; Lexie has the other intangible characteristics that will continue to make her stand out amongst her colleagues.” — Dr. Hagerty

Allyson Sears
Majors: Insurance & Risk Management and Financial Planning

Future Plans: I will be working at Nationwide E&S Specialty out of Scottsdale, Arizona as a Property and Casualty Underwriter.

What I will remember most about The University of Olivet: I will remember the relationships that I have built here.

Most influential faculty member: Assistant Professor Michael Weglarz

In what ways has your honored professor impacted your learning and experience at Olivet? Professor Weglarz is such an amazing professor and person. He truly cares for each of his students and wants them to be successful. I appreciate the time and effort that he has put into helping me better myself, whether that be writing a letter of recommendation for a scholarship, introducing me to industry professionals, or just giving me life advice. I appreciate the humor and real-world experience that he brings to the classroom. Thank you Wegz for all of your support throughout my collegiate career.

Assistant Professor Michael Weglarz
Michael Weglarz is an associate professor of insurance and risk management at The University of Olivet. He is a business leader and sales and marketing specialist with more than 20 years of experience working in and developing marketing programs for the insurance, financial services and retail vertical markets. Most recently, Professor Weglarz successfully operated a full-service Allstate Insurance agency located in the Metropolitan Detroit area. Aside from being a successful business owner, Professor Weglarz is also a pre-licensing instructor where he helps teach, guide and motivate adult learners to prepare and become licensed within the state of Michigan in life, health and accident insurance, as well as property and casualty insurance.

“When reflecting on Allyson Sears, one doesn’t have to look far to discover and mention the many accolades she has already accomplished at this early stage of her life. The lengthy list of scholarships, academic achievements, internships and attainment of a career of her choosing is not surprising. However, when thinking about Ally, I do not think about all those things. Instead, I think of how she is an even better person. When interacting with individuals, I realize there are two types of people. They are either “fountains“ or “drains.” Fountains are people full of energy or enthusiasm that makes others want to be around and associate with them. Conversely, there are also people that I call “drains.” These individuals drain all my energy and all the energy around them. I immediately smile when I think of Ally because she is a FOUNTAIN of energy, enthusiasm and positivity. I was fortunate to have gotten to know and work with her for the past four years. I consider Ally a source of advantage to anyone who has the opportunity to work and interact with her. I am confident and excited to watch all the great things Allyson Sears will accomplish in her long journey called “Life.” — Professor Weglarz

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